Plenty to see and do at the Museum of the Gulf Coast

Published 4:55 pm Thursday, August 3, 2017

PORT NECHES — Pleasure Island is referred to as a diamond in the rough.

Maybe the Museum of the Gulf Coast could also be known by that moniker, enjoying a national and even an international reputation.

Tom Neal, director of the MGC, gave an update to the Port Arthur Sertoma Club on Thursday afternoon at the Pompano Club in Port Neches.

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Since becoming director last October, Neal said he never realized how many visitors the museum gets from other states and from other countries, in spite of previously working closely with the MGC as vice president of Lamar State College-Port Arthur.

“I didn’t know over the years we have visitors from 20 foreign countries and from 36 to 44 different states walk through the doors of the museum,” he said. “One couple in their 40s came in from Houston. They said they found out about the museum on the Internet from their home in Norway.”

Janis Joplin is a tremendous drawing card, Neal said, but as one visitor told him he didn’t know there were so many other exhibits in the museum.

“Some guys from England said they’ve never seen a museum like ours. There’s so much more than they’ve ever imagined,” Neal said.

Ironically, Neal’s father worked in the same building for 37 years when it was a bank.

On a side note, Neal said downtown Port Arthur is a safe place to visit.

While at LSCPA, Neal was required to file a federal report every year for crime on the campus. They consistently sent in zeros because there was no crime to report year after year.

MGC is constantly clearing space to add new notable people exhibits.

Jamaal Charles, Denver Broncos running back and Port Arthur native, and Wade Phillips, former head coach of the Dallas Cowboys and a former Southeast Texas resident, had book signing events at the museum. The crowds were huge and the books quickly ran out.

Another new exhibit is about Don Mehan, a classmate of the Big Bopper who went to New York City. He wanted to become a famous recording artist but became a successful recording tech for Columbia Records instead. Neal said he brought pop music to Columbia Records.

Some of his better well-known recordings are “The Sound of Silence” by Simon and Garfunkel and recordings of Bob Dylan and Barbra Streisand.

Elandon Roberts, Port Arthur native, New England Patriots rookie and Super Bowl champ who previously played ball at the University of Houston, has an exhibit at the MGC.

Neal said he was contacted by a Houston Chronicle reporter at the last Super Bowl in Houston. The reporter said he interviewed Roberts and all he wanted to talk about was his exhibit being placed in the museum. In fact, the reporter told Neal three different times here was Roberts at the Super Bowl — the Super Bowl, — and all Roberts said was he always hoped he could do something to be in the Museum of the Gulf Coast.

Neal said part of the attraction of the museum is students touring the facility and being inspired by those who were successful in life so they, too, could develop those skills.

There are four special exhibits at the MGC including Betting, Booze and Brothels that has been very popular. The museum also has $55,000 available in grants from local supporters to update the technology for more interactive displays in the music, sports and notable people wings.

Neal concluded by encouraging the public to become a member of the museum.