by Barbara J. Wood
Return to "Talk"

PEANUT FESTIVALS

Gilded peanuts and golden memories — recalling past Floresville Peanut Festivals 

By Rachel Howe | Wilson County News | 2016
 
The Wilson County News recently visited with past Peanut Festival royalty Nell Frances and Richard Ullmann, and Margie Pruski and Jim Lawhon to reminisce about past festivals, and how they have changed throughout the years.
 
"It was absolutely a surprise for me," Nell Frances Baker Ullmann said, remembering the day the Peanut Festival Association called her family to say she had been nominated as the festival queen in 1950. "It was quite an honor."
 
It remains an honor to be selected Peanut Festival queen. In the early years, queens were selected by the board from the Floresville graduating senior class. Now, young ladies apply and audition for the Peanut Festival Association board.
 
There was no royal coronation for Queen Tunaep IX and King Reboog IX in 1950. The Korean Conflict, following World War II, had put a strain on communities across the nation. That didn't stop the parade, however. The festival association did its best to make it special, even without an official coronation.
 
The Peanut Festival board chose Nell Frances unanimously. She asked her then-boyfriend, now-husband of 65 years, Richard Ullmann, to escort her as king. For her court, Nell Frances chose a representative each from Poth, Stockdale, La Vernia, Sutherland Springs, and San Antonio to attend her.
 
Although there was only a parade that year, Nell Frances said it was a grand event. "Everybody made it really special for us," she said. "They worked for hours and hours on the float. My train had golden gilded peanuts on it. It was made of purple velvet."
 
"The parade had real floats in it," King Reboog IX Richard Ullmann added. "Ones that really took a big effort to make."
 
That year, Texas Gov. Allan Shivers attended the parade, and crowned Nell Frances at the end.
 
"It was at the reviewing stand. He crowned me queen, and it was announced on the loudspeaker," she said. "It was the only governor that has crowned anyone, as far as I know. I guess they were trying to make it really special. And it was the biggest deal for us, really incredible."
 
Margie Roemer Pruski remembers feeling similarly honored. As Queen Tunaep in 1965, Margie remembers the weight of everyone's eyes on her during the coronation.
 
"To get all dressed up and formal — it was spectacular," Margie said. "You walk down the aisle, and everyone is oohing and ahhing — it was just a thrill to be queen."
 
Margie quickly chose Jim Lawhon as her king.
 
"Go back 50 years, everybody knew everybody," Margie said. "We were all good friends. We asked the ones we were friends with who would enjoy doing it, but it was very different then than it is today."
 
One of the differences, Margie said, was her dress. "The dresses were plain in comparison to today, but they were still elegant," Margie recalls. "Mine was made out of fabric that had these silver threads going through it so it shone and sparkled as you saw it, and then these little turquoise stones were sewn on. The train was even lined with fur."
 
It was no less elegant and beautiful than the elaborate gowns crafted today.
 
The dress Nell Frances wore in 1950 was different, as well. It was a simple, but beautiful, formal; this was due to the austerity following World War II. Nell Frances looked like royalty, all the same.
 
"She was the most beautiful girl in the county," Richard asserted, looking lovingly at his wife.
 
The festival and parade were tied closely to the county's rural roots.
 
"It was different back then," Nell Frances continued. "The Peanut Festival at that time was part of our economy, our commodity."
 
Jim Lawhon recalled the prominence of peanuts in the community.
 
"Every storefront in downtown Floresville had peanuts hanging from them," Jim said. "Fresh peanut plants with fresh peanuts hung all along the streets."
 
The air even smelled like peanuts. Jim recalls walking down the streets and smelling them drying in the big silos in town.
 
"The day after the parade, when you walked down the street, there were peanut hulls everywhere," Margie said. "People would eat the green peanuts off of the bushes that were hanging as they were watching the parade go by."
 
Throughout all the memories, one thing was abundantly clear: The Peanut Festival has been a major and memorable part of the history of Floresville.
 
"My whole family would gather from the time I was a little kid," said Jim, who was in the royal court three times before being crowned king. "We would set chairs up and watch the parade at my dad's office. It was always a big deal."
 
The role of queen was not quite as busy in 1950 or 1965 as it is now. Nell Frances and Margie still acted as ambassadors of the city, but did not participate in the number of parades and events today's court does. The attention and importance have not diminished, however.
 
"I had stacks of newspapers with my picture in it from everywhere," Nell Frances said. "From all over the state of Texas."
 
