|The offending sign.|
The next morning I got up bright eyed and bushy tailed and headed back north 16 miles beyond Fredericksburg to a little "blink and you'll miss it" spot on the road, Cherry Spring. Founded in 1852 by Dietrich Rode and William Kothe, two Germans who moved from Fredericksburg, the town was on the route from San Antonio to El Paso and thus enjoyed a good amount of prosperity as a commercial center. A post office was granted in 1858 and it had a population of 202 in 1860. Eventually though, hard times arrived and the post office closed in 1912. By 1933 the population stood at 40 and soon, only 9 residents remained with only one commercial building still standing. That building had been built in 1890 by a one-time Apache captive named Herman Lehmann. For years it served the neighboring ranchers as a saloon, post office, and dry goods store all rolled into one. In the early 1950's, it was converted into the Cherry Springs Dance Hall and an amazing thing happened.
Music and fame came to Cherry Spring. Anybody who was somebody in country music played the Cherry Springs Dance Hall. Touring acts from the Louisiana Hayride and the Grand Ole Opry played there. Patsy Cline, Hank Williams, Bob Wills, Buck Owens, George Jones, Johnny Cash, and Ernest Tubb played there. On October 9, 1955, The King himself, Elvis, played the Cherry Springs Dance Hall. The price of a ticket? A whole $1.50. Every weekend, people traveled from miles and miles away for a few hours of great music and dancing in little bitty Cherry Spring.
And then, gradually, things changed. The big names started playing concert halls and arenas and stadiums instead of dance halls, places where thousands rather than dozens paid good money to hear them. Cherry Springs Dance Hall lost out and music abandoned Cherry Spring. All was quiet once again when the hall closed in the 1980's. After almost 100 years of music and history, the old building became a hay barn and began to fall apart from neglect.
In the late 1990's, interest picked up and several investors bought the old place and renovated it. Once again the sound of music reverberated in Cherry Spring every Saturday night. This time the music was being provided by the up-and-coming pre-Nashville country artists and once again, people traveled from miles away to enjoy good music and some two-steppin'. The only rule was "no line dancing." The manager said, "Nobody can line dance and look good doing it."
In 2007, the place closed yet again and new investors were being sought. I heard the place is open now, but it didn't look like it to me. The whole town looked abandoned except for a couple of old homes with dirt and weed yards. No people were around to ask. I got out of my truck to take a few pictures and see if I could find anyone to talk to, but the only living thing I found was an old dog who half-heartedly barked a couple of times at me and took a couple of slow, easy steps toward me before deciding I wasn't worth the effort and laid back down. He weren't no trouble. I walked over and scratched him behind the ears a few times.
One interesting little tidbit, the town is named Cherry Spring, but the dance hall is named Cherry Springs. Why? Just because they thought it sounded better.
Cited by the State of Texas Music Office as "one of the most historic dance halls in the world," I hope it's actually open and going strong. I like to think that every Saturday night, out in the middle of nowhere, music is being made, dancing is going on, and people are happy. Whether it is or isn't, it somehow makes me content to think it is. So in my mind, that's the way it is.
(Please click here to read the first post in this series.)