Tuesday, May 9, 2017

Texas Tourist Camp Complex


The Petrified Wood Gas Station holds a place in the pantheon of Texas roadside attractions.  It's got the triple threat pedigree that we are always on the lookout for:  Science, History and Culture.  We'll start, as we frequently do, with the historical marker:


     "Local businessman E. F. Boydston (1888-1945) purchased this site, a former feed lot, in 1927 for $400. Recognizing a potential business opportunity in offering services to the traveling public, he built a wooden shed and gas station in 1927. Travelers were allowed to build campfires during overnight stays, and by 1931 Boydston added three wooden cabins with garages to the camp complex. The buildings later were faced with rock, and more cabins and garages were added in 1935. The original wooden gas station was covered with petrified wood in 1935 when the highway was widened and remained in operation by the Boydston family until 1988.
     The Texas Lunchroom, a one-room frame building, was built in 1929. Renamed the Texas Cafe in 1935 and faced with stone to match other buildings in the complex, it was enlarged to provide second-floor living quarters. Popular with local high school and college students, as well as families and the traveling public, it was closed in the 1960s after a highway bypass built west of town diverted traffic from this area. The cafe reopened in 1993. One of the few intact examples of tourist camps built throughout Texas in the mid-20th century, this property is significant for its association with the early development of automobile tourism."

 And we move on, as we frequently do, to the video.  Devin explains the awesomeness of this location:



Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Iron Works BBQ

A barbecue themed blog entry is long overdue so I hope you brought your appetites for today's installment of the blog.


Iron Works BBQ is in downtown Austin and serves up heaping plates of smoked goodness with a side of history. The restaurant's site was the location for an actual family run iron works.

Their historical marker reads:

"Ironsmith Fortunat Weigl (1884-1973) migrated to Austin in 1913 from Germany with his wife Anna and sons F. Lee and Herbert. Work was scarce until 1917, when Weigl was commissioned by the noted local woodcarver Peter Mansbendel, who supplied a forge and tools. In 1922 Weigl established his own ornamental iron works, which he moved to this site in 1935. With the help of his sons, he produced original works, entirely hand wrought, for many significant Austin homes, the State Capitol, and buildings of the Universities of Texas and Texas A & M. His firm remained in operation until 1977."


So grab some lunch on your next history hunt. And if you need more convincing I'll leave you with this shot:



Sunday, April 2, 2017

J.D. Tippit

If you are familiar with the circumstances around the JFK assassination you're probably aware of the role that DPD police officer J.D. Tippit played.  Unfortunately he was killed by Lee Harvey Oswald as the assassin was fleeing.

It took almost fifty years but this unsung hero was finally awarded a Texas Historical Marker to his honor.  It was placed at the location of his death and is easily missed if you're not looking for it:


The loss of Officer Tippit came at a time of national mourning for the country so his sacrifice is too often overlooked.  Thankfully, the marker had been refurbished and still looks like it's brand new.  Here's the close up:


 It reads:

     "On November 22, 1963, at this intersection, Dallas Police Officer J.D. Tippit was murdered by Lee Harvey Oswald, 45 minutes after President John F. Kennedy was assassinated in Dealey Plaza. After the assassination, Oswald fled to his rooming house in Oak Cliff, in a neighborhood where Officer Tippit was assigned. While on patrol and traveling east on 10th St., having just crossed Patton St., Tippit stopped Oswald, who was walking on the sidewalk. After a brief conversation with him through the passenger window, Tippit exited his police car, at which time Oswald fired three shots across the hood, striking Tippit as he pulled his gun. Oswald then came around the rear of the car and fired a fourth shot. Oswald left the area. Temple Bowley, a citizen, stopped and used Tippit's radio to call for help. Officer Tippit was taken to Methodist Hospital, where he was pronounced dead on arrival. 
     Oswald appeared at Hardy's Shoe Store shortly after manager Johnny C. Brewer heard a radio broadcast that a police officer had been shot and killed nearby. Brewer followed Oswald to the Texas Theater, where employee Julia Postal called police due to Brewer's suspicion. There, Oswald attempted to shoot arresting officer M.N. McDonald. 
     Tippit, who left behind a wife and three children, is buried at Laurel Land Memorial Park. In 1964, he was posthumously awarded the Medal of Valor from the National Police Hall of Fame, the Police Medal of Honor, the Police Cross, and the Citizens Traffic Commission Award of Heroism. Although the intersection of 10th and Patton Streets has changed, Officer Tippit's actions and subsequent murder at this site are remembered for setting into motion a series of events that led directly to Oswald's arrest."

