Tonight’s huge for Austin parties, but there’s much more to come

First, take a look at all the big parties tonight. Then, scope out what’s coming up in the next few weeks.


Oct. 20: Backstage. Zach Theatre.

Oct. 20: Bridging the Gap for New Milestones. Four Seasons austin Hotel.

Oct. 20: Beer, Wine and Swine for Manos de Cristo. Mercury Hall.

Oct. 20: Dance for Candlelight. Getaway Motor Club.

Oct. 20: Gateway Awards. UT Alumni Center.

Oct. 20: East Night for PeopleFund. Sterling Events Center.

Oct. 20: Swan Song Serenade. Riverbend Centre for the Arts.


Then after tonight’s banquet of socializing …

Oct. 21: Beauty of Life for Hospice Austin. JW Marriott.

Oct. 21-23: Formula One United States Grand Prix. Circuit of the Americas.

Oct. 21: Austin Way’s Formula One Mansion. Cedar Tavern at Eberly.

Oct. 21-22: Blu / My Yacht Club. The Castle.

Oct. 22: Barbecue on the Pedernales. LBJ Ranch.


Oct. 22: Catrina Ball for Mexic-Arte Museum. Four Seasons Hotel.

Oct. 22: Kids’ Chance of Texas Inaugural Event. Bullock Texas State History Museum.

Oct. 22: Play Bingo Ladies Luncheon for Center for Child Protection. Hilton Austin.

Oct. 22: Denise Prince’s L’enfant Terrible. Justine’s Secret House.

Oct. 23: DSACT Buddy Walk and Reception. Reunion Ranch in Georgetown.


Oct. 23: En Garde Food Fight for Les Austin Dames d’Escoffier. Barr Mansion.

Oct. 25: Champions for Children benefiting Helping Hand Home for Children. JW Marriott.

Oct. 27: Girl’s Empowerment Network Birthday Celebration. W Hotel.

Oct. 27: Cruise for a Cause benefiting Mental Health America of Texas. Lady Bird Lake.


Oct. 27: Pease Park Conservancy Fall Fundraiser. Allan House.

Oct. 28: Preservation Austin Merit Awards. Driskill Hotel.

Oct. 28: Reading Between the Wines for Literacy Coalition. Texas Federation of Women’s Clubs Mansion.

Oct. 28: B Scene: Inevitable Warhol Happening. Blanton Museum of Art.

Oct. 29: Murder, Mayhem and Misadventure Tour. Oakwood Cemetery.


Oct. 30: Rocky Rocks the Austin Runway for FLC International Children’s Foundation. Hotel Van Zandt.

Nov. 1: Beat the Odds Benefit for Breakthrough Austin. UT Alumni Center.

Nov. 3: Rainforest Partnership Celebration Dinner. Gilfillan House.

Nov. 3: Holders of Hope for Austin Center for Grief and Loss. 3901 Shoal Creek Blvd.

Nov. 3: The Stars at Night for American Short Fiction. Zilker Clubhouse.

Nov. 3: Bone Appetit for Paws Shelter. Ma Maison.


Nov. 4: First Edition Literary Gala for Texas Book Festival. Four Seasons Hotel.

Nov. 4: Baby Shower Fundraising Luncheon for Hand to Hold. Hyatt Regency Austin.

Nov. 4: Blue Door Gala for Boys & Girls Clubs. Hyatt Regency.

Preservation Austin lauds our people and places with 2016 Merit Awards

ALERT: The Preservation Austin Merit Awards are on their way!

The Merit Awards Celebration will take at the Driskill Hotel on Friday, Oct.28 from 11 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. The featured speaker will be Paul Gunther, executive director of the Gracie Mansion Conservancy in New York City.

And now for the winners:

Hendrick Southside Medical
500 Chicon. Photo by Kevin Halliburton, AIA

500 CHICON (1923) – East Cesar Chavez  Recipient: Texas Society of Architects Preservation Award for Sustainability.

Highland Avenue Bungalow. Photo by Whit Preston.

