A Walk To Remember: Along The San Antonio River Walk
By Deb (Carolus) Sidener, Cridersville
It was 1943 and a newlywed couple on their first adventure together found themselves living on the outskirts of San Antonio, Texas as the young groom trained to serve his country in WWII. The two 19-year-olds, on a free day, set out to explore what was then a very undeveloped downtown walk along the San Antonio River. They took their time, camera in hand, meandering along the area between Convent and Augusta Street bridges when a stranger offered to take their picture. This beautiful young couple was destined to one day be my parents, Don and Helen Carolus.
For many years I have loved the picture of the two of them taken that day sitting on a portion of the low brick wall along the River Walk. I have longed to see it for myself and vowed to find that exact spot where they looked so happy and in love. To my delight, a flight attendant friend on a layover in San Antonio with some time to kill took the opportunity to explore the Walk for us and found the exact spot where my parents’ photo was taken! Now my interest was heightened even more! The River Walk, along with the Alamo and visiting Waco, were on my wish list for 2021. Then last fall an old high school friend called us out of the blue to reconnect after many years and sat at our kitchen table with us reminiscing. This friend now lives in Houston, Texas and as we shared our plans to visit his state, he informed us that he owns a rental vacation home just outside of … you guessed it … San Antonio! When he offered it to us, the planning was on! Pandemic or not, I was going to see that River Walk and visit the spot where Dad and Mom had paused that day so very long ago!
We flew on March 4 from Columbus to Dallas on a Southwest Airlines direct flight, picked up a rental SUV and headed south. Just two weeks before our arrival the entire state of Texas had been declared a disaster area due to several inches of snow and frigid temperatures resulting in widespread power outages, which had brought the state to a standstill. By the time we arrived, however, things were pretty much back to “normal,” as much as they can be during a pandemic. Our first night in Texas was spent about halfway between Dallas and San Antonio in downtown Waco at the Hilton, nestled directly beside the Waco Convention Center and the Brazos River. This hotel was an excellent choice as the Brazos has its own river walk and park areas just across the street from the Hilton.
About 3 blocks away at 601 Webster Street was The Silos, a unique area of shops encompassing an entire city block. Developed by Chip and Joanna Gaines of HGTV fame, the area includes Magnolia Market, Magnolia Seed & Supply, many food vendors for the hungry, and a large grassy areas on which families could picnic or just play together. We walked across the street to Jimmy Don’s to check out his metal sculptures and signs. Jimmy Don works closely with the Gaines’s on Fixer Upper and makes beautiful metal wall hangings for sale. For you Dr Pepper fans like me, Waco offers the Dr Pepper Museum just 2 blocks away from the Silos in the original bottling plant where the soda was created. For a small admission fee, we enjoyed seeing memorabilia of one of our favorite sodas, interactive displays, and a working soda fountain where we enjoyed a Dr Pepper ice cream float. Dr Pepper was invented by Charles Alderton at the Old Corner Drugstore at 4th and Austin Avenue in 1880 and was first served in 1885. Prior to being named Dr Pepper, customers ordered it by asking for a Waco! In the same vicinity just off I-35 at exit 335A and sitting beside the Brazos River is the Texas Ranger Hall of Fame. What a trip back in time seeing all the memorabilia here honoring this important branch of Texas law enforcement! With tons of displays dating from the old west right up to today, it’s a must-see if you are traveling thru Waco!
On Friday the 5th it was on to the San Antonio area. Traveling south on the extremely congested I-35 we made the turn off of the interstate at exit 119 toward our vacation home nestled high on a hill on the southern shores of Canyon Lake 163 miles south of Waco. This beautiful recreational area is a reservoir carved out by the Army Corp of Engineers and has the Guadalupe River adjoining it. For sports enthusiasts there is camping, fishing, boating, marinas, tubing rentals for the River, and lots of local eateries scattered around the shores, many offering live music at night.
Our temporary home high on a hill overlooking Canyon Lake was amazing! We loved the mornings and evenings on the large deck drinking in the views and the warmth of Texas. The house boasts 2 bedrooms, an open concept living/dining room/kitchen, 2 full bathrooms, and can sleep up to 11 people. Available thru Hill Country Premier Lodging, you can see it for yourself at hillcountrypremier.com/vrp/unit/lakeview_terrace-369-15.
On Saturday our host made the 4-hour drive from Houston and met us in San Antonio to go exploring. It was the 185th anniversary of the siege at the Alamo and there were dignitaries in attendance and large crowds of people. Never having visited San Antonio before, I was amazed to find that the Alamo sits smack dab in the middle of the city and that San Antonio was built around the Alamo. To honor the great sacrifice of those brave men who died defending it, there is a city ordinance preventing any building from casting a shadow on the Alamo at any time of day. Thus, most of the architecture close to the Alamo is relatively low to the ground. Even though entry is free, to enter the building itself you needed a ticket, and I had gone online the day before to procure ours.
After seeing the inside and walking around the grounds, we did our part to support the Alamo’s upkeep by dropping some money in the gift shop. Then it was on to the River Walk which is within yards of the Alamo grounds down a story of steps to river level. After all the months and years of yearning to see it and walk where my parents had walked so many decades ago, I was not disappointed! What a lovely and well-kept scene, bustling in some areas, quiet in others, and soothing to the soul! From the Alamo area, we walked about a mile to the area that our friend had mapped for us and there, between the Convent and Augusta Street bridges, we indeed found the very spot at which my parents had sat for their photo in 1943! Our friend who was with us kindly took many shots of Larry and me sitting on that same wall and even more in other spots as well. I was pretty sure Mom and Dad were smiling down as tears welled up my eyes thinking of them. Many, many thanks to our friends Gerry and Harrison for helping us make my dream come true!
Beautiful hotels, shops, and restaurants line much of the 15 miles along the River Walk. We enjoyed a leisurely lunch and then a guided boat ride on the River before getting back into our car and driving a few blocks to the Market Square flea market. Sitting alongside I-35 in the downtown area, dozens of vendors sell their stuff here and it was fun to shop to the lively music playing as we checked out the goods and southwest food offered in Market Square.
We said farewell to our friend and headed back to our temporary home in Hill Country about 45 minutes away. The next day, a beautiful Sunday, we drove around the entire Canyon Lake, stopping at several places to watch sailboats and pontoons along with jet skiers enjoying the water. On Monday, our last day in the San Antonio area, we decided to venture back into the city and spend our final day enjoying the River Walk again. This time we explored the areas in the opposite direction we had taken on our first day there and walked for quite a distance seeing new sites along the way. Our feet tired of walking, we bought tickets for the Hop On/Hop Off buses that drive you around the city and provide lots of interesting facts. Sitting on the top open area of the buses, we thoroughly enjoyed riding for about an hour seeing what a fascinating city San Antonio is. We both agreed that it was a good decision to visit here and that a return trip may happen soon.
And so ended our time in Texas. The next day we dropped our rented SUV at the airport in San Antonio and hopped on another Southwest flight headed west to meet a group of friends for a few days. But that is another story …
This trip was taken March 4-9th by Deb and Larry Sidener