The honor of being queen remains, decades after. Just ask Margie.
 
"It's just such a unique feeling," Margie said, with a big smile. "One that not very many people have. To think they had chosen you out of everyone. It was such an honor."
 
Nell Frances and Richard are returning to the parade this year, serving as grand marshals. Margie and Jim are this year's honorary grand marshals. After all these years, they have come full circle — to be honored once again by the city of Floresville.
 
It's all relative:
 
Richard and Nell Frances Ullmann's daughter, Louceyette, was a duchess in 1974, in the Court of Our Farming Heritage. In 1977, Dick Ullmann, their son, was King Reboog in the Court of the Glorious Lone Star State. This year, their great-granddaughter, Gigi Soleil Hill, is the scepter bearer in the Court of Bohemian Blooms. Margie Pruski's daughter, Nicole, served in the royal court as well — as Queen Tunaep in the 1990 Court of Centennial Celebration.
 
Peanut Festival Fun Facts
 
•The Floresville Peanut Festival began in 1938.
 
•John Connally, who served as Texas governor from 1962-69, was the first King Reboog, in 1938.
 
•The royal titles are Queen Tunaep — peanut spelled backwards — and King Reboog — goober spelled backwards.
 
•What's a "goober"? — The word goober is from the African Bantu language. It means peanut!

Recalling past Floresville Peanut Festivals 

Fb img 1641928133108

Floresville buildings

What buildings in Floresville Wilson County Texas  do you recognize  along with the business name back in the 1940's?
 
The Karnes City High School Band takes to the dirt streets, passing the Teltschik Dry Goods Co. and the White House Cafe, during a Floresville Peanut Festival parade in the early 1940s. June (Graf) Jones, Mary Forister's aunt, is the fourth on the last row, right side.
**********
 
COURTESY / Wilson County News
Fb img 1634958852123

Denhawken Community Farm Bureau

Denhawken Community Farm Bureau .....  represents the peanut industry in an undated Peanut Festival Parade photograph provided by the Wilson County Farm Bureau.  Can you identify the young lady pictured?

Courtesy/Wilson County Farm Bureau 
Fb img 1634956391357

Downtown Floresville

Downtown Floresville Wilson County Texas, Barbara Williams stands in front of the Franklin Store, far right, on C Street. The cutie has her wagon float all decorated with peanuts  getting ready for the Floresville Peanut Festival parade during the 1950s.

Courtesy/Barbara Williams
Fb img 1634827339913

Parade 1948

Floresville Peanut Festival Parade 1948...   Steven Raabe  shares, "That is the Kasper School float with a model of the Kasper School in the middle of the float. David Raabe is in the rear looking away from the camera." Look at the peanuts hanging off the wagon sides! When peanuts were plentiful, they decorated most parade entries as well as outside all the businesses. Even for years, invitations were sent out in the form of small bags of peanuts. Sent many of those!

The peanut

WILSON COUNTY TEXAS ... The peanut used to be Wilson County's main crop thus the Peanut Festival. The history of the peanut festival dates back to 1938 when the "Floresville Peanut Pow Wow" began. Intended as a method for promoting the region's farming community, the festival was designed to celebrate the impact that the peanut has had on the agriculture of Southwestern Texas. Organizers changed the name to "Floresville Peanut Festival" during planning sessions for the first festival. 
 
Most Wilson County citizens have seen the "Big Peanut" on the lawn of the Wilson County Courthouse in Floresville Texas. The Texas size peanut was the brain child of Liz Bayer and she worked earnestly to see that it was erected as a symbol for an agricultural past, a past that brought abundance to the local economy.
 
 Men who worked on the Peanut were Louis Martinez, Jose Martinez,  Ponch Martinez and Richard Ullmann. Bruce Woelfler says, " My dad worked on the peanut & helped build it. I believe he worked for C.B. Christians and Sons lath and plastering out of San Antonio. I don't remember what year was when they built it they did the pecan in Seguin also."  Ralph Boeing did the welding.
 
The Floresville Jaycees and Jaycee-ettes held the dedication service for the "Peanut"  on October 10,1970.  The sign to the right of the statue states: "In loving memory of 'The Peanut King' Joe T. Sheehy who in 1916 experimented with peanut farming and introduced it as a viable crop to the farmers of Wilson County." The sign was placed by the descendants of Joe T. Sheehy. Mr. Sheehy resided in Sutherland Springs Texas near his peanut fields. 
 
This year is the Silver Anniversary of the Floresville Peanut Festival October 12, 2019. While there, it is traditional to have your photo made with the giant peanut.