HIGHLAND AVENUE BUNGALOW (1918) – Old West Austin Recipient: Nick and Kathleen Deaver Preservation Award for Contemporary Addition to an Historic Building.

Neill-Cochran House Museum. Photo: Bill McCullough

NEILL-COCHRAN HOUSE MUSEUM (1855-1856) – West Campus Recipient: National Society of the Colonial Dames of America Preservation Award for Restoration.

Sparky Park_Photograph Courtesy of Austin Parks and Recreation Department.JPG

NORTH AUSTIN ELECTRIC SUBSTATION AT SPARKY POCKET PARK (1930) – North University City of Austin Parks & Recreation Department Preservation Award for Rehabilitation.

ARNO NOWOTNY BUILDING (1857) – University of Texas “Little Campus” Recipient: University of Texas at Austin Preservation Award for Restoration.

Pohl House. Photo by Trey McWhorter, Courtesy of Mid Tex Mod.

DR. DONALD AND MARJORIE POHL HOUSE (1955) – Highland Park West/Balcones Recipient: Trisha and Douglas Shepard Preservation Award for Rehabilitation. (Here’s my story on saving Austin’s midcentury modernist gems.)

CEMETERY MASTER PLAN + OAKWOOD ANNEX LADIES RESTROOM City of Austin Parks & Recreation Department Special Recognition for Outstanding Planning + Preservation of Cultural Landscape. (Here’s my story on Oakwood Cemetery.)

SAVE MUNY Special Recognition for Outstanding Public Service: Lions Municipal Golf Course National Register Listing . (Here’s my story on a century of Lions Club life in Austin.)

JILL AND STEPHEN WILKINSON  Special Recognition for Outstanding Public Service: Neighborhood Preservation in Aldridge Place and Heritage Neighborhoods. (Here’s my story on the Wilkinson’s campaign.)

Music, food and fashion vie at 6 spirited Austin parties

The band plays on at Field of Dreams for Dream Come True Foundation

Field of Dreams for Dream Come True Foundation. We hit some minor road bumps on our way to two rewarding discoveries. At first, we couldn’t confirm the exact location of Sterling Events Center on the web. That’s because the spot next to the Sheraton in US 290 at Interstate 35 had not yet officially opened. No matter. When we arrived, we were surrounded by folks dressed in baseball gear. Didn’t get that memo. So we pretended to be team managers in sports coats with open collars. Once the event got going — and we had scarfed down some scrumptious mini-hamburgers and hot dogs — we beamed as our dear friend, Eugene Sepulveda, was honored with the Dream Achiever Award. The surprise? His resume. Even though we’ve known him for decades, we hadn’t kept up with all his achievements in business, charity, politics and education. The other big thing we learned during the extended ceremony: the Dream Come True Foundation, in its official words, “lifts individuals of exceptional potential through mentoring, education, financial assistance and access to community partnerships.” Judging from the night’s testimonials, it works!


A.J. Bingham and Monica Peraza at Authentic Mexico for the Hispanic Alliance

Authentic Mexico for the Hispanic Alliance. This has become one of those events where you expect to meet the real players. Of course, the Hispanic Alliance founder, businesswoman Monica Peraza, is in a category all by  herself. Then so is State Sen. Judith Zaffarini, recipient of the Trailblazer Award, as well as Long Center namesakes Joe and Teresa Lozano Long, emcee and former TV news anchor Ron Oliveira, former District Clerk Amalia Rodriguez-Mendoza, State Reps. Donna Howard and Celia Israel, and star chef Pati Jinich, host of “Pati’s Mexican Table.” Food and drink are always a rewarding part of the Authentic Mexico experience, and this year was no different. But music played an even bigger role, as Mariachi Las Coronelas and Austin Soundwaves Orchestra switched places back and forth with authentic tunes. It was a bit hot in the new Long Center events tent, but I didn’t even notice until other people pointed it out.


