Home Iconic bar The importance of the Austin Highway nightclub was relative

The importance of the Austin Highway nightclub was relative

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I’m looking for historical information on Kline’s Dinner Club which was on Austin Highway in the early 1940’s. Do you happen to have any?

Kline’s Dinner Club was not particularly old or distinctive, but it is significant because of its association with a local family well known in the hospitality industry.

Also known as Kline’s Place, the dining and dancing venue was advertised as “a mile out of town” from 1940 to 1946. Like many area nightclubs in the first half of the 20th century, such as Shadowland out Blanco Road (covered here September 26, 2021) and the Kit Kat Club on Fredericksburg Road (October 30, 2021), its location was outside the city limits, so it was not listed in city directories, and no mailing address is given in the advertisements.

Unlike Shadowland, Kline’s did not book nationally known dance bands, and the youngest club did not have a stage for vaudeville performers like the Kit Kat. Newspaper advertisements say Kline had a “great dance floor” where guests could “dance to the best tunes”, likely played by a jukebox or unseen DJ with the occasional live band. There were also “fine foods” (the same chicken or steak dinners offered by most nightclubs in the area) and “your favorite drinks” to be enjoyed in “beautiful, friendly surroundings”.

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More importantly, the club was run by a bunch of brothers who already had a track record in the entertainment business.

“Bob Kline and Kenneth Kline, brothers of well-known Pearl Brewery executive Aubrey Kline, own and operate Kline’s on the Austin Highway and Boehler’s Garden on Josephine Street,” the San Antonio Light said on May 25, 1941, a few months after Kline is opened. Robert “Bob” Kline (1906-1978), was a local boxing promoter from the early 1930s; his name was dropped in stories about the matches he hosted, and he went on to be a successful wrestling impresario. Kenneth Kline (1904-1982) had worked at the family pub, Boehler’s, since childhood; and Aubrey Kline was “a rock star at the brewery”, according to Jeremy Banas in “Pearl: A History of San Antonio’s Iconic Beer”.

Boehler’s was a descendant of Fritz’s Saloon, founded in 1890 by Fritz (later Fred) Boehler, a German-born former brewmaster at Pearl and grandfather of the three Kline boys, whose mother, Minnie Kline, was one of the four children born to Fritz and his wife, Kate Boehler.

Minnie and her husband, Ivo M. Kline, worked in the saloon, and her brother John Boehler ran the grocery store at 328 E. Josephine St., a two-story house with an apartment on the top floor and a gazebo in the back.

Boehler’s connection with the neighboring brewery also remained strong; the turn-of-the-century bar served its produce along with a simple menu of pretzels, fries, and sandwiches.

During the festivities leading up to the Oct. 24, 1960, premiere of “The Alamo” in San Antonio, Pearl Brewing Co. Vice President Aubrey Kline presents star/director John Wayne with a souvenir from the brewery. Kline later owned the family restaurant founded by his grandfather as a saloon.

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In the 1920s, Fritz Boehler and his family had chosen a name for their establishment, Boehler’s Garden, a German-style beer garden with outdoor seating under the shade of trees. The advertisements proclaimed that Boehler’s “has been serving beer since 1890” – counting beer close to the Prohibition era – and that it was “the place that made Josephine Street famous”. Another accolade came when the venerable saloon received the first shipment of Pearl XXX beer after Prohibition ended.

After Fritz Boehler’s death in 1928, grandsons Kenneth and Robert Kline took over running the beer garden and added a drive-in, where the youngest brother, Aubrey Kline (1907-1982), worked as a carhop while attending St. Mary’s University.

Pearl executive Otto A. Koehler, nephew of Pearl founder Otto Koehler, “admired (Aubrey),” says Banas, “and asked him to come and work at the brewery as a public relations manager.” After studying public relations at the San Antonio Public Library, the young man accepted. Eventually known as “Mr. Pearl,” Aubrey Kline represented the Pearl Brewing Co. from 1936 to 1972, serving on city boards and committees and hosting dignitaries.

The brothers’ adventure with an Austin Highway nightclub ended, like many such ventures, after the end of World War II, which had brought so many young people to military installations in San Antonio. The three Klines had other main responsibilities, but they must have liked working together because they did it again a few decades later.

After Aubrey Kline retired from the brewery, he became the owner of Boehler’s, which he ran with his brothers for several years. The 1890 structure was renovated and renamed Kline’s Boehler’s Garden, where Aubrey’s collection of celebrity photographs hung on the wall, and his friendships with a wide swath of the community attracted new patrons.

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After the brothers retired, Boehler’s, which had developed an alarming slope after damage from the Great Flood of 1921, was reborn as another friendly meeting place. The Liberty Bar occupied this gravity-defying space from 1985 until 2008, when the restaurant moved to a new old house, a former convent, at 1111 S. Alamo St.

To share information, history or photos from Kline’s Dinner Club, send your responses to Jeffrey Fetzer at jcf2007[email protected]

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