A Site History Project for The Texas A&M University System's RELLIS Campus

Drilling for Water

When the U.S. War Department chose to locate the Army Air Forces' installation west of the city of Bryan, a key reason for that decision was proximity to the Brazos River. 

Access to water is a key element in forging the birth of any community, and Bryan Army Air Field would be a small city unto itself, with a major need for water.

That water did not come from the Brazos, but rather from a sizable water table lurking under the river-bottom land near the river. And someone had to gain access to that water. 

Gerald Ryan's father, Charlie Ryan, worked on the crews which drilled the wells to set the wheels turning toward the construction of Bryan Field. Gerald's mother, Bertie, would eventually work at the officer's club after the base was opened. 

Gerald was a young boy completely fascinated by it all.

 

Gerald Ryan was born in Rock Prairie, TX ,in 1932, but moved to Bryan and graduated from Stephen F. Austin High School there. At the age of 18, he went to work for the Southern Pacific Railroad as a telegrapher. While working the night shift, he enrolled at Baylor University, completing one semester there before transferring to Texas A&M. On his way to receiving a degree in Marketing, Gerald proudly spent time tutoring members of Aggie football coach Bear Bryant's team. After graduation, Ryan went to work with the Owens-Illinois Glass Company and by the time of his "early" retirement in 1988, he had risen to the position of general manager of the company's Dallas operation. In 2016, he moved from New Mexico back to the Bryan-College Station area to be closer to family and friends.