A Tasting of Some Other Place
August 20, 2019
Beaumont may be considered to be a smaller town, but we have some BIG things going on. When the kids are itching to get out of the car, make a stop here in Beaumont for these family-friendly roadside attractions that are sure to impress the family!
This Beaumont roadside attraction lives up to the famous mantra, "Everything is bigger in Texas." Move over Big Tex, and Big Al, meet Big Beau. A project of Gator Country, Big Beau can be found right off Interstate 10 between Houston and Beaumont on the westbound feeder road at Exit 838. He's located on the grounds of Gator Country (21159 FM 365), but can also be accessed via the feeder road.
Big Beau measures in at 135-feet long and roughly 30 feet tall. Constructed by Gator Country in Beaumont, the alligator took six months to complete. He's made of wood, metal siding & framing and rubber.
If you've ever visited downtown Beaumont, chances are you've seen (and taken your photo in front of) the 24-foot, Dalmatian-spotted fire hydrant at the Fire Museum of Texas. We're often asked, "Is it the World's Largest Fire Hydrant?" and "What's it doing in Beaumont?"
The giant hydrant was donated to the City of Beaumont by the Walt Disney Company on March 9, 1999 for the re-release of the animated movie "101 Dalmatians." Beaumont was chosen from over 300 museums across the country as the promotion site. Assembled at Disney Land in Anaheim, CA, the hydrant weighs a whopping 4,500 lbs and can blast 1,500 gallons of water a minute. The fire hydrant is constructed of fiber glass and re-enforced with 1,000 feet of steel. Another fun fact: the Dalmatian spots on the hydrant are copyrighted by Walt Disney.
At the time of construction, the Dalmatian-spotted hydrant was the world's largest fire hydrant. It held the title for two years when a larger hydrant was built in Elm Creek, Manitoba, Canada measuring 29-1/2 feet tall. That hydrant has since been surpassed by the 40 feet tall fire hydrant in Columbia, SC - which holds the official title of world's largest fire hydrant, for now.
So while Beaumont may no longer hold the title of World's Largest Fire Hydrant, ours does work. So, we've revamped the name to World's Largest [Working] Fire Hydrant.
Inspired by the famous MAD character, Alfred E. Neuman, Happy Half Wit stands about 25 feet in height and makes his home outside Ken's Mufflers (830 South 11th) in Beaumont, Texas.
Happy is one of four muffler men purchased by Ken Johnson for his muffler shops in Dallas, Texas. While two still remain in their original Dallas locations, one has gone missing and ours has made his home here in Beaumont for quite some time now. He is one of the less common variations of muffler men you'll find scattered around the United States and is holding a muffler. Considering the name, this is surprisingly rare when it comes to muffler men. Today, most aren't holding anything. Others can be found holding a variety of items including an ax, a hot dog or a baseball bat, among other things.
Standing 18 to 25 feet tall, Muffler Men is a term coined for these human-like giants that dot U.S. highways. They were originally designed to promote various businesses around the country and are usually made of fiberglass. Muffler Men made their first appearance at the Paul Bunyan Café on Route 66. Built in 1962, a statue of Paul Bunyan was constructed for the Flagstaff, Arizona café. Shortly after, muffler men began to pop up around the country and have been grabbing motorists' attention ever since.
In the world of muffler men, you'll find an assortment of sizes and personalities along the highways. These include original Muffler Men, Half Wits, Bunyans or Lumberjacks, Vikings, Pirates, Indians or Native Americans, Uniroyal Gals, Cowboys and miscellaneous personas such as Mr. Bendo, Big John, Pecos Bill and others.
Learn more about Happy Half Wit and where you can find other muffler men at RoadsideAmerica.com, a site dedicated to mapping America's muffler men.
The Lucas Gusher at Spindletop Gladys City Boomtown Museum may not be your usual roadside attraction, but it's definitely worth a stop. A working replica gusher, it sits right off Highway 69 in Beaumont and blows water hundreds of feet into the sky at the same rate oil blew in on that famous day in January of 1901.
At approximately 10:30 a.m. on January 10, 1901, while the Hamill brothers were attempting to free their drill from a crevice, the famous Lucas Gusher blew in. Oil sprayed over 100 feet above the derrick for nine days until the well was capped. Named after Capt. Anthony F. Lucas, an Australian born mining engineer and financier of the Spindletop drilling, the Lucas Gusher was the greatest oil well ever seen. Although Lucas estimated its flow at 6,000 barrels per day, it was actually flowing 80,000 to 100,000 barrels per day.
Practically overnight, thousands of sightseers, speculators, promoters, fortune seekers, and "boomers" poured into Beaumont as news of the discovery spread. By 1902, 285 active wells were operating on Spindletop Hill. Over 600 oil companies had been chartered. Although most vanished overnight, some such as the Texas Company (Texaco), J.M. Guffey Petroleum Company (Gulf), Magnolia Petroleum Company (Mobil) and Sun Oil Company went on to become giants of the industry.
Before visiting, we recommend checking the Gladys City website for a current schedule of the gusher re-enactment and other special activities.