Hometown Heroes: Renee Butler

Renee Butler.

By M.G. Angulo –

It could seem odd that a woman who started life not too captivated by history is now consumed by it. “I did make As and Bs in the course during school, but I just didn’t care for it,” said 56-year-old Renee Butler with a slight laugh.

Still, local history became increasingly appealing to Butler, who has owned and operated Another Time Soda Fountain for the past 15 years. As it turns out, it was there, in her establishment, that her appetite for history was whetted.

“I had people coming in and they would start a story with ‘I remember …’ and I would listen,” Butler said. “There were so many stories in my head and when I was talking to my daddy — he’s really the one who got me 100 percent into history — he told me that I needed to write these stories down because they would get lost.” It was not just other’s memories she feared losing. She also worried about losing the intricate details from her own childhood.

“This place is 108 years old,” said Butler of her restaurant in downtown Rosenberg. “I remember when this place used to be a pharmacy soda fountain. The doctor was upstairs, and we would wait down here to have ice cream while our parents went upstairs.”

Butler remembers the names of stores long since forgotten and how mom-and-pop joints eventually closed because of large chain companies. She recalls the phases of change that Rosenberg has undergone over the years, and marvels at the plethora of stories attached to each building in downtown.  “I have lived in Rosenberg all my life,” said Butler, who is a mother to two adult children. “So I’ve seen a lot of change, and I can tell you history is so strong here.”

Intrigued by the past, Butler worked for years with the Rosenberg Historians group on a project that came into fruition in 2015.  The Rosenberg Historians group, as the name indicates, is passionate about discovering and preserving the history of the city, so collecting local narratives of downtown Rosenberg is where the group began. They meticulously wrote down the history of the each building in Downtown Rosenberg, from the building’s inception to current state. After a few years, this collection history transformed into a book: Historic Downtown Rosenberg.

Frank Gutowsky, Larry Barcak, Joyce Lolley, Renee Butler and Wolfram Von Maszewski, all “hardcore contributors” to the Historic Downtown Rosenberg book.

“The older generation is so proud of it,” Butler said, the pride equally clear in her voice. “And it’s here for the next generation.” The book was published a year before her father, the late Larry Barcak, passed away.

With community history as her driving motivation, Butler has also restored her restaurant to its 1910 appearance, helped establish and served as the chair for the Historic Downtown Rosenberg Division of the Central Fort Bend Chamber of Commerce, and served on the Rosenberg Railroad Museum board.

Also to her credit is involvement the Rosenberg Arts Alliance, her efforts to secure the Rosenberg Main Street Program, supporting the Rosenberg Downtown Merchants and helping get downtown Rosenberg named a Cultural Arts District.

Butler was recently honored for her efforts by being awarded the 2018 Bert E. Bleil Heritage Award, which is presented by the Fort Bend County Historical Commission to an individual or organization for preserving and promoting local history and culture. “My dad was always so strong on history,” Butler said, the emotion creeping into her voice. “The Heritage Award? It is because of my daddy that I got that. It was the hardest and most coveted award that I have ever received.”

History, Butler pointed out, is not just about preserving memories. History can also remind people how to enjoy life’s simplicities. “I complain about technology all of the time,” she added with a laugh. “It does make our lives easier, and I use it, too, but on the other hand, we have forgotten the simple things in life. I would love to see people get back to the basics.”

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