Granger, Texas: Kolaches, Czech history and the backdrop of iconic films

While Austin continues to grow and the areas surrounding the city expand with people, there is one town about 45 minutes northeast that has not only stayed the same, but has also embraced its identity.

GRANGER, TEXAS - While Austin continues to grow and the areas surrounding the city expand with people, there is one town about 45 minutes northeast that has not only stayed the same, but has also embraced its identity.

Granger is a city in Williamson County with a population that has remained between 1,000 and 2,000 people since 1910. As of 2016, there were 1,514 living there, according to the United States Census Bureau. The city came to be in the late 1890s as a part of the large Moravian Czech immigration movement to Texas.

Many of the families still living in Granger today have a deep-rooted connection to the Catholic Church as well as many Czech traditions.

Just take Sharon Cervenka, for example. She has lived in Granger all her life. She went to Catholic school for eight years, went to Granger High School and now raises her 20-year-old daughter in the city.

"It's really special to see that tradition is carried on throughout the generations," Cervenka said. "You try to bring your children up the way you were brought up from your parents."

One of Cervenka's friends, Monica Stojanik, also grew up in Granger and went to Catholic school before going to Granger High School. Not only does Stojanik hold onto similar traditions, she is one of many people in town who still speaks Czech to each other. 

"It's just like one big family here," Stojanik said. "Everyone has such deep family ties. We all know each other."

Granger is also known as an agriculture town. There is still a cotton mill in town that runs seven days per week during the right season. Doug Beckhusen is the manager of Blackland Co-Op Gin, one of the last running cotton mills in the area.

"It's more of a loyalty to the community," Granger said, when asked why his cotton gin keeps running. "They like to keep this gin running. This city is filled with very helpful people when you get to know them. People will help you out in a heartbeat."

Another major part of the Czech culture is the food.

Of course, kolaches can be found any morning on any day of the week.

There is a local meat market that still makes homemade Czech link sausage every day. Elliot Bohuslav's dad bought the local meat market in 1996 before he just recently took it over. Bohuslav worked at the shop full time after high school and said it was an easy decision to take over the market.

"I've been here since I was like 4, basically," Bohuslav said. "The old school feel of the meat market fits perfectly for the town. Basically everyone here has always had it."

One place you can't miss in this town is the Granger National Bank -- one of the more iconic buildings in town. The bank was chartered in 1920 right before the Great Depression forced many banks across the country to shut down. However, current bank president Dan Johnson explains a wild story as to how the bank stayed afloat.

"The directors and organizers pulled a big library table out of the back and put it in the middle of the lobby," Johnson said. "They took all the money, silver and gold coins out of the vault and piled it on the table. Customers came up to draw their money out of the bank as so many people were doing. Once the bank opened the drapes from the windows and people saw the table with all the money on it, they decided the Granger National Bank was okay. The people turned, walked away and didn't make a run on the bank."

It's just one of the many stories that makes Granger special.

However, there have actually been many other stories unrelated to Granger told in a different way. Since the people of Granger have made sure to sustain and keep many of the buildings that were first built when it was created in the late 19th century, many parts of the city look exactly as they did back then. Many of the roads are still lined with the same bricks that were placed into the ground by the hands of the town's first families.

The city's rustic look has brought plenty of movie scouts to town. "True Grit" and "Texas Chainsaw Massacre" were filmed there. Granger has also served as a backdrop in the following productions:

  • "Revolution" (2014 TV series)
  • "25th Hour" (2002 movie)
  • "When Zachary Beaver Came to Town" (2003 movie)
  • "The Return" (2006 movie)

Johnson said the most elaborate shooting of those movies was when the creators of "True Grit" came to town to shoot scenes for the first 20 to 30 minutes of the film.

"You could recognize the bank, other buildings and see that it was Granger," Johnson said. "It was a really neat time."

Johnson said the crews brought in mulch to cover the streets and make it look Fort Smith, Arkansas, where the story takes place. While the movie was filmed, the producers decided to put awnings on the bank that still remain today.

"When they left town, they asked us if we wanted them to take them down," Johnson said. "We said to leave them! They still serve a good purpose today."

The crews also hand-picked pecans and leaves off the trees around town to make the setting look like winter time. Residents refused to let the movie crew cut down their beloved pecan trees.

"There's just so much history here in a lot of different ways," Johnson said.

While this community does have it's own unique vibe and feel to it, most of the people in town still stay in tune with what's going on around them.

"People that live over here in Granger know what goes on over in Georgetown, Round Rock and Austin, but a lot of those people over there don't really know that this goes on over here still," Johnson said.

Every city has some type of history but not every city preserves, cherishes and owns it. The people of this community know their place is different. They also know it will always be home.

© 2017 KVUE-TV


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