A habit established in my childhood is keeping a glass bottle of water in the refrigerator. I always have, despite the accessibility of plastic bottled water nowadays. Yet, every time I look in the refrigerator for that refreshing, cold water, I have a flashback to my grandmother’s “icebox“. We – my brother and I, as kiddos often visiting and sometimes living with my grandmother – were repeatedly cautioned, “Don’t drink the Crazy Crystals!” Those words still ring in my memory. And, believe me, on those occasions when we failed to heed the warning, we were jolted by the vile taste of that Crazy Crystals water.
I can still see it. Two water jars sat side-by-side, albeit the dreaded one bore a different shape from the other. But, to a thirsty kid, running inside to quench his or her parched throat, two dissimilar jars looked unremarkably the same, and, naturally, so did their contents. Over time, the unpleasant and unexpected experience of swallowing the pungent mineral water left a strong-enough impression that we did learn to choose carefully.
The time-frame for this experience was in the 1950s, and the Crazy Crystals came from Mineral Wells, Texas. It all began in 1881 when the first well was drilled on the property of a James Lynch. Because the water tasted so funny, the family hesitated to drink it; but, they found it to be not only harmless, but beneficial. Reportedly, both Mr. and Mrs. Lynch’s rheumatism vastly improved.
Then, by the end of 1881, a fellow named Billy Wiggins dug another well which subsequently became known as the Crazy Well, a moniker the result of an interesting legend. The story goes that a woman suffering from dementia sat by the well all day, drinking the mineral waters. She was eventually observed not to be so “crazy“ anymore. Thus, the well became known as the Crazy Well, and thousands of people from all over the country began to flock to it for its purportedly healing benefits.
One such visitor was a man named Ed Dismuke who suffered from an apparent incurable stomach malady. But, after drinking the waters, he was restored to health. Having then become a true disciple of the water’s benefits, in 1904, Dismuke founded the Famous Mineral Water Company. By 1913, 21 different minerals water companies had opened.
Over the next several years, 125 more wells were drilled. By 1900, Mineral Wells had become the premier spa resort town in the south with over 150,000 visitors and health enthusiasts traveling from all over to “drink and bathe in the healing waters.“
Then, in 1914, Mr. Dismuke developed various products from the waters, including Crazy Crystals. Eventually, the water “craze” began to decline and was further impacted by the Great Depression of the 30s – it was expensive to travel and there was a shortage of gasoline – but, people could still find benefit from the crystals that were sold in drugstores nationwide. These crystals were formed as water was boiled until nothing remained but the minerals – calcium, magnesium, and sulfate – then these were packed and shipped around the world. People believed that dissolving just a few teaspoons of these crystals in a bottle of water would promote an untold number of health benefits.
By the end of the 40s, most of the water companies had closed down. In 1957, at the age of 97 and still in good health, Mr. Dismuke died after falling and breaking his hip. In 1958, his widow sold Famous Mineral Water Co., and since then it has changed hands several times.
Today, celebrating over 100 years of servicing loyal patrons, Crazy Water is once again expanding into national distribution under the ownership of Carol and Scott Elder.
My grandmother was one of those loyal patrons. Well, Crazy Crystals or no, she lived to be 98. And there are folks today who believe that the undiluted sulfur waters of South Bexar County – the Carrizo-Wilcox Aquifer- have similar benefits. Having lived in that area for most of my life, I have experienced firsthand the pungent taste and “rotten egg” odor of those waters. And, interestingly, my kids rarely had a cold until they left home or college. Hmmmm. Maybe my grandmother was onto something not so crazy after all with her Crazy Crystals water bottle.