The Webb County Heritage Foundation (WCHF) offered Laredoans an opportunity to meet historian Dr. Jerry Thompson and to hear him read from two of the new chapters of the recently released third printing of Laredo A Pictorial History.
The event took place at the Villa Antigua Border Heritage Museum last evening, a fitting setting for the release of a book focused on Laredo history.
Dr. Thompson read from a chapter entitled “Bill Batey and the Boys of ’56,” the story of Coach Bill Batey and the Martin High School (MHS) basketball team that won the State Championship in 1956. (To call the chapter a simple story is to sell it short of Thompson’s beautiful, detailed writing.)
There were many in the audience for whom that chapter held special meaning. Among them were members of Coach Batey’s family — his widow Mary Frances Batey, daughter Karen Batey, and son Robert Batey.
Also present were former assistant MHS coach John Valls and some of the Boys of ’56, including Andy Santos, Hector Chacon, Leonard Anderson, Pitin Guajardo, Chilo García, and team manager José Luis Novoa.
The walls of the Heritage Museum paid homage to the young men and their coaches with an exhibit of photos that will remain up until the end of September.
Dr. Thompson also read from the new chapter called “Aldo and the Fall of the Old Party,” which chronicles the political rise of Rhode Islander Aldo Tatangelo and the end of the patronismo of Mayor Pepe Martin.
The first (numbered) copy of the limited edition of Laredo A Pictorial History was auctioned at the event. Steve La Mantia was the highest bidder, presenting WCHF executive director Margarita Araiza with a $500 check.
In her welcoming comments to the gathering, WCHF president Judith Gutierrez thanked Dr. Thompson for giving the foundation proceeds from the sale of the book.
Book sales were brisk. The foundation is left with a slim inventory of the hard copy issue, but has good stock of paperback copies for sale.
The book is available at the WCHF offices at 500 Flores and the Republic of the Río Grande Museum adjacent to La Posada Hotel. For further information, call (956) 727-0977.