By Dennis Hollander
Many years ago the members of the TJ Class of 1961 lived and grew up in a place they will always remember with fond memories. It was a special place that doesnít really exist any longer - at least not as we remembered it in our youth. The place was known as Port Arthur and is still called that today but in name only. Even though there were never more than around 65,000 inhabitants it was always full of life, lights, laughter, excitement and good times. The Proctor Street downtown area was always lined with cars parallel parked along both sides of the street for blocks. On the weekends the automobiles on Proctor were bumper to bumper full of people having a "Day on the Town." Remember the numerous retail stores and movie theatres that used to line both sides of Proctor St.? The Pleasure Pier with its boats, amusement rides, swimming pool and large dance hall was always a place we looked forward to visiting. Watching the moon over Lake Sabine while parked with someone special behind the dance hall was something we more than likely can all relate to and reminisce about.
I remember with such pride the beauty and neatness of all the old homes along Lakeshore Drive and down Proctor Street. Rose Hill was always a show place to hold receptions, parties, weddings or simply visit with out of town friends and relatives. As you drove around the city there was a sense of pride in the people who lived there. You could tell this from the constant sound of lawn mowers being pushed by homeowners, the smell of fresh paint on the many frame houses and the simple sound of children playing in the yards of a town they all loved. People were friendly and mixed with neighbors because there was a common feeling of safety and trust between the citizens of this town.
The public and parochial school system was second to none in the state of Texas. All of the schools were beautiful and well maintained regardless of their age. The old Woodrow Wilson Junior High on Lakeshore Drive was the centerpiece of many events. Famous singers, comedians, musicians, dancers and celebrities came there to perform or speak to the citizens of Port Arthur. Remember all the recitals, choirs and minstrel shows that were held there? They were wonderful and everyone enjoyed them immensely. Everyone was proud of our own Thomas Jefferson High School (both the old one and the new one opened in 1959) For decades it was known statewide for its powerhouse football teams, its outstanding Red Hussar Drum & Bugle Corp., The TJ Band and its outstanding scholastic standing among Texas high schools. Many graduates of our school system went on to higher education and lived a life full of great accomplishments and achievements. These were all things that the citizens of the town could respect and appreciate. I never knew anyone during the time I grew up in Port Arthur who wasnít proud to say, "Iím from Port Arthur and graduated from high school there." Unfortunately, you donít hear that type of enthusiasm and impromptu response any longer.
There is an old saying "That change is always inevitable and nothing ever remains the same in life." Is that simply what happened to Our Hometown or is it much more complex than that? We can debate the various issues of what caused the changes in our beloved Port Arthur and never come to a final conclusion where there is a consensus of opinion on the subject. I personally believe it involved many factors that were beyond the control of anyone or any group. Economics, job availability, relocation of the primary business district, gradual migration of citizens to central and eastern Jefferson County, death and retirement of key individuals are just some examples of what probably caused the " inevitable changes" to our Hometown. I would like to think that someday Port Arthur will return back into a semblance of the type of town it once was so long ago. Itís possible but city leaders & all the citizens of the community would have to want this change to occur and work together to make it happen. Thatís a tall order and one that would require a great deal of dedication and hard work. Whether or not it ever happens is up to the people themselves. Time will tell as it always does.
Even though I have not been a permanent resident of Port Arthur since going off to college in 1961 - - - I can still look people in the eye and say, "I am proud to be from Port Arthur and a graduate of Thomas Jefferson High School Ė Class of Ď 61.
Dennis R. Hollander
January 25, 2007
Jean Kay Domingue-Moreau .... Orange, TX
Jimmy Maxfield .... Houston, TX
Wow! Fantastic article, Dennis. I am also proud of being from Port Arthur, and I have numerous memories with my family, friends and classmates. Also George retired from Gulf(Chevron)after 30 years. This page reminded me when George and I were in Italy last July. We had the opportunity to take a train ride from Milan, Italy to Lucern,Switzerland. While we were visiting with other U.S. citizens, a man popped his head over the back of my seat. He had heard our Texas accents and wanted to visit! It turned out he was a 70`s graduate of Thomas Jefferson, and we had a wonderful visit with both he and his lovely wife. Dr. George Sanders is a plastic surgeon in Los Angeles, CA now. We also learned his dad had worked with George at Gulf. Small World! So folks no matter where we go or what we accomplish we can be proud to say YES, I'm from Port Arthur and I graduated from TJ. I know I am. Thanks again, Dennis. George and I are looking forward to many, many years of visiting with the greatest classmates, TJ Class of 61!
Susan Marsh-Henry .... New Ulm, TX
Dennis hoping you
will be a famous novelist one of these days .. so talented with words .. I am
predicting you will walk out of the Insurance Office one bright day as a
One of your four novels for sure will get published so everyone watch for them as you will get one of them published and hopefully more soon .. just wait and see..
Class of 61 pulling for you all way..
Sandy Marsh-Boyd .... Nederland, TX
RETURN TO TOP OF PAGE
RETURN TO HOME PAGE
Page last updated Monday July 30, 2007