The most visible pieces of Kingsland’s infrastructure were in place by 1971; new roads and bridges provided easy access to the once-isolated little town and businesses already lined at least two miles of Hwy 1431. Homes were still being built at a frantic pace, the new country club and golf course were open for business and a 1,800 square-foot addition had been put on to the west side of the just-five-year-old Highland Lakes National Bank (which was the area’s largest bank by 1971).
There were some challenges for the still-booming town, but optimism dominated the outlook for a new decade. One of the focal points of that optimism was the highly-successful “Aqua Boom” festival held on July 4, 1970; the Kingsland Chamber was already planning a bigger and better Aqua Boom by January of 1971 (they had decided that past winter to make the event an annual tradition in Kingsland).
The first Kingsland news which made the front page of the Marble Falls Highlander in 1971 was a tragedy which actually occurred on December 30. Two Marble Falls girls were struck and killed by a car outside the Green Acres miniature golf course on Hwy 1431 (now the home of Lake Fun Designs). The same issue described the Kingsland Water Supply Corporation as in a “holding” pattern as legal details were being worked out to allow an intake pipe to be installed at the Kingsland Lions Club Park.
The first baby born in Llano County that year was “a baby girl born to Mr. and Mrs. Jerry Don Ivey of Kingsland” on January 6. C.H. Chastain was sworn in as Justice of the Peace for Precinct #3, and opened an office in Kingsland. A fascinating article by Herman Smith recounted the history of the Lakewood Forest III subdivision, from its beginnings (when Forrest Ross bought 67 acres along the Colorado River arm of Granite Shoals Lake from Mrs. Ona Bedford in 1960) to 1970. The article listed many of the prominent citizens who lived there, including Kit and Dollie Carson, Gene and Juanita Bilberry (and their five sons), Truman and May Thurman, Herman and Sallie Smith, and Weldon and Linnie Osbourn, whose daughter Linette (three years old when the article was written) was the only resident born to the neighborhood.
The lake had already been lowered to allow construction of a new power plant at the former site of Granite Shoals Youth Camp (next to the planned new Horseshoe Bay development), and at the end of January a huge “fish kill” was announced by Texas Parks and Wildlife, apparently to eliminate undesirable species of fish and prepare for stocking of desirable species as the lake was re-filled with water. The announced date was March 27 & 28, when almost $50,000 worth of rotenone would be applied by special barges and spray-boats. The optimistic headline declared that Lake LBJ would become a “spanking new sportsmen’s paradise.”
That week’s paper also announced that the Kingsland Water Supply Corporation’s intake (“between Valentine’s and Bray’s lodges”) had been re-classified as a well, so construction could be legally resumed.
Morris and Judie Steen opened a “Mastercraft” showroom on Hwy 1431 (no specific address given). It was billed as a “one-stop service for the home builder, the buyer and do-it-yourself enthusiast,” featuring tile, bathroom fixtures, flooring, draperies, etc. More than 400 people attended the Grand Opening on February 6.
The Kingsland Chamber board met with local business owners to discuss plans for the 1971 Aqua Boom. Since the Fourth of July would make for a three-day weekend, it was decided to add several new events. Plans were announced for a golf tournament, boat races and a carnival in addition to the basic parades and fireworks.
At a “Challenge of the ‘70s” program held at the Comanche Club in Granite Shoals, Professor Charles Clark (from the University of Texas) predicted that 95,000 people would be living around the Highland Lakes by 1990. That prediction fueled calls already coming from the Highlander and concerned citizens for much tougher restrictions on septic tanks and other sources of pollution near the lakes.
Gil Cross opened a new service center behind Garland Diggs’ Highland Car Parts store on Hwy 1431 in Kingsland. A strike at a chemical company in New York caused a week’s postponement of the big “fish kill” on Lake LBJ, since TP&W could not get enough rotenone by the previously announced date. That event, reportedly the biggest fish kill in U.S. history, was expected to attract 50,000 fisherman to Lake LBJ.
A fire destroyed “Barton’s Barge” (a well-known fishing barge on Lake LBJ) on February 19. A chapter of the Retired Officers Association was formed in Kingsland on February 18. More than 2,000 lake area residents signed a petition asking the Texas Water Quality Board to tighten restrictions on septic systems within 2,200 feet of a lake.
