As we come down Florida St, most of us arrive at Labor St looking at the little house on the curve. Have you ever wondered about its story?
Known to many neighbors as “The Maribel House,” the house at 903 Labor St was built by Otto and Maribel Heinen in the 1930s. Otto was born in Kendall County but was a near-life long resident of San Antonio. He lived in a boarding house at 109 Barrera St when he was drafted into WWI. After returning home from the war, he married Maribel Green, in 1922. Maribel was originally from Yoakum, Texas. For a few years they rented a house a block away at 805 Labor St before building their house at 903 Labor. Mr. Otto Heinen worked for some years as a mail clerk in a downtown hotel.
Otto and Maribel had no children of their own, but were aunt and uncle to many nieces and nephews. They lived out their years in the house in Lavaca. Otto passed away in 1965, and Maribel stayed on until her death in 1980. She had given the house to the Central Baptist Church which was on that site until 2016.
For many who drive through Lavaca from I-37, the Maribel House serves as a focal point. As the oldest neighborhood in San Antonio, we continue to preserve not just the houses, but the stories of the people who called Lavaca home.
Haven’t been on Kearney St? That’s not surprising. Unless you live there, you probably don’t have a reason to go down the short, narrow street. One block long, it dead ends into the back of a property on Carolina St.
In the 1940s, Gasper Dupas moved from New Orleans to San Antonio. He built two apartments above a duplex at 128 Kearney St. His extended family gradually moved from New Orleans to San Antonio, living in the new four-plex house. His niece, Theresa Rasso lived there when she graduated from Brackenridge High School in 1949.
Theresa Rasso moved away, but returned with her husband, George Bloxham and their children in 1960. The Bloxhams raised their family on Kearney, including daughter Elizabeth [Courtade] and her two siblings, George and Zelia [Hernandez]. All three graduated from Brackenridge HS (’73, ’74, ’75). The Bloxham kids grew up playing ball in the street with their neighbors, walking downtown for Fiesta events, and joining their mom for lunch when she worked at Joskes.
But let’s step back further in time. Before Gaspar Dupas moved to Kearney St, Edwin and Alice (Edwards) Southard, also from New Orleans, rented the house at 128 Kearney St for $20/month. In 1930, Mr. Southard was a meat cutter and his 17 year old daughter, Iola, was a comptometer operator for a creamery. Fifteen-year-old Edwin Jr would have been a student at Brackenridge High School.
It appears 128 Kearney St had been a rental through most of the 20s. Stepping back to 1920, Mack (Macario) and Mary (Maria) Huizar lived there with their nine children. Mary Dorangricchia Huizar had emigrated from Italy as a child, while Mack was born to Mexican immigrants and raised in nearby Mission Espada, where his family had a farm. They sold the house later in 1920 and moved just a but south.
The Huizars’ neighbors in 1920 were Alfred and Ada Sperlich, immigrants from Germany and Austria. They lived at 132 Kearney through the 1930s with their two children, Oswald and Gertrude. Theirs was the only house on the block with a basement. Decades later, when the US would be gripped with fear during the Cuban Missile Crisis, Elizabeth Bloxham’s family, along with four other families on Kearney, took refuge in their neighbor’s basement. They’d filled it with food and water, prepared, should the worst occur.
More than a decade after the Bloxhams had moved away, Israel Rico’s family moved to Kearney St. Long time San Antonians might remember his father, Spanish Radio DJ Ruben Gomez Rico. Described as having a “velvety voice,” Mr. Rico had a weeknight radio show called “Guirratas de America,” on KXET 1250AM in the 1980s. The Rico family lived at 111 Kearney St in the mid-1980s, but it wasn’t their first home in Lavaca.
In 1979 the Ricos were living at 219 Sadie St when Wheatley High School [later Brackenridge] made a run for the city championships. Israel recalls how the entire community came together to support the school as they progressed through the playoffs. That was a momentus year for the Rico family. Earlier in 1979, nine-year old Israel, a student at Bonham Elementary, was shot by the Fiesta Sniper. Now a local artist, Israel created a Fiesta medal to mark the 40th anniversary of that horrific day. While a traumatic event (which brought him some fame at Bonham Elementary), Israel has many fond memories of his youth in Lavaca. Before he moved to Kearney St, he often went to visit his friends there, Rodrigo and Sebastian. They played ball on the street, much like Elizabeth Bloxham Courtade’s family and friends a decade before. His older sister worked at Handy Andy; they went to The Pig Stand for burgers. And even though his family moved around, he stayed with his friends at Bonham, Page Middle School and Wheatley High School. When Wheatley’s name returned to Brackenridge High School, Israel Rico was in the first graduating class.
When asked what made Lavaca special, Israel Rico described how his mom talked to a neighbor to get some medicine for a cold. “It was like that, a community. Everyone knew each other, you all talked to your neighbors. You helped each other out.”
While the house at 111 Kearney still stands, the original house at 128 Kearny is now gone. There’s a new house with a new family. But the memories of Kearney St will forever linger, as new memories will be made and new stories told. From the 1920s to the 1980s to the 2020s, Lavaca has changed a lot over the years, but one thing remains: the sense of community is strong.
And if you listen, you can hear the laughter of kids playing.