Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Matchbook Memories: Pig Stand

Another old school matchbook leads us to back down south to fill our bellies with pork and nostalgia.  The Pig Stand is a Texas icon and pioneer in the restaurant business who, at one time, had around 130 locations in several states.  But if you want any Pig Stand memories today you have to either head to San Antonio, to their only remaining location, or to eBay to buy an antique matchbook:

The original Pig Stand in Dallas was known as the home of the country's first drive-in.  The restaurant's other claims to fame include inventing the onion ring, the chicken fried steak sandwich and Texas toast.  These claims are harder to verify but the drive-in portion survives today in the San Antonio location.  Although you also have the option to dine inside:

The menu has standard diner food with a southern slant.  Their signature item is the Pig Sandwich - sliced BBQ pork on a bun with "special sauce."  The platter comes with fries, onion rings and cole slaw.  If you ever find yourself eating across Texas, this is one of the famous foods that should be on your list:

The BBQ itself may not be the best in the state but it's got great flavor and, wisely, the "secret sauce" is the Stand's own signature barbecue sauce.  While the sandwich is good, it easily gets overshadowed by the sides.  I'm not a huge french fry guy but the fries and onion rings are the best I've ever had.  Texture and flavor combine in the best way and these guys could have been their own meal. 

 While you're munching on history it's important to take a moment to remember the Pig Stands of the past that are no longer with us, some of which were commemorated on the back of the matchbook (with accompanying original artwork):

I think we've got representations of NASA, the State Capitol, the Alamo and possibly the Cotton Bowl for Dallas?  Let me know if that's not right.

So we now archive this one in the matchbook file as well as the full stomach file as we hit the road to the next stop.

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Office Space

We're going to head to Central Texas for today's "On Location"...all the way to Austin, the home of beloved businesses like Initech & Chotskies!

You may remember the exterior of the soul crushing company from the move "Office Space." The offices look vacant today and there are some "For Lease" signs up if you'd like to spend some dough to recreate your favorite scenes.

The location of Chotskies Restaurant has definitely lost its flair...it's now a bank. And a bank that doesn't seem to like it when people show up to takes pictures, no less!

It was hard to try and copy the angle from the film to get the picture but you can still see the background building behind the trees that have grown up.

There's still a few more locations from this film I need to track down but right now I need to get back to work on those TPS Reports.

Saturday, November 14, 2015

Lark in the Park

I'm not sure if Theodor Geisel, A.K.A. Dr. Seuss, had ever been to Texas but he clearly has a lot of fans in the state.  Particularly in the West Texas town of Abilene, known as the "Storybook Capital of Texas."   That's where you'll find Everman Park which is home to six sculptures of the good Doctor's most popular work.

Let's take a stroll in the park and see what we can see.  Starting with...

Perennial trouble maker and world's worst babysitter, The Cat in the Hat is the first sculpture in the park.  His book was first published in 1957 and he is easily Dr. Seuss' most popular creation.

Next up is "Sam-I-Am" from "Green Eggs and Ham" which was published in 1960 and introduced a breakfast menu that kids all over the world would covet for years.

The Turtle Tower from "Yertle the Turtle and Other Stories" stands tall as the next sculpture on the tour.  The book was published in 1958.  It contained three stories but Yertle was clearly the break out star.

Appropriately, the Lorax stands surrounded by the trees for which he speaks.  The environmentally conscious character's book was published in 1971.

Seasons greetings are offered year round by the Grinch and his faithful dog Max.  Before the TV special, movie and merchandise onslaught, "How the Grinch Stole Christmas" was published in 1957.

And finally there is Horton who is listening intently for all time to the tiniest of tiny friends.  His book "Horton Hears a Who!" was published in 1954.

All the sculptures were created by artist Leo Rijn and they fit in nicely in downtown Abilene.  The entire area is full of other whimsical works collectively known as the Storybook Sculpture Project.  It's worth a stop on your next West Texas road trip.  Don't forget to bring your camera.

Friday, November 6, 2015

The Producers

If you're in the mood for a healthy snack or some fresh ingredients for a new recipe then you're in luck.  The newest episode of East Texas Explorer features Graham's Edgewood Market in Edgewood, TX!

Thursday, October 15, 2015

Junk Find Five: Gruene Antique Company

It's time to start a new recurring segment.  We'll go to flea markets, antique shops and swap meets in Texas and find five interesting things for sale.  They may provide some interesting insight into Texas Culture or they may not.  But they are the five items that caught my eye on that particular trip.