Plans for a bridge behind Wirtz Dam were abandoned, and the LCRA decided instead to build a temporary low-water crossing for construction vehicles working on the new power plant while the lake was lowered. General Manager Sim Gideon, of the LCRA, announced that Lake LBJ would be re-filled by June 1.
Texas Parks and Wildlife advised fishermen to be at Lake LBJ a half-hour after sunrise on April 3 for best “fishing” after barges began spreading the rotenone. At the time of the kill, Lake LBJ was 31 feet below normal, and covered only 1,000 acres (instead of the normal 6, 300). There would be a limit of 15 bass and 25 catfish per angler; commercial fishermen would be hired to remove all the other fish. No fishing would be allowed on the second day of the fish kill; TP&W warned that there would be a “fishy taste” in the water supply for five or six days after the event!
On March 25, a front-page story reported that the Farmers Home Administration, which was financing the Kingsland water system, had given the green light to Bryant-Currington Engineers to proceed with construction.
Former Japanese POW Ray Dillard, who had spent years in the restaurant business, became the new general manager of the Highland Lakes Recreation Club (now Lighthouse Country Club) in Kingsland. The Kingsland Chamber announced that the Highland Lakes Tourist Association’s Miss Highland Lakes Beauty Pageant would be part of the Aqua Boom celebration that year.
Boat-launching sites were listed for the big fish kill, at which TP&W now expected 100,000 or more fishermen, and officials warned of possible accidents or fights. Hatfield Fishing Lodge (formerly Fred Wood Camp) advertised boat and motor rentals, as well as a good place to launch a boat for the big fish kill. A First Aid station was set up at Cottonwood Resort (near the dam). And then the anglers began to arrive.
The front-page of the April 8 paper called the fish kill “the biggest thing that the Highland Lakes has ever seen,” and reported that crowds (and retail sales) had exceeded all expectations. A TP&W spokesman said: “There was just no way it could have been any better.”
A writer from Blue Lakes Estates likened the scene outside her lakefront home to the Normandy Invasion “or maybe more like Dunkirk.” She worried about all the dead fish still around the lake, and predicted that (if many of them were channel cats) that the fragrance of coming weeks might be called “Channel No. 5!”
TP&W estimated the cost of re-stocking the lake at more than $300,000, with federal and state governments sharing the cost. In all, more than two million fish would be released into the lake: bass, crappie, channel and blue catfish and sunfish. The state would also return 300 large “yellow cats” which had been caught and held at San Marcos before the fish kill. The LCRA began to re-fill the lake on April 12, and the April 29 paper showed pictures of fishery personnel re-stocking the lake. About 200,000 10-inch channel cats were released in Lake LBJ in the first week of May.
Buckner Boys Ranch invited the public to its 20th anniversary celebration on May 2.
The Kingsland Chamber board met to finalize Aqua Boom plans on May 8. Applicants were sought for the beauty pageant and for the boat parade.
Lake LBJ was almost completely full by June 1. And heavy equipment was installed at the Kingsland water plant.
Complaints were made by quite a few residents after roads were criss-crossed by the new water lines; an editorial said “water lines have cut many a yard, fence and driveway, and (according to Commissioner Drace Williams) a paved road had been cut in 83 different places to install the pipes.
A thermometer sign was placed outside the Highland Lakes Bank to record the progress in a community-wide fundraiser for Aqua Boom. A photo in the June 3 paper showed less than $500 in donations toward the $5,000 goal. Two events for children, a Miss Tiny Tot Pageant and a Kiddie Parade, were added to the Aqua Boom agenda. Two bands (one for teens and one for adults) were hired to play for separate street dances at either end of the Highland Lakes Shopping Center parking lot.
Chamber President Homer Richardson, who described himself as “the father (and mother) of Aqua Boom,” suggested several interesting possible events for future events around the Highland Lakes (including a melon-eating contest for Aqua Boom, a “rock festival” (not the music, but real rocks) for Llano, and a Burnet-to-Marble Falls “marathon” race.
The second Aqua Boom was a huge success, and the July 8 paper estimated that 15,000 people had attended. That was the first half of 1971.