Due to grandparents with a great sense of historical preservation, I'm happy to own the 11/23/63 issue of the Dallas Times Herald.  Here's a look at the article/obituary for Tippit that was published that day after his death:


Sunday, January 29, 2017

C.S.A Leather Factories


 While passing through Gilmer, TX on recent trip from one place to another, I stopped in the downtown square to snap some pictures.  Like many small Texas towns, the downtown area is packed with historical markers.  The last one I was able to nab (photographically) was for a building that was a shoe factory that made leather boots for the Confederate Army during the Civil War:


The marker reads:

     "On this site during the Civil War, a shoe factory converted leather into footgear for the Confederate Army.
     A harness factory nearby made bridles and saddles and also leather lines and breechings that hitched horses and mules to gun carriages, wagons and ambulances, to move armies through campaigns and battles. 
     Leather was obtained from a local tanyard that treated over 2,000 hides a year. East Texas plants furnished the South 900 sets of harness and 300 saddles monthly during the war."

 But leather, schmeather...I was hungry.  Luckily the building currently houses Hadden's Sandwich Shop and it's got several of my favorite things inside: old school Texas antiques, Star Wars memorabilia, and sandwiches!


In case you were wondering if the mention of Star Wars above was just a typo, I can assure you it is not.  For some reason there is a tribute to the famous film franchise among the cases of antiques and East Texas memorabilia:


There is another case with Star Wars action figures for sale as well.  Why the seemingly out of place tribute to the sci-fi staple?  I have no idea.  But I like that it adds an air of mystery to the place.  It's there for a reason but I don't necessarily need to know why.  Another highlight is the "Wall of Fame":


Lots of places have similar walls and the best places have walls in which almost none of the pictures are of people that you would recognize.  This wall definitely comes through on that point.  I want to say that one of them is a magician, maybe?  But enough talk, let's eat!


They have a very extensive menu but I gave my attention to the sandwich section.  After all, this is a sandwich shop.  So I picked one of my favorites: the muffuletta.  A good muffuletta is all about the olives.  There are several different tactics: you can mash them into a mush or dice them or slice them.  These were sliced and had great flavor.  Merging with the cheese a meat, a new "sauce" was created which makes this sandwich much more than the sum of its parts.

It was an odd hour for eating and I was in a rush so I only got a half sandwich which is normally not enough for me to write a review but this pace made such a good impression on me that I wanted to get it out there.  I look forward to returning many times in the future to work my way through the rest of the sandwich menu.



Friday, October 21, 2016

Audie Murphy Memorial Park

Awhile back we visited the Audie Murphy Museum in Greenville but that's not the only tribute in East Texas to the World's Most Decorated Soldier.  He made a big impression in the area and there are roads named after him and statues erected in his honor.  Not to mention, Audie Murphy Memorial Park in Celeste, TX which we stumbled across recently:


It's a small park maintained locally with a nice garden, a few flags, and, of course, a historical marker.


The marker reads:

     "Most decorated soldier in World War II. Born 4.5 miles south, June 20, 1924, sixth of nine children of tenant farmers Emmett and Josie Killian Murphy. Living on various farms, Audie Murphy went to school through the 8th grade in Celeste -- considered the family's home town. He had to quit school to help support the family, acquiring marksmanship skills by hunting to provide food. On his 18th birthday, after being rejected by the Marines because of his size (5 feet, 7 inches; 130 pounds), he enlisted in the Army while working in Greenville.
     For unusual courage and bravery, he received 24 decorations, including the U. S. Congressional Medal of Honor; the French Legion of Honor, Chevalier: the Distinguished Service Cross; and a Silver Star.
     After the war he became a successful actor, his most prominent role portraying himself in the film "To Hell and Back," his war career autobiography.
     Following his untimely death in a plane crash in Virginia, May 28, 1971, and burial in Arlington National Cemetery, the U. S. Congress paid him a final tribute, dedicating a new veterans' hospital in San Antonio to the memory of this American hero.
     Survived by widow Pamela, sons Terry and James."

We also noticed this mysterious handled receptacle of a sort: 


And like so many museum exhibits with handles, we had to lift it up.  And here's what we found:


A small notebook in a plastic baggie?!?  Oh, yeah!  This could ONLY be instructions for a dangerous and sexy spy mission!  Let's crack it open:


Ok, so it's not a Mission Impossible type of impossible mission but rather a a geocache!  Right here in our own backyard!  If you are not familiar with here is a quick definition from Geocaching.com:


And HERE is the link to the actual thread on the Geocaching website about this specific geocache.  So look around on you next road trip or even your next trip to the market.  You'll never know what you'll stumble across.