Dr Teshana Murray and Dr Sara Gowin at Ballet Austin Fete.

Fête and Fête-ish for Ballet Austin. Creativity has always been a hallmark of this signature Austin event. The two-part party’s theme usually is informed by a selection from Ballet Austin‘s season. So characters from “Alice in Wonderland” skittered through the upper lobby of the JW Marriott Austin, while guests grabbed drinks and swag from leafy holes. Even the floral arrangements and innovative dishes followed the theme. We landed at an exceptionally entertaining table and cheered the news, already in wide circulation, that the company would tour China and had received a $3 million endowment from Ernest and Sarah Butler to back new works. After a protracted live auction, the barriers magically vanished between the banquet and dance rooms. And so the Fête and Fête-ish — the young leaders’ sub-party — finally joined for some late-night frolic.

Vernon and Veneatra Reid at VH1 Save the Music at South Congress Hotel.

VH1 Save the Music Dinner at Central Standard. We figured that some music would figure into an event titled “Musically Mastered Food.” After we learned from VH1 Save the Music Foundation leaders about its programs to provide new instruments for thousands of schools in hundreds of districts, and heard from Central Standard chef Michael Paley on his own musical inspirations, KGSR’s Andy Langer ushered onstage the musical guest: Anthony Hamilton & the HamiltonesSo some 75 lucky guests heard an incredible set from this Grammy Award-winning R&B singer and his band, right there in the courtyard of the South Congress Hotel. It was an exclusive treat in the way that industry day parties at SXSW used to be. Paley’s food, served family style, was terrific, but I must admit I was distracted by the stunning stories told at our table of six, including one about comic Bill Cosby close-up that I won’t soon forget.

Jane Mollenkamp and Sharlene Strawbridge at Women’s Symphony League Fashion Show and Luncheon.

Women’s Symphony League Fashion Show and Luncheon. Thumbs up on all three: The speaker, the runway show and the crowd. All reflected an increasingly modern League. The celebrity was Longview-bred stylist, photographer and designer Brandon Maxwell, who had attended St. Edward’s University before crashing the gates of New York’s fashion world. Unrehearsed and dressed casually, Maxwell told fabulous stories about his eccentric childhood and 10-year rise to stardom, which includes a popular line he launched just a year ago. Funny, thoroughly authentic guy. The tightly disciplined runway show, run by proficient Sue Webber, revealed all sorts of Julian Gold looks to adapted classical music. The crowd? More men, more young women, more much-needed diversity. All going in the right direction, raising money for the Austin Symphony.

Danneel Harris Ackles, Jensen Ackles, Lana Carlson, Steve Carlson, Jared Padalecki and Genevieve Padalecki at the Imaginarium.

Imaginarium for the Thinkery. We couldn’t make this always charming event, but one of our accredited spies sent in this report: “The event raised funds for Thinkery‘s Open Door initiative, which provides free admission, school tour stipends and camp scholarships for thousands of Central Texas families each year. Event chairs Rachel Irvin and Amanda Dudley added a separate ticketed After Party this year and kept the fun and fundraising going well into the night with music from Austin’s AJ Vallejo. The gala dinner started with an on stage experiment — pouring liquid nitrogen into warm water which caused the water to go from a liquid state to a gas state – or steam. The (party’s) Glow theme reminds us of the importance of providing hands-on steam activities to help “glow” future problem solvers. Along with a silent auction, diamonds direct raffle and Kendra Scott mystery boxes, Thinkery partnered with Pop Austin to present “DayDream” an interactive light and sound art installation.”

21 sizzling Austin parties for late September

Here’s a mid-September update on Austin parties that I prophesy will please.


Sept. 14: Liz Carpenter Lecture featuring Gloria Steinem. LBJ Presidential Library.

Sept. 14. A Night with the Stars (Dancing with the Stars Austin). Dine.

