BAYSIDE – Like sentinels through time, postcards tell stories about buildings, places and people that often are forgotten or misplaced. But the memories these cards carry leave a satisfying sense of wanderlust in our minds.
Kam Wagert became captivated by postcards and began collecting them 10 years ago.
At first, she purchased them off of E-bay, but E-bay became too expensive.
Now, she has 200 postcards of places and buildings in Aransas County.
Her colleague, Pam Wheat Stranahan, worked on a grant from the Texas Historical Foundation and succeeded. The grant was used to publish a book: Aransas County in Postcards.
The paperback book has 128 pages of postcards from Wagert’s collection and eight chapters
Wagert and Stranahan, members of the Aransas County Historical Society, gave a presentation on 36 of the postcards featured in the book Saturday, Aug. 16, for the Bayside Historical Society’s quarterly presentation.
Wagert explained that in the early 1900s, photographs began appearing on postcards. By 1907, with brushes and paint, hand-tinted postcards were used.
In 1915, postcards began having a white border. In 1930-45, linen postcards were produced.
The photo chrome era for postcards began in 1939.
To put the audience in a travel-back-in-time mode, Wagert and Stranahan donned attire from early 1900s fashion as they took turns talking about various postcards.
The first chapter includes the Fulton Mansion, which remains standing today as a destination historic structure.
The mansion was built 1874-1877 by George and Harriet Fulton and was one of the first mansions to have plumbing, as well as oyster shell insulation (also a noise killer).
“A lot of postcards have wrong information,” Wagert warned. So it is wise to not take all information on the postcards as factual, especially dates.
Another chapter in the book covers the old Aransas County Courthouse, which was built by 26-year-old architect James Riley Gordon. Riley built many more Texas courthouses and mansions, including the courthouses in Victoria and Gonzales counties.
The Aransas County Courthouse cost $20,000 in 1889. Its nearby jail cost $10,000. The old courthouse was torn down and the current courthouse took its place.
Another chapter in the book covers old hotels, many no longer standing.
The hotels were built to accommodate tourists. It was noted that trains ran from San Antonio four times a day.
On the cover of the book by Wagert and Stranahan is a postcard of the 1889 Del Mar Hotel (also called the Aransas Hotel), which took up an entire city block. A fire destroyed the hotel in 1919.
Another chapter features the First National Bank of Aransas Pass built in 1890. Interestingly, Rockport had changed its name for about six years to Aransas Pass before returning to its Rockport name.
The book also has 1960s’ aerial photos of Rockport before Key Allegro was developed on Frandolig Island.
Another postcard shows Rockport’s Austin Street when its surface was oyster shells.
A postcard of the steamer Pilot Boy that ran between Rockport and Tarpon (Port Aransas).
A big hurricane was threatening in 1916, so Pilot Boy churned out in the middle of the storm to avoid debris ashore.
The steamer capsized with a crew of five aboard. Three drowned and two survived the incident.
And the first causeway across Copano Bay is featured on a postcard. The 1930 project was part of the “Hug the Coast Highway.”
Other postcards foment memories of the trailer court around the Fulton Mansion, the pond where the new H-E-B is today, the 1947 aquarium and a saw fish caught in 1908.
“Oh yes, there were saw fish in the bay,” Wagert said.
A 1960-74 postcard promotes the Sea Arama in Rockport. Today it is called the Sea Fair.
Of course, not to be excluded, one of the big features around Rockport and Fulton is Big Tree, the old live oak tree that is more than 1,000 years old.
Wagert said that while most postcard collectors prefer like-new postcards, she prefers those that have messages on them because the messages tell even more about the times the card features.
As she wrote in her book about postcards, “What an engaging way to learn about our past...”