Bettina Zvanut posted another interesting article related to Commerce, Texas, My Way. I love seeing these snippets of the history of this small town, the people who made this town, the places that once were, the story that still speaks today. Thank a historian today. Give thanks to those who nurture local knowledge such as this, as it reminds us that we are rooted in place and time, that we did not come from a void, that there is history in places and people that we would not know without the conservation work of the historian, who keeps these stories and ours alive.
Let’s not forget the importance of history in our time.
Without further ado, here is the story of the Blizzard Café.
The Blizzard Cafe
About 102 years ago, a two-story building was erected in Commerce, Texas on the north side of the railroad tracks on Park Street near the station. It was a perfect location to serve travelers leaving or entering the trade for business or study at East Texas Normal College. According to Mrs. Maude Johnson, director of the Commerce Public Library, the building was used as a cafe, grocery store and rooming house by the owners. Then in 1935, a Mr. Blizzard bought the building. He purchased all of the previous owner’s grocery stock and decided to continue using the building as a store, hotel and restaurant.
When another hot Texas summer rolled around in 1975, Mr. Blizzard still owned the building while his ex-wife, Allie, ran the cafe. That summer, a Dallas artist named JB Erwin was traveling through Commerce when his car broke down. While having it repaired, he spotted the Blizzard Café. Mr. Erwin described it as a former railway company store that really interested him. He decided to sit in front and paint it.
The Public Library of Commerce would never have known about it, unless Scene Magazine had published an article featuring Mr. Erwin and his career. Several paintings including the “Blizzard Café” were featured in the magazine. Someone from the trade saw the story and suggested to Mrs. Johnson that the library buy the painting. The council voted to spend the money, but Mr Erwin wrote to Ms Johnson asking that the sale be delayed until his picture could be shown at the Panhandle Plains Museum in Canyon, Texas. The council agreed to delay the dedication of the history room with the painting until April 1976. In early April, the “Blizzard Café” hung in the newly renovated history room of the public library in the trade.
Joseph Hamrick is a semi-professional writer and sometimes thinker. He lives in Commerce and is a deacon at Commerce Community Church C3).
He can be contacted at [email protected]