Interviewed June 2015
It was 1926 when George Strandtmann and his mother moved to Austin from Lockhart. He became a registered St. Austin’s parishioner in 1928 and has been ever since. George was born in 1919, the youngest in a family of five brothers and two sisters. His father died in the 1918 flu epidemic four months before George was born. In Austin, his mother took in roomers and boarders for extra income.
In 1928, Austin’s population was about 42,000 people and the enrollment at U.T. was over 10,000 students. The church then was known as St. Austin’s Chapel and was a small wooden building with two floors on Guadalupe Street. The Chapel had no fans and no air conditioning of course. George remembers the street cars that ran on Guadalupe and also on Rio Grande. He said, “You could go anywhere in town on the street car, but everything beyond 41st street was fields.”
He attended St. Austin’s School from the second to the sixth grade. The school was a three room building with two grades in each room and their teachers were the Dominican nuns. George was an altar boy for many years, until his early teens at least. He once served six Masses in a row on All Souls’ Day. He said he was the only altar boy for all those Masses and it took over three hours. He was very hungry afterwards because there was a fasting requirement from food and drink after midnight. His teacher told his mother to take him home and feed him and he could skip school for the rest of the day.
When he was an altar boy at a funeral service, it was his job to stand outside the church and watch for the funeral procession to pull up in front of the Chapel. When he saw the first cars arriving, he began to toll the bell and he continued until the hearse arrived.
George graduated from U.T. with a business degree and began his work career a year later at U.T.’s Applied Research Labs. He joined the National Guard in 1940 and the Guard was mobilized after the Pearl Harbor attack. He served until 1945 and was stationed in Panama during World War II.
He and his late wife, Willie Mae, had been married for 70 years when she died in 2012. They had one daughter, Susan, who lives in Austin.
Although George cannot get to church often, he continues to keep up with news from St. Austin’s via the bulletin and with his computer.