Book has cherished slices of this rural life

Rosalie Ottmers, daughter of Edwin Moellering, saw the photo of her father that ran prominently on our front page three weeks ago. Now older than her father was in the picture, she came into the office and asked, “Do you have that picture of my daddy?”

That was one of the many touching moments surrounding a new book’s release, and Rosalie was one of many family descendants that were delighted by the new book that shines a light on Fredericksburg’s unique history.

“Our Way Of Life,” by Shearer Publishing, is a coffee table photo and story book that should grace every living room in town. If you want to get a feel of Fredericksburg and Gillespie County of 35 years ago, read this and marvel at the photography.

Every small town should be so fortunate to have portraits of its people, and therefore its history, documented like this. In word and in celluloid, a young Philip O’Bryan Montgomery III captured the details of life in this unique, then-agrarian rural town.

Montgomery showed a maturity in his work that extended well beyond his twenty-something years, when he spent summers here capturing this place and its people. Using a 4-by-5 film format in some cases was unusual in the days of 35-millimeter film, but his work speaks for itself.

I felt fortunate to get my own copy and meet some of those who made the book possible at the March 15 official book release at RS Hanna Gallery on South Llano Street.

I met the Dallas photographer who printed, matted and framed all the prints in a stately black and white, bringing a formality and classiness that did not detract from the stunning duo-tone prints.

I met Montgomery’s brother and mother, who gave some personal insight to the artist and the man he grew to be.

And I met a man I had admired from afar, Robert Decherd, who headed Belo Corporation, which owns the Dallas Morning News, still the state’s finest metro newspaper, in my opinion. We got to talk shop about our industry. Decherd, who was one of Montgomery’s friends for decades, helped get the project into high gear after Montgomery was diagnosed with a brain tumor.

The children of Hugo Klaerner, Bill Petmecky, Walter Doebbler, Moellering and Fred Itz attended the book release event. The children of others who helped shape this town, the gallery owners told me, had been to see the exhibit during the preceding week.

Everyone has a story, yet we lose many of them to the simple passing of time. In my hometown, my former Texas History teacher wrote columns each February about the lives of our town’s African-American population. It’s safe to say that a large part of that history would have been lost if she hadn’t taken the time to write these.

For the rest of this story, read this week’s print and online editions of the Fredericksburg Standard-Radio Post. If you are a print subscriber, your full online subscription is free. All you need to do is call 830-997-2155 to get a password. If you are not a subscriber, call 997-2155 or click on the ‘Subscribe’ button on the left side of the home page and sign up today!

 

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