Bettina Zvanut sent another interesting article related to Commerce, Texas, my way. I enjoy seeing these snippets into the history of this small town, the people who made this town, the places that used to be, the history that still speaks today. Thank a historian today. Thank those who keep local knowledge such as this going, because it reminds us we are grounded in place and time, that we didn’t come to be from a vacuum, that there is history to places and people that we wouldn’t know without the preservative work of the historian, who keeps these stories, and ours, going.

May we not forget the importance of history in our time.

Without further ado, here is the story of the Blizzard Café.

The Blizzard Café

About 102 years ago, a two story building was constructed in Commerce, Texas on the north side of the railroad tracks on Park Street near the train station. It was a perfect place to serve the travelers leaving or entering Commerce for business or education at East Texas Normal College. According to Mrs. Maude Johnson, Director of the Commerce Public Library, the building was used as a café, grocery store, and rooming house by the owners. Then in 1935, a Mr. Blizzard bought the building. He purchased all of the grocery stock from the previous owner 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 former wife, Allie, ran the café. That summer, a Dallas artist named J.B. Erwin was traveling through Commerce when his car broke down. While he was having it repaired, he spotted the Blizzard Café. Mr. Erwin described it as an old railroad company store which really interested him. He decided to sit out in front and paint it.

The Commerce Public Library would never have known about it, except Scene Magazine printed an article featuring Mr. Erwin and his career. Several paintings including the “Blizzard Café” were featured in the magazine. Someone in Commerce saw the story and suggested to Mrs. Johnson that the Library should purchase the painting. The Board voted to spend the money, however Mr. Erwin wrote Mrs. Johnson to request that the sale be delayed until his picture could be shown at the Panhandle Plains Museum in Canyon, Texas. The Board agreed to delay the dedication of the History Room with the painting until April 1976. By early April, the “Blizzard Café” hung in the newly renovated History Room at the Commerce Public Library.

Joseph Hamrick is a semi-professional writer and sometimes thinker. He lives in Commerce and serves as a deacon at Commerce Community Church C3).

He can be reached atjhamrick777@gmail.com

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