Information provided by the Floresville Peanut Festival
Fb img 1634186399189

Woldert Peanut Company float

Woldert Peanut Company float in parade, Peanut Festival, Floresville, Texas, 1949.  ''Spectators of the eighth annual peanut festival had all the peanuts they could eat after this youngster atop the sacks of peanuts finished tossing them to the throng.'' (Courtesy of UTSA Libraries)
Fb img 1634185194057

John Connally and Miss Elizabeth Sheehy

Mary Forister originally shared this photo of John Connally and Miss Elizabeth Sheehy in October of 1962. John and Elizabeth were first Peanut Festival King and Queen in Floresville Texas back in 1938.  Remember John Connally was  our beloved Texas Governor as well being in the vehicle when President Kennedy was assassinated.
FLORESVILLE TEXAS PEANUT PEOPLE ... These vintage Peanut People Shakers are so cute! Wonder if any of these still exist in Wilson County Texas homes?
(Photos from Ebay)

"What are your favorite memories of the Floresville Peanut Festival?"

Lois Wauson for years wrote a column,
"Rainy Days and Starry Nights" in the Wilson County News. Lois is taking us on a side trip to the Floresville Peanut Festival when times were better & safer for the kids to run freely & all the family attended making it full day affair. 
 
Peanut Festival Time 
 
 It was Peanut Festival Time in Wilson County. The year was 1947. It was the time our family looked forward to all year long. It was Saturday. The weather turned out cool, late in September. Mother and Daddy and all of us kids had been up since daybreak. All of chores done, we ate our breakfast, hurriedly getting dressed, and all piled into the Ford Pickup to head for town. We had to be there before the parade started. Besides, we needed to get a good parking place in the parking lot, near Merchants Feed Store. We wanted to park beneath one of the big shade trees in the sandy lot. The pickup would be our contact point for the day. It was a place to meet, and a place to rest, or bring our friends to talk. 
 
We were excited. We were early enough to get under one of the big trees. We kids all took off running to get a good place to watch the parade. My sister Margaret and I tried not to run. We were "too old" to hang out with the younger kids, and tried to lose them, so we hung back a little. Gerry and Donny, who were the youngest, eight and six, decided to wait for Mother and Daddy.
  
Bubber and Jr., 12 and 10, took off running to get lost in the crowd. We decided to wait for Sister (Elizabeth), who was 11, and didn't have a sister her age to hang out with. The three of us walked fast down the sidewalk, talking excitedly; we had to dodge bunches of peanut bushes hanging from the edges of eaves of the sidewalk overhang. Both sides of the main street were decorated with peanuts. The sidewalk was bustling with people. We could hear the sounds of the bands warming up across town, and soon the streets were lined with people.
 
 Soon we could see the bands coming, their instruments flashing in the sun. Then came all the honorary chairmen, and dignitaries, from across Texas. Then the most glamorous part of the parade, the floats with the Queen of the Peanut Festival, and the Princesses, plus all the other floats in the parade. By the time the last band marched by, the sun was climbing higher in the sky, and the smell of hamburger coming from the sidewalk café down the street, was pulling us to that area. Grabbing a hamburger and a Coca Cola, we started toward the next fun thing, which was the carnival.
 
After riding the rides and checking out all the booths at the carnival, in the middle of the afternoon, we walked back to the dusty parking lot where our truck was, to see if anyone was there. We found Mother sitting in the truck, visiting with one of our neighbor women, who had also come to town for the event. Daddy was off somewhere having a non-stop conversation with some of his old cronies, or maybe over at the beer joint having a beer. 
 
Peanut Festival time was one of the few times he splurged and bought a bottle of Pearl or Lone Star. Asking Mother if we could go back to the carnival, she said,  "Okay, but when it gets dark we will be heading toward home". There was someone I knew who was working on one of my favorite rides. His name was Frank and he went to Poth High School with me.  I could tell he was sweet on me, and I sort of liked his looks, in his cap, pushed back off his forehead, and his wide grin. I spent the next two hours, riding on that ride.
 
 It began to get dark, and many people were heading home, but I stayed there and kept riding and riding. He would let me ride for free over and over again. I never got off. As I spun round and round high up in the sky, with the lights of the carnival and the town swirling around me, I felt as if I were in another place. I didn't feel like a 14 year old farm girl, who lived in an old gray- weathered farm house, with a few broken windows covered over with cardboard, and no running water in the house. I felt like Cinderella, flying off in my fancy coach, with Prince Charming watching me go. As the world spun round and round, I never wanted the night to end.
 
