Historian Origin Disputes /  Controversy over Jewish "Junior League" /
Praise for Jewish "Junior League" / Lone Stars of David /
Jewish Stars in Texas / Beth-El Congregation  /  River Crest Country Club

Historian Disputes Origins of Local Golf Course and Club

Controversy over Jewish "Junior League"

Book's Title has Junior League's Lawyer Crying 'Genericide'...
Fort Worth Star-Telegram, July 7, 2008, business page, 5-C

 By Barry Shlachter

It’s a real word. Honest.

Is Fort Worth writer Hollace Weiner guilty of genericide?

The lawyer for the Association of Junior Leagues International asserts that Weiner’s latest book, Jewish "Junior League”: The Rise and Demise of the Fort Worth Council of Jewish Women (Texas A&M University Press) will probably cause confusion over the relationship between the defunct Jewish group and the Junior League.

In other words, said lawyer James Meyer, Weiner is engaging in "genericide" — taking a protected trademark and promoting its use in a generic sense.

                                                            Photographer: Glen Ellman
It’s a real word. Look it up.

Told of the genericide charge, Weiner was taken aback.

"That sounds terrible," said Weiner, a former Star-Telegram reporter. "It sounds like a crime for which I would be hauled before the World Court."

Weiner explained that the book was a version of her master’s thesis and that A&M Press added the quotation marks to the title.

The book chronicles a group of Fort Worth women who launched a local affiliate of the National Council of Jewish Women at the turn of the last century. Weiner writes that it "seemed to be the Jewish equivalent of the Junior League, a prestigious women’s organization that performed social service and conferred social status." But the local Jewish group failed to keep up with the times and disbanded in 2002, 101 years after its founding.

Weiner declined to address the genericide allegation, referring us to A&M’s attorney, whose office in turn referred us to an A&M spokesman who said the university has yet to respond to the association’s complaint.

Next we contacted the Association of Junior Leagues’ New York-based marketing chief, Barbara Taylor, who told us that the group did allow another book, The Devil and the Junior League, to slide.

No warning. No scary letter from a Philadelphia lawyer. Nada.

"But that was a work of fiction about a fictional 'Junior League,’ while Ms. Weiner’s book is nonfiction," said Taylor, a transplanted Texan and a Highland Park High School grad.

Asked whether the quotation marks in Weiner’s title, Jewish "Junior League," might just tip off readers that the book concerned something akin to, yet distinct from her organization, Taylor would respond only by indicating such use still wasn’t kosher.

Moreover, she complained that Amazon.com was listing the book sans quotation marks.

Then we decided to consult a neutral expert, professor Megan Carpenter at Texas Wesleyan University School of Law.

Her gut tells her that Weiner has a strong defense. Carpenter, who teaches intellectual property law and has written numerous cease-and-desist letters as an attorney, went on to say that the Junior League’s action was expected. In fact, by not aggressively protecting one’s trademark, a famous brand could lose it. . . .  . In Weiner’s case, she is talking about a Jewish organization "equivalent" to the Junior League, Carpenter said.

What should the author have titled her book? . . . Carpenter [suggested]. . . "The Jewish Equivalent of the Very Famous Organization of Charitable Women that is Exclusive?"

Stay tuned.

POSTSCRIPT: The publisher, TAMU press, decided to place the words "Junior League" in quotes and not to respond at all to the League's threatening letter. That is the last the publisher and the author ever heard from the Junior League's legal team.

Will’s Texana Monthly
Vol 3, April 2008 

“Over a century ago, out where the tumbleweeds begin, Jewish women organized themselves for preservation. This is the story of the Fort Worth section of the National Council of Jewish Women. They minded their own spiritual, temporal, and cultural lives and prepared the social environment for the next generations as Fort Worth grew. They cared for their sisters and brothers as immigrants infused the state . . . these lionesses . . .  lead in causes of feminism and general society . . . . They did more than pat unleavened bread.  Ultimately . . . in 1999 the women formally closed shop—their daughters no longer critically needed the tight cradles of their grandmothers. The lights of Fort Worth and America beyond had brightened and shone on all. But the women’s endurance and elegant social weaving is a guidepost to all."


