“Coffee is a Pleasure, Friends are a Treasure.”
This motto, branded on a two-by-four-foot plank of wood hanging on the back wall of El Charro Mexican restaurant in Johnson City, belongs to the Blanco County Old Timers Coffee Club. For 20 years, retired men from the Johnson City area have been “shooting the breeze” over two, three or four cups of hot, black coffee four days a week. But this sentimental slogan wasn’t their creation, and its origin still remains a mystery to the BCOTCC today.
“The sign just showed up one morning,” club member Ramon “Gonzo” Gonzales said. “We don’t know who put it up or why, but the sentiment is good.”
This isn’t the only time the club has been surprised with a mysterious donation: a custom-made table that showed up in the restaurant one day is now their regular meeting place. Several wooden wall decorations hanging above the table have appeared by surprise over the years as well.
The club is representative of similar small-town morning gatherings in Blanco County and across Texas, but it’s one of the oldest in the area. The group got its start when Maurice “Hoot” Gibson started going into town every morning to get a newspaper at the local Dairy Queen. He would run into friends, old and new.
“Dairy Queen was the only place you could buy a newspaper back then,” Gibson said. “It just sort of happened all of the sudden, and that’s where it all began.”
Many coffee drinkers have come and gone from the club over the years, but today, Gibson and six other men meet every Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and Saturday at El Charro, talking about everything and nothing over bottomless cups of joe.
Aside from religion and politics, Gibson says all conversation topics are fair game. Club member David Hamm is the resident genius of the bunch, sharing knowledge gained from several academic degrees. Club member and Vietnam War veteran, Charles “Chuck” Mcnalle, and World War II veteran Gibson feed off of each other’s war stories at the table. Additionally, PEC retiree and club member Will Dahmann tends to share stories from his days as a lineworker in the late ’60s. (He retired as an assistant general manager.)
No matter who’s talking, they listen, laugh and share their life stories. Club member Joel Honeycutt jokes that when they meet, “they solve the problems of the world.”
“We just talk about the things happening in our town and in our lives,” Dahmann said. “It never gets old, we just sit here for hours at a time and get to know more about each other.”
Since retirement, these men have cherished their time together and maintained their invaluable bond. If it wasn’t for the BCOTCC, they all agree: Retirement just wouldn’t be the same.
“Man, do I look forward to coming to these meetings,” Gonzales said. “Listening to Hoot [Gibson] and everyone else, I just think that we all have so much to be grateful for, and boy am I grateful for this.”