MINEOLA — The unassuming eye could easily ignore the remnants of the past, tucked away in paintings in corners of East Texas buildings.
But these paintings in Kilgore, Longview, Mineola and Rusk post offices represent Depression-era artwork commissioned by one of the federal government’s largest New Deal agencies, the Works Progress Administration.
By assisting professional artists in finding work during the Great Depression, the agency indirectly left behind a trail of history and culture found not in European museums, but in the familiar surroundings of their communities.
“They renewed communities at a time when communities were falling apart,” said Rachel Sailor, an art historian at The University of Texas at Tyler. “I feel like those murals can enact the same kind of community that they were intended to do in the 1930s.” Continue reading Murals serve as symbols of community identity
GRAND SALINE – Dust from Tony Phillips’ sweet potato fields fills the leather creases across the toe of his workboots. Along the soles, salt from his second job cakes the rubber bottoms.
During harvest season, he easily puts in 20 hours a day – a full night at the Morton Salt Mine and a full day in his field.
Like the dwindling number of sweet potato farmers in East Texas, he kept a second job to have a backup to the exceedingly risky farming industry.
“I’ve got to be a farmer, an accountant, a salesman and a weatherman,” Phillips said, standing outside a warehouse stacked floor to ceiling with hundreds of crates of his sweet potatoes. Continue reading Farming for gold
With his white beard and hefty size, Tom Sorrels often is mistaken for Santa Claus.
This summer, he was leaving a Mexican restaurant when a little girl told him he looked like Santa.
The remark left an impression, and that led to him dressing the part and helping the big guy from the North Pole during the holiday season.
Sorrels is among dozens of East Texas men who sport a Santa look not only around Christmastime but year-round or a big part of the year. Their looks garner stares and frequent inquiries from innocent children.
Sorrels said playing Santa now has become his “civic duty.”
He had previous Santa experience – a Santa internship from in the 1970s at Lamar University when he worked for a Rent-A- Santa – but had not given much thought to playing Santa since.
All that changed this summer after one child’s remark.