Praise for Jewish "Junior League"

Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Oct 2009

“As an organizational history, Weiner’s account would deservedly belong in the growing catalogue of work treating female associational life in Texas. The author, however, hunts larger game here. She infuses the narrative with ambitious subtexts illuminating the skill and savvy with which Council women carved cultural space amid extremes that constantly tasked their identifies. . . Weiner provides useful insights into Jewish women’s associational life in the state, and sheds needed light on the intrepid tactics through which Texas women blazed new paths to public visibility, influence and equality.”

-- Kevin C. Motl, Ouachita Baptist University.

Journal of Southern History, Vol. 75, No. 4, Nov. 2009

 “Weiner has thoughtfully expanded a small topic with deep archival research and a solid grounding in the literature of women’s history.”  Weiner  fills a lacuna in the literature on Texas women’s voluntary associations. . . .
-- Judith N. McArthur, University of Houston/Victoria

“In Hollace Weiner’s capable hands, the history of the ‘rise and demise’ of the Fort Worth Council of Jewish Women becomes a cautionary tale that anyone interested in women’s organizations should read and ponder. A refreshing and untraditional institutional history, Jewish “Junior League” makes a major league contribution to Jewish women’s studies.” 
-- Jonathan D. Sarna,
Joseph H. & Belle R. Braun Professor of American Jewish History, BrandeisUniversity, and author of American Judaism:  A History

" . . . Cowtown loves stories true and otherwise, and local history buffs will want to add Hollace Ava Weiner's latest history tome The Jewish "Junior League" to their libraries. It's a fascinating look at the once-powerful Council of Jewish Women and the local chapter's impact on Fort Worth's social structure. Hollace, a top-notch writer and a good historian, has also penned Jewish Stars in Texas: Rabbis and Their Work and Lone Stars of David.
 -- MARY ROGERS, Fort Worth Star-Telegram, April 29, 2008

“…an important contribution to the field of women’s and southwestern studies . . . could do a great deal to help us understand change within a specific population, one that has worked both to retain a unique identity while integrating with, and contributing generously to, the larger community.” 
-- Elizabeth York Enstam, author of Women and the Creation of Urban Life: Dallas Texas, 1843-1920

“…well written, well documented, and a contribution to the field of Texas women’s social history.” 
-- Nancy Baker Jones co-author Capitol Women: Texas Female Legislators, 1923-1999

"Hollace Weiner's beautifully crafted exploration of Fort Worth's National Council of Jewish Women is an important contribution to Tarrant County history and an inspiring testimony to the power of one group of visionary women volunteers to enhance community life for almost a century. It is also an engaging story."
-- Karen Perkins, founding director, Tarrant County Women's Center
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Lone Stars of David-The Jews of Texas

American Jewish History,  Vol 94, No.3, Sept. 2008

“Hollace Ava Weiner, co-editor and driving force behind Lone Stars of David.... writes with the ear of a journalist and the eye of a painter..... The richness and readability of the volume is a credit to the talents of its editors.”  
-- Dr. Dale Rosengarten, College of Charleston

Journal of American Ethnic History

Vol 27, Issue 4 

Weiner and Roseman have produced a work of popular history that …raises fascinating questions for scholars. The book’s 21 essays suggest that cultural isolation forced Texas’s pioneer Jews, often the only members of their faith in their frontier communities, to pursue “blending in without becoming absorbed.”…Much of the last half of the volume centers on colorful, compelling biographical sketches of prominent Jewish entrepreneurs and politicians.
--  Dr. Michael Phillips, Collin Community College


Atlanta Jewish Times

Oct 1, 2007

I wish Brandeis University Press, which published this book, would do one on every state. It reads like a novel, but better, because it’s all true. . .  Each chapter is lavishly illustrated with vintage photos. There’s even a photo of Lyndon Johnson at the dedication of Agudas Achim’s refurbished sanctuary in Austin in 1963. He had arranged for 42 Jews to emigrate from Poland to the U.S. in 1938. This is a book well worth   possessing for anyone interested in the Jewish-American experience.
--Suzi Brozman, staff writer 


