Good Friends, Tall Tales
by Phil Houseal
Apr 5, 2006
Two years ago, as Bobby Cave was driving back from a weekend escape to the hill country, he took a detour south of Stonewall to show a friend an old school house. As he topped the hill at Albert, Texas, Cave spied a “For Sale” sign. He didn’t realize he was looking at his future.
When he called the real estate agent the next day, Cave thought he was asking about a house. Only then did he discover “it was a town!”
Cave, who worked in the high-intensity insurance business in Austin, yearned for the tranquility and fellowship he knew from family gatherings in El Paso. So when he learned the town of Albert was for sale, he seized the opportunity. He sold off his share of the brokerage and bought the whole town, and is now busy turning it into the destination he always desired.
“I couldn’t find the perfect place,” Cave said, “so I decided to try to create it.”
Albert - what there is of it - sits on the banks of Williams Creek. The town was named Albert in 1892 after Albert Luckenbach opened a post office there, just a few miles from the now famous town that bears his last name - Luckenbach (Albert Luckenbach may be the only man who has two towns named after him).
The “town” currently consists of a dance hall, ice house, and a one-room schoolhouse (which a young Lyndon Johnson attended). Cave has already refurbished the ice house/bar using old tin and barn wood to keep the authentic feel. The beer chills in a working meat cooler salvaged from the original ice house (“I didn’t want it looking like a bar,” he explained).
He added a patio beer garden under the 500-year-old oak tree and built what grateful patrons describe as a “palatial” restroom (“I spent more on the restrooms than I did on the bar,“ he noted).
In two short years, Cave has already created a special place, one as far from the city as you would want to be. Folks from Austin and points nearer flock there on weekends, with no goal other than to spend the afternoon sitting on the cool deck under the shade of gorgeous old oaks.
Jodi Cosper, who was opening the bar the night I stopped by, understands the appeal of Albert.
“We have old-timers and first-timers here on Sundays, as many as 300 people,” she said. “Some ride up on motorcycles; some ride up on horses. It’s just a good feeling out here. Everybody gets along. With the creek, old friends playing dominos, kids picking up pecans... it’s a very comfortable place.”
But, showing the energy and vision that helped him build an insurance company, Cave has bigger plans.
First he wants to restore the dance hall and bring back the traditional Saturday night dances - the “old fashioned” kind.
“I grew up going to Twin Sisters Dance Hall,” he said. “I love that feeling.”
Cave talks enthusiastically about an outdoor “drive-in” style theatre that you don’t have to “drive in” to. It would actually be an amphitheater setting, with a movie screen that hydraulically moves back to reveal a stage to accommodate live bands and outdoor performances. A dozen timber and stone cabins with porches would ring the stage.
“Can you imagine,” he asked, “sitting on the front porch of your cabin and having a front row seat to a live outdoor concert?”
We can. But Cave isn’t finished.
He envisions bringing in 20 refurbished Airstream trailers, parking them permanently under the pecan trees and making them available as rental cabins. Long term, he can see an old-fashioned Texaco gas station “where the guy still washes your windows” and has even picked out his ideal site on the 13 acres for a restaurant serving “high end comfort food.”
“I want to incorporate more of those early 1950s type things,” he explained. “I’m looking at the long term. I’m out here for good.”
Eventually he plans to add a little antique store, artisan shops, and a spillway in the creek so families can come swim.
“Sorry,” he said, pausing for breath. “I get so excited talking about it.”
Cave is also an accomplished musician. On any given Saturday or Sunday, you might catch him performing on his small stage. He welcomes singers and songwriters for informal picking sessions, and hopes to add jazz and bluegrass concerts, as well as Sunday gospel brunches.
“I love having everybody come to ‘my backyard’ and drink a beer and listen to tunes,” he said. “It’s just nice to sit out here and watch the sun go down.”
“I absolutely love it. I plan to spend the rest of my life here and to keep growing it.”