In the Beginning
Am I nuts? Why offer historic tours now in my advanced state of retirement? Why not relax and cruise and let someone else offer the tours? Why offer to help people learn about the wonderful Texas Dance Halls or the magnificent Painted Churches or the impressive Missions along the San Antonio River or the historic German Colonies? Why help others learn the fascinating stories behind the plaques and historic markers?
The simple answer is that I can’t help myself. I’m a teacher. And with Historic Tours of Texas I want to help others explore the fascinating historic sites around our state. They may have wanted to see these places but never gotten around to it. Or they have been but never with a knowledgeable tour guide. Or never toured Texas with the luxurious pleasure of sitting back and letting someone else do the planning and organizing.
Besides, no one else is doing it, so why not? Why not offer cozy, intimate, luxury tours to visit sites in Texas, touring in a stylish Mercedes Sprinter van, enjoying elegant bed and breakfasts, and providing concierge service to my guests as they learn the juicy, gossipy history of the places we visit?
As I thought back about this touring, I admit, I’ve been taking people on tours for some forty years. Back in 1972, I started a course in Florida History while I was teaching at Winter Park High School in central Florida. With the magnificent Castillo de San Marcos in nearby St. Augustine just three hours up the road, I wanted the students to see history up close and personal.
I begged for money from the WPHS principal to take not one, but two large busloads of students to the historic site. Sixty high school seniors, in the Spring, with graduation looming. What could possibly go wrong? I had a young, pretty student intern that semester so I put her in charge of one of the buses and I took the other. I failed to take any parents as chaperones.
Does the term “herding squirrels” or “corralling cats” bring up any images for you?
Naively, I thought the students would stay together under the watchful eye of the Park Ranger. He was waiting impatiently for us when we arrived, late, of course. Keeping sixty high school seniors focused and interested in a classroom is one thing. Out in the wilds of St. Augustine was something else entirely. The Ranger did his best. As did I. As did the young intern.
I was thankful that we made it back onto the buses alive that evening. Somehow, beer had been bought and spread through the back of the other bus. Not mine, thank goodness. Little buggers wouldn’t have dared. But the intern was easy to challenge. One of the very large football senior boys pinned her against a seat in the aisle. “Just teasing,” he said. The bus came to a screeching halt. I had to remove the senior, confiscate the beer and change buses with the intern.
Did that teach me not to do it again? Of course not! But the next time I took parents.
So taking people on tours is in my blood. But now I can offer tours to sensible senior citizens who are old enough to drink whatever they like. And the chauffeur does the driving!
Check out my still-in-the-works Web page at www.historictoursoftexas.com.