Over the last month we've been trying to dig deeper into the history of the Desert Air. I'm going to do my best to get everything correct here, but I'm sure there may be some holes. The Stavley's who owned the Motel in the 70s introduced themselves to us during our first week of ownership and wished us well in our endeavor. They provided us quite a bit of information and it was fun hearing their stories. We also procured the "Terrel County Texas, Its Past Its People" book from Randy at the visitor center. It's an impressive reference guide to the area and its families.
Ervin Grigsby moved to Sanderson as a child with his parents in 1917. After high school he was hired on as part of the road crew that improved the road between Dryden and Sanderson. The State at this time was working on the highway between Del Rio and Dryden. All of this is now part of Highway 90. Shortly there after, Ervin left to attend Tyler Commercial College. Upon graduating he returned to Sanderson and was hired on at the Kerr Merchantile Store, which is now Z-Bar. Ervin worked at Kerr Merchantile for 35 years, until he resigned in 1959. It was while he was working there that he met Melburn Glass, who came to Sanderson to teach after earning her degree from Sol Ross University in Alpine. They married in 1933, and eventually bought a house on School Street which they owned for the rest of their lives. In 1960, the Grigsby's built the Desert Air Motel and operated in until 1971 when they sold it to Charles and Kay Beth Stavley.
Charles and Kay Beth, spent the first years of their married life together in Micronesia teaching English. When they grew tired of being so far away from family and friends they decided to move back to Texas. Charles took a job in Balmorhea before eventually landing a teaching job in Sanderson. The Grigsby's knew the Stavley's when they were growing up and asked them if they wanted to buy the motel. They took over operation and settled down in the house on the adjacent property to the west. Charles worked as a teacher and eventually the county judge while Kay Beth managed the motel. The Stavley's were responsible for planting the large Oak tree in the front of the Motel and also bringing the "Hoot Owl Rock" that sits under the tree. When we were walking with them through the Breezeway Joe and I had been working on, they pointed to the pinkish-peach paint and explained it was the original colors of the motel (we'll see if we can preserve a portion of it for prosperity!). They also mentioned how they had a greenhouse off the back porch of the apartment as well as several banana trees. The Stavley's ended up selling the motel in 1985, at which point Kay Beth went back to school at Sol Ross. Upon her graduation she became a counselor at the school in Sanderson, and eventually became the first women elected to the school board in Terrell County. The Stavley's left Sanderson in the early nineties and currently reside just north of Brownwood, TX.
Merv and Geri Degraff were the third owners of the Motel. They operated it for many years. Unfortunately I have not been able to dig up too much information on them at this time, but we do know that they operated it until Merv passed away. At which point his son, Scott inherited the motel. Scott was living in Florida at the time and was a musician and motorcyle enthusiast. Scott owned the bus that is currently still on the property. The bus is converted into an RV on the interior. Scott evidently loaded up his motorcycles on the rack on the back of the bus and drove from Florida to Sanderson. Parked the bus behind the motel, and there its sat ever since. Scott unfortunately passed away about 3 years ago in a motorcycle accident in between Sanderon and Fort Stockton.
James Stone and his daughters were the fourth family to own the Motel. James bought the motel from the Degraff estate and his daughters and granddaughter operated the motel for a couple of years but determined it was not a great fit for them. They decided to sell the motel. It sat on the market for almost a year while they continued to run it. Then a couple of friends returning from a Big Bend trip noticed the For Sale sign while getting gas across the street at the Stripes.
And this is where our story begins...