On May 11th, it was announced in Houston, TX that the 52-year-old Confederate House restaurant would change its name to the "State Grille." The half-century tradition of offering Southern hospitality with a Southern/Confederate flair is to be wiped out and replaced with a generic name, generic menu and generic atmosphere. Why is this? Who would assist in erasing one more piece of Southern tradition and history?
The Confederate House has a tradition of being a dining facility for the wealthy oilmen of the Houston area. The big-dollar elites in Houston are regulars. Over the years, Southern oilmen and wealthy businessmen enjoyed dining in a place that promoted and honored their Southern heritage. However, as the current owners (not the original owners) have said, "it's part of our history, part of our lives, but it's time to move on to a new era."
That's the opinion of the "native Houstonians" who now own this landmark restaurant. They are businessmen responding to a clientele that is new, different than the traditional Southerners who frequented their establishment in the past. Their new clientele is still well to do, but they were not raised with a respect for their Southern history and heritage, or they are not Southern at all, but outsiders come here to claim the spoils of opportunity in Houston.
The new owners claim they've outgrown the Confederate House, and that they, and their clientele are something more than the 52-year-old establishment represents. Maybe they and their clientele are actually something less. They are less respective of our history and heritage than the aging, declining number of traditional customers that made the Confederate House the place it was. While admitting business has been great, the new owners claim that friends told them they needed to change the name for the sake of appeasing those who "might be offended." That in itself is offensive to Southerners.
Not only the name, but also the menu is to be changed, holding over a few favorites for the dwindling number of aged customers that still like traditional Southern cuisine. More than likely, once they die off, those items will be dropped from the menu. The trashing of this Houston institution is symptomatic of the problems in the South right now. It was asked at the beginning of this article who was at fault for the demise of the Confederate House. It is not so much the owners as it is all Southerners. These businessmen are responding to the market, but Southerners have allowed the market in our land to be shaped by the media and other outsiders.
It is our fault, as a people, that outsiders have come in and reconstructed our schools to such an extent that if our children are even taught history, it is a politically correct version of history from a Northern point of view. It is our fault that we have not done enough to promote celebrating Southern heritage, or continued to honor our heroes or the days set aside for remembering our Southern/Confederate veterans.
The businessmen who now own the Confederate House are simply acting out of their limited worldview. These men don't want to hurt anyone; they just want to keep their business going. They, and the wealthy who dine at their business that "might be offended" by Southern symbols, icons and cuisine, are the result of a 40 year effort to rewrite or erase our Southern history and our Southern pride. Like the Confederate memorabilia in the Confederate House, who and what we are will be torn down, renamed, or sold off in bits and pieces all for the sake of appeasement and to pursue the almighty dollar.
With a determined effort, one day this will be turned back. To make amends, hopefully a future owner of the "State Grille" will take back the name of Confederate House, or someone with honor and a sense of history and place will start a new restaurant with the name Confederate House. Southerners can work today to make this tomorrow come true by advocating the education of our Southern youth and the celebration of our Southern heritage. Otherwise, the fate of the Confederate House will be the fate of us all. We will either be wiped off the face of the earth, or changed and absorbed into the bland, cookie-cutter culture that has become America.
16 May 2001