Sept. 14: Chef’s Table Austin for Water to Thrive. Brodie Homestead.

Sept. 16: Imaginarium for the Thinkery. JW Marriott.

Sept. 16: Authentic Mexico for the Hispanic Alliance. Long Center.

One of the historical treasures from the Briscoe Center.

Sept. 16: Briscoe Center’s “25 Years/25 Treasures” opening reception. LBJ Presidential Library.

Sept. 17: Little Black Dress Soirée for Dress for Success. Palazzo Lavaca.

Sept. 18:Voting Rights in Texas and Beyond.” LBJ School.

Sept. 17: Ballet Austin Fête and fête*ish. JW Marriott.

Sept. 17: Opening of the Austin Opera season, “The Manchurian Candidate.” Long Center.

Sept. 17: Moonlight in the Gorge GalaCanyon Lake.

Tara Doolittle is among the journalists honored at the Mike Quinn Awards.


Sept. 17: Mike Quinn Awards Luncheon. Headliners Club. DATE CHANGED.

Sept 19: Upbring Golf. Avery Ranch Golf Club.

Sept. 23: Hill Country Nights for Hill Country Conservancy. Fair Market.

Sept. 23: Tribeza Style Week Kick-Off Party. ACL Live.

Sept. 23: Grand Opening. Sheraton Georgetown Texas Hotel and Conference Center.

Sept. 24: Trash Makeover Challenge for Texas Campaign for the Environment. Scottish Rite Theater.

Sept. 25: Inherit Austin’s Somewhere in Time. Huston-Tillotson University. DATE CHANGED.

Sept. 25: Ken Hafertepe signs “The Material Culture of German Texans.” Neill-Cochran House.


Sept. 28: Austin City Social. Nordstrom Domain.

Sept. 29: Tribeza Style Week Fashion Show. Brazos Hall. DATE CHANGED.


Count on it: Someday, I will call it ‘Petticoat Junction’ by mistake

I had fun reporting and writing about Petticoat Fair, the lingerie outfit run by three generations of an Austin family.

Yet it is almost impossible for me to rid my mind of associations with the the 1960s sitcom “Petticoat Junction.”


So you can bet that some day I’ll slip and call the boutique by that name instead.

Here’s an excerpt from the story:

“In 1963, the sitcom “Petticoat Junction” first aired on CBS.

The show about a rustic railroad hotel run by a steadfast matron, her lazy uncle and her three voluptuous daughters ran for seven seasons, yoked in American minds with “The Beverly Hillbillies” and “Green Acres,” two other shows that riffed on the juncture between rural and urban ways.

In 1964, Petticoat Lane opened on Austin’s Guadalupe Street. The Andrews family, headed by Bob and Betty Sue, were already running two dress shops on the Drag. Their new idea, later redubbed Petticoat Fair, was a full-service boutique selling just women’s undergarments.

It still thrives today, now as a one-of-a-kind shop with extensive dressing rooms in the Northcross Center off West Anderson Lane.

Early on, the sitcom’s insistent theme song — “lots of curves / you bet / even more / when you get / to the junction / Petticoat Junction” — echoed in the ears of their Austin customers.

“It was funny,” Betty Sue says. “Customers would make their checks out to Petticoat Junction.”


The Classical Garden sprouts at Umlauf site

Carla Bossenbroek and Nina Seely at the Umlauf Sculpture Garden and Museum.

Music, art, nature and social amity harmonized at the Umlauf Sculpture Garden and Museum. The occasion? The first installment of the Classical Garden, a collaboration between the venue near Barton Springs devoted to the legacy of sculptor Charles Umlauf and the folks at the Austin Symphony Orchestra.

Reassembly of Charles Umlauf’s studio.

First, we took in one of the most instructive exhibits ever seen at the museum. It offered a crowded timeline of Umlauf’s life and career, video interpretations of his artistic method and, most importantly, a version of his sculpture studio that still stands on the hill that overlooks the garden. Pretty darn amazing.

