As a child in the early 1960s there were three very important landmarks I would watch for as my family traveled through Wharton from our home in Houston. First on the list was the Tee Pee Motel, then the pistol packing cowboy shrimp in front of Peterson's Restaurant, followed by an old corrugated metal building painted a brilliant blue and polka-dotted with giant white eggs. The Tee Pees are still accommodating weekend visitors, but the shrimp supposedly resides elsewhere, and the egg building is now decorated with a pecan pie recipe. As a resident of Wharton since 1973 I have been observing the changes Wharton County is going through and have photographed this area since 2004. Some land that was formerly owned and worked by generations of farmers is now sitting under franchise businesses, and weather and time have done their work on structures and people. Undoubtedly Wharton County is still thriving, but as I continue photographing this area and its people I wonder what it will look and feel like 10 years or 50 years from now. Will Small Town America survive, or will small towns and this way of life become a thing of the past?
© Sharon Joines Photographs