National Jewish Post and Opinion

Sept 12, 2007

 “This oversized, well-illustrated volume . . . . is based on extensive research an succeeds in illuminating the lives of Texas Jews and their pioneering spirit.
-- Morton I. Teicher


Multicultural Review

Fall 2007

This terrific book, with many photographs does an excellent job of describing Jews in Texas and showing how people from one culture adapt to another culture. . . .  Chapter 8, “West Texas  Wildcatters: From Immigrant to Patron Saint Rita,” by Barry Shlachter, . . . [demonstrates  how] Jewish leadership in discovering oil in the Permian Basin section of Texas led to much money for the University of Texas and helped transform it into an elite university. . . . Chapter 17, “Minority Report: Dr. Ray K. Daily Battles the Houston School Board,” by Lynwood Abram, shows how Daily . . . helped establish rights for women and aided the development of two universities: Texas Southern University, a historically black school, and the University of Houston.
-- Russell Eisenman, University of Texas/Pan American

“You can have a good time just leafing through these pages, but sooner or later you'll want to read every word, because this is a book with a serious pedigree."
—Harriet Gross, Texas Jewish Post

This book fills in a lot of blanks regarding the role of Jews in Texas history, especially in the areas of education, petroleum, merchandising and philanthropy. It's about time some of this was documented. It's a fascinating scholarly work written by some talented storytellers."
 --Tumbleweed Smith, newspaper columnist and radio personality

“I’m enjoying your book. Some of the people in it I know – but I’m learning more about them. Of course, like everybody else, I absolutely love Bob Strauss. There is nobody I’d rather listen to . . . I will tell him how much I enjoyed his foreword. The Dell chapter was particularly interesting to me.”
--Warren E. Buffett, CEO
Berkshire Hathaway

"Here is a moving history of contributions made by the Jewish people and the pathos of their immigration, settling, and integration into the Texas landscape. . . . The quality of Texas life has been enriched beyond words by their presence."
—Dan Jenkins, sportswriter,
  novelist, author of Semi-Tough and Bubba Talks.

A wonderful collection, richly illustrated, these 21 chapters by three dozen knowledgeable authors are charmingly readable."
--Will’s Texana

“ . . . an insightful tabletop anthology.”
Dromgoole, Fort Worth Magazine

“From discussing women’s clubs to early Zionism to the generosity of El Paso’s residents to Holocaust Survivors, Lone Stars of David does an admirable job . . . captur[ing] the diversity of Texas’s Jews while demonstrating their role in shaping the history   of the state.”

“Among the recurring themes in this book: how to balance and blend your identity as a Jew and as a Texan. . . . For the most part, Texas Jews didn’t face anti-Semitism . . . In part that was because they were white, in part because of the deep respect in the Bible Belt for Judaism. And of course Jewish numbers in the state have always been small."
– Fritz Lanham, Houston Chronicle

"The history of Jews in Texas does not parallel the history of Jews in America . . . . Jews flocked to Northeastern . . . cities in large numbers fleeing poverty and pogroms in Eastern Europe; Jews trickled into Texas, usually from other parts of the U.S., seeking adventure and opportunity. . . . The Jewish immigrants to Texas tended to mix with their gentile neighbors and were more likely to be treated with curiosity than animosity.”
--Cathy Frisinger, Fort Worth Star-Telegram
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Jewish Stars in Texas

"Hollace Weiner's talents as a writer and reporter shine through in these profiles of unforgettable Texans. Too bad most of these rabbis lived in an era before prime time. The Beaumont rabbi who answered an ad for a "mixer" would make a fine documentary. The Dallas rabbi with the stirring radio voice could have been a Nightline authority airing his views on race relations and the Religious Right. The lay-rabbi who blessed the shrimp fleet would win the hearts of any audience."
-Connie Chung, former network TV anchor

