When you think of cigars, I bet you think of Cuba; the fields of tobacco drying in the Caribbean sun or Los Lectores, reading the day’s headlines from Granma as workers roll the tobacco leaves into H. Uppmans or Cohibas.
But, if you’re a good Texan like me, you think of San Antonio’s own Travis Club cigars.
“Wut?”, I can hear you asking.
My childhood memories include vivid images of my late grandfather chewing cigars (he never smoked them, only chewed), not unlike Hannibal from the A-Team.
And his preferred (and only?) brand was Travis Club; in particular, their Senator line of fine cigars.
As a kid, the best part about this was that there was always a ready supply of Travis Club cigar boxes lying around their house (I’ll save memories of their house, in particular the “back room”—which sounds nefarious but isn’t—for a later day). I’m not sure why, but it was always strangely-exciting to get a cigar box. You could pack it with your Hot Wheels or Star Wars guys, or use it to store your baseball card collection. Sometimes, you’d even be able to snag a purple velvet Crown Royal bag to go along with it.
Recently, I was going through some old stuff from their house and came across one of these boxes.
I’ve posted the side of the box up above, but here’s the top:
Somewhat stately, with a nice faux-woodgrain pattern. However, the inside flap was always the most-interesting part:
What was this old building with the cars out front? As a child, it was interesting, but as an adult, it’s intriguing.
As it turns out, this is the Travis Club building in San Antonio. And while that may seem obvious, it’s still an interesting discovery. Unfortunately, there’s little history or information about the Travis Club available online. I found a postcard available for sale on Amazon:
And an old photo of the groundbreaking of the building in 1911 in the collection of UTSA:
As for the cigars themselves, Mark Louis Rybczyk has a short write-up in his excellent book San Antonio Uncovered: Fun Facts and Hidden Histories, the gist of which is that the Finck Cigar Company of San Antonio came up with this special blend cigar exclusively for members of the Travis Club and then later released it the general public. In fact, Rybczyk even wrote a book called The Travis Club that I’m now embarrassed to admit that I haven’t read, but will soon.
Which leads us to the makers themselves, the Finck Cigar Company. As it turns out, they’re still around and still selling the Travis Club cigars. Unfortunately, while the company is still based in San Antonio, the cigars are now made in such places as the Dominican Republic and Honduras.
I like to think that, if he were still with us, my grandfather would still be chewing his Travis Club cigars and drinking Crown Royal at 100+ years old. Maybe I’ll have a drink tonight to remember him by…