Inks Lake on the Colorado River was named in honor of Roy Banford Inks,
a legendary figure in Llano County. HE LIVED LIFE IN HIGH GEAR
by Mindred Inks Dalrymple and Jim Inks
Long before the automotive experts in Detroit had designed
a reclining front seat for their two-door sedans, Roy Inks in Llano, Texas had converted a
Ford demonstrator off his show room floor into an emergency ambulance. Since the nearest
hospital was in San Antonio or Austin, Llano emergencies had previously experienced a long
and uncomfortable ride for help. Roy began his ambulance service to take a young girl with
a badly broken arm to San Antonio. His mechanics flattened the back of the front passenger
seat, added a cot mattress, and the Llano ambulance was born. It was a voluntary no-charge
service, and typical of Roy Inks' ingenuity and involvement in his community.
He was take-charge, do-it-now high gear guy whose infectious optimism and fun-loving nature generated enthusiasm for whatever he was involved in. He had been born in Hoover's Valley in 1887 and was the second oldest of a large family, but he came to Llano as a very young boy to live with an Aunt and Uncle who had no children. He lived with Maggie and Lee Watkins and attended Llano schools until he graduated in 1903 at sixteen. He then went to work for Nelson Davis, Inc. a wholesale grocery business based in Austin. Roy was travelling salesman, assigned to the Central Texas area, including Llano. He was well suited to a sales career and while achieving success in business, he also made a wide acquaintance of friends of both sexes. Ten or more years passed in pleasant experiences which all came to an abrupt end when the United States entered World War II. Roy enlisted and was sent to Camp Bullis in San Antonio for officer training. His years of independence did not prepare him for army routine and discipline, and it is reported by an acquaintance that he made one brash remark to an officer and was busted to private.
While he was at Bullis, he managed to continue seeing a girl from Llano he had been courting. She was Myrtle Moss. Myrtle arranged to visit a cousin, Myra Slater who was living in San Antonio, and was engaged to an officer at Camp Bullis. The two couples shared many enjoyable evenings, and when Myra and Capt. Alfred Petsch were married Roy and Myrtle were their only attendants.
After Roy's discharge from the army, he returned to his job with Nelson Davis, Inc. and was in charge of a branch grocery warehouse which he opened for them in Llano. He and Myrtle were married on September 6, 1919. They had two children: Mildred, born in 1920, and James Moss, born in 1921.
Roy decided to give up his travelling and bought into partnership with George M. Watkins, who owned the Ford dealership in Llano. A few years later he was able to buy out Mr. Watkins and the dealership became the Roy B. Inks Motor Company. One of his flamboyant advertising stunts was to drive a Ford car up the steep slope of the solid granite Enchanted Rock. Myrtle was even more terrified when she learned that Jim, their young son, was in the car with him. Also as a reassurance to the women who were apprehensive about driving the gear shift cars when the Model A was introduced, he allowed his 12 year old daughter to demonstrate how easy it was.
In addition to Ford cars -- first the Model T, then the Model A and finally the V-8 -- Roy also was the dealer for Stromberg Carlson radios and Kelvinator refrigerators, which were new products on the market. Few people had radios, so when a program of particular interest was to be broadcast, Roy placed a set on the grass between the garage and the adjacent gasoline station so everyone could listen. Crowds gathered to hear programs such as the Dempsey vs Tunney fight, national elections, Will Rogers and Amos and Andy.
There was large wooden structure in Llano on the banks of the river called the Opera House. Roy was the manager for several years. He introduced the first moving pictures there. They were silent and a pianist played appropriate accompaniment. The reels had to be changed periodically while the audience waited in the wooden fold up chairs. The Opera House was also the scene of high school basket ball games, a skating rink, and many Saturday night dances with live orchestras. These orchestras were big name bands that travelled the state and Roy and Myrtle attended dances in nearby towns as well as all those in Llano.
The Ink's were part of a group of friends whose social activities included weekly bridge games, deer hunts, and camping and fishing on the Llano River. They visited Roy's family who had moved to Austin soon after he started living with the Watkins, and spent many weekends with Myrtle's brothers families on their Llano county ranches. They also made periodic trips to Houston with several other drivers to bring back new Fords. They were local delegates to all of the state Democratic conventions and once were state delegates to the National Democratic Convention. They attended the Chicago World's Fair in about 1929. Several seasons Roy helped sponsor a semi-pro baseball team by hiring some of the players, and the whole Inks family never missed a game.
As a young man, Roy's hair had been quite dark but before he was 30 it turned grey and before 40 was white. The premature gray hair, and olive complexion and brown eyes made him a very attractive looking man. He was always well dressed in double breasted suits and a Panama hat and usually had a cigar in his mouth. His conversational language was sprinkled with "hells", and "damns" and other profanities but they were so habitually and casually used they seemed irrelevant rather than irreverent. His extrovert personality and fun-loving nature made the Inks' family the center of many social activities.
