Tip OF THE
December 19, 2008 - 10:36 p.m.
BY SONNY LONG - SLONG@VICAD.COM
Late High-Brehm founder made hats and friends
Roy High, who died
Tuesday, began making hats in the late 1940s and passed the craft along
to his son,
who still owns and operates High-Brehm Western Wear in Victoria.
The sign for High-Brehm Western Wear bears a message in memory of Roy
High, who died Tuesday.
Kelly High, who took over ownership of
High-Brehm Western Wear in 1986, remembers fondly one of his father's
favorite sayings: "At High-Brehm we'd rather make friends than money."
His father, the store's
founder, Roy High, died Tuesday at age 85.
"In all honesty, I think
that was the case," Kelly said. "He knew he needed to make money to pay
the bills, but for him it wasn't about money. That was something he had
to do to keep the store going."
And Roy had friends.
Among them was Sam Rippamonti, who also recalled his friend the hatter.
"I was a customer of his
at the store on Main Street, and we became really good friends,"
Rippamonti said. "He was kind to everyone. Everyone liked him and he had
a good sense of humor."
Kelly said his dad used
to drink coffee at Ramsey's Restaurant three times a day.
"I think that's how he
kept his sanity over the years. They'd have a cup of coffee and try to
solve the world's problems. He told me he had a doctorate and he got it
from Ramsey's coffee shop," his son said. "At his table was such a
diverse group, the whole spectrum of religions and jobs, so he'd say he
learned more at Ramsey's than he ever could at college."
was a camera technician in the Army Air Corps from 1942-45, serving in
the Pacific. After leaving the service, his dad, Van Roy High, taught
him the hat business. Van Roy had worked as a hat cleaner in Oklahoma in
the 1900s and owned a hat shop in Corpus Christi when Roy left the
"Back in my grandfather's
day, every man had a hat on his head. It was just like getting a shirt
cleaned at the laundry today. It was a piece of clothing. That's where
my grandfather learned the hat business and he taught my dad," Kelly
Roy's first hat shop, Roy
High Hatter, was in Uvalde. Then he moved to Alice and opened a store in
1949. It was in Alice where Roy met and married Bonnie McCurdy.
The couple moved to
Victoria in 1957 and Roy went into business with his sister's husband,
L.H. "Buddy" Brehm.
The store, High-Brehm,
was initially located near the Guadalupe River bridge, but the partners
built a store at 1602 N. Main St. Kelly, who bought the business in 1986
three years after graduating from Texas A&M University, moved the store
to its present location at 6603 N. Navarro St. in 1989.
"My dad made it real
clear early on I was not to feel forced into this. If I didn't love it
and want to do it, not to do it. He was not expecting me to do it. It
was strictly my decision.
was in no way ever forced into it. I looked at it as the best
opportunity for me. I did enjoy it and it was a natural fit," Kelly
"My dad laid a great
foundation and I just built on top of that. I don't know that I would
have been able to start the business like he did," Kelly said. "My dad
was a humble, simple kind of guy. Not a lot of flash. He was a very hard
worker. He did like to have fun, liked to hunt and fish, but he had a
job and took care of his business. When you own a small business and are
everything from the janitor to the bookkeeper, there is not a lot of
time for much else."
But Roy always had family
at the top of his priority list.
"He loved spending time
with his family, but back in his day it wasn't uncommon to work six days
a week from sun up to sun down. He was good about taking Sundays off to
be with his family," his son said. "His goal in life was to raise three
kids, put them through college and make sure they had some opportunities
maybe he didn't have. He achieved that. What made him happiest was when
the whole family was together."
Roy was an active member
of the John Wesley United Methodist Church and a long-time board member
of the local Salvation Army.