IMG_3245Then we mingled with friends old and new, including orchestra maestro Peter Bay and his wife, singer and radio host Mela Sarajane Dailey, symphony backer Jane Sibley and Umlauf dynamo Nina Seely, another somebody who gets things done.

A quartet of musicians from the orchestra played Beethoven, but, sadly, insistent conversation dampened the treat. It was easier to hear the big band that followed. Guests happily dance when they were not nibbling on the appetizers and sipping cooled glasses of wine.

A tradition is born?

Summer parties with Austin friends

Nothing turns formal in Austin during the summer. Our recent social exploits centered around good friends and simple good times.

At Central Standard, the urban spot on the north side of the South Congress Hotel, we met up with entrepreneur and philanthropist Monica Peraza and a birthday crowd currently associated with the Long Center for the Performing Arts. Over tasty fare such as Waygu Tatare and Steak Chips, we spent hours with Patsy Woods MartinLynn Yeldell, Alisa Weldon, Liz Arreaga and Raquel Garcia. Guess who was at the next table? A fabulous threesome: Maria GrotenKaren Hawkins and Val Armstrong.

Karen Hawkins, Maria Groten and Val Armstrong at Central Standard.

The next night, we returned to the hotel — we live close by — to take drinks with “the boys,” Bill Lavallee and Forrest Hooper, the couple we profiled when they got married after 59 years of romantic partnership. The pair, who grew up in the Upper Midwest, but spent their adult lives in California, Hawaii, Texas and Florida, know how to live. In their eighties, they still can make any get-together a frolic. And if you haven’t see the cute video by Kelly West, hit the link above.

Bill Lavallee and Forrest Hooper at South Congress Hotel Bar.

You know, we love this hotel’s lobby bar and its with-it crowd, but when it’s full, it’s loud. Gotta remember that.

We went back to the hotel two more times this week, once for a coffee date at Mañana, the new, slender stylish shop at the back, and anther time for confab with colleagues over more cocktails and/or cherry cokes at the lobby bar. I’m liking this place.

Magda Alanis at Dress for Success Austin.

We didn’t have too many social/business meetings this week, but one, at Dress for Success Austin on Tillery Street, was an eyeopener. I learned from program and volunteer manager Mia Johns and program graduate, now ambassador, Magda Alanis, about how much of their work in not just dressing women for job interviews, but teaching them financial literacy, resume writing, even health and nutrition.

When I asked — we’re bingeing on “Transparent” at home — if they’d served trans clients, the answer was yes, about a dozen. They make sure their style consultation are private and with a knowing helper. The group, which runs on about a quarter million in grants and donations a year, has trouble, however, keeping shoes and dresses that fit those special clients.

Austin wonders at video of UT’s first living wall

Readers are loving this video we posted yesterday from the University of Texas and the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center. It shows a cool modular “living wall,” a honeycomb structure that explores the intersection of ecology and architecture.

Critters seem to love it. People, too. Or at least a few dozen who “liked” the video.

Jessi Kulow, School of Architecture Visual Resources Collection.

Sharon Sparlin writes: “So great to see it in action. Inspires me for my own walls.”

Tony Couin-Pascall responds: Look at Patrick Blanc’s work in Paris; here’s one of his larger pieces.…/quai-branly..

Sparlin sweetly replies:”The Paris work is beautiful, yes. But this project is in Texas – a very different climate and ecosystem. And their project had several distinct goals in mind, which I think they’ve tackled, if not reached, admirably.”

How do we get one?

Austin culture: The hot stories so far this year

These stories about Austin’s people, places, culture and history rang true with readers during the first six months of 2016.

Her first foray into open combat saved a fire station. In the early 1970s, the Austin city manager wanted to move the fire station on Kinney Avenue in the Zilker neighborhood to the other side of Barton Creek. “If the fire station was out there, from one direction they’d be blocked by trains, from the other direction by floods,” says Shudde Fath, who turned 100 on Monday. “I’d seen them save a child who was choking and a neighbor’s mother having a heart attack.”

