time I head southeast from Lufkin,
a boyhood memory pulls me into a roadside park beside U.S. 287 a few
miles before entering Woodville.
Sprawling over a wooded hilltop on the west side of the highway, this
particular roadside park was a favorite stop of my father in the l940s
each time he headed the family Ford toward southeast Texas.
The park’s appeal was not its shade or picnic benches, but in a spring
bubbling from the hillside into a rock-lined pool. It was a place
we found ideal for wading or dipping up cold spring water for the
remainder of the trip. It mattered little that strangers and wild
animals had used the pool before us.
in the l930s, the roadside park holds a special place in East
Texas history. It is one of only sixteen Depression-era roadside
parks left in East Texas.
To understand the significance of these highway landmarks, you have
to imagine a time when automobiles lacked air conditioning, highway
travel was young and life moved at a slower pace.
To meet the needs of travelers for places where they could stop for
rest and eat their lunches, Texas began creating roadside parks in
the l930s. Built in typically shady areas, the parks offered drivers
and their passengers some respite on hot summer days. Where natural
shade was unavailable, the Texas Highway Department built shelters
Texas started building roadside parks in 1935 and by 1938 there were
674 such “wayside” parks scattered throughout Texas.
Today, only 41 of the 1930s-style parks still exist statewide.
Most of the old parks were built by the National Youth Administration
during the Great Depression. The NYA provided employment to young
people between 16 and 25. Lyndon B. Johnson, the nation’s 36th president,
was the first director of the Texas NYA from 1935 to 1937.
Using NYA labor, the Texas Highway Department launched the parks program
to meet the expected influx of visitors for the 1936
Today, most of the parks are only memories. Some closed when traffic
flowed to newer, faster highways. Others were shut down when they
deteriorated and became maintenance problems. Some became victims
of vandalism and vagrancy.
East Texas’ remaining
Depresssion-era parks supposedly stand in an area stretching from
to Hardin County. Here are their locations (if they are still there).
SH 19, 7.5 miles north of Sulphur
Springs, and FM. 67, 3.5 miles west of Weaver.
U.S. 67, two miles east of Mount
Vernon, and S.H. 37, 7.5 miles north of Winnsboro.
U.S. 67, 1.5 miles east of Simms.
S.H. 49, 1.5 miles northwest of Avinger.
U.S. 80, eight miles east of Marshall.
FM 2208, a half mile east of U.S. 59, south of Jefferson.
FM 959, four miles north of Tatum.
U.S. 59, six miles north of Timpson.
SH 184, 4.7 miles west of Hemphill,
and Spur 35, two miles south of its junction with SH 21.
County, SH 21, three miles west of San
U.S. 190, three miles southeast of Newton.
Tyler County, U.S. 287, five miles north of Woodville.
Hardin County, U.S. 69, 10.7 miles southeast of Kountze.
Things Historical December
15, 2008 Column.
Published with permission
A weekly column syndicated in 70 East Texas newspapers