Carl T. Morene, the “Music Man of Schulenburg,” was born on November 13, 1887, in Muldoon, a small community located in southwestern Fayette County, Texas. He was the son of A. F. Morene, and his parents were Swedish immigrants. The family moved often because of his father’s occupation as a railroad worker, and in 1896 they lived at Lyon’s Station in Burleson County. Morene’s mother died that year, and his father’s death in Gonzales County four years later left Morene an orphan. At the end of his eighth grade year, he left school to find work. He enlisted in the United States Navy in 1909 and served for four years and subsequently joined the United States Army and served in the Motor Transport Corps during World War I.
He most likely learned the electrical trade during his military service and began employment in the electric utility business at Nixon in Gonzales County after the war. He worked in Hallettsville for the Central Power and Light Company in 1924 and moved to Schulenburg to head company operations there in 1928. He eventually became city manager over the town’s municipal utility program.
Morene, known as an able and productive manager, opened a new chapter in his life due to the economic consequences of the Great Depression. In 1933 a financial shortfall prompted the local school board to discontinue the paid directorship position for the Schulenburg High School Orchestra even though the program had earned regional accolades. Orchestral programs were rare in public schools in Texas at that time. In order to save the program, Carl Morene offered to serve as the unpaid director of the Schulenburg High School Orchestra. Intrigued by the creative plan to continue the orchestra and with little left to lose, the school board approved Morene’s directorship.
After working his regular job during the day, Morene enthusiastically volunteered his time for the orchestra in the evening. He possessed the fundamental skills for reading and playing music and proved to be a resourceful and inspiring teacher. He accepted the economic challenges posed by the depression and persevered to build and maintain a high-quality orchestra. He personally recruited participants and offered personal lessons free of charge. Morene invested his own money to purchase musical instruments, sheet music, and other supplies for the orchestra. He furnished transportation, using his own car, to help students attend rehearsals, which occurred in the school auditorium every Monday and Wednesday night.
In September 1934 an appreciative school board secured a special Texas teaching certificate for Morene. He stated, “I had never expected to have a teacher’s certificate because of the lack of school education I have had. I never graduated from high school.”
Under Morene’s leadership the orchestra gained recognition for its repertoire of classical works, marches, and patriotic songs. The Schulenburg High School Orchestra achieved high honors at interscholastic events and impressed audiences at public concerts, local community events, and on the radio. The group also embarked on regional concert tours to destinations such as Shiner, Gonzales, Waelder, and Yoakum. Morene composed the words and music for Schulenburg High School’s official school song, “Shorthorns Forever,” which his orchestra debuted at a school assembly in February 1938.
During World War II, Morene continued his dedication and volunteer service to lead the orchestra. With the coming of gasoline rationing, he used his own ration stamps to assist with student transportation. He continued his work as manager of the city’s utility program and in that capacity also mentored mechanically-inclined students. He maintained memberships in the Masons, Lion’s Club, and American Legion.
After the war he initiated a marching drum and bugle corps program at Schulenburg High. In 1947 the corps had evolved into a full-fledged marching band. In early 1948 Morene was stricken with pneumonia which was probably the result of a severe cold he had caught from exposure to rain and cold when he led the band in support of the Shorthorns football team’s final playoff game the previous December. He died in a hospital in Hallettsville on January 17, 1948, at the age of sixty. Shocked students and citizens attended his funeral in the high school gymnasium. He was buried in Schulenburg City Cemetery. Morene had never married.
In 2002 high school alumni attending a multiclass reunion formed a committee to commemorate Morene’s life and accomplishments. They commissioned Texas sculptor Lawrence W. Ludtke to design a memorial plaque for city hall and a medallion for his new headstone. In November 2005 the Texas Historical Commission erected a marker honoring Carl Morene, the “Music Man of Schulenburg.”