Alamo vacation included a side trip to Paris


SAN ANTONIO—Just want to let everyone in Rockdale know—the searing heat is not limited to our favorite hometown—it’s everywhere.

The ex-cheerleader and I were attending a press convention in the Alamo City and were barely able to set foot outside the french doors of the historic St. Anthony Hotel where we stayed.

Despite the fact that it was a mere two blocks from the Riverwalk, the 106 degree temperature on Saturday kept us within the confines of the venerable old place, where John Wayne bedded down when he was filming—appropriately— “The Alamo”.

We ventured out to the cavernous Riverwalk on Friday night and after a few claustrophobic minutes, bid a hasty retreat to our air cooled room with visions of visiting the rooftop swimming pool.

Other than buying a true supersized cowboy hat at the famous Paris Hatters and checking out the Alamo, we pretty much stayed to ourselves.

Paris Hatters opened its doors in 1917 and has provided custom fitted head wear for scores of famous people. Paris Hatters opened its doors in 1917 and has provided custom fitted head wear for scores of famous people. We weren’t able to make it to another San Antonio landmark, the famous Mexican food restaurant Mi Tierra, so Paris Hatters became the highlight of the vacation, but the more I found out about it, I discovered it was just as much a tradition as Mi Tierra or the Riverwalk.

With its cross-like neon red sign towering above the cobblestone street, Paris Hatters is a small, unassuming place just a couple of rock skips from the Alamo on Broadway and Houston.

Third generation Owner Abe Cortez has sold brims to kings, popes and presidents and the place hasn’t changed much since it opened in 1917.

Tommy Lee Jones bought the hat he wore as Woodrow Call in Lonesome Dove here. Dwight Yoakum gets his famous bullrider style hat here.

The list of celebrity visitors is endless.

Luciano Pavarotti, Johnny Cash, B.B. King, Bob Dylan, Billy Gibbons, Kid Rock, Garth Brooks, Waylon Jennings, Bob Hope, Sammy Davis, Jr. and yes, even, Englebert Humperdink.

I told them what I wanted and they knew exactly where it was and when I finally settled on my $45 big brimmed Mexican style hat (that the cheerleader approved of), Abe “The Hatman” man checked me out on his cash register from the 1930s that has to be hand cranked to be opened.

It’s almost like something out of the old west or an old barbecue joint on the side of a gravel road somewhere.

This is my kind of place.

Although they will not allow you take a picture in the place, there are photos everywhere showcasing their hats and the famous people who wear them.

With its dusty, cluttered motif, this smallish place is more like a museum than a store and like I did, you’ll always find Abe manning the register and helping you find the right hat.

“I think people like to deal with the owners,” he said. “If they’re willing to pay for a good hat, they want the best service.

“What tops our list of compliments is when someone says they want the Paris Hatters name inside the hat, just like their granddaddy’s had.”

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2011-08-18 digital edition

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