From time to time, the King William office receives a call or visit from a former resident with fond memories of living in our neighborhood. They are always encouraged to share those memories. One such former resident is Jacquie Banks who lived with her mother and grandmother on King William Street from 1943 to 1953.
Growing up in Nana’s House
By Sue Ann Jacqueline “Jacquie” Banks
In the early 1940s, my father was in the Navy so my mother and I lived with my grandmother, who owned the houses at 236 and 242 King William St. It was during WWII and San Antonio was bursting at the seams with military families and civilian workers. Nana rented out all of 242 and most of 236 except the rooms where we lived. Since mother wasn’t working, I had a great childhood with both my mother and grandmother at home all those years.
I attended Bonham Elementary and walked to and from school. The school grounds weren’t even fenced back then. My childhood friend lived one street over on Madison. Her name was Sheila Nichols. We laughed about our last names. I was Sue Ann Banks. Nichols and Banks – get it?
The Joske department store family lived in the corner house just across the street. They were considered royalty and I don’t remember our families interacting. What I do remember is that someone in that stately home played the piano quite well. There were two piano concertos in particular that left a haunting memory. Years later, I saw the movie The Eddie Duchin Story, with Tyrone Power and Kim Novak, and recognized those same beautiful tunes I heard emanating from the Joske home a decade earlier. They were Chopin’s Nocturne in E Flat Major and “Tonight We Love,” or Tchaikovsky’s Piano Concerto #1. They were beautiful!
Upstairs at 236 King William, there was an ancient toilet with a pull chain and a tank near the ceiling that often needed attention. Nana did most of the minor repairs around the house: fixing toilets, replacing faucets and general maintenance. This was an early imprint that women should be self-sufficient and I have carried on that tradition. Nana also had a green thumb. She’d be up at five o’clock in the morning watering her plants. There were lush borders along the driveway – rose bushes, zinnias, pansies and trailing honeysuckle.
I slept with Nana most nights in her big four-poster bed, so tall that I had to use a stepstool. When it was really hot, she turned on the window a/c unit – a swamp cooler. If that didn’t cool us off, she’d take the bottle of water she used for sprinkling clothes before ironing and sprinkle the bed linens. She was clever and resourceful.
On the porch of 236 King William, there were two wooden swings which faced each other. I can still hear the sound of the heavy chains as they lulled me to sleep with my head in my mother’s lap. The entry door with its big oval glass led to the foyer that was somewhat dark but always cool and quiet. A round oak table with a doily under a vase of flowers sat in the middle of the foyer, the pump organ in an alcove and straight ahead were French doors leading into the living room – our part of the house. To the left was the only downstairs apartment with its own bathroom off the foyer. Upstairs, there were perhaps three or four more apartments that all shared a common bathroom.
We ate a lot of fresh food – it was cheaper than canned goods. A man with a truck went up and down the neighborhood streets selling fresh vegetables. It was like the Good Humor truck only with vegetables. The milkman left fresh milk and cream at our front door.
In June 2006, I took a good friend through the King William neighborhood. A gardener was working in front of 236 King William so I stopped to ask if the owner was home. John Likovich was gracious enough to show me around the house. With the restoration carried out by John and Susan, the house looks like something out of Architectural Digest. Nana would be so pleased. That home represented the best of family times and much of my heart still lies there. I didn’t cry until I got back into the car.
- Compiled by Bill Cogburn