With ancestral roots in Mexico, the Botello family has been part of King William for four generations. Their story spans all the many changes our neighborhood has faced over seven decades, and — to quote an old story — a river runs through it.
Or anyway, it used to. Josephine Botello Garcia (Josie to neighbors and friends) remembers the river well. In her childhood, her house on West Johnson Street — built for her parents, and still her home — backed up on a then half-wild San Antonio River. So did her grandmother’s house, just around the corner on South Main Avenue. Her father Marco A. Botello, Sr. (who was a charter member of the King William Association) had a boat, brightly painted red and green, that was his pride and joy. Josie, the oldest of six siblings, remembers the many times her father took the children out on the water.
The first Botello generation in our neighborhood was Josie’s grandmother Adelaida Botello, who had brought Marco and his brothers from Mexico during its Revolution. Her husband was not so fortunate. In the chaos of the times, he disappeared without trace while headed north to join them, leaving Adelaida to raise her four children as a single mom. Eventually, she bought a house in 1942 on what is now South Main Avenue (then called Frasch Street).
Marco built a successful career nearby in the photo reproduction department of Tobin Aerial Survey, which occupied the building on Camp Street that is now Camp Street Lofts. Josie remembers Tobin as a very good workplace, with an excellent cafeteria for employees and an onsite medical clinic for employees and their families. Josie herself worked there for a few years in the 1970s when Tobin was busy mapping out the groundwork for the Alaska Pipeline.
Marco and his family moved to a new house they built on Johnson Street in 1962, but the connection to the river would not last long. The old river channel originally made a sharp bend toward South Main and between the Pioneer Flour mill and South Alamo Street, finally returning to its current course at Blue Star. The bend was prone to flooding, and in the late 1960s the San Antonio River Authority and US Army Corps of Engineers straightened and widened the channel — slicing through the long, sloping lawns of the Steves Homestead and other King William Street mansions and putting a broad expanse of fill, eventually occupied by the headquarters of the River Authority, between the river and the Botellos and their neighbors. Houses that once had verdant riverbanks now fronted on parking lots.
Through it all, the family held on. Five of the six Botello siblings still live here (sister Adel now lives in the Medical Center area). The family had gradually acquired other houses in the neighborhood, initially as rental property. Josie, now in banking, moved back to her parents’ home after her father passed; Sylvia Botello lives in their grandmother’s house on Main. Brother Marco, Jr. and sister Mari and son Gerald all live on Johnson Street right across from Josie. Youngest brother Henry and son Marco have a house two blocks away on Arsenal St.
Last year Mari married Roger Martinez and — fittingly, given her family’s connection to the river, and with special permission — said their vows on the Johnson Street Bridge. The river may have moved, but the Botellos are still very much here.
-- Jack Kent