The office of Mayor of Llano was a non-paying, time-consuming and unprestigeous job but somebody had to do it. Roy was elected and held the office for years. His interest in politics stemmed from his interest in people and the community rather than personal political ambition, but it also gave him a close association with many of the state office holders. As mayor he brought his usual zeal into the task and was not satisfied with status-quo.
A Llano News article of 1929 cites his accomplishments in glowing terms. The City Cemetery was run by private subscriptions was a blight on the landscape until Roy urged the City to take over the management. With a paid custodian and the city street grader to maintain the roads, the cemetery became a place of pride. His next step was to get the city to support the municipal band. But the most vital of his programs was to organize and fund a Fire Department. A fire hall was built. A fire truck, chemical tanks and thousands of feet of hose as well as all other needed equipment replaced the futile "bucket brigade" which had previously existed. The insurance rate for home and business owners was materially lowered. He also had street lights installed and initiated a street-paving program. All of these and other reforms were accomplished with a minimum of dissension. A few citizens thought it was too much too fast and objected to the taxes necessary to support the new projects, but these dissenters carried little weight.
It was fortunate timing that all of this was done before 1929, because that was the year the bottom fell out of the U.S. economy. Llano did not escape the great depression. The only bright hope for Llano became first the economic salvation of the whole Central Texas area, but later be the worst catastrophe of all.
A dam on the Colorado River had been in the planning stages for many years and was finally approved as a private enterprise to furnish power. It was to be financed by a power mogul, Samuel Insull. On April 15, 1929 Samuel Insull Power Interests awarded the Fegles Construction Company of Minneapolis a contract to build a dam on the Colorado River 20 miles from Llano. The Dam was to be 137 feet high and 9000 feet long and completed by March 1933. Executives, engineers, and construction foremen moved their families to the village of hastily-built houses on the Llano countryside of the dam site. Men from Llano and Burnet were quickly hired as laborers. The "dam" families were integrated into Llano schools, churches and social life. The infusion of their payroll money was a boom to the economy. Roy sold them cars, refrigerators and radios and entertained them both personally and officially. They became close friends.
Prosperity did not last long. In July, 1932, with the dam 40% complete and $3,748,000 spent, the Insull interests went into receivership and the Insull brothers absconded to Switzerland. All work on the dam stopped. The whole country was in the midst of the worst depression it had ever known. There were no jobs anywhere. The Fegle's Construction Company workers had no place to go. They at least had houses and gardens at the dam site, so most of them stayed on, hoping that some way could be found to finish the dam.
The Llano merchants were as charitable as they could be, but it was a bleak time. Roy joined others in lobbying efforts with the state and federal officials to get funding to finish the dam. For the remainder of 1932 and all of 1933 he spent much of his time in Austin and in Washington on this cause. But in 1933, another financial blow struck. A bank holiday was declared by President Roosevelt. Both banks in Llano closed their doors, but the citizen's National Bank of Llano went into receivership and never reopened. The depositors' accounts were frozen. Roy was hard hit. Both his business and personal accounts were involved. Eventually some depositors recovered a part of their funds but Roy did not live that long.
He continued to work towards completion of the dam, but his business was suffering because no none had money for new cars and many people owed him money they could not pay. His father-in-law ordered a new custom-made Lincoln which kept the Inks' family afloat -- but just barely. Roy talked of going back to work for Nelson Davis & Sons, but his optimism that conditions were bound to improve kept him in Llano.
The financial problems he was experiencing were not reflected in his attitude or life style. For her 15th birthday, Roy and Myrtle gave a dance for Mildred. The new cars were all moved from the show room and crepe paper streamers and balloon transformed it into a gala ball room. A live band played for guests from Llano, the surrounding towns and Austin. It was a happy occasion for the teenagers and a memory that Mildred would cherish all her life.
Meanwhile Roy's efforts on behalf of the dam became almost an obsession, and as a result he was appointed a Director on the Lower Colorado River Authority.
In the summer of 1935 there was a flood on the Llano river. The bridge was washed away and the town was isolated for several days. Electricity was out. Motor boats were the only means of transportation in or out of Llano and between the north and south sides. Roy was one of the people who furnished continuous boat service from one bank to the other. The Llano River flood waters augmented by other tributaries to the Colorado created disaster all the way to the Gulf, washing out bridges, inundating homes and destroying crops.
This was the catalyst needed to remove the last obstacles to funding for the completion of the dam. Roy and the other members of the LCRA went to Washington for the final passage of the legislation. Roy became ill and developed pneumonia enroute home. He was in Llano only a few days, then was rushed to San Antonio to a hospital, but it was too late. He died on August 4, 1935, the day before he would have been 46 years old.