" For New Yorkers who assume Texas has no Jews, Hollace Ava Weiner's book is the equivalent of a pastrami on rye with a jalapeño on the side. Those nonconformist rabbis who rode West into the sunset left kosher cuisine behind, but they kept their prophetic sense of social justice. . . . My new heroes are little Rabbi Henry Cohen and his compadre Father Kirwin who thwarted the Galveston KKK; Rabbi Maurice Faber, from genteel Tyler, who told Governor Pa Ferguson where to go; and Ephraim Frisch who was driven out of San Antonio for his strident liberalism. Mixers and mavericks, these rabbis were mensches whose life stories give a rich new perspective to Texas lore and Jewish geography. Yankees take note. "
-Molly Ivins, Texas commentator & syndicated columnist

"Melding her dual career skills, Hollace Weiner casts a historian's truths into the lively prose of a journalist. The reader fairly flies from 1873 when Heinrich Schwarz settled north of Houston as Texas' first ordained rabbi, to 1984 and the death of Dallas' much-admired Rabbi Levi Olan. From the century-plus between those two rabbis, Weiner chooses nine others in as many Texas towns . . . . Despite the relatively small size of their congregations -- or perhaps because of it -- these men had remarkable influence on Texas art, culture and politics as well as religion"
-Harriet Gross, Dallas Morning News, January 8, 2000

"Former Star-Telegram reporter Hollace Weiner has cranked out a wonderful little tome that aficionados of Texas history will want to own. . . . The rabbi on the book jacket is Heinrich Schwarz, a Prussian scholar who reluctantly immigrated to Hempstead in 1873 at the urging of relatives who operated Hempstead's largest store, called The Big Store -- what else? He was the first rabbi, but others were to follow. . . . .Schwarz and his family were welcomed to Hempstead as if they were celebrities."
-Mary Rogers, Fort Worth Star-Telegram

". . . the men who led Texas' Jews prior to WWII were an unusual bunch. Individualists and mavericks, their style and spirit blended well with the frontier feel of Texas culture. . . . In towns where religion normally meant being saved or being a sinner, rabbis became peacemakers and bridge builders. . . . Weiner's thoroughly researched and documented book is organized into engaging portraits of rabbis in a state where Jews have never comprised more than 0.6 percent of the population."
-Cecile Holmes, Religion Editor Houston Chronicle, Nov. 27, 1999

"I never fully understood, or appreciated, my heritage or my Texas roots until I read Hollace Weiner's marvelous book. It's terrific, and, as I learned from Weiner, so were most of my ancestors!"
-Bob Strauss, former Chairman Texas Democratic Party, former Ambassador to Russia, and great-grandson of Texas' first ordained rabbi

"With talented pen strokes Hollace Weiner sketches Rabbi Henry Cohen's personality so vividly that he emerges as an acquaintance who won't be forgotten."
-Kent Biffle, Dallas Morning News, January 9, 2000

"The Bible Belt is usually associated with Christian faith, but Fort Worth writer Hollace Ava Weiner wants to adjust that image. Her new book . . . profiles rabbis who rose to prominence in the Lone Star State. ...`The book is for readers of all faiths and ethnic backgrounds. It shows examples of interfaith harmony and how Jewish alliances with other clergy helped produce social change.'"
-Dallas Morning News, Religion Page, December 11, 1999

"These are fascinating biographical essays-filled with information about Texas and American Jewish history, humor, warmth, the life of a rabbi, and especially, human strengths (mostly) and weaknesses (occasionally). Prodigious research, in archives and via interviews, combines with a graceful style to produce chapter after chapter of rare fascination and significance, and proves once again that the history of the Jews in America is nothing more than good local history writ large."
-Marc Lee Raphael, editor American Jewish History, Professor Judaic Studies & Religion, College of William & Mary

"The book is beautifully written. Ms. Weiner's elegant and engaging writing style has enabled her to bring the men and women she studied to life. . . She possesses a strong grasp of the narrative and major themes in American Jewish history and has added immeasurably to our knowledge of rabbinical leadership in Texas. . . Her careful attention to primary sources and her outstanding storytelling will add to our knowledge and enjoyment of these subjects."
-Dr. Mark Greenberg, historian, Museum of the Southern Jewish Experience

