soon as the army forced the Plains Indians to the reservation, the
movers and shakers of the Texas
Hill Country focused their energy, their money and the power of
their imaginations on the problem of transportation. Now that the
Indian wars were over, the difficulty of moving passengers and freight
from point A to point B over miles of rough territory was the single
biggest obstacle to progress. No one who crossed the Hill
Country in the early 20th century took the subject lightly.
The railroad came to Kerrville
in 1887 and to Fredericksburg
in 1913, and while trains did a fair job hauling freight, the passenger
service was not all it was cracked up to be. Train travel was slow
and uncertain. There were frequent interruptions in service.
By 1920 travelers demanded more certainty and more flexibility than
trains could provide. It was the horseless carriage that would have
the greatest impact on Hill Country transportation.
Hal "Boss" Peterson
was one of the first businessmen in this part of Texas to recognize
the need for reliable passenger service. Boss and his brother Charlie
owned Peterson Garage and Auto Company in Kerrville.
After WWI a growing number
of Kerr County residents
wanted access to medical services and shops in San
Antonio, 65 miles away. Few people had cars back then, so Boss
Peterson bought 3 sedans and began transporting passengers to and
from the Alamo City. Demand grew, and in 1924 Boss and Charlie bought
5 buses, formed Kerrville Bus Company (KBC) and began the first scheduled
bus service in the Hill Country.
on image to enlarge
Courtesy Hal and Charlie Peterson Foundation
| At that time
the road from Kerrville
to San Antonio was
paved for the first 8 miles out of Kerrville and the last 19 miles
into San Antonio. On a good day, Lord willing, a bus could cover the
distance in 2 and ½ hours. It was possible for Kerrville passengers
to travel to San Antonio by bus, see a doctor or do some shopping,
have lunch and be back in Kerrville the same day.
As time passed the company expended. By 1930 KBC buses stopped in
on the way to and from Junction
and points west. The Nimitz
Hotel was the Fredericksburg terminal. The hotel remodeled the
west wing of the ground floor to accommodate passengers and baggage.
A Fredericksburg passenger could now make easy connections to San
Antonio, Houston and Abilene.
That same year KBC purchased the Winn Bus Company operating between
Austin and Houston.
Financing was hard to find, so Boss Peterson got creative. He traded
an 1800 acre farm near Kerrville
for the company and equipment.
Then the Great Depression hit. The financial crisis crushed the economy,
but it also created opportunity. There were bargains everywhere. When
the profits of the 2 other Hill Country bus lines plummeted, Boss
and Charlie bought them out at bargain prices. Now the Petersons controlled
all bus service in the region.
Boss Peterson's practice was to use a bus for several years; then
sell it in Mexico. Schreiner Bank of Kerrville financed the sale of
old buses to Mexican companies even though the transactions were risky
because there was no way to collect if the companies didn't pay. But
the companies always paid. KBC and Schreiner Bank never lost a dime
on sales to Mexico.
When the Depression ended, KBC had little debt and a good route structure
and was positioned to churn out some spectacular profits. During WWII
the number of riders soared as thousands of soldiers traveled by bus
- often at government expense. Many KBC buses left the terminal with
double the number of passengers the buses were designed to carry.
The transportation industry changed fast after WWII.
KBC began using air-conditioned buses in 1948. In the early 50s the
company fleet included 37-passenger deck and a half buses with diesel
engines, restrooms, aqua mohair reclining seats and egg shell headrests.
By 1960 Kerrville Bus Company linked Abilene,
Spring and Fort
Stockton on the northwest with San
Antonio, Austin, Houston
on the southeast with connections, via Greyhound, to anywhere in the
continental United States.
Hal and Charlie Peterson: The Texas Peterson Brothers Who Risked a
Fortune for a Hill Country Foundation, by Vicki J. Audette and J.