Darrell Hartman had his popcorn popper cranked up and the folks who had gathered at the Ice House were nibbling on the salty treat as they drank beer, laughed, and cajoled each other. The soft strains of country music partnered up with the welcome evening breeze in the shade of a huge old oak tree.
“The regulars” were coming together as usual on a Friday night in Albert, Texas. I had decided to pay the town a visit when I heard it was up for sale. I have to admit, I came away impressed, both with the town and with those who gathered there.
Albert is located just across the Blanco County line in Gillespie County on rural road 1623. Anyone wishing to purchase the town for the asking price of $595,000 will get a slice of old Texas and the bragging rights to being the owner of an entire historic town.
Albert is bordered on the west by Williams Creek and comes furnished with a small beer joint, “The Ice House,” a dilapidated but historic dance hall, a pavilion, restrooms, a 1970s-vintage three-bedroom house and a couple of small orchards—peach and pecan. The 13-acre town is surrounded by vineyards and ranches that add to its rustic charm.
The cozy Ice House deck is shaded by an enormous 500-year-old oak tree. As I drank my Dr. Pepper, I asked Marilyn Lindig about the old limestone school house I could see just off the property a short distance away. “I understand that LBJ went to school there back in 1920,” I commented. “LBJ?” responded Marilyn. “Why, Buddy Lindig is more famous around here than LBJ!” Marilyn is the mother of Dexter and Keith Lindig. “We love it around here,” she exulted. “The light is always red when we go through Albert!”
I asked Vel Hartman, wife of the “Popcorn Man,” how Darrell got started providing the free popcorn to all the Ice House patrons on Friday nights. “We were in the nightclub business in Houston for 17 years near NASA,” she replied. “We kept the popcorn goin’ all the time. The more salt ya put on it, the more beer they drank!” Since there is no food sold on the premises, the popcorn is greatly appreciated. Occasionally somebody will fire up a grill for burgers, ribs, or jalapenos stuffed with cream cheese and wrapped in bacon. The regulars have been known to bring covered dishes for impromptu pot-luck meals.
“It’s like a giant backyard,” said owner-operator Bobby Cave. “You get to have a party every weekend. What’s so appealing about that is, instead of throwing a big party at your house every weekend at your own expense, they’re helping me pay for it. I have met some incredible people!”
Cave, a singer-songwriter and Austin businessman, has owned the town since 2003. Originally, the town was called Martinsburg and served as a stop on the Fredericksburg-Blanco stage route. In 1892, the town was renamed for Albert Luckenbach, whose father and uncle settled the nearby town of Luckenbach. The Albert Dance Hall was built in 1922 and is still standing but needs some work. The town’s population peaked at 50 in 1952.
“Gary and Laura Ginkinger do the day-to-day managing of the place and keep it running,” said one of the locals. “I guess you could say the population is six: Gary and Laura, their two girls, their boy, and their chocolate lab dog.”
The Friday night patrons loved to reminisce about their ties to the place. Said one, “There used to be a great little beer joint where the pavilion is now. They tore the place down in the early 1990s. There was a beer joint, a post office, and a general store.” One lady said with a grin, “The last dance here was back in the ‘60s. We all got drunk and ran outta whiskey. We drove to Stonewall to get some more.”
Alvin Maenius Jr. and his wife, Marvelene, operated the general store and bought the town in the early 1950’s. The dance hall was still operating then, but, by the mid-1980s, the store was gone and the dance hall doors had closed. Nowadays the Ice House opens every Friday around 5 p.m. and ice cold beer is served until going-home-time Sunday evening.
Several patrons commented about the fruit and vegetables that were made available to the general public back then on the honor system. The Maeniuses would bag home-grown fruit and veggies and leave the bags set out unattended where the public could have access. “You could just come along, take what you wanted and put the appropriate amount of money in the box.”
“This is the first town I’ve had for sale,” said Realtor Candy Cargill. “There are no restrictions on the property and there’s so much infrastructure already there. Bobby put in a public septic system and there’s plenty of spring water.”
“It’s been a great adventure,” said Bobby Cave, “but now it’s time to pass the torch. I would stay on in a consulting capacity for a short time to help the new owner learn the ropes if he or she wants,” he says. “You’ve got a bar, a stage, a beer garden, a PA system—everything conveys.”
“This is a happy place on Friday night,” said Pam Moore. I’ve been working here on weekends for about two and half months.” She is the owner of the Blanco Floral and Gift Shop in Blanco. One couple came all the way from Mason. The Mason man commented to one of the locals, “When you moved here you were grey. Now yer blonde! It must be the sulfur in the water!”
Doddie and Irene “the boss” Majefski, Bill and Kelly Silvernail, Lisa and Ronnie, Charlie, Robbie and Lester, along with Leroy Leggett, were all happy campers on a hot Friday night in Albert. The only complaint overheard by this visitor was from one elderly lady who said, “The restrooms are just too dern far from the back door!”
I left a little before dark in order to get the chores done at home. Liz Broyles was helping her husband, Nelson, unload a sound system—looked like the live entertainment had arrived. The parking lot was filling up and the party was just getting started in Albert, Texas!
For sales information, please contact: Candy Cargill at 830-833-4591 or Bobby Cave at 512-423-1104