 Suddenly my brother and sisters came running out of the dark shouting, "Lois, you better get to the truck. We've been looking for you. Daddy is mad. We need to go home!"  Frank stopped the ride, and I got off, smiling shyly at him, and waved my hand. As I turned the corner, I looked back at him standing there is the soft glow of the carnival lights, waving, and the carnival area, with it's twinkling lights looked like a different world. It was stepping out of a dream.
 
When I got back to the truck, the rest of the family was there, waiting for me. By then Daddy had found someone else to talk to, and forgot to yell at me. I chose to ride in the back, since I didn't want to be fussed at, and leaned back against the cab, along with Margaret and Sister, as the others laid down on a quilt on the bed of the truck, along with all the groceries, and chicken feed. Everyone was chattering and talking about their day. My brothers and sisters teased me awhile about Frank, but finally everyone was quiet. By the time we got home, most of the younger ones were asleep. While we were riding down the highway toward our farm, then turned off onto the dirt road to our farm, I stared up at the sky with all the stars blazing in the night and day dreamed about the swirling, twirling ride at the carnival.
Fb img 1634184645847
POTH TEXAS ... The 1946 P.T.A. Float in the Floresville Peanut Festival. "United for Peace" was awarded "First Place". Names of those on the float is below the photo. (Photo from the Poth Pirate Annual)
Fb img 1623920273446

"Peanut Band" 1939

Floresville Wilson County Texas ...... The "Peanut Band" marching & playing in the 1939 Peanut Festival Parade. The uniforms is right on spot! Reading the names you see where the family involvement meandered through generations in same family. I love living in the rural area. The photo was clipped from the  September 27, 1979 issue of the  Floresville Chronicle Journal newspaper. [Photo Caption: Pictured above are:  Sign Carrier – Otto Johns; Drum Major – Dick Niemeyer; Trombones – Alfred Teltschik, someone Clesel and Wilbert Teltschik; Bass – C. A. Moehrig; Trumpets – Victor Miculka, Emil Miculka and someone; French Horn – E. J. Steinbert; Clarinets – Willie Teltschik, Wilfred Teltschik and Fritz Nitschmann; Drums – someone Teltschik, John Schroeder; and Symbols – Elo Nitschmann. Photo Courtesy of Alfred Teltschik ]
****************

NEWSPAPER COURTESY / Charles Johns
CAPTION COURTESY / TWCTHT Kevin Wagenfuehr
Fb img 1623919917919

8th Floresville Peanut Festival 1949 parade

Photograph from UTSA Library shows cowboys riding mules pulling a covered wagon in the 8th Floresville Peanut Festival 1949 parade in downtown streets near Wilson County courthouse.

Pioneer Day and Homecoming — 1953 Floresville Peanut Festival

A highlight of Pioneer Day and Homecoming at the 1953 Floresville Peanut Festival  was the presence of twenty-four couples who had been married 50 years or longer. (Courtesy of Laura Swiess)
L - R: Mr & Mrs. W. W. Spear (Pandora), Mr & Mrs. W. A. Reed (Sunnyside), Mr & Mrs. J.B. Poe (Stockdale), Mr & Mrs. A.R. Becker (Poth), Rev & Mrs. J.R. Kidwell (Stockdale), Mr & Mrs. Sam T. Moore (Fairview), Mr & Mrs. W.F. Smith (Floresville), Mr & Mrs.  Robert L. Lothringer (Fairview), Mr & Mrs. Albert Zunker (Poth), Mr & Mrs. J.P. Lorenz (Stockdale), Mr & Mrs. John Ivy (Nixon), Mr & Mrs. J.B. Polon (Nixon), Mr & Mrs. T.M. Dennis (San Antonio), Mr & Mrs. Fred Haese ( San Antonio), Mr & Mrs. R.E. Michens ( San Antonio), Mr & Mrs. John B. Scheffler (Kosciusko), Mr & Mrs. R.C. Talley (San Antonio), Mr & Mrs. J.J. Morhand (Nixon), Mr & Mrs. George E. Korges (San Antonio), Mr. & Mrs. John L. Chesser (San Antonio), Mr & Mrs.  F.A. Garner (San Antonio), Mr & Mrs.  John W. Wiseman ( Floresville), Mr & Mrs.  W.D. Dennis (San Antonio), Mr & Mrs.  William Freeman (San Antonio)