Bonham Exchange History and Heritage

San Antonio – In the coronary heart of downtown San Antonio, there is a nightclub that has been a protected haven for the LGBTQ + local community for the earlier 40 years.

The San Antonio era is acquainted with the Bonham exchange. From drug shows to dance floors, Bonham is San Antonio’s staple and welcomes every person.

But Bonham is extra than just a location for a enjoyment evening out. It is a wealthy background that was burned onto the walls of the constructing.

In this episode of KSAT Points out, we explored its history and the impact of Bonham.

(View the total episode on demand from customers with the online video participant higher than.)

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The Bonum Trade is iconic. But it’s considerably from the 1st homosexual bar in San Antonio.

Melissa Gorke, an assistant archivist at the University of Texas at San Antonio and a neighborhood LGBTQ + historian, places San Antonio’s homosexual and lesbian nights in our posture as a navy metropolis throughout Earth War II. It cites wonderful progress in the daily life scene.


“According to tutorial analysis, many of the military services personnel in the course of Environment War II have been homosexual guys and women of all ages who had the prospect to go away their rural hometowns and go to large metropolitan areas,” reported Goalke. “It’s a genuinely essential basin period.”

In accordance to Goalke’s study, the city experienced various little golf equipment and bars that brazenly acknowledged gay and lesbian buyers, but most of the homosexual-helpful venues have been on the outskirts of the city. And a single of the most popular was the place in close proximity to Helotes, also recognised as The Country, named Paul’s Grove.

Paul’s Grove opened in the 1920s and by the 1960s and 1970s was the epitome of a bizarre lifestyle in San Antonio, Goalke said. Even though on a regular basis attacked by police, it was considered a secure location for gay men and ladies not to disguise.

1962 Paul’s Grove.Courtesy: Carolyn Weathers (Copyright 2021-KSAT is prohibited from copying or reprinting without permission.)

Paul’s Grove was shut in a 1973 fire. But afterwards that calendar year, nearby law firm and businessman Arthur “Happy” Beltman opened the San Antonio Region Night Club in close proximity to downtown San Antonio.


The name was a distinct nod to Paul’s Grove. San Antonio Region was a one of a kind spot for several causes.

It was on the corner of North St. Mary’s Avenue on Macaro Avenue. The change was that it was not on the edge of the town. It was in the center of San Antonio.

A San Antonio State E-book Match that is currently closed. (Copyright 2021-KSAT is prohibited from copying or reprinting without permission.)

Joan Duckworth is the owner and manager of some of Bonham Trade today. But a handful of several years in the past, she expended numerous nights in San Antonio State just after conference Veltman.

“It captivated a team of quite eclectic folks,” Joan claimed. “It was a great deal of exciting.”

A San Antonio Specific-Information An article in July 1976 described San Antonio Country as a club principally aimed at the gay group, but had a scarce night for individuals who experienced adventured there.

“Everyone will go there,” stated previous San Antonio Region Bartender Annalisa Peace. “It was a homosexual bar, but so a lot of people went there.”

San Antonio Specific-Information short article about San Antonio Country released on July 25, 1976. (Copyright 2021-KSAT is prohibited from copying or reprinting with out permission.)

Like previous homosexual and lesbian bars, San Antonio Place was the aim of frequent police raids and harassment. The navy banned staff from likely there. Happ effectively fought the ban at a armed forces listening to.

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“It was a actually large acquire,” Gohlke mentioned. “It was the first of its variety in the United States.”

(KSAT describes the Military Listening to Folder San Antonio Nation Night time Club)

So why are bars and nightclubs? When we discuss about the combat for LGBTQ + civil rights, we usually talk about these services.

These we talked about mainly because bars and nightclubs had been extra than drinking and dancing. They had been a place the place individuals could be them selves.

“These services acted as neighborhood facilities,” said Govt Director Robert Salsid. Pride Middle in San Antonio. “There they arranged, planned our march, and prepared a demonstration that would actually direct to the civil rights motion of the LGBTQ + community.”

Salcido is much too younger to go to San Antonio Nation. But he is aware about the affect.

“It was truly about uniting pleasure and the local community,” Salcido claimed. “That’s what most of our community still accepts in the golf equipment we have nowadays.”

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Happ bought the San Antonio Country Evening Club in 1981. It was immediately demolished, but it didn’t consider extended for him to open up a new club.

Without the need of Hap Veltman, there would be no Bonham Exchange or San Antonio Country. Having said that, he was also involved in the enhancement of some of the town’s most popular places.

(Image of Arthur P. “Happy” Veltman.)

When men and women talk about Happ, they typically elevate Jean Elder. Each guys have died now, but their heritage and some of their superb stories dwell in the folks they touched and wherever they helped shape.

(Photo of Jean Elder)

“I originally satisfied Happ Disco dancing with other superior university learners on the Riverwalk,” reported Joan Duckworth.

Joan remembers Happ going for walks to her and inviting her to pay a visit to San Antonio Nation and enjoy his drink. When she turned 18, she took him to an offer and they shortly turned lifelong close friends.

“A cup has turned into a lifelong quest for me,” Joan mentioned.

Annalisa Peace came to know Hap even though doing work at The Greenhouse, just one of the many firms he made. Happ was a trade attorney, but a good friend claims he was also a developer, conservationist, and activist.


