As war clouds gathered in Washington D.C., The Llano News reported on April 4 (1917) that a large crowd had gathered in Llano to celebrate the raising of the American flag over the courthouse tower. New “turning posts,” with “Go to the right!” painted on them in bright red, were installed at “some of the busiest corners” in Llano; the front-page article described the bases as “circular affairs of considerable dimensions, making it hard to turn the posts over.”
The Llano Business League called a meeting for that evening to organize assistance for “the opening celebrations of the Hotel Don Carlos.” The Llano National Bank received a “costly and beautiful painting from L.C. Smith of Kansas City.” An unnamed (but apparently quite famous) artist had painted a scene from the ranch of Will P. Edwards, near Big Spring, and the bank displayed it proudly on the wall.
The volunteer fire department held a meeting at the opera house to elect a new slate of officers. E.H. Qualls was chief, I.C. Callaway was assistant chief, and A.H. Willbern was recorder. In city elections, John W. Davis was elected as tax assessor/collector; A.H. Willbern and D.L. Carl were elected as city council members.
A front-page advertisement on April 12 announced that the War Department was seeking 1,000,000 volunteers as the U.S. seemed on the brink of war with Germany. The ad mentioned that if the quota was not met, the government would begin “selective conscription” in the very near future. In the meantime, a munitions factory blew up in Chester, PA, killing 121 people.
The Llano River bridge was getting a paint job, and both the water filtering plant and the Don Carlos Hotel were nearing completion. A firm date had not been set for the hotel’s Grand Opening because some of the furniture had not arrived on schedule, but the Business League was already sending invitations to political leaders, business and railroad officials and newspaper reporters around the state.
The April 19 paper announced a date of April 27 for the Grand Opening of the Don Carlos Hotel. The article said “it goes without saying that Llano will have one of the biggest events in its history.” Residents were invited, but were asked to give five days advance notice if they wished to attend. Engineer O.E. Metcalfe announced that street work would begin the following week, and that he would personally supervise “every part of the work.” A carload of Fords arrived by rail, and seven area purchasers took possession of their new cars. The “Co-operative Chautauqua” was scheduled for May 4-7, and the next Trades Day was set for May 7.
The renovated Don Carlos Hotel opened with a literal bang on Friday, April 27. A front-page article reported that at 6 o’clock in the morning “the first of the ‘Shults bombs’ (named for hotel owner C.E. “Charlie” Shults) were exploded from the top of the hotel building. Every hour, on the hour, from then on until 6 o’clock p.m., this bomb resounded throughout the city.”
A trainload of out-of-town guests arrived at 11:30, and was greeted by a large delegation from the Llano Business League. Among the guests were the musicians of the San Antonio Municipal Band, who had been hired by the League to participate in “Loyalty Day” festivities (apparently a response to news of probable war with Germany) that same day.
After tours of the downtown area and a luncheon at the beautiful hotel, the band marched in a Loyalty Day parade from the high school (where local Boy Scouts had raised a large American flag, donated by the Shakespeare Club, on the top of the building) to the hotel. The Boy Scouts raised another flag atop the Don Carlos as the band played the national anthem.
The celebration at the hotel continued with a band concert that afternoon and a sumptuous 9-course banquet for 200 guests that evening. Then “the dancing began, and was continued into the wee small hours.” Wilburn Oatman and Roy Inks presided over the evening’s celebration, and the music was provided by the San Antonio band. It was indeed a great day in Llano’s history.
The Llano News received a letter from Shirley Williams, asking that his copy of the paper be delivered to Kingsland for the next three weeks. Mr. and Mrs. Williams had been living in Bisbee, Arizona, but remained subscribers to the Llano paper. They had made the 933-mile trip back home to Kingsland in their Ford car in just three days, a feat which The Llano News deemed quite remarkable.
City leaders struck a deal on May 2 to open a new gravel pit to supply material for construction on Llano’s streets. The project was to start at the city limits on the north side of town and work its way southward. L.B. Uhl, who had been given a contract to repair and paint the county courtroom, was almost finished with a very satisfactory job. Judge M.D. Slator ordered a Premier car from agent T.S. Parker, and expected to receive it “within the next few days.”
An “Enlistment Day Proclamation” dominated the front page in the May 10 paper. It stated that there would be a recruitment drive on the 15th, and that Llano was expected to produce 20 volunteers. A separate story reported that C.E. Shults had received a letter from his son, Othello, who with his friend Linden Foster (also of Llano) had volunteered for the U.S. Navy while they were in Oklahoma. A “Home Guard,” for those not qualified to enter the regular military, was to hold an organizational meeting the following week.
Road construction was coming along well, aided by a steam roller which had been rented from San Saba County, and work had also begun on the 80’ by 120’ Ford Service Station on East Main Street. The news story reported that “the front will be of plate glass, and modern in every particular.”
On May 17, a front-page story reported plans for improvements at the Opera House, in hopes of making it more comfortable for nightly pictures through the summer. Another story detailed plans for Llano High School’s commencement exercises there from Sunday through Wednesday the following week. Street construction was progressing well, with the steam roller working “just a short way up from the store of John A. Chism, and from that point on out to the city limits on the north, the work of graveling the road is under way. The roller puts the streets in fine condition and leaves the covering for the roadway a hard and compact surface.”
The Watkins Auto Sales Company reported the delivery of eight new Ford cars to owners in Llano, Field Creek and Kingsland that week.