Thursday, October 27, 2011

Little Texas Towns -- Jefferson

One of the things East Texas does well is small towns. Each seems to have a unique character all its own. Our campground is just outside Jefferson, which has plenty of historic significance. Located on Big Cypress Bayou just upstream of Caddo Lake, Jefferson played an important part in Texas' history. In the mid-1800s, Jefferson was the largest inland port in Texas with a population of about 33,000. The first artificial ice in the US was manufactured in Jefferson between 1869 and 1874. A furnace and smelting operation built by George W. Kelly produced the famous Kelly Blue Plow in 1860. And, during the Civil War, a Jefferson packing plant produced meat for the Confederate Army and shipped munitions and other goods.

We were lucky to be in the area for the annual "Taste of Jefferson." We bought tickets, and were treated to a sampling of signature dishes from a number of Jefferson's restaurants. We arrived early and avoided much standing-in-line for our lunch. The photo above shows the street with its colorful vendors and outdoor dining spots.

And here are Miss Jefferson 2011 and Miss Teen Jefferson taking a break in front of the Jefferson General Store.

The General Store is just that....something for everyone and an old-fashioned soda fountain with real Blue Bell Ice Cream. We enjoyed browsing, and a treat from the soda fountain as well.

There are a number of good restaurants in Jefferson. We had barbecue for lunch one day, then another time we had almost-too-big-for-your-mouth 'burgers at The Hamburger Store. Not only are the 'burgers and sides great, the interior is decorated by movie posters featuring a number of our favorite "oldies but goodies" stars.

The interior walls are also covered in $1.00 bills. They even hang from the ceiling. Patrons autograph and date them, then staple them to the walls. The tradition started several years ago when diners began contributing them to assist evacuees after Hurricane Katrina struck the Gulf Coast, and has continued.

Another not-to-be-missed Jefferson establishment is Beauty and the Book, "the only combination beauty shop and book store in the country and maybe even in the world." Opened in 2000 by Kathy L. Patrick, it features anything the lady could want in terms of salon services and a lot more. Kathy says that "Books saved my life and I want to share them." She is the founder of the Pulpwood Queens Book Clubs. Over 500 strong, the book club members number in the thousands. Each January, the Pulpwood Queens Book Clubs host a "Girlfriends Weekend" where prominent authors come to Jefferson to share their thoughts and read from their novels.

Kathy's passion is the promotion of literacy. She has appeared on Good Morning America with Diane Sawyer and Charlie Gibson and has had her face flashed across the screen on The Oprah Winfry Show. She and the Pulpwood Queens have also been featured in a number of publications.

A trip to Beauty and the Book for a cut and curl or to select a book is mandatory if you're in Jefferson. And if you want to know the full story of Beauty and the Book, pick up a copy of The Pulpwood Queens' Tiara-Wearing, Book-Sharing Guide to Life by Kathy L. Patrick.


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