Blogs » J.Q. Tomanek of Victoria » “The town of Victoria is a pretty place...”

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were the first words that many people read in “Life” magazine in 1942 heard about our small city. This was the way Victoria was described before my parents were even born. At this point in our history, one of the main economic drivers was the cattle industry. Yee-haw! Maybe it is my abstaining from meat once a week, but beef has been on my mind. I wonder what the recipe is for “sonofabitch stew” that the article also mentioned. New to me, the people of Victoria were known as “Victorianos.” Sounds good to me, pass that stew please. In those days, the Denver Hotel (the place where Helen Keller was met when she visited Victoria in 1941 because she wanted to stay the night here instead of in our suburb of Houston) was “the most elaborate public spot in town.” The article was centered on the arrival of Air Force cadets and ended with the funny scene regarding the almost perfect relationship between Victoria and the cadets by George Sessions Perry (novelist), apparently, the cadets were performing “fly-bys” over herds of cattle and so creating a stampede and a “hot and mad” rancher. I can just imagine it.

Like the Victoria of 1942 which was feeling the pinch of uncertainty with the arrival of Air Force personnel and how these “Yankees” would affect our culture, today we also face another uncertain moment. Although the cadets of the past were pilots on training, the balance is being weighed on whether a university that has cadets will move to Victoria (I know the Corps of Cadets will not be here if A&M moves, but it flows well with the story-line). Who knows what will be concluded in our State legislature, but I am sure Victorianos will stand in front of Rosebud Café, the closest café where The Manhattan Café used to be located, and the result will be similar: “Before the airmen came to Victoria, the cattlemen stood here (outside the doors of the Manhattan Café, located until 1954 at 106 S. Main) and worried about what would happen to their town. They don’t worry anymore.”

On a historical tangent, The Manhattan Café closed its doors in 1954 and the owners opened another establishment at 107 S. Liberty and known as the Victoria House. In 1970, the Victoria House was demolished to make room for construction expansion of Victoria Bank and Trust Co.