Sunset at Prien Lake Park

Sunset at Prien Lake Park

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Sulphur, La.

Just west of Lake Charles you’ll find Sulphur, Louisiana. I’ve been to Sulphur many times, but the boys and I managed to find a few places we hadn’t yet explored. The Sulphur website claims this town is the 13th largest city in Louisiana with a population around 22,000. The thing is, there’s no “town” – no downtown, uptown, or town square – only three consecutive exits off I-10, with every business and chain imaginable, surrounded by a community. When I’m going to Sulphur and need directions, I ask “Do I take the first, second, or third exit?” And that’s pretty much all I need to know.

Sulphur became a town around the early 1900s and thrived on the nearby sulphur mines. The business became lucrative when German immigrant Herman Frasch invented a new method of mining the mineral. He pumped steam into the ground, liquefying the sulphur, then pumped the liquid to the surface. I wonder what the area smelled like then. I don’t know what year the sulphur mines closed.

We had lunch at Cajun Charlie’s. They’ve got a nice buffet. Good food. This was one of the first restaurants Bob took us to, even before we officially moved to Lake Charles three years ago, to give us a “taste” of our new home. I remember finding it all quite novel and fascinating, trying crawfish, fried alligator, gumbo, and etoufee for the first time, listening to Cajun music, seeing the antique pirogue (pee-row, a Cajun canoe) hanging from the ceiling, and browsing the gift shop. Mmmm, they have the best bread pudding. But is there something symbolic about a restaurant that sits right next to a graveyard?

There’s a little shop on Maplewood I’ve passed dozens of times and have always been curious about. Eighty One is an antique/gift/art shop that even the boys enjoyed browsing through. If you like fleur de lis, this is your place. They’ve got lots of them. Even now having been there, I’m still curious. I want to know why it’s called Eighty One. The lady working there said she didn’t know, that the owner will only say it’s his IQ. They’re moving soon to Ryan St. in Lake Charles.

We went to Henning Cultural Center, an art gallery with regularly changing exhibits. The boys enjoyed the current show, called “Chaos Theory.” It’s all comic strip and cartoon characters, super heroes, and video games.

Next door is the Brimstone Museum, dedicated to the history of Sulphur. We were told the exhibit is “in progress.” Currently, there are a few photos of the sulphur mine, early photos of the town, and a small corner of dental and medical equipment.

Thank goodness dentistry has made great strides over the past century.

Here’s a hunk of sulphur in a display case.

A real gem in Sulphur is Frasch Park. This complex is well-known for its ball fields. Many big-time little league championships are played at this facility. There’s a public golf course. I might play there someday. In the fall. When it’s cooler. But mostly we like the park for SPAR (Sulphur Parks Aquatics and Recreation), aka a waterpark.

Just down the road from SPAR is Winkydoo’s Malt Shop, a delightful ice cream parlor. We stopped on our way home. Awesome chocolate malts.


Anonymous said...

Great piece about Sulphur. I have not been to Eighty One, but I am familiar with the other places you described. The waterpark is the favorite of my grandson Josh when he comes to visit. Thanks for spotlighting our little town.


Autumn said...

Hi there!!!
I saw a picture of MY favorite store in the whole world-Eighty One!!!!
My son and I both work there and WE are still curious -it is chock full of fun-tiques!!
Please come see us again-(I only work on Mondays) I'd love to meet you!!!And do come see us in Lake Charles , next to Tuesday Morning!
I really enjoyed your blog!!!

jess said...

Eighty-One is my VERY favorite place in Sulphur. Love it and that cutie-pie owner. Yeah... he loves that IQ story. Don't you believe it!