As Anne and I were growing up in this little town of Jasper during the 1960s, when it was time to go to “the big city” Beaumont was the obvious destination. Although there were other routes, US Highway 96 was the main path to this bustling southeastern capitol of commerce. Back then it was a boring two-hour trek on what was then a two-lane highway. But oh boy, what awaited us there was worth the drudgery of the trip! You could see the busy port as you went into downtown with its high-rise hotels and office buildings, and fancy department stores like The Whitehouse. Just outside of downtown was a brand new phenomenon – the Gateway Shopping Center with its long row of stores and restaurants and gigantic parking lot! We had never seen anything like it.
For my family there were only a few occasions that warranted making the trip to Beaumont: seeing a medical specialist (i.e. Eye, Ear, Nose and Throat doctor or orthodontist0; shopping for school clothes or for Christmas – maybe. My mother insisted my sisters and I have our eyes checked by an ophthalmologist as opposed to an optometrist – so that required this big city trip. When I was eight I had my tonsils taken out at Beaumont’s St. Elizabeth Hospital – you get the picture. As kids we looked forward to stopping by The Carnation Ice Cream Shop on our way back home for an ice cream treat.
Much has changed through the years – the gold in the golden triangle tarnishes and shines along with the price of oil it seems. Big box stores, fast food chain restaurants and giant shopping malls have replaced most of these memorable shops from the past. There are now four lanes on 96 and the trip to Beaumont takes just about an hour. But there are still lots of cool things to do here! It’s just different from my childhood – go figure.
You can still go downtown for entertainment and there’s even businesses starting to move back in as the movement to revitalize these downtown areas moves forward. For sure you must visit Crockett Street with all its restaurants, bars and cool hangouts.
There’s art museums and galleries galore there as well. One exhibit I’m particularly interested in seeing before it leaves is Hot off the Press: Recent Works from Flatbed at the Art Museum of Southeast Texas.
If history is your thing, Beaumont has many historic homes and churches open to the public for tours. A must-see is the McFaddin-Ward House, an architectural marvel in the Beaux-Arts Colonial style befitting a wealthy business partner in the Spindletop oil venture.
For nature lovers there’s a lot of opportunities here on the banks of Sabine Lake at the shores of the Gulf of Mexico. One of the most popular attractions is the Cattail Marsh, a wildlife refuge for a variety of aquatic mammals and more than 350 species of birds annually.
Beaumont is still a thriving bustling area of commerce – it’s just a little more spread out. To find out about more of the many things there are to experience here I suggest this excellent website.