No matter whether one turns left or right … and we’ll leave ‘er right there

Well, you know how it is once you get to surfing –‘Let’s go surfin’ now, everybody’s learning how, c’mon and safari with me’ — on the old Weborooskie. Pretty soon you’ve gone from one side of the street to clear across the Chihuahuan Desert on out and over Pacific Beach.

It all started with a drive to work one morning last week. Here I am on Willow at North streets in downtown Beaumont. Here the road is one way, and three lanes from Interstate 10 all the way through downtown to old U.S. Highway 90 a.k.a. College Street where it would run into Waterfront Park on the Neches River did its route not stop at Main Street. There it is surrounded by the somewhat modernity of the City Hall and the BPD headquarters catty cornered across the street. Then there is the much more elderly modernity of the Beaumont Public Library.

Sometime in the past few years they closed Main Street between the privately-owned, LaSalle Corrections-run Jefferson County Downtown Jail and the Jefferson County Courthouse. Also that little street there included the old entrance to the Port of Beaumont.

Excuse me, but I went a way too far. I waited for the car in front of me to turn left on the red light as a traffic light stopped the cars on Willow. Beaumont doesn’t have what I would call an overabundance of one-way streets. That would certainly be the case as compared to Waco. That city where I worked for seven years and lived for six and a half years must have been laid out by an engineer who had a strong taste for something strong. That is even though the always battling pamphleteer William Cowper Brann, or Brann the Iconoclast, who at the time was perpetually at war with Baylor University and its Baptist supporters. This at the late 19th century saw Brann as one of the most popular writers in America. Brann, who used to call Waco “Jerusalem on the Brazos,” was involved in a 1898 shootout on the streets of Waco near the present day city hall. Brann died from his gunshot wounds, but not before pulling a gun and shooting his assailant, a rabid Baylor supporter named Tom Davis.

Speaking of city streets, Beaumont still has its one-ways: Laurel and Liberty which run from downtown to form what is now Phelan Boulevard. The boulevard runs past the goats and Miller’s Discount Liquor on its way to the West End. Pearl and Orleans also run in opposite directions downtown. There are others going one way.

Am I ever going to get to my tale about stopping at North on Willow? Why yes, since you asked. The car in front of me was signaling left as it stopped there at the one-way North. The traffic signal was a plain red light for us folks headed only one way, which was south. No red with an arrow pointing left. So why didn’t the car in front of me turning left? Well, because it was a case of ignorance of the law. And you know what they say about that. So, you ignorant son of a Ditch Witch, why didn’t you turn?

“Oh I didn’t know you could turn left on a red light.”

To be honest, you can’t turn left on every red light but:

 “A left turn on red is allowed when the street you are on is one-way, and the street you are turning onto is also one-way (to the left, of course).  Makes sense if you think about it– it’s just a mirror image of a right-on-red,” this says Brian Purcell, a.k.a. ‘The Texas Highway Man,’ who has an excellent blog about  the ins and outs of Texas highways.

I am not sure if this is still a living blog, but it has a lot of great information.

Something else I found that may not be as interesting when trying to find Texas highway 411. But if you, for some perverse reason, have an interest in Texas highways and byways, then go here and view this collection of Texas highway maps dating back to the 1940s. It is quite amazing to see the growth that has occurred in some areas. For instance, the booming white-flight city of Lumberton to only eight or so miles away to the north of Beaumont on U.S. 69, 96 and 287.

In the early days you would see hardly any municipalities on the map between Beaumont and Silsbee. Eventually, you would see “Loeb,” or which I knew as “Chance-Loeb,” in the 1960s when we would drive that road between Beaumont and the Pineywoods where I grew up.

Today, the U.S. Census count puts Lumberton as the largest city in Hardin County at 11,943. Silsbee, once a thriving mill town and perpetually Hardin County’s largest town, now stands at a population of 6,611. Kountze, where I once lived (actually my mail was received there–I lived in an unincorporated community called Beaumont Colony between Lumberton and Kountze), is the county seat and has a population of 2,123.

Interesting, yes? No? Well, it was to me although it might be hard to follow. What this essay should teach one and all is that it is difficult to discern where a road might take you and whether one should turn right or left on red.

I think that is what it should teach you, anyhow. But what do I know, right?



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