Today's stop was at the Gruene Antique Company in New Braunfels, TX.  They are located in the Gruene Historic District and is housed in the historic 1903 Henry D. Gruene building.  It's a huge building that is packed with interesting antique goodies.  So let's see what we found:

5.  Pillsbury Doughboy Teapot & Napkin Holder

Who doesn't love the Pillsbury Doughboy?  I'm always a sucker for advertising mascots.  These might not be too overly vintage but their ceramic nature gives them that potentially breakable and thus temporary lifespan that is a refreshing change of pace in a world of cheap plastic.

4.  Bugle Lamp

Recycling and re-purposing at its finest!  Think about it...what's your lamp at home made of?  Regular lamp stuff?  Wouldn't it be much better if it was made out of a musical instrument?  Yes, yes it would be.

3.  Fiesta San Antonio Dr Pepper Bottle

Full and unopened from 1977, this is a bottle of old school Dr Pepper from the biggest party in San Antonio and is just waiting for an adventurous soda historian to crack it open and give it a try.  (I would not recommend it though.)

2.  Weird Mask

Ok, what is going on here?  I want to assume that this was used historically in maybe the military or possibly in an industrial context but I think we all know that whoever buys it is probably not going to use it for those purposes.

1.  Rotary Pay Phone

If you have kids, a fun game you can play with them would be to give them a 100 guesses to figure out what this is.  It bears practically no resemblance to the sleek rectangles they stare at all day and was only used for talking.  It will blow their minds!

Saturday, October 10, 2015

A Hare Taller

Within the city limits of Odessa, TX you can find the World's Largest Jack Rabbit, a.k.a. Jack Ben Rabbit.  He stands tall in downtown at 8 feet and was named after former Odessa Chamber of Commerce President John Ben Sheppard.  He hopped into place in 1962 and two years later he was joined by a Texas Historical Marker:

The Marker reads:

     "True plains Rabbit. Lives only in the west. Burro-like ears gave him his name. color is protective, blending with sand and dry grass. Very long legs make him a swift runner, clocked at speeds to 45 miles an hour. Object of hunts with Greyhounds.
      Was prized by plains Indians for food and fur. to white man a reminder of desert-hard life. In drouth and depression, meat source for thousands.
      Subject of tall tales. Actual hero of world's only Jackrabbit Rodeo, in Odessa, May 1932.

But this isn't just any historical marker, it's the marker that just keeps giving.  Adventurous foodies can find an authentic Texas Jack Rabbit Recipe attached to the back:

On the other side of Ben is a marker placed by the Heritage of Odessa Foundation commemorating the town's former Championship Jackrabbit Roping (Odessa is clearly what you would call a "Jack Rabbit Town"):

This marker reads:

"Contest began as "hare-brained" publicity stunt during 1932 annual Odessa Rodeo. Held at 3rd and Grant Street site despite objections from out-of-town do-gooders. Local sheriff opposed event but mayor and judge ruled no violation of Texas law. Cowgirl Grace Hendricks roped rabbit from horseback in five seconds flat winning over numerous male competitors. Notorious contest revived in 1977 causing coast-to-coast outcry. Midland animal lover delayed action by liberating captive jackrabbits. Event proceeded on schedule when former prisoners returned at feeding time. Seven ropers competed on foot. Jack Torian placed first with a six second scamper. In 1978 Humane Society blocked all future ropings with court order."

So yeah, this is a town that gets excited by jack rabbits...even enough to share.  In 2002 Ol' Ben hopped out of town to take part in the "Best of Texas" Festival at Six Flags over Texas in Arlington:

There he was joined by Old Rip from Eastland, the Car Part Dinosaur from Bertram and many other Texas roadside icons.  While he had a great summer in '02, his traveling days seem to be behind him and now you can always catch him at home in downtown Odessa.

Friday, October 2, 2015

Murphy's Law

Audie Murphy is a native Texan who went on to be one of the most decorated soldiers of World War II and later became a movie star.  He lived an incredibly interesting life which is chronicled (among many other things) in an East Texas museum.

We visited the Audie Murphy/American Cotton Museum in Greenville, TX for an all new episode of East Texas Explorer:

Thursday, October 1, 2015

Family Tradition

Before Larry Hagman's iconic role of J.R. Ewing in Dallas, he was Major Tony Nelson tasked with the job of keeping Jeanie away from Dr. Bellows on I Dream of Jeanie and even before that he was kicking around on a piece of ground in his hometown of Weatherford, TX.  The town formally awarded him "Favorite Son" status in the best way possible...a statue:

The statue was erected last year on his birthday (Sept. 21st...which has been named "Larry Hagman Day" by the town) and was sculpted by Kelly Graham.

