Mary Rose Kronkosky Cartwright
A Tribute to Her LIfe (December 11, 1908-April 12, 2005)

In the late 19th Century, Theodore Christian Kronkosky “Theo,” was sent from San Antonio by his brother-in-law, William Gebhardt, into the rest of the United States to promote and direct national sales for a newly-invented spice. The new spice was called “Gebhardt’s Chili Powder.” Gebhardt founded the new company after experimenting in the kitchen of Theo’s mother in New Braunfels in the early 1890's. After much touring and marketing of this spice, Theo arrived in St. Louis, Missouri. Here his marketing ended. He met and married Katherine Gertrude Burke “Kate”, and they settled down to raise a family.

Mary Rose Kronkosky was born on December 11, 1908, in St. Louis, Missouri, the youngest of three siblings (brother Larry and sister Margie).

They lived on top of a hill in a beautiful two-story home called “The Big House.” Down the hill was a park, and a lake which was their ice skating rink in the winter. The children walked two miles to a Catholic school, and later attended a public school which was closer to home. Theo owned and operated a candy factory named “Honey Kist,” and he never came home without peanut brittle, heavenly hash, (which was the original heavenly hash), dipped chocolates, sugared popcorn, and many other sweets for the family.

One day in 1922, Theo had to discharge an employee who was caught stealing from the factory. Not long after, during the night, on Good Friday, a man was seen breaking a window and throwing something into the building. The factory immediately caught on fire and burned to the ground. During Theo’s efforts to fight the fire and to save his factory in the cold and wet weather, he developed severe influenza and was unable to continue working.

When Theo’s brother, Albert Kronkosky heard what had happened, he encouraged Theo to come to Texas to a warmer climate to regain his health. The family packed all of their furniture and belongings into a train car and came to Boerne on July 21, 1922, to make their new home.

Albert provided a home for the family on 10 acres of land on Bandera Road. Because Albert needed more water for all of his gardens on Kronkosky Hill, he wanted Theo to manage the water supply to “The Hill.”

Theo pumped the water from a huge well located on Theo’s property near present day Norris Street, and then up to The Hill from there. Albert had obtained a right-of-way through a portion of the Henry Graham place, which is now Wanda Street, for a water line to be laid up The Hill to the water tower. That water tower on The Hill then provided all of the water supply to the entire City of Boerne until the city drilled its first well located next to the swimming pool and fire house. This pool was located on the west end of the Plaza and southwest of Ye Kendall Inn.

On the east side of the Theo’s 10 acres, there was a second large well that supplied water to Theo’s own house. (This property on Bandera Road is now owned and occupied by Martha Hawkins. This second well is still operable but has been contaminated by underground gasoline leakage from the nearby service station.)

After settling in their new home, Mary attended the Holy Angels Academy on North Main Street across the street from St. Helena’s Episcopal Church where she was taught by the Sisters of Incarnate Word. After the school was closed, Mary attended the public school in the building which is now Boerne City Hall and Public Utilities Building on Blanco Road.

The family attended the little, old Catholic Church until the new one was built in 1923. They shopped for groceries in the Joe Dienger Building, now the Boerne Public Library, and they went to movies and dances in the old Opera House on the southeast corner of San Antonio and Main Streets. The Opera House was turned into a movie theater house, then was replaced by a modern building to house Ebner’s Drug Store. It is presently The Plaza Building. The Kronkosky family subscribed to The Boerne Star and the San Antonio Evening News. They went to card parties at Ye Kendall Inn and they entertained a lot at home.

Mary took oil painting lessons and piano lessons and did Italian cutwork. Her brother, Larry, would drive them to Welfare, Waring, and Sisterdale to dances. Mary learned to drive the Model “T” Ford when she was 16.

The family shopped in San Antonio by driving down the Old San Antonio highway. It was scenic, full of curves, up and down rolling hills, and just wide enough for two cars. When they arrived in San Antonio, Theo would go off to visit friends at the Buckhorn Saloon, or Potchernicks Hardware Store, and the rest of them would go to Joske’s and into all the shops on the way to Alamo Plaza.

Kate loved to cook and she and Theo enjoyed entertaining. It was always “open house” at their home. They had also joined the “Ye Days of Yore” dancing club. Mary would go with them and would participate in all of the old square dances. Over time, Theo and Kate had become friends with Mr. & Mrs. William Cartwright. When Mary was 17, one Sunday after church, her family stopped by to visit the Cartwrights. Mary was then introduced to one of their sons, Bernard Harvey. Not unlike Mary’s father, Bernard had come to Boerne because he was in ill health and recovering from lung surgery. His parents also felt that the Boerne climate would be good for him. The Cartwrights lived in 130 First Street in the Oak Park development. The Cartwright’s and Kronkosky’s visited back and forth frequently and played cards together.

Bernard had studied music at the Subiaco Monastery in Arkansas under the best music teachers in the south. A born musician, Bernard could play any string instrument, but was an accomplished violinist. At the time Mary met Bernard, he was quite noted as a cowboy singer, and he, with brother Jack, were known in the industry as The Cartwright Brothers. They toured and made appearances for Hearts Delight Flour, and performed on radio shows on WOAI and KTSA. The band was backed and funded by Liberty Mills Flour and was popular throughout the state. Their music was mostly western and cowboy tunes, waltzes, hoe-downs, and old time square dances. Not long ago, it was written in Country Music, USA magazine: “The Cartwright Brothers are considered one of the real pioneer bans of ‘country music’, and their recordings for Columbia and RCA Victor are much sought after as collectors’ items.” Mary kept most of Bernard’s old 78's.

It wasn’t long before Mary and Bernard were going everywhere as a couple. They would play music together - Bernard on the violin and Mary on the piano, and they would play for guests who came to each of their homes.

