Alamo historian addresses Hollywood errors

Dr. Bruce Winders, former historian and curator for the Alamo in San Antonio, gives a lecture about the historic mission and its place in Texas history Jan. 23 in the Grant Building in Beeville.

BEEVILLE – For Dr. Bruce Winders, his stint as the curator and historian at the Alamo in San Antonio often included hearing visitors’ incorrect perception of what actually happened during the Mexican siege in 1836.

Winders on Jan. 23 addressed a small gathering in which all proceeds benefited the Coastal Bend College Student Scholarship Fund. The event was hosted by Texian Books in the Grant Building downtown next to the Coastal Bend Distilling Co.

“When I first went to the Alamo, I got a lot of John Wayne questions,” he said. “I would promptly hear that it was a lot harder here because they knew what had  happened at Goliad. That didn’t make sense because that’s three weeks later.

“Why do people keep saying that? Then a few years later, I watched the John Wayne movie with the scene where (it is said) ‘Fannin’s not coming; they’ve all been killed.’ That’s where they got the idea. 

“And what I would say about that Alamo movie is great movie, bad history.”

However, Winders acknowledged, the 1960 movie “The Alamo” did introduce most people to the actual story. Winders has this advice for movie producers who wish to retell the Texas Revolution story on film.

“It’s a story so big that you can’t really tell it in one movie,” he said. “So what Star Wars did is they had the original movie, then they had sequels, but then they had prequels.” 

A member of the audience asked Winders what the biggest change in perception of the Alamo was since Winders and he were children. Winders said, “The biggest change that’s negative is that when you and I were growing up we had no doubt that the Alamo was important. And it’s gotten to the point when people say, ‘Who’s John Wayne?’ they usually say, “What was the Alamo?”

Winders said that during his stint as the curator of the historic site, he heard two teenagers say about the Alamo defenders, “Man, they were stupid. I’d have left.”

William J. Gibbs Jr. is a reporter at the Bee-Picayune and can be reached at 343-5220, or at reporter@mySouTex.com.