 

Monday, August 15, 2016

Cowtown Coliseum

If you live in North Texas and have guests from out of state who might not necessarily want the "Authentic Texas" experience but perhaps the "Touristy Texas" experience then odds are that you will take them out to the Fort Worth Stockyards.  Once there, your guests will be surrounded by all the trappings of Texas: cowboys, horses, cattle and rodeos!  And when it comes to rodeo, the number 1 spot is Cowtown Coliseum:


Not only does the Coliseum continue to host world class rodeos but it was also the site of the world's first indoor rodeo in 1918.  Over the years, the event space has hosted famous faces ranging from Theodore Roosevelt to Elvis Presley.  The historical marker out front has the historical rundown:


The marker reads:

     "Until 1908, The Annual Fort Worth Fat Stock Show was held in a variety of locations. As interest increased in the event and its educational and promotional values were realized, livestock exhibitors sought a permanent home for the show. The coliseum was constructed in 1907-08 to provide such an exhibition hall. Construction costs were borne by the Swift and Armour Packing Companies, and by the Fort Worth Stock Yards Company, which owned the property. The stock show was held here annually for 34 years. 
     This site has been within three separate cities: North Fort Worth until 1909; Niles City, 1911-23; and in Fort Worth since 1923. It is the birthplace of the indoor rodeo, and the first live radio broadcast of a rodeo was transmitted here on WBAP Radio in 1923. 
     The Coliseum also has served as a place for cultural, educational, religious, social, and civic events. In 1911, former President Theodore Roosevelt spoke here. Numerous Texas Governors, performing artists, grand operas, entertainers and evangelists have appeared here. The great Italian tenor, Enrico Caruso, performed here in 1920. 
     In 1936, the Stock Yards Company sold the coliseum to the City of Fort Worth. Historically it has been an important part of the city and the livestock industry."

Also outside the Coliseum is a monument to a cowboy who pioneered one of the most difficult rodeo events:


Bill Pickett was a lifetime cowboy and inventor of the technique of "bulldogging" which is essentially the act of jumping off a moving horse on to a moving steer and wrestling it to the ground with your bare hands.  So, yeah, he had guts.

Another little piece of history can be found near the entrance:


This Spanish canon was found in a river in San Antonio near the Alamo and now sits right outside the Coliseum warning visitors that this is a place where explosive things happen.

FUN FACT:  The Coliseum stood in for a Mexican Hotel in the (sadly short lived) TNT continuation of the legendary CBS soap opera "Dallas".  And as an added bit of melancholy trivia, it played the part of the hotel where J.R. Ewing was murdered (shortly after the real life death of  Larry Hagman):

https://2.bp.blogspot.com/-ZJVY9YA2BwU/V7JFy3X-a6I/AAAAAAAAD6M/MYfSJeCcS2I9zByaLxdjWN3UWMhVCqFSQCLcB/s1600/colon1.jpg                   




Monday, July 4, 2016

Smoke Signal

When driving out to west Texas there's not a lot to see.  It's flat, desolate and there are very few roadside markers that you can use to track your journey.  So when you come across something out of the ordinary it tends to get your attention.  For example, you know you've made it to Thurber, TX when you see this:


The Thurber Smokestack is the last remnant of a former thriving coal town.  The town was owned by the Texas Pacific Coal Company and the residents were made up of primarily of the company's employees.  As the oil boom grew, Texas Pacific transitioned more toward the petroleum industry.   And with rise of the railroad, most of the residents had to leave to find work elsewhere thus creating a good old fashioned ghost town with the stack and a historical marker left behind:


The marker reads:

     "Most important mine site in Texas for 30 years. Coal here, probably known to Indians, was "discovered" in 1886 by W. W. Johnson, who with his brother Harvey sold out to Texas and Pacific Coal Company in 1888. (T. and P. Coal Company provided fuel for the Texas and Pacific Railroad, but was independently owned.) 
     Town was named for H. K. Thurber, friend of T. and P. Coal Company founders. Most dynamic firm member was Robert D. Hunter (1833-1902), developer of 7 of 15 mines. Next president was E. L. Marston, Hunter's son-in-law, who left mining largely to William K. Gordon (1862-1949), an engineer who brought daily output to 3,000 tons. 
     Then in 1917, Gordon (backed by management of coal company) was primarily responsible for discovery of Ranger oil field, 20 miles west. Adoption of oil- burning railway locomotives cut demand for coal. Last mine here closed in 1921, and the 10,000 or more inhabitants of Thurber began to move away. 
     The coal firm changed its name to Texas Pacific Coal and Oil Company and was sold in 1963 to Joseph E. Seagram and Sons, Inc., for $277,000,000.00. Renamed Texas Pacific Oil Company, it is now one of largest independent domestic energy suppliers. Much coal (by estimate 127,000,000 tons) remains underground. (1969)"



A lot of interesting roadside stops like these can be somewhat secluded which which makes people hesitant to stop.  But the good news here is that the smokestack is accompanied by the Smokestack Restaurant so you can grab a slice of buttermilk pie when you investigate some history: