Monday, 10 September 2012
The Port of Beaumont is a deep-water port located in Beaumont, Texas near the mouth of the Neches River.
Its history as a deepwater port dates to 1908, however, when a canal nine feet deep was dug in the Neches River from Beaumont to the Port Arthur ship channel. In 1916, the channel was deepened to 25 feet and a turning basin scooped out in the bend of the river. Local businessmen, meanwhile, had developed dock facilities on the waterfront. The port channel was deepened to 30 feet in 1922, increasing Beaumont's importance as a shipping centre.
Lowry refers to the port in his novel Ultramarine when one of the crew of Oedipus Tyrannus recalls visiting the port; " ' Beaumont, yes. We tied up to the trees in the park there, why, it's only a spindle-head, that place, that's all it is, just a spindle-head. It was a bit of an event too, a ship coming there. And all the girls from the park came and dabbled their feet in the water. We had 'em up on the ship afterwards for a dance. We put an officer ashore there with rheumatism.' " (Pg. 176).
There is no record of Lowry visiting the port on his 1929 trip to the USA. We must assume that Lowry recorded a conversation of a crew member of Pyrrhus.
Lowry's reference to a "spindle-head' probably has to do with Beaumont's oil business. A spindle top is a headstock or tailstock for a spindle or boring bar. Oil was discovered at nearby Spindletop on January 10, 1901. Spindletop became the first major oil field and one of the largest in American history. With the discovery of oil at Spindletop, Beaumont's population grew from 9,000 in January 1901 to 30,000 in March 1901.
The park mentioned by Lowry is probably Riverfront Park.