My first airplane ride was to Beaumont TX with my sister – by ourselves – when I was around six years old. I ate warm peanuts and loved it. Criteria for kids flying alone has certainly changed but last month I had to stop and wonder if Beaumont really had. Every summer I can remember as child was spent in the small, Texas town swimming, riding bikes with the cousins, and of course shopping at the mall. So when I made the “pilgrimage” back to Beaumont TX and began asking my family for ideas on things should we do, the answer – we can go to the mall. Thus, my investigation went into full-force. THERE HAD TO BE MORE THAN THE MALL! Thankfully, there is quite a bit to do in Beaumont, not to mention a lot of history I missed as a kid. No real surprise, I did love the mall back then.
15 Things You (I) May Not Have Known About Beaumont TX
1. Oil was discovered at the Lucas Gusher on Spindletop Hill on January 10, 1901. The gusher/explosion was so intense that nine days later the oil column was still gushing nearly 200 feet high, producing around 100,000 barrels a day. Spindletop became the first major oil field and one of the largest in American history.
2. Home of the original World’s Largest (Working) Fire Hydrant. The giant hydrant was donated to the City of Beaumont by Walt Disney on March 9, 1999 for the re-release of the animated movie “101 Dalmatians” and is housed outside the Fire Museum of Texas. At the time it was the World’s Largest Fire Hydrant but it has since lost the title. However, it does work. The giant fire hydrant weighs 4,500 lbs and can blast 1,500 gallons of water a minute.
3. Lamar University and its 15,000 students call Beaumont home.
4. The legal community in the United States must love Beaumont. In 1996, the Jefferson County courts, located in Beaumont, became the first court in the nation to implement electronic filing and service of court documents, eliminating the need for law firms to print and mail reams of documents.
5. Since 1907, Beaumont has been home of the South Texas State Fair.
6. St. Anthony’s Cathedral Basilica was built as the first Catholic Church of Beaumont TX in 1903. In 2006, Pope Benedict XVI recognized the historical significance of Saint Anthony Cathedral by proclaiming it a Minor Basilica. Beaumont is one of only four Minor Basilicas in the State of Texas.
7. Beaumont is home to Gator Country and its 400 alligators as well as Gary Saurage, a conservationist, owner of Gator Country and the star of CMT’s Gator 911, the first TV show in the United States about alligator rescues. (If you have a chance to visit Gator Country, I do HIGHLY recommend it, more on our visit to Gator Country.)
8. Beaumont is home to Babe Zaharias – U.S. Olympian and co-founder of the Ladies Professional Golf Association.
9. The McFaddin-Ward House was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1971. It was built/completed in 1906 and has the rather convenient address – 1906 Calder Avenue; it’s phone number 409.832.1906.
10. Jason’s Deli, a fast casual delicatessen restaurant chain is headquartered in Beaumont, TX.
11. Beaumont dates from 1824 when it was known as Tevis Bluff after Noah and Nancy Tevis – the first settlers. In 1835, Henry Millard and partners bought the Tevis’ property for a planned town. Millard’s wife’s maiden name was Beaumont.
12. During World War II, Pansy Yount, wife of Beaumont businessman, donated her Ladies Duesenberg as scrap metal for the war cause. Her husband was also known as the “Godfather of Beaumont” because he donated money to the City of Beaumont to finance their payroll during the Great Depression.
13. Beaumont is home to one of only four Happy Half Wit Muffler Men in Texas. He stands about 25 feet in height and is seen holding a muffler, which is actually rather rare as most aren’t holding anything. Others can be found holding items such an ax, a hot dog or a baseball bat.
14. Beaumont is home to rice in Texas. The Beaumont Rice Mill was the first commercial rice mill in Texas and is still operating today.
15. The Big Bopper – aka Jiles Perry “J. P.” Richardson, Jr. – grew up in Beaumont TX and graduated from Beaumont High School in 1947. He’s best known for the song “Chantilly Lace”. He died in a plane crash that killed rockers Buddy Holly and Ritchie Valens. J.P. is buried in Beaumont.