By Catherine Hosman
BERTRAM — The community may be growing, but there is one place in Bertram that keeps things slow and offers folks a respite from the ever-churning pace of the 21st Century. The Bertram Senior Center welcomes anyone 50 years or older into its doors for afternoons of games, conversations and memories.
Housed in the former Bertram Library Thrift Store, the center is open Mondays through Fridays from 1-5 p.m. and Saturdays from 5-9 p.m.
“Saturdays we have a pot luck supper and on the fourth Wednesday of every month a potluck dinner and some of the home health ladies come to speak to us,” said Reta Whitley, president of the Senior Center Board. “At the next meeting they will be talking about chair exercises.”
Forming a senior center was the idea of Ms. Whitley and Annie Dell Taylor, both born and raised in Bertram. Former members of the Bertram Economic Development Corp., when the library thrift store moved two doors down at the site of the former library and became available, they knew what to do.
“When the City got the gift to open a new library, the thrift store moved into that building,” Ms. Whitley said. “This building was for sale.”
“We thought it would be nice to have a place where people could sit down, visit and play games,” said Mrs. Taylor.
The ladies first approached the library then took their idea to the EDC. After bringing the idea before the Bertram City Council, the idea was approved and the EDC purchased the building for $40,000. There are 55 registered members, with four to 15 regulars frequenting the center. A nominal fee of $12 per year is required to join.
But games and fellowship are not the only benefits of belonging. Members look out for one another and if someone hasn’t been seen for a while, they can expect a call from Ms. Whitley or Mrs. Taylor.
“That’s a nice thing about the center,” said Ms. Whitley. “If someone doesn’t show up, we call them to see if they are okay. If they are okay (but not feeling well) we send them cards. We try to let someone know if we aren’t coming.”
Although change in Bertram is slow, Ms. Whitley said she has a hard time remembering what it was like when there were dirt streets, several retail stores, two grocery stores, four banks and two cotton gins. She said the cotton industry ended when World War II started and the younger men were called off to war.
“It was the downfall of Bertram,” Ms. Whitley said. “The guys were gone and the women couldn’t do the farm work.”
“This was a town of farms and ranches,” added Mrs. Taylor.
“Now the streets are paved, there are no drug stores or cotton gins and one bank,” Ms. Whitely said.
And it’s the same bank that Mrs. Taylor worked at for 45 years. She retired last year after 25 years as the bank president. Her family also owns P&R Propane in Liberty Hill.
“Parts or a lot of families live on the outskirts of town,” said Mrs. Taylor. “This was a town of farms and ranches. It was a working generation, but the new generation sold the land.”
There is not much farming and very little ranching happening in Bertram now and Mrs. Taylor said some stores are having a hard time making it.
“People are more mobile,” she said. “They can drive to Marble Falls or Georgetown without hesitation.”
Despite the changes, much of the town is consistent and members of the Bertram Senior Center can find comfort in the company of longtime friends, and make new friends.
Having grown up in Bertram, both women attended Bertram Elementary School. Recently, Mrs. Taylor’s husband, Gene, came to the center and she said he was reacquainted with his school mates.
“It’s good to see people come in the door and just sit and talk,” said Ms. Whitley.
For more information about the center and its activities, stop by 316 Vaughn Street (at the corner of Vaughn and Gabriel, and across from the feed store) during regular hours.