Early on June 26, 2015 — the day that the crucial U.S. Supreme Court decision was announced — their phone rang and rang. A voice crashed over the line, “You guys can get married!” William “Bill” Lavallee drowsily replied, “We can’t afford to get married!” Two days later, friends of Lavallee, 88, and Forrest Hooper, 83, picked them up from their South Austin apartment to obtain a marriage license. The merry troupe arrived at the Travis County offices bristling with official papers collected over the couple’s 59-year partnership.

Seven years after civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr. was gunned down in Memphis on April 4, 1968, there was no public monument to his legacy in Austin. No statue. No park. No school. No street. No community center. Although it was relatively painless and inexpensive in April 1975 to change much of East 19th Street — the part that runs through East Austin from Interstate 35 to Ed Bluestein Boulevard — into Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard, the battle for public recognition was far from over.


People thought they were crazy.Not that relatives, friends and coworkers actually believed that Gail Vittori and Pliny Fisk III were unbalanced in the 1970s. Just that their life goals and their choice of location — Austin — didn’t make conventional sense.  “People thought I was going off the deep end,” says Vittori, co-director of the globally admired Center for Maximum Potential Building Systems, about her early, idealistic search for the roots of human conflict. “A lot of what had fascinated me was how to democratize access to resources.”


The cottage at 1203 South Third St. hasn’t changed that much since the 1930s.“There was a store that sold wood in the next block,” says Ken Ashworth, gesturing across West Gibson Street. “My mother sent me up there with a nickel to fetch wood. At age 5, it was my first errand.” Ashworth, former Texas Commissioner of Higher Education, described this one-bedroom — now expanded — house with its little wood-burning tin stove in his magnificent 2015 memoir, “Phantom in the Family: Tracking Down My Runaway Father.” It was the first secure retreat for his mother and his three siblings, abandoned by their mysterious father, H.L., who had as many as nine children with five or possibly more wives.
In 1910, Antonio Rodríguez, a 20-year-old Mexican, was accused of killing Effie Greer Henderson at her ranch home near Rocksprings, close to the jagged southern slopes of the Edwards Plateau. A posse took him to the Rocksprings jail, but two days after the killing, a mob yanked him from his cell and burned him alive at the stake. His extrajudicial execution — one of many documented during the political violence along the border from 1910 to 1920 — caused an international diplomatic incident. Riots raged in Mexico City and along the Texas-Mexico border, just as Mexico was tilting toward a revolution that would send up to 1 million war refugees northward.
Bit by bit, historians add to history. They exchange findings. And, along the way, they make new friends. And look at what Richard Denney and Lanny Ottosen, two history buffs working separately, found: Two burgs dubbed Montopolis. One on each side of the Colorado River. In an American-Statesman article published Jan. 31, 2015, I described a personal tour of today’s Montopolis neighborhood on a muddy, chilly day. My intrepid guide was Fred McGhee, author of “Austin’s Montopolis Neighborhood.” As we zoomed around the semirural district in Southeast Austin by car and on foot, McGhee, a noted activist who trained as a marine archaeologist, pointed out remnants of the old settlement’s past.
Two Austin houses turn 175 this year. You know one — the French Legation — as the “oldest house in town.” Locals and tourists love this Creole-style home that rests on a steep crest; it was built for Alphonse Dubois de Saligny, France’s chargé d’affaires to the new Republic of Texas. A museum since the 1950s, it hosted a 175th birthday fête on March 5. You are probably familiar with the other handsome house — Boggy Creek Farm — because of its organic foodstuffs rather than its history. Yet builders likely finished both structures, the latter for settlers James and Elizabeth Smith, almost simultaneously in 1841 in what is now East Austin.

