That was all I needed to hear. The movie “Michael.“—you know, the one about an angel on earth and the tabloid reporters who investigated— filmed a scene just up the road apiece from San Antonio. I had a free day. I was only 45 minutes away. I was going.
In a memorable scene, the angel who fell to earth puts his dancing shoes on and steps out with all the ladies in town.
Though the location was supposed to be somewhere else, the actual filming took place in this charming little berg called, Gruene. (Pronounced GrEEn.) And the dance hall was none other than Guene Hall (It’s called Joe’s in the movie.)
It’s said to be Texas oldest dance hall, and from the shape of the floors, it looks like thousands of dancers have scooted their boots here. It’s dark and full of atmosphere with long tables and benches, a big old bar and even bigger stage. I love standing in the places where beloved movies are made and this one was a rush. It opened early enough for me to get a peek in the dance hall and peruse all the photos of the filmmaking and the musicians who have performed here. It’s still going strong as a dance hall with lots on its calendar.
It’s not a big town. I don’t even remember a traffic light. But there was an antique shop with boots, bolo ties and enough old stuff to keep you browsing for hours. A general store with knick-knacks and doodads, hey there were shops filled with all kinds of stuff you don’t need but gotta have.
I wandered through them all, from the Gruene General Store to Hunter Junction to the Gruene Antique Company. There were places to get a snack or a meal. There were places to stay if you wanted to spend the night. River outfitters are on hand if you want to kayak or take a raft trip down the nearby Guadelupe River.
The town has been around since the mid-1840s. Germans settled here and named the town after Ernst Gruene. This was a cotton town back then with a gin powered by the river and fields filled with the cash crop.
Maybe the town had some rough times over the years. The Depression wasn’t a picnic and the arrival of boll weevils wreaked havoc on the cotton but Gruene Hall never closed and the pretty shops, some German in style, others Victorian, are still here.
The town is now on the National Register of Historic Places, celebrating what’s historic while providing a friendly atmosphere and fun array of diversions for the day-tripper or the weekender.
I ended my day at the Winery on the Gruene. The winemaker here buys grapes from all over the world and turns them into Texas wines bottled right here in Gruene. A friendly place with an interesting assortment of sweet and dry bottles.
Nice way to end a visit to a town where an angel danced the night away.
Ⓒ Text and photos
Mary K. Tilghman