Not too far from the statue is yet another famous former Weatherford resident who just happens to be Larry Hagman's mother.  Mary Martin was born there and was also associated with an iconic role: Peter Pan!

She won a Tony Award for playing the boy who never grew up on Broadway and was associated with the character throughout her career despite playing a wide range of roles on stage, film and television.

The statue has been standing vigil outside the town library since 1976 and was sculpted by Ronald Thomason.  Together these two statues are a mother/son combo celebrating the imagination and talent that can come from small town Texas.

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Cowboy Down

Everyone knows Big Tex.  He's the center piece (and frequent meeting place) at the State Fair of Texas and recently his yearly installation occurred in Fair Park in preparation for the imminent start of the Fair.  However, yesterday, a littler Big Tex had the opposite experience.

The neon Big Tex sign outside Centennial Liquor on I-35 in Dallas has been sold...to the State Fair of Texas.  And as of yesterday he is no longer beckoning thirsty shoppers to come in and buy some hooch.  Here are a few pics we got during the dismantling process:

It's currently in storage now while the Fair decides what to do with it.  The tentative plan is to unveil it at the 2016 State Fair.  We'll be following the story throughout Little Big Tex's journey.

Friday, September 18, 2015

Trump Charred

It's easy to forget that Donald Trump is currently running for president.  Just kidding, he's on TV every single day as people dissect the latest bomb that has dropped from his mouth.  But the first track on his "Why Did He Say That?" Greatest Hits album would be the comments he made about immigration early in his campaign.

Texas is at the forefront of the issue and the citizens of San Antonio had clear opinions on the issue.  No clearer were the opinions illustrated than at the window of Tienda la Garza.  On a recent trip to the River Walk we noticed this particular effigy on display:

This isn't the first or only place where Trump piƱatas were selling like gangbusters but it IS the one that we stumbled upon whilst looking for a good place for fajitas (or barbecue as a second choice).  And you can't deny the likeness...

Thursday, September 10, 2015

Review: East Texas Burger Company

The East Texas Burger Company has spent decades practicing the fine art of cooking great hamburgers.  It’s one of downtown Mineola’s oldest and most popular feedbags.  Expect crowds and a line if you go during meal times. 

While burgers are their business, they have a fairly extensive menu of standard American fare and southern favorites.

The decor is typical of a small town Mom & Pop burger shack with one exception.  Patrons are encouraged to doodle, scribble or proselytize on their napkins which end up thumb tacked along the walls.  This custom wallpaper includes jokes, cartoons, non sequiturs and even political commentary.

Orders are placed and paid for at a counter in the back and patrons can fill up their drinks and pick their table while they wait. Our wait was not very long at all and when our food arrived our feast began.  I went with that day's "Special" which was an East Texas version of brunch.

Most people, when they think of brunch, think of a little bit of breakfast combined with a little bit of lunch to create a new, light meal for late risers who enjoy leisurely grazing.  The “Sunrise Special” takes all of breakfast and all of lunch and combines them into an action packed wrestling match of a meal.

By adding bacon, eggs and hash browns to their signature burger they succeeded in creating a stomach expanding colossus that more than makes up for two meals.  The bacon is cooked well without being too greasy or too crispy.  The addition of fresh fruit may not seem to fit the theme but they work well as a palette cleanser between great big ol' bites.  All in all, both the patty and the egg could have benefited from a little less cooking but that may just be personal taste.

So with sufficient street cred in ambiance, history and especially food, the East Texas Burger Company should be your first choice for a meal in Mineola.  I still need to go back to try the pie.

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

I Double Dairy You

Hey check it out!  It's an all new episode of East Texas Explorer!  If you ever wanted to visit the Southwest Dairy Museum in Sulphur Springs, TX (yes, you have) then check out this episode of the podcast:

Friday, August 21, 2015

Clyde and Go Seek

 Crandall, TX (just southeast of Dallas) is a small town like any other where not a lot ever seems to happen except that it has been the filming location for at least two major motion pictures (and an episode of Route 66)!

1967's Bonnie and Clyde tells the true story of two Texas bank robbing lovers and was filmed in and around the Lone Star State. In this scene Gene Wilder is making time with his special lady while Bonnie & Clyde steal his car:

He then jumps into action in a vain attempt to stop the robbery. You can see that the house is still there but is in bad shape. I believe it was bought by the church next door and they are making restorations.

Later on in the film the duo are on Main Street in downtown Crandall:

You can see that a lot has changed but the water tower is still in the background:

Main Street also makes an appearance in 1999's "Boys Don't Cry." (Which also shot in Greenville, TX.)  The Karate School has been replaced with a Mexican restaurant but not much else has changed since then: