Some neighbors have deeper roots in King William than others. Former KWA board member Henry Botello and his siblings were born and grew up here. Henry's parents, Marco and Josefina Botello, were married in 1950 at San Fernando Cathedral. Shortly thereafter, they moved to 916 S. Main, where Marco's mother had lived since 1941. Six children were born to Marco and Josefina while they lived there: Josie, Adel, Sylvia, Marco Jr., Marie, and Henry. After six children, the Botellos had outgrown their house, so in 1962, Marco built a larger home for his family just around the corner at 210 W. Johnson St.
Marco was a supervisor at Tobin Aerial Survey on Camp Street. He enjoyed the fact that he could walk to work and come home for lunch. He retired in the 1970s after a thirty-five year career with Tobin. "Our Dad was a charter member of the King William Association," Henry says. "I am the youngest of the kids. When I was eight years old, our Mom died of cancer and Dad was left to raise six kids ranging in age from eight to eighteen. Our Dad died in 1994. Four months later, my first son was born. We named him Marco."
"Dad was a practical, far-sighted man," says Josie. "Over the years, from his salary at Tobin, he saved enough money to buy several neighborhood houses with the idea that rent from the properties would provide for his retirement. And that's exactly what happened. After all these years, his vision has become an investment in our own future by allowing each of his children to have one of those rental houses as a home of their own. My brother Marco lives just across the street, and next door to him, my sister Maria. Right around the corner on S. Main, my sister Sylvia and two blocks up S. Main, there's Henry and his family."
"We've always been a close family - Dad planned it that way," says Josie. "At least once a week, we all get together for dinner and just to enjoy each other's company." Marco admits to being the unofficial family barbecue chef. He's also happy to be nearing the end of a several years' long restoration of his house which was built about 1895.
"Before the river realignment, 210 W. Johnson was a very deep lot," Henry says. "The entire length of the back of the lot was river frontage. When the back portion of our lot was condemned, we must have lost about forty feet. There was also another house between our property and the bridge and it's now gone. That's where SARA and their parking lot are currently located.”
"Before all this happened, the Johnson Street Bridge was a vehicular bridge," says Henry. "When they got through with all the work on the river, there was no bridge at all; just a deadend street. It was about sixteen years before they installed the pedestrian bridge. I think having that street blocked for all those years and being cut off from King William proper had a detrimental effect on our part of the neighborhood. We definitely became 'the other side of the river'. " The Johnson Street bridge is often referred to as the O. Henry bridge, as the spires of the bridge once stood on the old Commerce Street bridge that inspired O. Henry's short story - “A Fog in Old Santone.” The bridge trusses are new, however, since the old Commerce Street Bridge wasn't long enough to span the new location.
"There was this huge, wonderful old tree on the back of our property that extended way up over the river," remembers Henry. "My brother Marco liked to climb up into that tree and jump into the river. My mom cried for days when they cut down that beautiful tree. She was sad for a long time after they took away our part of the river."
"Our Dad had his boat dock at the base of that great tree," says Marco. "He had a wooden boat with a Johnson 3 HP outboard motor. We'd cruise up and down the river in that boat. We could go south only as far as the S. Alamo dam, but we could go up river almost to town since the Nueva St. dam did not exist back then. Dad told us that he could remember when he would see guards with guns posted around the perimeter of the U.S. Arsenal (now HEB Headquarters). The guards would stop him and make him turn around and go back downriver." "We'd also fish," says Josie. We'd catch perch, which were small, but we'd fry them up and eat them. The river was teeming with all sorts of creatures besides fish - tadpoles, snakes, an occasional water moccasin, and frogs. I still remember the loud echoes of those bullfrogs. We had many wonderful times in those days and much of our activity centered around the river. We'd have picnics on the banks of the river with family and friends. Our Dad had a barbecue grill down there and we'd have cookouts - he was a good cook."
"When they were building the walkways along the river in our neighborhood," says Marco, "our Dad would tell us kids that one day, we'd have a river walk all the way to Roosevelt Park. Of course, we couldn't imagine that ever being possible, but it looks like he was right. It's actually going to happen!"