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EDITORIAL — Something old, Something new

Monte Brickey’s paintings of The Big Oaks Club, located across the Sabine in Vinton, and the Breeze Inn near Sea Rim, arrived in town just in time for a generation of Port Arthur people who may miss the old days.

Brickey, a ’65 Thomas Jefferson grad who spent a career in advertising, has picked up his brushes full time in retirement and filled his canvas with Port Arthur memories. The young man moved to Houston for a career, but no one could move Port Arthur out of Brickey.

That’s why he painted the iconic Calcasieu Parish nightspot, to remember nights when he and friends would pack their parents’ station wagons and drive across the state line, where the Boogie Kings, with swamp pop and blue-eyed soul, held court and where boys and girls took the dance floor on sultry summer nights.

Those Calcasieu clubs drew generations of Texan teens and featured the music of memorable musicians now enshrined in the Museum of the Gulf Coast’s Music Hall of Fame: Marcia Ball, “Jivin’ Gene” Bourgeois, Rod Bernard, Jerry LaCroix.

That’s why Brickey resurrected the Breeze Inn, too, a mainstay for burgers and beer and pool games as the 1960s passed into the 1970s. Now his own 60s have become his own 70s, and his thoughts have turned more than once from Houston to his childhood home on 13th Street and a Port Arthur that was a blessing to a boy.

Brickey has included those two gems among an exhibit of paintings he’s showing at the Museum of the Gulf Coast. He recently served as an art competition judge there, and director Tom Neal invited him to hang his own work.

“Saturday Night … Again,” about The Big Oaks, and “Open … Again,” will be offered as prints. Brickey’s been hearing from folks who love both pieces.

His work was hung the same week Motiva closed the deal on two downtown buildings that thrived in the ‘60s, and ‘70s — the Federal Building, built in 1912, and the Adams Building, built in 1926. Both had moved past their heydays then, sure, but they still were treasured places as shadows began to fall on what was once a prosperous downtown.

The Federal Building served as a post office but also housed the Coast Guard, immigration and other vital federal services. Back then, the Adams Building still housed leading professionals in town.

Now, as museum patrons pause before Brickey’s paintings and recollect their youthful years happily spent, architects and contractors, blocks away, will revive revered buildings from a past Port Arthur.

The old days were great, Brickey’s work on canvas reminds us.

The new days, downtown’s future, will be captured in brick and mortar at Austin and Fifth Street. Something old. Something new.

 

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