On Saturday, March 19 — as the 30th annual South by Southwest Festival wound down to a close — South Congress Avenue swam with locals and tourists. Though the weather had turned chilly, folks dressed in funky outfits strolled slowly up and down the wide sidewalks. Peaceful and relaxed, they stopped to chat, to drink in some street music, or to browse the hand-made crafts hawked by outdoor vendors. Some ventured into shops or eateries, virtually all of them locally generated. At scattered spots along the way, eager young activists used their charms to sign up passers-by for idealistic causes. Every once in while, one could catch the foxy whiff of a still-forbidden substance. If the alert observer squinted very hard — and blocked out decades of intervening memories — one could almost be transported to Austin’s Drag along Guadalupe Street opposite the University of Texas campus in the 1970s.  Sure, the hair is shorter, the crowd is more varied, the causes have evolved, and the prices on those modish crafts have skyrocketed. Yet so much about Austin’s culture in the 2010s reflects an unmistakable provenance in the 1970s.


Dapper in a dark jacket and jaunty hat, Roger Lambert relaxes in the gleaming lobby of the historic Gunter Hotel in San Antonio. His bushy, well-trimmed beard lends him a professorial air, and his wise eyes dance with avuncular warmth. When he sits down behind the grand piano in the hotel’s darkened Bar 414 to play his signature mix of jazz, blues and classical tunes, Lambert looks as if he has always belonged right there. How many of the spiffy bar patrons would guess that not long ago, Lambert — seven years homeless in Austin — had camped out in a bamboo jungle off of East Riverside Drive?



On Sept. 3, 1968, Robert Brooks, then 21 and president of the St. Edward’s University Students’ Association Inc., boarded Air Force One with Lyndon Baines Johnson, president of the United States, for a flight from Austin to Washington, D.C. The native Austinite had gone along with his father, Max Brooks, an architect and Johnson family friend, already at work on plans for the future LBJ Presidential Library. Onboard, the country’s leader, who had announced on March 31, 1968, that he would not seek re-election, pulled the younger Brooks aside and asked for his advice about the polarized Vietnam War homefront.


Early one February morning, nine history buffs huddled on the south shore of Lady Bird Lake. They carried with them maps in paper and digital editions. Egos left snugly at home, they readily shared anecdotes and insights about the potential Colorado River crossings of the Chisholm Trail, the multipronged Texas-to-Kansas routes for vast post-Civil War cattle drives, some of which were funneled through Austin. The nine gathered outside the youth hostel on Lakeshore Drive where Tinnin Ford Road dead-ends. How many Austinites who park here to jog or walk their dogs pause to wonder how this short, southwest-to-northeast street earned its name?
“Val M. Keating.” I certainly didn’t expect to stumble on those three words while looking into a Texas group that had reformed mental health care in the 1930s.  But there in black-and-white pages was a familiar name on a list of founding directors. That would be my grandmother, my mother’s mother. Alongside her name was an additional clue: “Texas Relief Commission.” All along I had known that Grandma Keating — a kindly but complex woman — had been a social worker. And that she had held fairly high positions in her field. Although I have researched diverse topics since the sixth grade, I had never bothered to find out more about her. A reminder: If you are interested in history, start with your family.
When Jim Ritts ascends the Paramount Theatre stage on Saturday for the populist palace’s annual gala, he will have much to extol. During 2015, the director of the Paramount and State theaters toasted the older venue’s 100th birthday with a string of parties, a careful revamp of its façade, and the crowning addition of a vertical sign absent from Congress Avenue for more than 50 years.  Ritts can look back, too, on the first five years of his tenure, which saw steady audience growth for movies, comedy, music and special events, including the scene-altering Moontower Comedy & Oddity Fest. And perhaps most importantly, plans for a key project that he has quietly promoted for years — a proposed 30-story tower to replace a derelict building at the corner of East Eighth Street and Congress Avenue — were made public recently. The tall “car-free” project will not only give the theater block a whole new look and feel, but also provide a floor of free offices for Ritts’ staff, along with extra cash to renovate the interiors of both theaters.
When Gobi-Kla Vonan served as a junior counselor at the Austin Sunshine Camps, he welcomed a 9-year-old boy on the first day. “He had never been to Zilker Park,” says Vonan, now 21 and studying architecture at the University of Texas. “And he lived in Austin.” Right away, Vonan filled in the new camper about Sunshine activities. “We’re going canoeing and swimming,” Vonan said. “We’ll have big-group games and small-group games. And team-building activities like ropes courses. You are going to have a good time and learn a lot.’” A similar welcome scene has been played out thousands of times since 1928, when the Sunshine Camps — founded by the Young Men’s Business League and the Travis County Tuberculosis Association — were first set up in the middle of Zilker Park.
When war broke out in Bangladesh in 1971, Mohsin Khataw was rebuilding jetties in Chittagong harbor, then part of East Pakistan. He was serving as project manager for a team of engineers from West Pakistan. “I was advised to leave,” Mohsin recalls of the bloody civil war between East and West that ended in Bangladeshi independence. “They said: ‘You are not very safe here.’ I had a team of West Pakistanis who begged: ‘Mr. Khataw, please go away.’ I couldn’t. … I can’t abandon my people. We were rounded up and put into prison. Very bad conditions.” When he was released on bail, Mohsin, disguised and pretending that he could not speak, flew through several Asian capitals before reaching his home in Karachi, Pakistan. “We did not know if he was alive or dead for nine months,” his wife, Amina Khataw, says. “If he even existed. When he came back, the airport was filled with people.”

