Letter to the Editor: Texas, Johnson sites worth a visit

Published 1:41 pm Sunday, August 28, 2022

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To the editor:

It was interesting to see the article on LBJ and the family’s Texas home in the Aug. 25 newspaper. It brought back good memories from our trip there a few years ago. It was a fabulous, and very educational, place to visit. Regardless of your political opinion of President Johnson, the historical worth and interesting sites make the time spent there worthwhile.

You can visit the small home, LBJ’s birthplace, and see the little schoolhouse in Stonewall. It will give you an idea of his humble beginning and family life as a child. Driving through Stonewall won’t take long. It’s a small town, but is worth seeing.

From there, definitely head to Johnson City and plan to spend a little time at the Lyndon B. Johnson National Park Visitors Center. It has many interesting exhibits relating to the lives of both Lyndon and Lady Bird Johnson. There are two films shown in the center, one about Lyndon’s years as President, and the other about Lady Bird’s life and her accomplishments as First Lady. You’ll be surprised at all you’ll learn here, and about the contributions Lady Bird made to the country. There are photos and items on exhibit from their years in office, as well as from their life in Texas.

Lyndon was fond of flying his own plane back and forth to Washington. The airplane hangar on the site is now a Visitor Center and information stop for the LBJ Ranch District. His plane was on display at the ranch when we visited. He called it “Air Force One-Half.” There are also lots of displays on ranch life and work, as well as on the Space Race. Visitors can listen to some of the telephone calls the President had with several well-known people, and also watch the short film “Our Heart’s Home.”

From the Visitors Center, it’s a short drive to the LBJ Ranch and “Texas White House,” which is also now a part of the LBJ State Park and Historical Site. The first floor of the house is normally open to the public, but I understand it may be closed at the moment for some repairs. The most interesting thing about the house is that it looks just as it did during Lyndon’s Presidency, and you can walk through it all. It’s like walking back in time. The guided tour gives lots of details about their life there, their guests, and things that happened on the ranch during that time.

There is also a hangar on the ranch in which you can see Lyndon’s car collection and other memorabilia, including Lyndon’s German-built Amphicar. He was known for taking unsuspecting guests “off-roading” and straight into the lake on the property. There is also a great short film that is actually a home movie made of President and Mrs. Johnson giving a tour of the ranch.

The park encompasses around 700 acres, and includes the Sauer-Beckmann Living History Farm. At the Visitors Center, you can get a map and free permit to drive around the ranch property. You can also see there a short historical film on LBJ at the ranch, as well as exhibits and displays on pioneer life in Texas, the Hill Country, and the President. The site is open year round, other than for a few major holidays, and so worth the visit.

Should you be a little hungry from all that, you might want to drive out to Marble Falls, Texas and have a meal at the Blue Bonnet Café. The Café is known for it great food, but all I can tell you is to be certain you save room for pie.(And maybe get one to take with you for later.)

If you happen to spend some time in Austin while you’re in Texas, the Texas Capitol, completed in 1888, is lovely to see, and the Bob Bullock Texas State History Museum tells the “story of Texas”. It includes a special effects show called “The Star of Destiny”, and an IMAX theatre featuring several entertaining movies. You’ll recognize the museum right away by the 35-feet-tall bronze Lone Star out front.

The Blanton Museum of Art has a wonderful collection of all types of paintings, prints and drawings, and usually has a couple of additional exhibitions going on. The University of Texas at Austin has a great display and exhibit, thanks to Lady Bird’s love of wildflowers, at their Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center.

Fredericksburg, Texas, in the Hill Country, is just a short little drive from the LBJ ranch, too. It’s a great town known for its German heritage, and its wineries. You’ll love the sights and the food there.

These are just a few sites that can give you more information: https://www.nps.gov/lyjo/planyourvisit/visitorcenters.htm; https://www.bluebonnetcafe.net/; https://www.wildflower.org/; and https://www.visitfredericksburgtx.com/.

Gaye Schooler,     Mocksville