BRACKETTVILLE, Texas— A Texas rancher had a vision to bring Hollywood to the Lone Star State.
And, he helped transform his cattle ranch to tell the greatest story in Texas history-- on the big screen.
Jamie Rains said her father, Happy Shahan, heard that a famous actor, John Wayne, was planning to make a movie of the Alamo.
He was the mayor of Brackettville at the time, a small town about 125 miles from San Antonio.
“John Wayne sent people out here to scout Kinney County and the Brackettville area, looking for a location that would fit the same terrain that was in the San Antonio area,” said Rains.
According to Rains, her father made a quick stop on his ranch one day, when one of Wayne’s staff decided the cattle ranch would make the perfect place to film The Alamo.
“Then Dad had a vision that we can make something out of this,” said Rains. “And, it has for many years since 1960, been this Alamo Village,” she added.
That’s when Happy Shahan’s Alamo Village was born. Since then, over 60 movies and TV shows were filmed on the 500-acre set.
But the most famous of them all was John Wayne’s The Alamo.
John Daniels was just nine-years-old when Wayne handpicked him for a part in the movie.
Daniels fondly remembers Wayne telling him what his name would be in the movie.
“He said ‘it’s going to be Happy Sam, because you smile all the time,’” recalls Daniels.
It was a role that will forever stay etched in Daniels’ mind.
“Out of everyone one that was in the fort, the Alamo, there was only three of us that survived,” said Daniels.
In the movie, Daniels led a donkey out of the Alamo carnage with the two other survivors, one of which was John Wayne’s daughter, Aissa.
“We’ll always remember it,” said Daniels.
The blockbuster movie brought Brackettville into the spotlight, and had quite an impact on the small west Texas town.
Roy Estrada’s mother sewed costumes for the production, and he got a small part in the film.
“I came to be the star of the movie,” recalls Estrada.
Estrada played the “gratuity boy” in the beginning of the film. A part that brought him a little more fame than expected.
“The deal was that I had the closest contact with John Wayne when he carried me up the stairs,” recalls Estrada.
And, the seven-year-old superstar had trouble with one part in the script.
“I had to practice a wink,” said Estrada. “They had to keep shooting, over and over, maybe three or four times,” he added.
Daniels and Estrada were just a few people who visited Alamo Village over the years.
For a long time, Alamo Village was a western theme park with actors role-playing gun fights in the streets and other activities while movie crews used the sets until the late 2000’s.
Now, the crumbling buildings are all that’s left after Hollywood moved out, and the family has decided to shut it down for good.
“It’s run its course,” said Rains.
Rains said she’s not sure what the future may hold for Alamo Village, though they hope to open it up for educational purposes.
In January, the family opened Alamo Village one last time to sell some of the Shahan’s collection of movie memorabilia.
Hundreds came out to walk the streets and relive those memories one last time.
And, say goodbye to a golden era, whose legacy will remain only on the silver screen.
“This is a blessed place,” said Rains.
“The people that it’s touched around the world is just amazing,” she added.