Title: Images of Aquarena’s Past
Author: Bibb Underwood
Publisher: San Marco's Daily Record
San Marcos Three generations of the Rogers family made significant contributions to the history of San Marcos. A member of the fourth generation recorded that history.
Doni Weber, great-granddaughter of A.B. Rogers, has written and compiled a comprehensive narrative and pictorial history of what was once the defining landmark of San Marcos. In her new book, “Images of America: Aquarena Springs,” Doni has captured, not only the chronology and wonder that was Aquarena during its heyday, but the book provides a rare look into the era of a simpler life.
It defines what entertainment was before the introduction of the air-conditioned behemoths that ply the interstate highways and the construction of the gargantuan theme parks, i.e., Sea World, Fiesta Texas and Six Flags.
Doni will have a book signing at Hastings Books, 917 Highway 80, in San Marcos from 1 to 3 p.m. Saturday. Royalties from the sale of the book will go to fund the restoration and maintenance of the glass-bottom boats now in use at the Aquarena Center. (See SMDR of Oct.4).
Doni's effort was sparked by Ron Coley, director of Aquarena Center, who, in the spring of 2008, had a chance meeting with a representative of Arcadia Publishing, a house that specializes in the publications of local and regional history books. Ron then met with local resident and third generation descendent, Shirley Rogers and another member of the family to discuss the project.
It was agreed that Doni, Shirley's daughter, was the logical person to head the project. As a former, English teacher, she has an MA in English and experience in the publishing business. Her day job is head editor of Applied Practice, the publishing company she co-founded and later sold.
In late summer of 2008, the family gathered in San Marcos and began amassing materials for the book. “We all brought articles, post-cards, and other memorabilia whatever we had,” Doni said.
“I, with my mom's help, went to archives at the San Marcos library and gathered information. I also went to Texas Highways magazine, and went through their archives. The actual writing began Jan. 4, 2009, which must have been a Saturday (actually, it was Sunday) because I did all the writing on the weekends. I still have a full-time job.”
Doni said the hardest part of putting the book together was obtaining the number of images required by the publisher. The minimum was 180 images and it took some scrambling to get that many. “I used every image I could find. And, say there were five pictures of the sky-ride; I had to write a specified number of words for each picture. It was difficult to keep the narrative interesting and avoid repeating myself.”
Doni said the most enjoyable aspect of putting the book together was learning things about her forbearers that she never knew and seeing pictures of her mom that she had never identified as such. “One of the pictures I came across was me, and I had no idea until my mom told me.”
Doni further described her joy at learning the depth of involvement of her family in the development of San Marcos. “I didn't really know the history of A.B. Rogers purchasing the land around the headwaters of the San Marcos River. Also, I learned the history of Rogers Resorts which is now Rio Vista Park.”
Doni's efforts have resulted in a book that shows the evolution of Aquarena Springs resort and to some extent, San Marcos as a city. “It is important to me that the book conveys to the public that the Rogers family's concerns have always centered on the San Marcos River. They loved the river and though they didn't know what we know today about conservation and preservation, the river was always foremost in their minds.
The book will appeal to both newcomers and long-time San Marcos residents. The cover features two of the original mermaids at the underwater theater, Margaret Russell and Shirley Rogers, both of whom still reside in San Marcos.