The bad news is that in about 2006, the stacked stone oblique in memory of Justin Raynal was struck by an automobile and broken into large stones.
The good news is that the Anice Read Fund through the Texas Downtown Association has made a grant available to pay for about half of what is needed to repair and replace the marker, Denison Main Strett Coordinator Donna Dow said.
At the time it was broken, several people indicated they would contribute toward the restoration of the marker. Let’s hope their offers and others from interested citizens are made available so that the project can get underway. At least one person, Brian Hander, a young man interested in preserving the history of Denison, has indicated that he will make a contribution from the sale of his Denison photo history book.
Dow said that the pieces of the oblique are stored at the city lot, but she wasn’t sure whether all the pieces are available for the repairs and replacement of the marker. She said she has been told that all the pieces may not be available, but that the salvageable pieces will be put back together.
The monument was erected in about 1910 by the Denison Parent-Teacher Association in recognition of Justin Raynal’s contribution to Denison schools. Raynal was a good friend to Denison schools and the monument in the median of the 700 block West Woodard, across the street north of the Denison High School that was demolished in 2007, was established in his honor.
The PTA unit at Raynal first was organized as a Mother’s Club in 1924 during the administration of Principal Anna Moss. Mrs. Harry K. Steele was president from 1925 to 1928, followed by Mrs. C.B. Carroll and Mrs. W.E. Matthews. Raynal had the distinction of a bachelor, Russell Giarraputo, serving two terms as president of the PTA and as president of the Dads’ Club. His nieces and nephews attended the school.
Some of the early projects were curtains for the auditorium, a phonograph for the children and milk for needy children. A major accomplishment of the group included sponsorship of a school lunch program and the purchase of a piano for the auditorium. Not only did the school have a Mothers’ Club, but a Dads’ Club as well. They provided playground equipment, fans and water coolers. In 1957, the Dads’ Club presented a television to the school, the first in a Denison school.
Many people have wondered what once stood on the concrete foundation at the east end of the median in the 700 block West Main. It was a stacked stone oblique. Pieces were recovered after a driver hit it, but some large chunks were broken off. Most of the pieces were salvaged and earlier the Denison Alumni Association worked on a plan to either have it professionally repaired or to provide a replacement to honor Raynal. Either plan would have been quite expensive and never materialized.
The marker is believed to have been the only monument anywhere in honor of a saloon operator — Raynal’s profession.
A native of France and a bachelor, Raynal, whose only education was limited to the common school offered by his home country, came to Denison in about 1873. That was about the time the brand new town was talking about building the Educational Institute.
In the early days here, Raynal had no connection with education, but opened the Grand Southern Saloon at the corner of Main Street and Austin Avenue, where it is said that there was a hotel upstairs and the saloon downstairs. The Grand Southern building was destroyed by fire in the early 1880s.
His bar is supposed to have been a gathering place for the town’s business and professional people. Raynal eventually served two terms on the city council, beginning in 1877 and was very vocal about free public education.
A stool behind his bar became his platform as he urged customers to support the building of the Educational Institute. He fought opposition that wanted a good jail instead. Raynal was determined and fought hard for the school and the community slowly accepted the idea and voted to build the school.
When he died in 1879, he left his large estate as an endowment to the school system and also left to the city the building at 202 West Main for Denison’s schools. Rent from the building was applied yearly to the general school funds.
The town showed its appreciation by naming a grade school that was built in 1891 at 526 East Morton for him. Denison schools were overseen by the city until 1950 when a new form of city government went into effect and the school district became a separate entity.
Raynal School first was built in 1891, then torn down in 1923 and replaced by a new facility. In 1974, the school had a traveling cook. Imogene Forguson, and her assistant Rosalee Sheffield, prepared meals at Lamar Elementary after it reopened in 1973 after being closed for two years because of a fire there.
Raynal closed in 1975 after parents in the area protested the plan to close and were able to buy a little more time for the school before the day finally arrived that the doors were locked. About 170 students were transferred to Lamar School. The building still is standing, but no longer belongs to the Denison Independent School District.
The monument when standing bore only the name “Justin Raynal” in his honor.
Donna Hunt is former editor of The Denison Herald. She lives in Denison and can be contacted at email@example.com.