There was a time when lions and Rock 'n Roll idols walked the streets of Gonzales


Our grandfather, Aref Droupy (he was called “Big Daddy”), and grandmother, Helen Satel Droupy, came over from the old country of Damascus, Syria in the early 1900s – about 1905. They settled in Gonzales and built a hotel in 1926. They had seven children – four boys and three girls. Our father was Fred Droupy, the fifth child, and he was the only son who had children.

Our parents married in March of 1948 and honeymooned in Mexico City. While there, my father saw a little villa and, asking questions about the courtyard, he found out it was called an Alcalde. He liked that name so well, that he came back and named the hotel the “Alcalde Hotel.” The Alcalde was one of the finest hotels around.

In 1977, our father died, and in 1978, my sister, Deidra Droupy Voight, took over the Alcalde and ran it successfully until about 1998. I believe she sold it in 2004, when it was turned into office rooms which are chiefly rented out by oilfield companies today.

I was born in 1948, nine months from that honeymoon night in Mexico City. They called us Baby Boomers because of all those military men and women who got back from World War II.

We lived in a small room on the bottom floor in the northeast corner of the Alcalde from the time I was born until 1957. My brother, Dale, was born in 1952, and our little sister, Deidra, was born in 1956. Our folks sacrificed and saved $35,000 to build their dream home which is located south of the Guadalupe River on 25 acres of land. At the end of February of 1957, we moved into our new home.

Just thinking back when I was about 5 or 6 years old, my dad was very proud, as you can imagine, of his first son, at that time, as well as the other children. Here he is building his reputation of the hotel, coffee shop and dining room. For the next 25 years until 1964 or 1965, he sold a cup of coffee for a nickel and free refills. He was a people person. He loved the people, and enjoyed talking about politics, the Bible and major upcoming events. He had all the ingredients for a perfect recipe.

The customers loved and respected him so much, they even voted him in on a write-in-ticket for the school board – the first time it had ever been done in Gonzales history. I believe it was the year of 1956, and he still was on the board when he died in July 1977. Many of the issues were solved and later voted on at the Alcalde. If he felt in his heart that the other men or women on the board wouldn’t vote the right way, he would bring the Bible to the school board meeting and read in the Bible where it would say that men should not have long hair and women were not to dress like men. That settled the issue. No one ever wanted to butt heads with Fred Droupy. He was a man of principles, but the people knew he cared for them and, in their heart for the most part, they knew he was right.

These were the foundation years for us. Looking back, one of those memories was the Quarterback Club that met at the Alcalde each Monday and Friday to review the previous game just played, and the upcoming football games of the A & B teams. Some of those great warriors who I remember were Sox Nelson, Otto Gindler, Arthur Ratliff, George Schromberg, Vic Brown, Coach Jerry Bivins and Coach Peterson. Dad would get me up at 6 o’clock in the morning to make those donuts for the Quarterback Club. I believe we made about 200 on those mornings and sold them for 10 cents.

Then there are those who always came in to argue politics with Dad. They were Reuben Neitsch, Henry Majefski, Lester Sherry, Arthur Ratliff, Ezell Ball, Charles Chenault and we must not forget Rufus Floyd and Fred Havel. Wherever they are, I wonder if it is still an issue with them. Or is it water under the bridge?

One spring morning, Charles Chenault was walking up the sidewalk from Boothe & Lewis to the hotel for coffee. When he got to Dudley Hoskins’ store, Morris Keck was standing at the door and told him that there was a big lion following him about 30 yards from him on the sidewalk. Mr. Keck had noticed this big animal just walking down the sidewalk about 9:30 that morning. Man, Mr. Chenault started running to the hotel and told us in the coffee shop about what was happening. I ran to the door and looked down the street, and when the lion had gotten to Pagel’s grocery store, it jaywalked over to the Randle-Rather Building and walked west on the sidewalk. It had gotten loose from the fairgrounds at Rivercrest. That was about one and a half miles away. I wonder how many cats and dogs the lion ate on his morning trip to town. Someone said those men that fed the animals had been notified, and they drove to town and caught the lion and loaded him up near Kotzebue Drug Store on St. George Street.

