When we go grocery shopping we seldom think about the origin of the food we are placing in our basket.

One of the staples would be bread. Some nutritionists might say white bread is nothing but empty calories and bad for our health. But how could something that tastes so good be bad for our health? Those peanut butter and jelly sandwiches we gave to our kids for a snack were thoroughly enjoyed.

When I was in high school, I worked at Donsbach Grocery as a butcher and cashier. (located diagonally across the street from Aumont Hotel, now the bank parking lot). Every morning the ButterKrust bread was delivered, usually about 40 loaves.

The large ButterKrust bread cost 21 cents and the half or short loaf was 9 cents (now about $2.50 per large loaf.) Seguin’s Keller’s bread also delivered about 30 loaves. Their prices were a cent less per loaf.

Keller’s Bakery was located on the corner of Gonzales and River Street, diagonally across from Seguin City Hall. When some of us were “cruising” the town on our bikes we would pass Keller’s bakery and always stop and watch the baking process from dough, to the ovens, then through the slicers to a loaf of bread. Sometimes we could gather four empty beer bottles from along the streets to sell at Pat’s Place for the deposit of 3 cents each. That was enough money to buy a dozen hot tortillas.

While in high school one of my classmates, Mary Telva Fischer, (Mrs. Herb Saegert, of Austin) won a Keller’s Bakery contest. She answered the phone by saying, “Keller’s Delicious Bread, the bread that made mother quit baking.” She won 100 loaves of Keller’s bread. Fortunately, she received coupons and not 100 loaves of bread at one time.

ButterKrust was one of the oldest bakeries in Texas. It was established in 1882 by William and Emma Richter in San Antonio. Richter was very successful at marketing and community relations. At the beginning of each school year ButterKrust would provide textbook covers which featured a distinctive blue checkered packaging of bread with Little Miss Gingham, a smiling girl with a gingham bow in her hair. Boys would color over “erk” in ButterKrust to make the textbook cover to read “Butt Rust”

Jody’s father was an assembly line engineer for bakeries across the state. As a child Jody attended a business dinner with her father and Richard Richter, an heir to the baking company, who introduced her to the art of eating artichokes. She also had the opportunity to watch close at hand the assembly line process of a Mrs. Baird’s bakery. At the end of the assemble line there would be a miniature loaf of hot bread and a dish of butter for each visitor.

There were other brands of bread less known such as Bimbo Bread, Sunshine Bread, Wonder Bread, Sara Lee, Pepperidge Farm, Sunbeam, and Thomas Bakeries. Mexican owner of Mrs. Baird’s, Grupo Bimbo, parent owner of Mrs. Baird’s and Sara Lee, has just purchased the Canadian Maple Foods Bakeries.   

William Richter was 20 years old when he arrived in San Antonio with no money in his pocket and six years of experience as a baker’s helper. William’s parents had immigrated to the Unite States from Germany in the early 1850s. Were it not for an accident, Richter might not have become a baker. When he finished grammar school he had planned on becoming a blacksmith. However, the blacksmith shop burned down the day before he could begin work.

Instead he started in the baking business. He first traveled to Fredricksburg to establish a bakery but he found the German women were already baking their own excellent bread so he returned to SanAntonio to become a pastry chef at the Menger Hotel. When he wasn’t baking at the hotel, he was working after hours at other bakeries. While working at Solcher’s Bakery he met his future wife, Emma Solcher, daughter of Henry Solcher.

The two were married on July 25, 1882, and a week later the couple opened their own bakery. From a single room, the couple baked and delivered fresh bread, cakes and pies daily by a horse-drawn buggy. They eventually had to add a 12-stall stable to accommodate the large number of horses needed to make deliveries.

By 1912, they were producing 150,000 loaves of bread per day and they had begun to make deliveries by trucks. In 1926, they created a new enterprise, Colonial Cakes. By 1927, Colonial Cakes was the second largest express shipper in San Antonio. The next year the couple bought their first slicing machine and ButterKrust began selling sliced bread. We now have the comment that something must be quite impressive to be better than sliced bread. Today, a TV ad about Home Advisory uses the slogan.

William Richter retired in 1930 and his son, Herman, became president of the company. They then opened bakeries in Austin, Corpus Christi and Harlingen. Richter’s family sold the company in 1994 to Flowers Industries of Thomasville, Georgia. So the next time you buy a loaf of ButterKrust bread you will know its history.

Floyd McKee is a native of Seguin. He is a retired Air Force Colonel and eight of his ancestors were among the 33 Rangers that organized and developed Walnut Springs and Seguin.

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