Today we are off to Mineral Wells. What a surprise this sleepy little town turned out to be. When I first decided to go today, I really planned on just passing through. What I found, kept me there for most of the day, and wanting to go back for more.
Mineral Wells Hot Springs
At one time, Mineral Wells was the premier spa resort of the southern US. Remember Hot Springs, well our own “Hot Springs” was just down the road and there are several reminders of a busier time. Around the turn of the century and all the way to the 1950’s it was the place to be. Taxies (horses and buggies, later cars) would pick up travelers at the train depot and deposit them at the hotels. The Baker and Crazy Water were some of the more popular destinations. You can still see them, all though, not as grand as the once were. Standing at the foot of the steps can transport you back in time.
The Baker Hotel
Abandoned some years ago, the Baker has its share of legends and ghost stories. Just ask son-in-law Joey who grew up in Mineral Wells. He told me the story of Mr. Baker and his mistress and how, a few years ago, they discovered a hidden passage leading from his room to her room. And a secret whiskey cabinet that held his own personal collection.
Then, there is the ghost story legend has it that there was a ring left in her room, and for those brave enough to try to pick it up, it will get hot in your hand and doors will start slamming. Mr. Baker’s cigar smoke can be smelled floating in the room. Hold the ring, and you will get an eerie feeling of something bad about to happen. Try to leave the room and the ring gets hotter and the feelings stronger. As far as he knows it’s still there. I guess so, I know that I am not going to be the one to try and leave with it! There are other ghost stories as well, one of a little girl named “Dizzy”, and they must be true, a film crew from Canada even came down once to try and film them.
Ever wonder how the term “crazy water” came to be? The hotel was built on the site of the third well dug in 1881. Legend says that a woman with mental problems, nick-named “Crazy Lady” by the kids in town, drank the water for a while. She was cured and the name “Crazy Water” stuck.
Mineral Wells held a few surprises for me too. I didn’t expect to find the Bat Sanctuary. It wasn’t open when I went by, but I intend to go back and learn more about this place that is a sanctuary to these little creatures – God’s own “bug zappers” who eat millions of insects every night. One of my favorite things to do is to sit in my swing and watch them come swooping into the street light catching their dinner.
Next time the kids are giving you a hard time about helping with the laundry, I have just the place for you: The Laumdronat. Nope, I didn’t misspell it – that is really what the sign says. This is a real working laundry mat, and a whole lot more. Take the kids here and show them how the wash was done in the good old days before automatic washers and dryers, even the days before electricity when you had to hand crank & ring your clothes by hand or even back to the days of the washboards & buckets. There is a whole collection of antique washers and some of them are pretty interesting. There are even old fashioned pinball machines and a license plate collection to keep dad busy. A strange sounding stop, but definitely worth the trip!
Sometimes a wrong turn can lead to the most unusual things. For instance, we found a bright colorful gazebo and Postons Square. The old Postons Dry Goods store was there from 1904 to 1986, but now it is home to the Palo Pinto Courthouse Annex. The beautiful tree lined square is compliments of the citizens who donated the trees. Across the street are the gazebo and a picnic area.
Famous Mineral Water Company
I found Postons Square while I was looking for the Famous Mineral Water Company. Stop by here and get the “Crazy Water” that made Mineral Wells famous and one of the top spa resorts in the southern United States. There is an old fashioned soda fountain where you can hop up to the bar and order ice cream or a big ice cold glass of water. Or grab a bottle and go sit outside in the shady garden or in the game pavilion where there are some stories of pretty rowdy games of dominoes over the years.
Wolters Industrial Park
On the way out of town, going east on Hwy 180, I took a detour through the Wolters Industrial Park. Fort Wolters it used to be home to one of the largest military bases in the nation. During the Vietnam war 98% of the helicopter pilots trained here. It is long gone now, but you can still see signs of the base. Old military buildings are now home to warehouses, some of the larger base housing has been turned into private family homes and old barracks stand abandoned, doors flapping in the breeze if you want to get out and take a look at where the brave soldiers who served during Vietnam spent some of their time.
There are signs pointing to the National Vietnam War Museum on the highway that is planned to be built. No signs of it yet, but it is long overdue. Be sure and visit the site for information on how you can help this long overdue museum become reality.
At the edge of town, going east on Hwy 180, I discovered a hidden treasure: Clark Gardens. Wow!! Nothing on this mesquite lined drive prepares you for the beauty that lies at the end. Carved out of the base of the Palo Pinto Mountains is a beautiful oasis. Meandering paths, quite water features, abundant birds and wildlife lend themselves to a peaceful stop on a hot afternoon. The best surprise is the G gauge railroad. You’ve got to see this to believe it! Clark Gardens started as a private garden for Max and Billie Clark and their dream grew into a beautiful botanical park.
Donald Burns Memorial Rose Garden
Well, once again, the day has slipped away from me and it’s time to turn around and head for home. Heading back down Hwy 180 heading west into the setting sun, south on Hwy 281 I discovered another hidden treasure: the Donald Burns Memorial Rose Garden. I almost missed this and what a loss it would have been. On my way out of town I saw the sign going into Woodland Memorial Park so I turned in.
Go all the way to the back left hand corner of the cemetery and you will find beauty sunken into a frame of natural rock. You will also learn that Donald Burns is a war hero, buried with full military honors in Arlington National Cemetery. The gardens are his local memorial. You will learn the strength of a man held in the ?Hanoi Hilton? during the Vietnam War and how his strength saved others.
I left Woodland Memorial Park, turned right on Hwy 281 and came down out of the Palo Pinto Mountains (if this isn’t a designated scenic route, it should be!) and took a left on Hwy 4. The surprise here for me, was that Hwy 4 was the first designated Scenic Route in the state. Drive down it a while and you will know why.