I feel hopelessly behind in “Daily Grats.” I’ve got a lot written, but not a lot actually put out here. I’ll try to catch up as possible.
Mom and Dad were here at the lakehouse yesterday, because Dad had to be at a board meeting yesterday; so last night, we all went over the Moore’s Store in Ben Wheeler for dinner and live music.
Moore’s is a part of the little miracle going on in Ben Wheeler right now. Ben Wheeler the last small town you pass through on your way to our lakehouse. It’s about 7 miles back down the road.
And for all of the years we’ve been coming out here, it’s been the saddest part of the journey. Sad, because Ben Wheeler had all but gone out of business as a town. There were still half a dozen buildings lining both sides of the tiny Main Street. But everything had closed down years ago. Killed, from what I’ve heard, when Highway 64 was built just blocks away and simply bypassed the town. Quicky Marts opened up on the new highway, for those who actually wanted to stop, and overnight there was no more reason to stop in Ben Wheeler.
(btw: I bet you can find half a dozen towns on Highway 64 that *also* closed down once Interstate 20 was built. The big fish always eat the small ones…I’m not saying that’s good…)
A few years back, we started to hear about some crazy guy who had bought the entire town and was hoping to revitalize it. Sounded a little crazy to me, but what do I know?
When we saw Tom Geddie for lunch last year during Spring Break, he told us how the plans were coming along, and it sounded like things were really going to happen.
Apparently, last Fall, things really started hopping. Moore’s Store, an old general store, was refurbished into a really fine looking little music hall. I mean, it’s awesome looking. Fantastic mural, depicting a scene from Ben Wheeler’s past in the middle of *nice* stage…really great old wood floors and walls…it has the look of a classic old honky tonk…only a bit cleaner and family friendly. (I know, that sounds weird….it’s just how it seemed to me…)
Nice burgers, chicken sandwiches, etc…and Moon Pies and RC Cola.
Now, for more of “It’s really a small world, and I’m glad somebody paints it.”
The guy who did the mural in Moore’s Store is artist Brent Hale. He’s the son of Al Hale. Al’s an optician whose store has been at Preston Royal in Dallas for a gazillion years. (30? 40? 50?) This is, of course, right down the street from the church. I met Al coming out of Cantina Laredo with Gene Wisdom, the pastor of FUMC Garland about a year ago. Gene introduced us, and told me Al was one of his members.
Al’s an incredibly gregarious guy, and told me to come by when I needed new glasses. I did. Somehow, we got on the subject of the lakehouse, and so he told me his son was doing the murals in Ben Wheeler.
Sure enough, last night I checked the signature, and it was Brent Hale. Here’s a blog Brent kept of the how the Moore Store mural progressed.
And here’s a picture of the huge RC Cola/Moon Pie mural across the street.
And here’s a blog Brent kept about that. This last blog even has a nice news story, done by KLTV about Brent’s work on the murals.
So, suddenly it feels like a very small world.
Tom Geddie suggests we check it out…
Al Hale tells me about his son…
And there we were last night, taking it all in.
Man, it’s quite a scene with the band…last night it was the Danny Hollis Band. The house was packed to SRO, and folks were boot scooting to everything from Stevie Ray Vaughn to Elvis covers….little old couples in their seventies, dancing to SRV….only in Texas.
The guy who’s made all this happen is named Brooks Gremmels. Gremmels has poured millions of his own money into the town, renovating buildings, and bringing back people with a series of outdoor festivals and, finally, real businesses where there were broken down buildings.
Here’s a nice feature from KERA’s “Art and Seek” about what Gremmels is doing there. Gremmels made a fortune in the oil/gas business, but also seems to be one of those guys who’s had four or five lives before that…real estate…even motorcyle racer (He’s apparently in the motorcycle racing hall of fame…)
He was there last night, and stopped by our table several times. Even remembered Maria and Caroline’s names later in the evening, as he was busing tables and picking up empty beer cans. He seems to genuinely be enjoying this way that he’s spending his fortune. As one of the online features I read on him said last night “You can do a lot of great things if you don’t have to worry about making money.”
He’s doing a lot of great things in Ben Wheeler.
If you’re anywhere around the area, definitely come by and check it out. It’s fun to see. And Moore’s Store and Ben Wheeler are today’s “Daily Grat.”
(During this year, my goal is to find something new to be thankful for every single day, and to add that thanksgiving as a blog entry, under the title “My Daily Gratitude.” I started this kick back around Thanksgiving, and it’s already resulted in a favorite new song of mine. The goal of this ongoing spiritual exercise is to see if doing such a thing might inspire even more gratitude within me, and to foster general awareness of life on a deeper level.)