" Hollace Weiner is a careful detective, marvelous writer, and even better story teller. . . . Her vivid character portraits, well seated in cogent analysis, jump out of the pages. Her rabbis battle the Klan, fight for academic freedom against recalcitrant governors, patronize the arts, and serve as community spokespersons. They befriend the downtrodden and weld ties with other groups. From rabbinic godfather Henry Cohen to department store owner/lay-rabbi Sam Perl, these spiritual leaders served as joiners, mixers, community and civic builders, mediators, union supporters, social workers, cultural raconteurs, symbols of Judaism, maintainers of the faith, and always role models. As Weiner illustrates, they were also individuals who might not have fit in or succeeded elsewhere but, deep in the heart of Texas, as the "representative" Jews, they assumed leadership positions and soared into prominence. Theirs is a story of adjustment and the maintenance of a changing identity as big as Texas itself. Often isolated by distance and few in number, they created survival mechanisms to nurture Judaism and themselves.

--Mark K. Bauman, author and editor, Dixie Diaspora: An Anthology of Southern Jewish History
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Beth-El Congregation

Centennials in General
By Hollace Weiner

Reprinted from The Rambler, newsletter of the Southern Jewish Historical Society, Winter, 2003 

“The Synagogue is the most enduring, most persistent, most resilient, most participatory and least studied Jewish institution. . . . Its history is left to amateurs.” —Jack Wertheimer, The American Synagogue, A Sanctuary Transformed

When I began to write my congregation’s centennial history in June of 2002, few people understood why I was postponing out-of-town trips and spending my summer completing a 12-chapter, 120-page, footnoted, illustrated coffee-table book celebrating my temple’s past.

Why knock yourself out to produce something as narrow and parochial as a synagogue history, a commemorative book that most people would skim for the pictures, not the text? Everyone knows that working on long-term synagogue projects leads to tsuris.  And what about the pay? All I would receive was a key to the synagogue so that I could burn the midnight oil while combing the temple archives.

The determination to write a comprehensive centennial history of my home congregation, Beth-El in Fort Worth, stemmed partly from the paradoxical quote that introduces this column. Jack Wertheimer, former archives director at the Jewish Theological Seminary, writes about the importance of synagogues in the American Jewish landscape. He implores historians to pay more attention to this commonplace institution. “The synagogue’s continuity is unmatched by other Jewish institutions,” he observes. “Yet . . . . typically a synagogue’s centennial history is slapped together in a yearbook filled with flattering articles, mug photographs of past presidents, lists of congegrants who served in the military, and ads to cover the expense.” 

How right he was. I have read synagogue histories galore that were “slapped” together. Yet, no matter how “amateur” or “flattering” they were, each synagogue history aided my research with dates, names, illustrations, and connections to larger events. The most disappointing centennial histories were those that regurgitated what had been previously written for the 50th anniversary. The best narratives examined the breadth of a century, complete with controversies and perspective.

That was what I sought to do.

At my Texas congregation, there was plenty of material to pique interest in the past. Take the rabbis: our first representative of the faith was a “meddlesome” rev who lasted three months. Our second rabbi performed laudably in Fort Worth, but later in his career got hauled before the Reform movement’s ethics committee for secretly taking a bride and denying that fact to his congregation.  Our fourth rabbi rounded up Jewish prostitutes and gave them a morals lecture – in Yiddish – at the city jail.  A Prohibition-era rabbi imbibed sacramental wine. The rabbi who made the most courageous stand for civil rights was also the most reluctant to lift gender barriers.  

Women continually took one step forward and two steps back. They made gains, then lost them. In 1923, women were guaranteed up to three seats on the temple board. Nonetheless, the board gradually returned to being an all-male domain. In 1949 and again in the 1960s and 1970s, motions passed placing women on the board. Each time, the move was hailed as an innovation, rather than a puzzling example of institutional forgetfulness.

The lessons of a century show that Beth-El’s women were not persistent enough to maintain their gains. A look back also shows that our rabbis were not necessarily role models. Yes, this centennial history includes the requisite “mug” shots of past presidents. Yes, it salutes those who served in the wars. The title page also salutes Jack Wertheimer whose words validated my focus on this “least studied” Jewish institution.
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River Crest Country Club

On the Green

It started out as a vanity book celebrating a historic country club, but River Crest Country Club: the First 100 Years evolved into something of surprising heft — physically and figuratively. Author Hollace Ava Weiner spent three years researching and writing and ended up with a work that comes in at a whopping 5 pounds with 544 pages including 950 photos and illustrations. The finished product is a unique, in-depth — though seldom hard-hitting — examination of Fort Worth’s exclusive Westside club and the role its members played in molding the city.

