Remembering the Alamo and Pedernales Falls State Park
Growing up as a Texan, I was enamored by the history of Texas, and especially the Alamo. When I was about 10 years old, my grandparents took my brother and me on a memorable trip to San Antonio and Austin to see the and the .
As a young boy, I saw The Alamo movie produced and directed by John Wayne in the movie theater. John Wayne created an entire movie set on a privately owned ranch in Bracketville, Texas. The construction of the movie set was begun in 1957 by James T. “Happy” Shahan who later was named the “Father of the Texas movie industry” in 1995 by Governor George W. Bush. After the filming of the The Alamo, the movie set was used for many other productions and commercials and was a tourist attraction. In fact, we took one of our family vacations to visit the “Alamo Village.” It was a blast to eat a meal with my three boys in the saloon where some of the movie was filmed, see a gunfight in the dusty streets, and tour the buildings. Unfortunately, Alamo Village is no longer open to the public.
When The Alamo produced by Ron Howard and starring Dennis Quaid and Billy Bob Thornton came out, of course I had to see it! But I had no idea I would be reminded of a terrible family tragedy while sitting in the theater watching this movie.
In May 1975, my younger brother was working on earning an Eagle Scout award and went on a weekend camping trip to Pedernales Falls State Park. My 17-year old brother drowned in the Pedernales Falls River on that trip, and my life was forever changed. The next month, a good friend and I went on our own camping trip to Pedernales Falls State Park and went swimming at the falls. It was one of the most beautiful swimming spots I’d ever seen. Because the river can go from a calm placid stream to a raging river in a few minutes, the falls area has been closed to swimming for many years since.
In one scene in The Alamo, a group of rebels are being executed by Santa Anna. Watching the movie in the theater, I was stunned to see the location of this scene was the exact place where my own brother died.
One of our good friends who lived across the street from us when we were kids grew up to become a well-known dolly grip in many successful movie productions, such as Forrest Gump, Apollo 13, Contact, and many others, including The Alamo in 2004!
I contacted my dolly grip friend and told him about the scene that was filmed where my brother died, and I found out that he was working the filming of that scene. I'm blown away by how sometimes life comes full-circle like that.
Back to 1987
There is another film about the Alamo under a bit different name of “The Alamo: The Price of Freedom” that was produced in 1987. This film plays continually at the San Antonio IMAX Theater at the Rivercenter next to the Alamo. It’s a shorter production that is great to see when visiting the Alamo, and my friend was the dolly grip for this movie, as well.
In addition to the incredible sacrifice and bravery that was part of my Texas heritage and history, all of these memories and connections make the Alamo even more special for me. Remember the Alamo!
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