Muenster has been a bastion of German food and culture since its founding in the late 19th century. Alvin Hartman, a 95-year-old jack-of-all-trades whose grandparents helped build the community, was born and raised in the north Texas town. You could call him Cooke County’s Renaissance man: He has worked in printing at The Muenster Enterprise since 1946 and has also sold newspaper advertising, played amateur softball and volleyball, farmed sheep and cattle, worked the register at a convenience store, and acted as a volunteer firefighter. In between, he’s visited all 50 U.S. states, Europe, and Canada with his late wife, Joanie; raised three kids; and served on the board of Muenster’s Sacred Heart Catholic School. Since the 1950s, he has kept detailed statistics for the school’s football team, the Tigers. Hartman took his place on the sideline every Friday night until an errant tackle left him with a broken leg. After that, he worked from the press box before retiring two years ago. Last year, before Joanie’s death in March, the Hartmans celebrated their 70th wedding anniversary. “You’ve got to be grateful for that,” he says.
“I was born here in January of ’28. The town started in 1889, and there was nothing here. People came from Germany and Illinois and everywhere to start the community. The first thing they did was build a church, and grandpa helped build a Catholic school. Anybody who came down here was strictly Catholic. That’s the way we grew up. We were 90% Catholic probably until 15, 20 years ago. Now the town has grown.”
“I had classmates, when they started school in the first grade, they did not know English. They had to learn English in school. Sacred Heart taught German classes. People spoke German in Muenster until World War II, when we started fighting Germany over there. You didn’t want somebody to know that you were German—that you lived over here and you come from over there. That kind of broke things up.”
Cream of the Crop
“Something we had here that was really big was a milk plant. We furnished cheese for Kraft Foods. That at one time was a big industry. There were times when there would be 25 to 30 tanker trucks lined up to be unloaded to make cheese out of the milk. My daddy worked there for 30 years.”
Skin in the Game
“I attended every Tigers game, wherever they went. I walked the sideline. At Frisco about seven or eight years ago, the quarterback was going to pass and his receivers were covered. So he decided to run out of bounds. And about the time that he got to the sideline, two of their players hit him—and all three hit me and broke my leg. I was in the hospital for a good while. I was the oldest athlete-patient they ever gave therapy to!”
The Best Fest
“Germanfest is a big, big deal. I used to open sauerkraut cans that came in a gallon for Germanfest. I spent 14 hours one day opening sauerkraut cans. But I was young then; it didn’t make much difference.”
“We have one German restaurant, Rohmer’s. It’s a family restaurant that serves German food. I usually get the sausage. The Rohmers were one of the first families that came to Muenster. ”
“Fischer’s [Meat Market] is darn popular. They closed on Sundays here about a year ago. Sunday was really a big day for them because that’s when people down in Dallas-Fort Worth would come up here and get some sausage and cheese. Probably cook it that night and have dinner.”
“[Sacred Heart] is our Catholic cemetery. Joanie’s right over there. My mother and daddy, my grandpas and grandmothers—I’ve got ’em all here. Every day since Joanie died, I’ve come up here. It’s unbelievable how well we got along, how we loved each other.”
Number of Stoplights:
Fort Worth, 77 miles south
Germanfest, held the last full weekend in April
Fischer’s Meat Market, 304 N. Main St.