Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Stone is showing his Elvis love

Elvis love

Sometimes the people I write about stay in touch, and Sammy Stone Atchison is one who does. He sent me his new book, “My Life as an Elvis,” which goes into his serious Elvis love and his career as a singer.

He grew up in Port Arthur and this book, written by Michael T. Gracey, offers lots of reflections and local references. Imagine my surprise when I flipped through and found my own name in Chapter 27. I met Atchison when I wrote about him in a Port Arthur News feature story. Much of the article is in the book.

Atchison made friends at Graceland and loves to honor The King. This book also includes about 36 pages of excerpts of a letter his wife wrote detailing his brother’s illnesses and medical woes. Atchison had to make several decisions regarding his brother’s care that influences his music career.

Atchison writes the book is available on and at Barnes &

Red, white and blue

My Memorial Day weekend included being part of a flag dedication ceremony I won’t forget. A business owner in Houston had dozens of guests hold a section of a giant flag, and all the children in the crowd got underneath as it was raised to its full glory. A Texas flag got the same treatment. Those colors, and what they stand for, looked great against a blue sky.

Book it to Beaumont

Summer movie nights at the McFaddin-Ward House Museum already rock. Now they’re adding a twist. Organizers challenge us to read the classic Our Town," by Thorton Wilder, then join them for a group discussion of the book and viewing of the 1940 film adaptation staring William Holden.

All this fun will begin at 6:30 p.m. Thursday, June 7 at the visitor center, 1906 Calder Ave. in Beaumont.

It’s free, and there will be popcorn. I’m in. Call (409) 832-1906 for more details.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Swamp talk and an Esther update

Swamp talk

Port Arthur is a little bit Texan and a little bit Louisiana. We’re proud of our swamp heritage, and I just got a chance to get right in the middle of it. Capt. Lee Gomez lead tour through Blue Elbow Swamp and the Sabine River from Airboat Rides Inc. in Orange. It’s the place with the mossy swamp-monster along Interstate 10 in Orange.

So we saw a little baby gator in the water straight away, but Gomez quieted the engine to glide up to an impressive grown one, all stretched out on a sandy bank. As a few of the 16 passengers stood up to snap photos and the whole gang was causing an excited ruckus, Gomez asked if we thought that statue-still gator was real. Well we all sat down thinking, “they got us,” setting up a big rubber gator by the dock.

“It is real,” Gomez said as that posed gator got into action, showing some teeth and scuttling over to the water side.

There were plenty more where that one came from. Gomez said he spots gators on nearly all his outings, and the brave hearted can try a night tour. In the moonlight, visitors can pack flashlights to reflect reptile eyes and “adult beverages,” as the brochure indicates.

Gomez went slow, stopping for history and nature lessons through the cypress knees. Then he sped up to 50 miles an hour into Lake Sabine. Get some friends together and go through

swamps where the Atapaka Native American tribe lived and past the old Orange Navy Base. He’ll snap your group’s photo if you smile and say “Gator bait!”

Esther update

Esther Benoit loves Port Arthur and she shows it with gumbo. Since Hurricane Ike took out Esther’s Seafood and Oyster Bar under the Rainbow Bridge, she’s been making her famous gumbo for fundraisers, and family. Oh, that lucky Benoit family.

Benoit says she always wants to see her city reflected as the best it can be. She recalled an example from a man from Australia who came to Southeast Texas on a sail boat. He’d planned to stay for two weeks.

“He wound up staying a year. He loved the people down here,” she said.

Benoit and her husband, John, have been traveling and recently cruised to Barcelona. We’re glad they’re back.

Do, Dream, Discover

The Beaumont Children’s Museum’s annual meeting was a science experiment. Guests were asked to attend with the heart of a child and had fun with science demos after getting an update on this signature project of Junior League of Beaumont. It’s in the beginning stages at Crockett and Neches Streets in downtown Beaumont. A Rotary club will build a handicap-accessible playground next door. For details, call Beth Schreck at 409-651-8435.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

PA boasts history, lotus and all that jazz

PA boasts history, lotus and all that jazz

Yvonne Sutherlin is rightfully proud of her byline in “A Texas State of Mind.” The thick coffee-table book has great shots of vintage and present-day Lamar State College-Port Arthur and tells the story of “The Texas State University System Story Still Going Strong After 100 Years.”

I love the photo of an old dorm room, with a metal framed bed, a mirrored bureau in the corner, woven rug and small desk with two wire-backed chairs. It looks like the most quaint bed and breakfast room for rent today. Back around 1920, the two-student room went for $4.25 a week with room, board, light and heat. Our Lamar is still something Port Arthur residents are proud to support.

