Friday, July 26, 2013

CRAZY WATER TO THE RESCUE!


I live in North Central Texas on the Fort Worth side of the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex. The town of Mineral Wells is a couple of counties to the west. This town bears that name for a very good reason.  Each summer they hold a Crazy Water Festival. There are several versions of how Crazy Water acquired the name, but here is the one most often recorded.

Brazos River near Mineral Wells, Texas

The first well was dug by a Mr. Elder when he tired of hauling water from the Brazos River nearby. At first his family refused to drink the water because of the smell. When the cattle appeared to show no ill signs from drinking the well water, the family tried it. Mrs. Elder's rheumatism disappeared and Mr. Elder's stomach problems also disappeared. Word spread, and soon neighbors were lining up to buy water.

One nearby family had a terrible burden. The wife/mother was truly crazy in the medical sense of the word. Probably she was bi-polar, but that definition wasn’t around then. Her family and neighbors only knew the woman was nuts.Her husband dug a well and struck water. After drinking the water, the woman became more and more normal until, eventually, she was cured—as long as she drank the water. Word spread and soon neighbors were hauling “Crazy Water” from that magical well, hoping it would cure whatever ailed them. (I think they should have called it “Sanity Water.”)

Little did they know, the reason for the miraculous result was the well was dug through a shaft of lithium—the same lithium used today to treat severe depression and similar disorders. Although other wells in the area carry lithium, they also have high mineral content including bicarbonate of soda, calcium, and phosphate, hence the name of the town Mineral Wells. And it is plural. Numerous artesian wells in this area produced healing water for those suffering stomach complaints and rheumatism and arthritis. Bathing in the water high in carbonated salts eased aching joints and muscles.

Crazy Water Crystal Plant then

An industry evolved in which the water was distilled and the salt crystals sold nationwide in every form from small packets of salts,  “crystals,” bottles, soaps, and large jars. In fact, that business is still going today.  A customer can buy bottled water or crystal packets. Caution, although this highly mineralized water helps certain stomach complaints, I was told it also creates kidney stones and gall stones.

Famous Water Company
Mineral Wells, Texas
as it looks today

One antiquish collectible I own is a green quart-bottle from Wizard Wells, a Crazy Water competitor. My husband and I drove to the site of the old Wizard Wells baths and bottling plant, but were disappointed to find only brush. There were numerous other competitors, but Famous Water Company with its Crazy Water is the only survivor of these once thriving businesses. Although we heard a report of one place that offered mud baths, we were unable to locate the establishment. Now it appears, the young couple who purchased the Famous Water Company have revived the practice of mineral baths. 

Baker Hotel

Moving on i my saga, the Baker Hotel was built in 1926. This luxury hotel featured baths, swimming pool, massage rooms, mud baths, and all the services expected at a luxury health resort hotel. It had air-conditioning and ice water was piped into each room. A bowling alley was built under the swimming pool. The garage was reached through a tunnel under Highway 80 (now Hwy 180) to a parking building across the street. Of course, in an opulent establishment like the Baker, residents did not park their own cars. Famous people from across the nation stayed there and include Bob Hope, Marlene Dietrich, Lucille Ball, Judy Garland, the Andrews Sisters, the Dorsey Band, and my hero Roy Rogers. And many of them performed in the elegant ballroom.

Sadly, the Baker Hotel and the Crazy Water Hotel nearby have seen better days. The Baker is an empty shell, stripped of all its fixtures by a previous owner who auctioned them off and then declared bankruptcy. Attempts to raise the several million dollars required to restore this grand old landmark have been unsuccessful. At last there is interest from a buyer and hope blossoms that the day will come when this beautiful structure will be renewed.


The Crazy Water Hotel, which is built on the site of the first well, has fared only slightly better. It has been converted to an assisted living facility for elderly residents. At least the large bedrooms are an improvement over most such establishments. I wonder if the hotel residents drink the famous water and suffer from fewer medical complaints? From the south windows of the Crazy Water Hotel, one can view the sales offices of Famous Water Company where water, salts, crystals, and soaps are sold. Recently, baths have been added. At least a small portion of the legacy continues. Here's a video from ABC's WFAA - Chanel 8 in Dallas:

  

2 comments:

  1. Caroline--remember I did a post on this, in some form or fashion. The story is so fascinating and has enough stories surrounding it to write a dozen more.
    I don't know what Mineral Wells will ever do with the Crazy Hotel. Just think about demolishing it.

    Some family trivia:
    ***My grandmother on my mother's side ran the laundry in the basement of the hotel. It was huge, and since she held a position of authority, she wore a dress and heels and hose to work every day.
    ***My mother, too, worked in the laundry around ages 15-16 to earn more money for the family, and for spending money.
    ***The old black and white photo of the crystal factory is where my daddy worked as a young man. Since he lived out in Salesville, he came into town and worked, and stayed over some Saturday nights to attend the dance for young people.
    That's where he met mother.

    ***At mother's funeral, my sister wrote something for the pastor to read, and it was about how Mother and Daddy met.
    Daddy always said, "Another fellow brought her to the dance, but I took her home."
    And so we three daughters cried at the funeral when we heard that once more. So sweet.

    So, that's the end of my story of the Crazy Water.

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  2. I enjoyed your post, Caroline. I hardly ever travel to or through Mineral Wells any more. Thanks for refreshing my memories!

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