Stephen F. Austin State University



by Judith Linsley

Carroll Ward, president of Beaumont's Texas Ice Company, loved all sports and had himself been a football star at Texas A&M in the early 1900s. In 1939, he gave Beaumont an ice skating rink on the corner of Neches and Franklin streets, next to the Texas Ice Company's manufacturing plant.

Ward brought in design experts to make it a first-class facility. The finished rink measured 70 by 125 feet, with a floor design of huge red and white checkerboard squares and a Texas Ice Palace logo in the center. The squares were actually "painted" on the ice with colored water, which quickly froze and were covered with more layers of ice.

On one side of the rink were galleries for observers, and at one end was a glassed-in observation platform. A concession stand served both hot and cold drinks. The rink opened with 300 pairs of rental skates. Patrons skated for a quarter during the day and for 40 cents at night. Tuesday mornings were for ladies only, and no spectators were allowed into the rink.

Ward imported professional skaters to manage the rink and give exhibitions and lessons. Opening night featured comic skating, barrel jumping, racing, and fancy skating, as well as open skating, where many Beaumonters got on the ice for the first time.

Merita Mills, feature writer for the Beaumont Journal, covered the opening. She estimated the crowd to be at 2,000, with only a few hundred actually skating. She wrote that "A good nine-tenths" were skating for the first time. "Belly busters were taken by the hundred. A certain other part of the anatomy came in for considerable punishment, too."

A surprising number of skaters had experience, however; Ward had invited some from Houston to the premiere. Mills noted one "particularly handsome" couple who "swung, dipped, cut, curved." Other experienced skaters were transplanted from colder climates, and some were rusty, but still retained the basic skills. Several female skaters wore regulation skating wool or velvet outfits with flared or pleated skirts and matching jackets.

Then, in February of 1940, Carroll Ward introduced ice hockey to Beaumont. The Texas Ice Palace team was known as the Rangers and wore red and white uniforms.

Ward imported most of his players, some from wintery regions like Canada and Massachusetts. Ralph Ramos, later known as a television and newspaper reporter, was from Ohio. One or two had played hockey in Houston. The only native Beaumonter was goalie Ray Vick; he had never played hockey before but had really gotten into the game and could "bat away flying pucks."

The Rangers' first game was against Houston's Lone Star Creamery team. Most of their games thereafter were played against teams from "Houston's experienced industrial league."

The Texas Ice Palace and the hockey team remained popular attractions in Beaumont for several years. Carroll Ward brought in guest performers and staged ice reviews using local talent. But about 1947 or so, the ice rink ended its final season. After that, Beaumonters who wanted to skate had to do it on wheels.

Undated, unidentified newspaper articles from Beaumont Enterprise and Beaumont Journal for 1939 and 1940, in McFaddin-Ward House Museum Archives, Beaumont, Texas.

The Texas Ice Company sponsored the Texas Rangers ice hockey team in Beaumont.