“Wish You Were Here!” Exhibit Opens at Sam Houston Center

The Sam Houston Regional Library and Research Center presents the exhibit, “Wish You Were Here!” now on display in the Center’s museum. “Wish You Were Here!” highlights historic Southeast Texas vacation spots, industry, culture and recreational opportunities through a selection of postcards, tourism publications and historic documents curated from the research collections.

Among other sources, the exhibit pulls from the substantial Don Kelly Southeast Texas Postcard Collection, which covers almost the entirety of the 20th century and features visual documentation of the Southeast Texas oil refineries, architecture, rivers, railroads and much more.

An illustration of the front of the Pleasure Pier amusement complex in Port Arthur, located on Lake Sabine. The pier is pictured as completed, even though it was unfinished at the time of publication. 1991.183-964, Don Kelly Southeast Texas postcard collection. Sam Houston Regional Library and Research Center, Texas State Library and Archives Commission.

Postcards promoted tourist attractions in the region and tell us about what appealed to those seeking leisurely adventure at a particular moment in time. Pleasure Pier in Port Arthur entertained visitors to the Gulf Coast and became a hot-spot for the local young people after the Pleasure Pier bridge was constructed in 1931. The amusements included a roller coaster, midway games and a dance hall with live music.

A color-added photograph of the Jefferson Theatre in Beaumont. 1991.183-236, Don Kelly Southeast Texas postcard collection. Sam Houston Regional Library and Research Center, Texas State Library and Archives Commission.

Built in 1927, Beaumont’s historic Jefferson Theater was the site of a world premier of the film “It’s a Wonderful Life” twenty years later. The lovely theater is still in operation and stands as an impressive reminder of the glamorous era of film in the United States.

Sour Lake’s springs and hotel were a draw because of the purported health benefits of the sulphur in the water. The sulphur was also an indicator of oil in the area and the petroleum industry transformed the community into a boomtown in the early 1900s.

A photograph of Springs Hotel in Sour Lake. 1991.183-1384, Don Kelly Southeast Texas postcard collection. Sam Houston Regional Library and Research Center, Texas State Library and Archives Commission.

Postcards and promotional materials contribute to our material culture and reveal how people interacted with their environment and each other. Visit “Wish You Were Here!” for a fascinating view of the past.

A component of the Texas State Library and Archives Commission (TSLAC), the Sam Houston Regional Library and Research Center houses local government records, rare books, manuscripts, archival materials, photographs and other media formats covering a wide range of Southeast Texas history. In addition to the archives and museum, four historic buildings and the Jean Price Daniel Home and Archives are located on the Center’s grounds. Museum hours are Tuesday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Saturdays from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Visit https://www.tsl.texas.gov/shc for more information.

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