When young Dallas entrepreneurs Carr P. Collins and Hal Collins decided to get into the hotel business in 1926, they had no idea that they would soon be competing directly with one of the most prominent hotel men in Texas: T.B. Baker.
As it happened, Carr owed his older brother Hal some money. So when he decided to purchase the Crazy Water Company and Hotel in Mineral Wells, he gave him a call. From the biography Carr P. Collins: Man on the Move:
“Hal,” Carr told him, “you have $35,000 worth of stock in the new Crazy Hotel at Mineral Wells.”
“That’s just great,” replied the puzzled Hal. “Where am I going to get $35,000?”
“Oh,” his brother explained nonchalantly. “That’s the $35,000 I owe you.”
And so the brothers began their new venture in Mineral Wells, starting by rebuilding the recently burned down Crazy Water Hotel. They made a good team: Carr had a sharp mind for numbers and was already a semi-successful insurance executive in Dallas, and Hal had been busy building a career in sales, advertising, and local politics.
Their father, lawyer and Texas Senator V.A. Collins, would later recall: “A very nice six-story hotel was built on the old hotel site and it was wonderfully arranged and beautifully furnished, but of course it was not without a large investment. They felt sure when the hotel started it would soon earn enough to take care of all expenses and pay interest on the investment. They soon found that they were much disappointed in that. I never saw Carr and Halley get very badly frightened over business before this occurred, but they saw they were falling behind with everything they could do to make ends meet and they became alarmed.”
By the early 30s, the brothers were in deep trouble. The stock market had just crashed, and to make matters worse, the Baker Hotel had just opened in town – and it was twice as tall, had twice as many rooms, and boasted twice the luxury. The Crazy Water Hotel suddenly found itself obsolete, just two years after its opening, and the brothers’ financial situation was grim.
“The sheriff was two steps behind us,” Hal would later admit.
So, out of desperation, they came up with a wild proposal for hotel man T.B. Baker, according to the book Carr P. Collins: Man On The Move:
“With two hotels in operation in Mineral Wells,” recalls Hal, “We decided we were nuts to buck Baker. So we made an appointment with him. Our suggestion was that our two companies could divide the business, with his taking the hotel profits and ours taking the product profits.”
Baker heard them out silently, then, according to Hal, refused flatly to discuss their proposition. Says Hal summarily, “We bristled like javelina hogs and went out and got rich. He went broke.”
Their father, V.A. Collins, also wrote: “They have always been very resourceful and when they saw they could not get through one way they turned to something else, so they began to manufacture Crazy Crystals by the tons and Hal went on the air advertising Crazy Water Crystals. I do not think there was ever a better radio advertiser than he.”
Thanks to several groundbreaking marketing decisions by Hal to advertise on the radio, as well as to launch an old-fashioned musical variety show, product sales quickly soared. Over the next decade, the brothers would indeed go out and get rich: sales of Crazy Crystals topped $3 million a year for several years.
In the early 40s, the FTC and FDA cracked down on health product claims, and the brothers eventually dropped the business altogether. Crazy Water, however, is still sold today.