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Film puts Schertz in the spotlight

Oral-history documentary sheds light on community’s growth

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SCHERTZ — An oral-history documentary covering the city’s founding and beyond is a love letter to a close-knit town on the rise, said a developer who helped bankroll the film.

Schertz has plenty going for it, despite existing in the shadow of larger municipalities such as San Antonio and Austin, said entrepreneur Chris Price.

“When we were trying to reimagine the project, we started studying the history of Schertz and realized that it had a rich history,” said Price who, with his partners, is developing The Crossvine, a 500-acre mixed-use, master-planned development on the Interstate 35 corridor.

“(The city has) a rich history that most people are not aware of and we felt it was important that that history be preserved and publicized,” the businessman added.

On March 6, an audience of about 100 gathered at the Schertz Public Library for the premiere of “Schertz Now and Then: An Oral History.” A panel discussion followed.

The 25-minute homage covers the town’s past from the perspective of prominent community members, city officials and longtime residents.

“The rural and farming roots of the city have helped create the identity of Schertz and you have that rugged sense of individuality, but also the willingness to work cooperatively,” said oral-history interviewee Michael Dahle, the city’s Planning and Zoning Commission chairman.

Schertz was founded in the 1800s, when waves of German immigrants came to Texas to start a new life. Cotton farming was a significant part of the economy in the 19th century, and many neighbors worked closely together growing the crop.

“I have built miles of fences and I have dug post holes by hand, and my ancestors did the same thing. To me that is such an emotional and spiritual tie to the heritage that this land represents,” said local dentist Mark Penshorn, interviewed for the film.

In spite of construction along bustling I-35, the proliferation of new subdivisions, major investment by businesses including Amazon, H-E-B and San Marcos-based EVO Entertainment, the burg of about 40,000 inhabitants aims to preserve its small-town feel, city officials said.

According to the documentary, residents enjoy a “friendly, hardworking and culturally diverse atmosphere.”

Children continue to benefit from the community’s relaxed atmosphere and the Schertz-Cibolo-Universal City Independent School District, ranked as one of the best in Texas, the film stated.

The project also sheds light on more recent events in Schertz, such as the opening of nearby Randolph airfield in the 1930s by the Army Air Corps.

Later known as Randolph Air Force Base, the installation — with a mission of educating pilots who train other pilots — lent its very name to a grouping of several metropolitan cities, while driving economic growth and expanding the job market, the filmmakers said.

According to Price, the documentary’s executive producer, Randolph is “the largest employer in the area … and a magnet for retired military.”

In the documentary, former City Manager John Kessel said military members, both active duty and retired, have made Schertz their home and left their stamp on the area.

“More importantly, there’s an identity that has been created between the people who go there early on in their Air Force career and our community,” Kessel said. “Very often they would want to return to Schertz because of their time they spent at Randolph Air Force Base.”

The documentary can be viewed on YouTube at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=f6S0he4yP18.

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