Buu Mon Lotus and Bamboo Festival

It could be that Zummo’s links were the last thing you were expecting at Buu Mon Buddhist Temple’s annual lotus and bamboo festival, but the Rev. K assures they will be there.

He says the spring rolls are delicious, and also advises visitors to bring their cameras for shots of those colorful blooms.

The Rev. Kassapa Bhikkhu says Buu Mon Buddhist Temple & Lotus Gardens will host its 14th annual Lotus and Bamboo Festival, and Buddha’s Birthday Celebration on Saturday and Sunday, June 2-3 of 2012. There is no admission charge for guests to take in colorful blooms and towering stalks from four gardens. Look for more than 30 varieties of lotus flowers, 20 varieties of hardy and tropical water lilies and 30 types of bamboo.

The festival includes views of the koi pond, rose garden and bonsai display. Vendors will offer arts and crafts, books and Vietnamese foods, vegetarian stir fry dishes and links.

Tours will be from 9:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday and Sunday. Tea ceremonies, including a telling of the history of tea, area scheduled for each afternoon. Buddha’s Birthday, called Vesak Celebration, will be observed from 10:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. Sunday. The temple are gardens are at 2701 Procter Street,

Zachary Breaux Jazz Festival to hit Port Arthur

Yard signs and T-shirts are all over town promoting the 5th annual Zachary Breaux Jazz Festival, June 8-9 in downtown Port Arthur.

Doris Hayes, organizer, said the musician was ahead of his time and played with the best. European musicians closely follow the festival, because so many of them played with Breaux, she said.

Local and regional acts will fill the Procter Street Pavilion. Advance tickets are $12 for Friday and $18 for Saturday; Gate prices are $15 for Friday and $20 for Saturday. Bring lawn chairs and visit vendors for food, drink and more.

The schedule is:

Friday, June 8

· 6 p.m. – Houston Jazz Caravan

· 6:45 p.m. – JAWAD

· 7:30 p.m. – George Hill & Friends

· 8:30 p.m. – Theresa Grayson

· 9:45 p.m. Lil Wayne Singleton, Zydeco artist

· 11 p.m. – Brian Best

Saturday, June 9

· 1:30 p.m. – Charles Bilal & Solar System Band

· 2:30 p.m. – Ron Rocio & The Flava Band

· 3:30 p.m. – Act to be announced

· 4:30 p.m. – Joe Carmouche

· 5:45 p.m. – Althea Rene

· 7 p.m. – Texas Brass Band

· 8 p.m. – Kyle Turner

· 9:15 p.m. – Michael Ward

· 10:30 p.m. – Dean James

· 11:30 p.m. – Lora Sims

For information, call Doris Hays, (409) 982-8394 or (409) 985-9977 or visit zacharybreauxjazz

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Museum of the Gulf Coast gets TV highlight

Our own Museum of the Gulf Coast looked great in the recent “Mysteries at the Museum” feature on The Travel Channel. The pieced discussed Karen Silkwood, a former local who some say may have been run off the road on her way to meet a journalist about unsafe working conditions in an Oklahoma plant.

The Museum includes her handbag in its notable people display.

Now more people will know about our wonderful museum.

Another honor for Sangri La

I confess, I was one of those people who had heard great things about Shangri La Gardens and Nature Center in Orange, but hadn’t been myself. Now that I have taken in this masterpiece, I’m doing my best to make sure Golden Triangle residents take a peek so they can brag about it to visitors. The birds, the flowers, the water, the walkways and the educational features for children are amazing. I don’t care how much you know about our habitat, you’re bound to pick up a few new ideas.

Earlier in May, Shangri La staff members attended the 20th Annual Environmental Excellence Awards ceremony in Austin. These awards are part of efforts by the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) to protect people and Texas' natural resources while ensuring clean air, clean water and safe management of waste. Shangri La was the 2012 award recipient of the Environmental Excellence Award in the Education category.

The staff reports that during the award ceremony, a short film showcased each winner's contribution to its respective category. The Shangri La video began with a scene of the heronry, showing great egrets taking flight.

Visit the gardens at 2111 West Park Avenue in Orange. They are open to the public Tuesday through Saturday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Sunday from noon to 5 p.m. For more information, call 409.670.9113 or visit

Museum of the Gulf Coast

Print this

A woman handed me a blank note pad and walked off. Someone said she was Gwen Park of Port Neches and runs a print shop. She hands out pads she makes from scraps, just to be nice. Who doesn’t love note pads?

Turns out I wrote about Ms. Park ages ago, and she’s now looking to sell her business. For now, she said wedding napkins are popular purchases, in blue and red.

“You think they’d pick white, but not very often,” Park noted.