“He’s what they phone the godfather of the San Antonio fairy who did all these remarkable factors,” Peace mentioned.

In 1968, Happ and his company companions basically opened Kangaroo Court docket, just one of the 1st eating places alongside the riverwalk struggling with the river. Right now we all know it properly, but it was a innovative strategy at the time. Making use of the surroundings, we began the trend of business along the river to catch the attention of consumers.

Happ also served make the Blue Star Arts Complicated in Southtown and location the St. Mary’s Strip on the map as a nightlife vacation spot.

“There are those minor pockets of tradition, and it’s the sort that Happ produced,” Annalisa claimed.

Profile of Happbertman of San Antonio Express-News revealed April 1, 1984. (Copyright 2021-KSAT is prohibited from copying or reprinting without the need of authorization.)

Happ was well linked and highly regarded in San Antonio. He realized the appropriate persons to support him comprehend his vision.

A single of individuals people today was his very best mate Jean Elder. My friend remembers Jean as an artist and a quirky person.

“At one particular stage he ran for mayor and his social gathering was named Social gathering,” Annalisa explained. “He advocated the artwork of San Antonio.”

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Annalisa and Joan also recall when they attempted to petition the town hall to dubb San Antonio’s “The Big Tomato.” The marketing campaign wasn’t thriving, but nowadays it’s a tale of buddies laughing.

Jean aided Happ operate some of his business enterprise. He was a former supervisor of San Antonio State and helped run Blue Star.

He was also recognized for his enjoy of gathering. That like led to the lesser-acknowledged collaboration concerning Hap and Gene, The Happy Foundation.

Situated in the Bonham Exchange, The Pleased Basis is a selection of goods focused to preserving the record of LGBTQ + in San Antonio, from journal clippings to exceptional documents.

Look at the movie under to find out more about Hap, Gene and choose a peek within The Content Basis.

KSAT Description: Arthur “Happy” Veltman and Jean Elder’s Impact on San Antonio’s Bonum Exchange and LGBTQ + Community

“Gay Bar 40 Yrs Ago”: Bonham Trade

Happ wished to maintain his past as a lot as he was intrigued in the development of San Antonio.

“He was quite substantially in favor of preserving San Antonio’s record here, fairly than destroying it and developing a new just one,” explained Joan Duckworth.


Which is a single of the reasons Bonham was developed. Joan continue to remembers when a mate explained to her about designs to purchase the 411 Bonham creating.

“He was the only individual I’ve ever recognised and could see and invest in a creating like this,” Joan said.

Happ fell in like with a three-tale 25,000-sq.-foot making for the reason that of its exceptional architecture and very long record.

The developing is 130 yrs previous. The German Athletic Association bought the land in 1891 and opened the Turner Corridor in 1892. The substantial facility bundled a bowling alley, a ballroom and a basketball court docket.

(Picture of Tanner Hall in San Antonio.)

Tanner Corridor was closed in 1932. The US federal government acquired the setting up and turned it into a USO club for decades.

“I feel it’s ironic that the military owned it at some point since of the reality that it would afterwards become a homosexual club and the friction concerning the military and gays,” stated Melissa Gorke.

Just after getting shut as a USO club, it served as a article office environment sorting station right up until 1980. That was when Hap intervened.


It wasn’t just the background of the building that drew Happ. It was the place at the rear of Alamo.

“He was producing a statement, and the good thing is he experienced the influence to make that statement,” Goalke explained. “It was significant for him that the people today of the metropolis approved that San Antonio had a massive gay population. This would be our place.”

Happ died of AIDS in 1988, just seven a long time following Bonham opened. But Joan and lots of other people continue on to make Bonham a comprehensive nightclub that can stand up to the problems of time.

Considering that Bonham opened about 40 a long time in the past, the planet around it has modified a whole lot. The nationwide dispute above LGBTQ + rights has manufactured great strides, but there has also been a major setback.

Even with the ups and downs of the outside the house earth, Bonham’s crew is busy developing a harmless place for their inside clients.


Vikki Buchanan has been with Bonham since 1991 and is presently operating as a head bartender. “I was the to start with man or woman to inform me when some consumers obtained sick, had been identified with HIV, most cancers, etc.”

Bonham has prolonged been a welcoming put for every person, but Vicki hopes no one will lose sight of Happ’s eyesight.

“Go by that door and know that you are stepping into a 40-calendar year-outdated gay bar in this article as a risk-free haven for people today who aren’t usually risk-free at other bars,” Vikki said. Reported.

For the previous 40 a long time, just about every weekend I’ve been equipped to assume to obtain a group of men and women dancing and having enjoyment in Bonam. But if you have heard this right before, halt us. The pandemic has modified almost everything.

Like many other providers, Lee Haynes and Joan Duckworth made a decision to shut Bonham’s doorway previous spring to continue to keep every person harmless. On the other hand, thanks to the reduced range of scenarios and rising vaccination prices, they are planning to open this summer time.

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Look at the video below to listen to from folks functioning in Bonam about what they’re most energized about when the huge double door reopens.

KSAT Description: The future of the Bonham Exchange and how the pandemic affected workers, performers and patrons
KSAT Description: The long run of the Bonham Trade and how the pandemic influenced employees, performers and patrons

Copyright 2021-KSAT All rights reserved.

Lashell Coykendall

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