City pioneers with familiar surnames were among the early members when the club was established in 1911. Stripling, Meacham, Ryan, Burnett, Sampson, Waggoner, Bass, and other names seen today on street signs and buildings filled the rolls. Notable golfers such as Ben Hogan and Byron Nelson helped create a buzz about River Crest, along with fellow members Amon Carter, Van Cliburn, John Connally, and Elton Hyder Jr.

“The 100th anniversary was coming, and there [had never been] any written history of the club,” recalled former club manager Jodie Payne. “There were a lot of stories told verbally and whatnot. I started urging the board a good four years in advance that they should consider having a history of River Crest written.”

Club officials wanted more than a fluffy coffee-table book when they first began discussing the project in 2007. No hacks need apply. A book committee led by retired cardiologist Bobby Brown went on the hunt for an experienced historian with a knack for uncovering the past and describing it with vibrancy.

Fort Worth’s foremost sportswriter, Dan Jenkins, considered an offer but turned it down. The committee interviewed a handful of other writers, including Weiner, a former Fort Worth Star-Telegram reporter. Since leaving the paper in 1997, Weiner has established herself as the premier author on local Jewish culture with books such as Lone Stars of David, Jewish Stars in Texas, The Jewish “Junior League,” and Beth-El Congregation. Weiner blew away committee members with her energetic and passionate pitch to tackle the book.

“I ran into Dan Jenkins later after we got into the process, and I said, ‘Hollace is doing a wonderful job on this book,’ ” Payne recalled. “He goes, ‘You got that right. She’s one hell of a researcher — she’s telling me stuff about golf in Fort Worth that I didn’t know.’ ”

One of Weiner’s favorite chapters describes how Fort Worth became a major player in the evolution of women’s golf, a topic rarely explored in print.

“This city pioneered women’s golf in the United States, and it’s been forgotten,” she said. “All the golf books I found didn’t talk about it. I don’t want this to be forgotten. To me, that’s the most important thing in the book.”

Fort Worth was first city to host a state amateur golf tournament for women, in 1916, Weiner’s research showed. And the city and its jet-set crowd embraced Olympic champion Babe Didrikson when others wouldn’t. The Beaumont-raised Didrikson was brash and salty and hadn’t exactly been welcomed at other golf clubs in the early 1930s. Members of a Houston country club were turned off after she dared to play golf in pants rather than a skirt and erred further by playing hatless.

Didrikson established herself as an Olympic gold medalist in track and field in 1932 and later added golf to her list of sports. River Crest members Bea Thompson and Bertha Bowen took a shine to her despite her lack of social refinement. They created the Women’s Texas Open in 1934 to showcase her talent and allow her to compete against the country’s best female players. Didrikson married wrestler George Zaharias in 1938, and Babe Didrikson Zaharias would become a feminist icon, including being the first woman to compete in a Professional Golf Association men’s tournament.

Other chapters of Weiner’s book delve into the war years, clubhouse socials, and the city’s homegrown artists — a number of offspring from River Crest families would lead the city’s modern art movement in the mid-20th century. The book committee was fascinated by the variety of information that Weiner uncovered. A long-ago fire at the club had destroyed many historic documents, leaving Weiner to mine for archival gems the old-fashioned way.

“It means you have to go out and get people to tell you stories and pull their scrapbooks out of the attic,” she said. “It makes it a lot more interesting.”

Designer Garry Harman made the pages visually stunning with his generous use of archival photos and illustration.

River Crest is often characterized as the city’s first country club. But two previous attempts had been made to transform the rural property near the Trinity River’s West Fork into exclusive resorts and subdivisions. Both failed before River Crest successfully created its private club with an 18-hole golf course surrounded by high-dollar houses. Those early members even had access to a polo field and an airplane landing strip.