Bernard proposed to Mary in the early summer of 1930, and they were married on September 22, 1930 at St. Peter’s Church. On their way to West Texas for their honeymoon, they spent their first night at the famous Gunter Hotel located on Alamo Plaza in San Antonio. The next night they stayed in Sanderson, Texas in a hotel near the railroad tracks. All night long they endured the noise of the huge trains as they rattled by on the tracks. They made there way west to Alpine where Bernard’s relatives had one of the largest and most beautiful ranches in Texas. They picnicked in the Chisos Mountains and toured the vast ranch. The ranch was part of a valley surrounded by the beautiful Davis Mountains. There they raised only the best registered cattle. The cousins saw to it that Mary and Bernard were thoroughly entertained.

When the newly weds returned to Boerne they stayed a few months in the home of friends, the Russell Phillips who were to be away for a few months. The house was on Blanco Road about 6 blocks from Main Street. They then moved to a little rent house at 421 Turner Street. It had windows across three walls so they called it “the glass house.”

On July 21, 1931, Mary was rushed to Mrs. William Ammann’s Nursing Home on Ebensberger Street where Bernard Harvey, Jr. was born. A little over a year later Carol Ann was born on September 11, 1932.

Much of Bernard’s music work took place in San Antonio, so Bernard and Mary and children moved there, and on June 13, 1936, Mary Kay was born. Bernard was with his band performing on WOAI at the time, so he announced their third child’s birth over the radio.

Due to the Big Depression, Liberty Mills Flour Co. had to discontinue their advertising by The Cartwright brothers band. The family moved back to Boerne where Bernard secured a job with Boerne Chamber of Commerce and continued playing music for dances throughout the area.

In time, he purchased a filling station on the northwest corner of Main and West Theissen Streets. He decided to have a grand opening of the filling station by having his musicians provide the music for dancing on the pavement of the station. The hoe-downs rumbled through the town that day. It was a great success.

Bernard’s parents left each of their ten children a portion of land in North Texas. In 1937, Bernard sold his share of the inheritance to build their home in Boerne on approximately three acres which was part of the Henry Graham place and later became 223 Bess Street. The builder, Arno Harz, estimated the building price would be $1800, but with the many additional changes to the plan along the way, the cost of the house was closer to $2500.

Bernard and his brother, Dan, became cave explorers of the many caves in the area. They opened Fairy Caverns and Edge Falls to the public. They also explored Cascade Caverns with Al Gray. While the men explored, Mary says that she and Edith Gray and their children would always worry and wait anxiously up top until the brothers came climbing up out of the caves on rope ladders.

Brother Dan was working in the Boerne Post Office under Postmaster, William Gammon Davis. They were always needing additional help and as Dan was leaving the post office to go into the service, Dan suggested he hire Bernard to take his place. Mr. Davis agreed and Bernard started at the Boerne Post Office as a clerk. At that time the post office was located at 194 Main Street. Postmaster W. G. Davis suffered a heart attack and died. Bernard was appointed permanent postmaster in January 27, 1941. His father, William Cartwright, said that Bernard was now “set for life” since he now had a salary of $200 a month and a permanent job.

This was during World War II years. Bernard worked long hours keeping up in the post office . Many of the men were in the service and most of the capable women were working at the military installations such as Camp Stanley and Camp Bullis, thus the need for postal workers was great severe. Mary began to work alongside of Bernard when there was a heavy workload. Their children were in school by then, so Mary would walk a mile down the hill to the post office to help. For months Mary helped without pay before Bernard requested she be added to the payroll.

According to the post office rules and regulations, Mary was 1/4 inch too short for the job, but she had been doing just fine with that height for the last several months, so in October, 1942, Mary was put on the payroll.

By July 1, 1943, Bernard’s health began to weaken. He worked until near the end of 1947 when he took the sick leave he had accumulated over the years in order to regain his health. He served nine years and 4 months as Postmaster of the Boerne Post Office before he had to retire. Mary was given an upgrade in her classification and her pay.

On July 12, 1952, Mary’s fourth child, Patrick Thomas, was born. Bernard didn’t want to hire a baby sitter for Pat. Instead he wanted to take care of Pat himself, but Bernard was still convalescing. At this time, Bernard’s doctor felt that the infection in Bernard’s remaining lung could be removed surgically, which could possibly allow Bernard to recover enough to take on the responsibility of taking care of pat. With high hopes, Bernard went into the hospital for lung surgery in June of 1955. However, due to post-surgery complications, sadly, Bernard succumbed on June 20, 1955. He was only 57 years old.

Mary continued working at the post office. Every vacation from the post office, Mary would take her youngest son, Patrick, on trips. One year, since Pat wanted to see Mary’s old home in St. Louis, they drove up there. A super highway had taken over the park and lake where Mary used to play, but The Big House was just as pretty as it used to be. The candy factory land is now part of the St. Louis Arch and Parkway.

In July 1965, Postmaster Gerald Saxon died and as Assistant to the Postmaster, Mary was appointed Acting Postmaster until a new postmaster could be appointed. Three months later, President Lyndon Johnson signed the letter appointing Mary to the office of Postmistress. [According to her daughter, Kay, Mary would have preferred the title Postmaster]

Mary retired on March 31, 1973 after serving 30 plus years in the post office.

After her retirement, Mary traveled the world over with family and friends. All the while she worked diligently serving the Boerne Youth Council; School Study Commission; Kendall County Historical Commission; Boerne Chamber of Commerce; Community Dialogue Committee, Boerne Area Historical Preservation Society; Genealogical Society of Kendall County; City Planning and Zoning Commission; Director of the Boerne Chamber of Commerce and Secretary-Treasurer of the Community Dialogue Committee. She died on April 12, 2005 at age 97.

Written by Kay Cartwright Bernsen