Festival on the Hill


by Celia Hayes

One of the things that drew me to the house that I eventually bought when I was first house-hunting in San Antonio in the early 1990s was that although it was the smallest, square-foot-wise of all the houses that I looked at . . . and it backed on a wide green belt that ran between Nacogdoches and O'Connor Roads. My backyard might be only a little wider than the house frontage, and about twelve feet wide – but beyond the fence was the green belt, which made it seem all the larger. Over and beyond the back fence was a good few acres of green and rising ground, crowned by St. Helena's . . . one of those cubist modern shaped, in pale buff brick, which looks vaguely like a ship.

Over time, the Stahl end of the green belt was sold off and built up, and the Nacogdoches frontage as well, but the bit that surrounds St. Helenas' remains open – for which I remain extremely grateful, for otherwise I would have someone's upstairs windows looking straight down into my kitchen, dining room and little back porch from a distance of about thirty feet. And I really like to watch the sunset over St. Helena's from the back porch, and I couldn't, if there was another house blocking the way.

So, we're exceedingly grateful to St. Helenas' and take a friendly interest in their parish doings, especially when they have their regular autumn festival – which they did this last weekend. It's an all day and into the evening bash – and we don't need to look at the calendar, because we could see them on Friday, setting up the stage, and the various pavilions, just by looking out our back windows. Except for a regular local farmer's market, nothing is more down-home and community than a large church bash of this kind . . . and though I think they were a little hampered by a sudden rain-shower late Saturday afternoon, the live band started playing again as soon as the heavy clouds rolled back a little.

We were there in mid-afternoon, for the kid's costume contest, a procession of motorbikes and the Knights of Columbus in all their glory . . . and for the most important part for my daughter – the Queen of All Yard Sales – a rummage sale in what we would call the parish hall. I think my daughter and I were the first ones in, since everyone else seemed to be admiring the children in their costumes, and buying tickets for the food and games.

And the Queen of All Yard Sales zeroed in, focused like a laser on one particular item: a Japanese gold luster-ware tea set, with a set of three cups, saucers and plates – and a tea pot, sugar and creamer, which in all her years of snorkeling through local antique shops, she had never ever seen the like. Yes, the cup and saucer combo, but never the pot-creamer-sugar, even though the teapot was so small and the sugar bowl so large, that they were practically the same size. Unadorned, just pale blue on the inside, gold luster on the outside: she hasn't found anything like it in an afternoon of diligently searching on line.

Me, I have simple tastes: a nice Texas Holiday cookbook for a dollar, like I need another cookbook. And I did get some good pictures: enjoy. That was my Saturday – what was yours?