Lisa Byrd has paid heed to East Austin history. She also has seen how the story can go astray. “There were freedmen, for instance, in Austin prior to Emancipation,” Byrd says. “Austin was a mecca in part because there already was a free black population. At one time, African-Americans made up 30-35 percent of the population.” The outgoing director of Six Square, formerly known as the African American Cultural Heritage District, grew up in Philadelphia. Being from somewhere else helped her bridge the gaps in the city’s shared memory about East Austin. She has observed the narratives ever more carefully since she was appointed in 2005 to the African American Quality of Life Initiative, a response to police mistreatment of the city’s black community, as well as to studies about local health, education and employment disparities.

Preview: For 50 years, Rudy Rodriguez cut hair in East and West Austin

A profile of barber Rudy Rodriguez, who grew up in East Austin, will appear online Saturday or Sunday, then in print on Monday. Here’s a short preview.

Austin barber for 50 years, Rudy Rodriguez at the University of Texas Club.

At age 14, Rudy Rodriguez picked up the scissors and comb.

Barely tall enough to clip his clients’ hair, he managed to graduate from Austin Barber College, back then on East Sixth Street across from the Ritz Theater. The next year, he began working at Ledesma Barber Shop, run by an elderly haircutter, at East Sixth and Waller streets in East Austin.

“My only customers were my buddies,” Rodriguez, 64, says with an affable grin. “Ten years later, I bought him out.”

Why would a ninth-grader, who also caddied at the old Austin Country Club on East Riverside Drive, take up this line of work?

“One brother was a barber, and a sister a cosmetologist,” he says. “Uncles, aunts, cousins are barbers and beauticians. I guess it runs in our family.”

During his 50 years behind the barber chair, Rodriguez has sheared the pates of major East Austin players such as former State Sen. Gonzalo Barrientos, former Travis County Commissioner Richard Moya and former Austin City Council Member John Treviño.

He also has done up Longhorn athletes, including star quarterbacks Rick McIvor, Robert Brewer and Randy McEachern as well as Todd Dodge — also a former quarterback and now coach at Westlake High School.

“I still enjoy cutting and styling hair,” he says over lunch at the University of Texas Club, inside Royal Memorial Stadium, where he sold souvenirs at age 11, when game tickets were $5. “If you love what you do, it ain’t work.” …