This is an image of a fairly typical beer joint in Robstown, Texas in 1939, taken by the famous American photographer, Russell Lee.
Robstown is located west of Corpus Christi in Nueces County; the community lies in the Winter Garden Region of the Texas Coastal Bend and was, still is, primarily a center for agriculture in South Texas. It lies along the old Texas-Mexican Railway from Corpus to Laredo and at the north entrance of the Robert Driscoll Ranch, a small ranch of nearly 11,ooo acres. Further south of the Driscoll lie the much larger Kennedy and King Ranches, the King, of course, at one time had 830,000 acres. Robert Driscoll built a general store along the railroad in 1905 and that led to the community being named, Rob's-town. It was incorporated in 1912.
Cotton yields in this part of the Winter Garden are often spectacular, as is vegetable production and, of course, cattle. At the turn of the century all of this amazing bounty was sent to Laredo and for export to Mexico. Late in the summer this part of Texas can often look like it snowed from post harvest cotton blowing in the southeast wind. All the athletic programs at the Robstown High School, by the way, are called the 'Cotton Pickers.'
Like many communities in South Texas Robstown is predominantly Mexican-American (93% in 2022) and very Spanish speaking. Men and women labor hard in the boiling sun to work the land and tend to vast cattle herds. Beer is a staple of Mexican heritage in South Texas and can often keep a man's brains from feeling like they were boiled in a pan at the end of a long day. Beer is sometimes referred to as cerveza de pan liquido and many traditional Tex-Mex foods found in this area use beer as a cooking base. The only mole recipe I know of uses beer and I use beer in my chicken and sausage gumbo. Liquid bread. I believe, is actually an old Czech, or Bohemian term.
Conditioned air did not exist in Texas until the early 1950's; relief from the heat was by finding sombra, fans, and ice cold beer.
Across the Nueces River from Robstown, along Nueces Bay, natural gas was found, rather spectacularly, in shallow, highly overpressured Miocene wells in the White and East White Point area, seen in the upper right hand area of this Railroad Commission GIS map, above. A Michael Benedum company made this discovery and some of the wells in East White Point could be seen, and heard, blowing out of control across the Bay in Corpus Christi, 11 miles away.
Along regional strike with East White Point field, just four miles to the southwest, W.L. Pearson drilled a well on the Dunn farm in 1923 that also found gas in such enormous volumes little could be done with the stuff. Several additional wells are drilled nearby to the Pearson well over the years, mostly gas, but with oil shows and this area seemed to suggest the existence of a large, NE to SW trending anticline in Miocene Frio sands, similar to East White Point.
Then in 1930 Saxet Gas Company drilled the Dunn 6 to a lower Miocene Frio sand at 4,300 feet and found 200 BOPD of oil. The field was named Saxet. Saxet Oil Company, Saxet Gas Company and a few others drilled over 800 wells in Saxet Field over the years; the structure was found to contain almost 9,000 productive acres and had 35 different stacked pays in it.
And much like East White Point, Refugio, McFaddin, Tom O'Connor and Greta Fields along regional strike, Saxet had its share of monster blowouts.
I have notes in my Myron Kinley files about a well in Saxet Field he was on in the late 1930s that he used explosives on to quell an enormous fire; the blast shook windows in downtown Corpus just four miles away.
Tex Thornton, from Amarillo, came down to Corpus in 1932 to work on a fire in Saxet Field, shot the well twice with no results and then ran out of nitroglycerine. He waited three days for his wife in Amarillo to drive 400 pounds of the stuff down bumpy, often unpaved roads, for his final successful shot.
Tex and Sarah Thornton, 1938
Saxet Oil Field is now mostly abandoned save for a few hanger oners and several deep gas wells in the lower Frio to Upper Vicksburg. Saxet produced approximately 43 MM BO and over 235 BCF of natural gas.
Jax beer was brewed in New Orleans and was a popular beer in the Texas and Louisiana oilfield boom days. Jax might have been even more popular than the National Beer of Texas, Lone Star. Lone Star was actually brewed in San Marcos before the Alamo Brewing Company moved to San Antonio in the mid 1890's.
Robstown in a now a major service hub for all of the South Texas oilfield, including Saxet a few miles to the east, Stanton, Seeligson and what is left of other very prolific Frio and Vicksburg Fields along the Coastal Bend and down into the Valley. Cudd, I believe, still has a pressure control division in Robstown that is frequently tending to over charged Frio and Vicksburg issues all along the Texas Gulf Coast.
Robstown is the front door to south, South Texas, from there to the River is no country for old men and it's best to know how to speak the language and honor Mexican traditions that are much, much older than Texas itself.