An appeal for local sports history for Gulf Coast Museum

Published 9:53 am Monday, July 16, 2018

By I.C. Murrell

Port Arthur News


Elandon Roberts has the best testimony a young person visiting the Museum of the Gulf Coast could ever give — “I gotta find a way to get in here,” he said while still a senior at Memorial.

Roberts was inducted in the museum’s Sports Hall of Fame last July 26, just before the start of his second season in the NFL.

The museum, a dream realized by several volunteers including those of the Port Arthur Historical Society in 1994, is known for preserving the history of the entire Gulf Coast, covering subjects like its ancient history, the oil boom, music, entertainment and sports. Every year, the top football players in our coverage area enjoy a visit there and are treated to a photo shoot for our annual Christmas present to readers — The Port Arthur News Super Team.

“Every year, the museum has been taking on a lot of local subject material,” museum director Tom Neal said. “… We have some great stories to tell here. Sarah [Bellian], our curator here, has been doing an excellent job of pulling it together.

“… What better subject do you have than high school sports and the way this whole area my entire life has embraced that?”

If you’ve not been to the museum, you’re missing some of your own history. Then again, some of your own history sticks with you.

Just maybe you were at the Super Drum when Lincoln won its first state championship in boys basketball, or at Texas Stadium when Port Neches-Groves and Plano set the single-game attendance record of 49,953, or witnessed Thomas Jefferson win its only state baseball title.

The exhibit “Southeast Texas Sports: Hometown Heroes” is planned for Jan. 19-April 28, 2018. The Museum of the Gulf Coast is looking for gifts and loans of items including uniforms, programs, game balls and photographs from football, boys and girls basketball, baseball, softball and volleyball. Those are the sports that the exhibit “Southeast Texas Sports: Hometown Heroes,” planned for Jan. 19-April 28, 2019, will focus on.

Neal and Bellian are making personal appeals for plenty of Lincoln and Stephen F. Austin artifacts. Inside a private storage room where former and current Golden Triangle sports reporters met Thursday lie plenty of Jefferson articles — those we’ve written and genuine articles some of your neighbors donned and contributed. But more representation from Lincoln and SFA are requested. It can start with artifacts from the Bumblebees’ seven UIL state championships in boys basketball or the 1956 Prairie View Interscholastic League title. Trust me, that will be a big hit.

“I lived a lot of this with these high school athletes,” former News sports editor Bob West, 74, said. “I started writing in Beaumont in 1966. It’s kind of a personal deal to me. The museum has always been important to me, ever since we did our Homecoming Roasts for this. I think this is a terrific extension of what they’re doing with the displays at the museum.”

Let me level with you readers: It’s personal to me, too.

Newspaper clippings from maybe 1935 of Port Arthur playing Pine Bluff (Arkansas) in high school football will be part of the display. Pine Bluff won two (albeit mythical) national championships in 1925 and 1939, and PA beat the Zebras 27-6, strengthening the Yellowjackets’ posture in the high school football landscape.

See what history can do for you?

To donate, contact Bellian at 999-6283 or But keep in mind — this project is not limited to The News’ coverage area. This is to celebrate high school sports in the entire Golden Triangle, so you Sabine Pass and Little Cypress-Mauriceville faithful bring us what you have.

Did you play on Nederland’s 1957 state title football team? Did you help PNG win any of its three state volleyball crowns? Did you play on Memorial’s first softball team? Or West Brook’s first football team — which won state?

Are you a Hebert graduate? Central? Ozen? South Park? Lutcher-Stark? Have you kept that old program from that big homecoming game? Were you a cheerleader?

No matter what high school you attended in the Golden Triangle, if you have any relics from your playing, marching or cheering days you can give or loan, the museum would like to have them.

“I think this is going to be so well-received,” West said. “I don’t want to wish my life away at my age, but I can’t wait to see this exhibit. I think it’s going to be awesome.”

We all will remember the Alamodome and the Titans’ conquest there in March. Same thing for the Indians’ finest baseball moment in Round Rock nine months earlier.

But it’ll be history to the next generation. Important, visual history that can be curated and will never go away.

“This kind of thing, people will want to see that they can get to know about themselves,” Neal said.

Keep your programs, game jerseys and newspaper clippings. Your museum needs them, and so do the record number of those who visit it from across the globe. (Neal estimates 16,000 will have been to the museum this year, about 3,000 more than last year.)

Those who recorded the history will thank you.