“A lot of the information that was compiled was an eye-opener for some members,” Brown said. “She was meticulous in her research.”

The book was intended to be about 250 pages. But Weiner kept discovering more stories and photos, and the stories often leaped past the boundaries of the club and into the wider history of a fledgling city and its development. Club officials encouraged her to go deep, and the book doubled in size. The club printed about 3,000 copies of the book, gave one to each of its 1,200 members, and allowed members to buy additional copies.

“It’s a phenomenal book,” Payne said. The history wasn’t intended for public sale, and so it has received no reviews or media notice. But copies are available for reading at Fort Worth’s Central Library and southwest branch, Tarrant County Archives, the National Archives at Montgomery Plaza, and the special collections at Texas Christian University and the University of Texas at Arlington.

“I want people to know about it and use it,” Weiner said. “I want all this research and effort to be disseminated in other books. I want it to be incorporated in future histories of art, golf, and Fort Worth.”

Somebody’s noticed. Historic Fort Worth Inc. will present Weiner with a Preservation Achievement Award on Sept. 20 at the Community Arts Center in recognition of “significant contributions to the preservation of Fort Worth’s historic resources.”
~ Jeff Prince, September 12, 2012 ~ Fort Worth Weekly

Q & A: Hollace Ava Weiner
Exploring the history of River Crest Country Club

River Crest seemed more like a village than a country club, writes Hollace Ava Weiner, author of River Crest Country Club: The First 100 Years.

Boasting 544 pages and 950 photographs and illustrations, the hefty history is a sweeping celebration of Fort Worth’s second-oldest country club. Established in 1911 on Fort Worth’s west side, the exclusive River Crest was the first country club in Texas to include a residential housing development and was the first Texas country club to host a state women’s golf tournament, in 1916.

Weiner, a journalist-turned-historian, chronicles the clubhouse inside and out, with detailed stories of its many famous founders, members, competitors and guests. The who’s who group – folks such as Byron Nelson, Ben Hogan, Babe Didrickson Zaharias, John Connally, Elliott Roosevelt, Davey O’Brien, Bobby Bragan, Van Cliburn and countless mayors, judges, legislators and city council members – not only created a long-lasting recreational and social retreat but also helped shape the city.

Weiner wrote for the Fort Worth Star-Telegram and the Baltimore News-American before receiving a master’s degree in history and archives from the University of Texas at Arlington. She has written and edited four books on Texas Jewish history.

The River Crest history took more than three years to research and write, and was privately published by the club, with a free copy given to each member. Members may buy additional copies for $100 plus tax. Copies are available for reference at the Fort Worth Downtown Central Library in the Genealogy/Local History area, Southwest Library, Tarrant County Archives, the Texas Christian University library, UT-Arlington Special Collections, Historic Fort Worth Inc. and Fort Worth Community Arts Center.

Historic Fort Worth recently presented Weiner with a Preservation Achievement Award for her significant contribution to the preservation of Fort Worth’s historic resources.

Why are you drawn to history?
From the time I was a little girl reading the comics in the morning paper, I wanted to grow up and become a Lois Lane or a Brenda Starr, reporting the news. Once I reached my goal, people often disparaged the news business by saying, ‘Journalism is only history’s first draft.’ Being a historian means continuing the job of reporting past events, but adding perspective and documenting facts with footnotes. As a historian, I am still chasing stories and unearthing details that convey the tenor and color of the times. My editors these days are professors and academicians who push me to probe deeper and overturn more stones in the quest for a complete story. The luxury of becoming a historian is that I can write and write and am not limited to a specific number of column inches.

What piqued your interest in River Crest’s history?
This was a commissioned work, yet I have turned down offers from other places to write institutional histories. The timing was right. I had a list of small things to do, such as nominate a Jewish woman to the Cowgirl Hall of Fame. The day I turned in that nomination form, River Crest’s manager, Jodie Payne, phoned and asked me to interview for the club’s centennial book. His phone call startled me, for River Crest has a record of token Jewish membership. All of my previous books clearly dealt with Jewish subject matter. How ironic if River Crest would hire a Jewish writer. As an outsider, I knew that I would perceive story lines that an insider would not discern. I believed I could do a more thorough job than an insider. Also, I had written the centennial history of Beth-El Congregation in 2002, enjoyed the experience, and had a blueprint in mind for approaching a 100-year history. This would be a chance to write about Fort Worth from a broader perspective. This would give me access to movers and shakers, people who might have been hesitant to grant an interview when I was with the Star-Telegram. Introducing myself by stating that River Crest had hired me to write its history opened doors that might have otherwise stayed closed.

Your book records hundreds of River Crest stories, some never told before.
What are some of your favorite ones?
The Gentling twins, famous for painting birds of Texas, were mischievous little boys. While building a pheasant farm in their backyard, they pilfered pea gravel from Perry Bass’s driveway, until he caught them in the act. The next day, a dump truck pulled up to the boys’ home and deposited a mountain of gravel along with a note that read: ‘This gravel ought to hold you for a while. Leave mine alone. Perry.’

. . . Olympic gold medalist Babe Didrikson Zaharias was fun, brash, egotistical and mannish, yet the women in the Fort Worth golfing sorority accepted her and helped her soften the rough edges. They created a major tournament, the Texas Women’s Open, designed to help Babe’s golf career after the Dallas Country Club blackballed her, Houston country club women snubbed her, and the USGA kept her out of amateur tournaments.

. . . When River Crest opened in 1911, it had a polo field, ultimately replaced with a driving range.

Were you surprised at how River Crest’s history is so interwoven with Fort Worth’s history and culture?
Yes indeed, until I unearthed a roster from 1914 and realized that many of the early members’ names are on streets, buildings and institutions – such as Meacham Field, Burnett Park, Ryan Place and Stripling Middle School. The revelation deepened when I learned that two River Crest members – Ben E. Keith and Amon Carter – lobbied the War Department to get the Army’s Camp Bowie training base constructed adjacent to the club. A number of WWI officers played golf at River Crest, went to Saturday night dances at the club, met and married local girls, settled in Fort Worth after the war, and became movers and shakers themselves. Notable among them are Henry Carl Vandervoort, who founded the Vandervoort Dairy; Harry Brants, whose surname is still on real estate signs; and architect Joe Pelich, who designed the Scott Theatre, the original Casa Manana, Texas Christian University’s Daniel Meyer Coliseum and Robert Carr Chapel, and dozens of homes.

What’s your next project?
In Richmond, Va., there is a Jewish cemetery with a hallowed section containing the graves of 30 Confederate soldiers killed in action. Recently, I learned that one of those soldiers, Pvt. Edwin Sampson, was a Texan. I am unraveling information about him and his ancestors, who came to the U.S. from England in the 1830s, settled in South Carolina when the cash crop was indigo, and were among what’s officially referred to as the “First American Jewish Families.” Sampson’s parents and siblings moved to San Antonio in 1858 and opened a gourmet grocery. After Edwin was killed in action, his father enlisted. I am searching for descendants and hope to piece together the family story against the backdrop of migration over three generations.

~September 21, 2012, Fort Worth Business Press

Historic Fort Worth recognizes efforts to
preserve city's past

On Thursday, those heritage-minded folks at Historic Fort Worth handed out buckets of awards to people who have worked to keep Cowtown a distinctive sort of place in the face of growing homogenization.

Some were big projects, others quite modest but nonetheless praiseworthy. And there were categories for the written word.

Hollace Weiner, a Star-Telegram reporter-turned-historian and author, was one of four writers honored with a Preservation Achievement Award. Weiner got hers for a well-researched history, The First Hundred Years of Rivercrest Country Club.

Weiner's very thorough tome -- and heavy, at 544 pages with more than 900 color pictures -- used works of art long stored in the vault of the Modern Art Museum. It noted that a top NCAA swim coach, Don Easterling, got his start in Fort Worth, and that Olympian Babe Zaharias made her transition from track to golf thanks to a Fort Worth tournament designed to boost her career.

~September 24, 2012, Barry Shlachter, Sandra Baker and Jim Fuquay, Star-Telegram