That reminded me of another story. One morning at the coffee shop, Daddy was bringing some breakfast plates to the front. As he was about to come in to the coffee shop, he had noticed these jalopies coming down the street. He said, “I hope they don’t come in here.” I looked out the window and noticed those Gypsies coming to town. About five or six of those vehicles came south and went to the square and went to all the downtown stores. They hadn’t taken a shower in weeks. They were dirty people and smelled bad. They came to take care of the circus animals. Those women would sit outside the businesses and when people came in, they would ask if they could read their palm – all kids of witchcraft stuff. They were very low-class people. In their own circles, they just lived this way, and now they would try to insist their way of life to us, but we looked down on them.

Then, back in 1999, after my wife and I got back from Tulsa, Okla., we had been attending Rhema Bible School since 1997. Well, I had gone down to Clarence Vyvjala’s print shop to get my statements made. He said to me in conversation, “Did you know I stayed at your Dad’s hotel?” I asked him what year? He said, “From early 1951 to the middle of 1953.” I laughed and said I wouldn’t have been but 3 or 4 years of age. He told me of an interesting event.

Mr. Vyvjala said he had walked back to the hotel one night from the Lynn Theatre and said he had never seen a brand new car after World War II. There, in front of the hotel, was a brand new Oldsmobile blue convertible. As he was admiring this car, two young men came out of the hotel about 10:30 p.m. and put their luggage in the trunk. He walked over to them and told them this was the prettiest car he had ever seen. This one young man reached out to shake Mr. Vyvjala’s hand, telling him he was Elvis Presley. Well, that meant nothing to Mr. Vyvjala, because Elvis was not very famous yet. Elvis told him they were to do a gig here in Gonzales in the summer. But for now, they were headed to the Louisiana Hayride in Shreveport, La. Elvis and his buddy had stopped in at the hotel about 1 o’clock in the afternoon and told Dad they wanted to eat a bite and get some shut eye and would leave about 10 p.m. to head to Shreveport. They paid my dad $2 for the room.

Then in August of 1955, an ad was placed in The Daily Inquirer by the Gonzales Quarterback Club stating that Elvis Presley was coming to Gonzales on Aug. 26, 1955. The Quarterback Club had contacted Colonel Tom Parker, Elvis’ manager, to set up the concert. Also performing with Elvis was Johnny Horton. Tickets went on sale in advance for 75 cents for adults and 25 cents for children. At the gate, the tickets would be $1 for adults and 50 cents for children. Elvis was to perform at the baseball field at Independence Park. Finally, that wonderful day came. Elvis Presley drove up in a pink Cadillac. He got out of that pink Cadillac wearing a bright orange suit and black suede shoes. He performed in the back of a pickup truck on the baseball field, and afterwards, he signed autographs sitting in the back of his pink Cadillac. Presley first gained fame in 1953 with the recording of “Heartbreak Hotel.” During the next five years, nearly all his records ranked in the Top 10. They included “All Shook Up,” “Don’t Be Cruel,” “Hound Dog,” “Jailhouse Rock” and “Love Me Tender.” From 1956 to 1968, Elvis Presley starred in 25 motion pictures, all of which featured his singing.

I have to mention one more story about my grandpa, we called him Big Daddy. He did not tolerate “no rude behavior.” He would sit in his rocking chair in the lobby or sometimes in one of the rockers outside by the font door and he would be holding his big sword in his lap. He would be screaming at people, keeping them in line. For example, these men came into the hotel and they didn’t remove their hats off their heads, and Big Daddy was just yelling at them and threatened them with his sword. He pretty much kept things in order. He did do things his way.

One time, Big Daddy had bought a brand new vehicle and had it parked in front of the hotel. It was said that Big Daddy had gotten mad at the insurance company. He had one of his conniption fits and took an ax and totally destroyed that brand new car. Doesn’t that sound like some Droupys you know?

Well, I am going to sign off now. Hope you enjoyed the walk down Memory Lane.

EDITOR’S NOTE: We want to know your story, too. If you have a story about growing up in Gonzales County or you’ve heard for years stories about the earlier years in Gonzales, write your story the way Dennis Droupy wrote his, and we’d love to learn about what you remember.