, Port Arthur, Texas

January 19, 2008

Janis Joplin’s childhood home “marked” for fans

By Darragh Doiron

The knocks on the door are fine. Stopping on the road for photos are fine, but please don’t ask Alicia Sanchez to come inside. The house at 4330 32nd St. is hers now, not Janis Joplin’s.

Just so fans from all over the world aren’t confused about exactly which house belonged to their beloved singer, the sightseers have a sign now. It’s a literal sign in the form of a Texas State Historical Marker, which the Port Arthur Historical Society helped dedicate Saturday.

Before marker dedication guests gathered in the street for the unveiling at the property, once numbered as 3130 Lombardy, they escaped the day’s wet chill with a program at Trinity Baptist Church. Joplin, the Port Arthur-born rocker who achieved international fame, lived on Procter Street until her family moved to the second site in Griffing Park.

Monteel Copple, a childhood friend of Joplin’s, spoke at the ceremony recalling riding bikes on the neighborhood’s winding roads and hearing her pal laugh as they tried to keep their skirts in place while hanging upside down on the school’s monkey bars.

“I can remember her giggle,” Copple told the rapt crowd.

The marker was dedicated on Jan. 19, Joplin’s birthday. She was born at St. Mary Hospital in 1943 and died on Oct. 4,1970 from an accidental overdose of heroin and alcohol.

“I also remember the morning I woke up in October and heard the news from California,” Copple said.

Joplin was a free spirit and caused controversy in her conservative town. Copple said she didn’t remember the negative in her friend. She has made many a friend through her memory over the years, she said. On the London underground she spoke to a man with a white dog named “Pearl,” after a stage name of sorts of his “friend” Janis. He considered her a friend, as so many did, simply through the soul she beared in her music.

Yvonne Sutherlin, who compiled research for the marker project, spoke of how a teenage Joplin baby-sat her children.

Pete Tauscher of Kingwood brought several of his Joplin albums to the ceremony and thumbed through them during the program.

Sam Monroe, president of the Port Arthur Historical Society, addressed the guests played a recording of Joplin singing “Me and Bobby McGee.” Many closed their eyes and swayed to the music.

Then came “Mercedes Benz.” Attendees, including Holly Anderson of Texas City, started to sing along in the church. She and her husband, Jerry, traveled with other couples to attend Saturday evening’s Music Hall of Fame concert at the Carl A. Parker Multipurpose Center. Edgar Winter and The Clique were inducted into the Museum of the Gulf Coast’s hall of fame, which features several personal affects that belonged to Joplin.

The Andersons spoke of the freedom, story telling and soul that make up Joplin’s music.

Across the street in the Sanchez yard, guests snapped photos at the marker was unveiled.

“Janis Joplin lives! Wooo,” belted out Linda Lou Jones of Bleakwood.

Draped in a velvet cape, she wore a colorful scarf and peace sign earrings.

“She does everything Janis,” Les Horner, who called himself her significant other, said.

Sanchez, through Spanish interpreters, said she didn’t realized she’d moved into a famous home, but people from all over started knocking on her door. When Historical Society representatives contacted her, she told them she was proud to have the marker in her yard, which is also adorned with a large pottery burro.

Alma Cantu lived in the house next door for years. She said Dorothy Joplin invited her over to see her daughter’s souvenirs. Mrs. Joplin said her daughter loved to paint in the garage. When it was cold, she’d turn on the dryer for heat.

Marker sponsors include the Port Arthur Historical Society, Jeff Hayes, Sam Monroe, Yvonne Sutherlin, Thomas Jefferson Class of 1960 and Carlita Zummo.

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