Bradford Cafe caters to line workers

Rich Flowers, Athens Daily Review, Texas
·2 min read

Feb. 23—Since the record breaking winter storm came down the chute on Sunday and Monday, blanketing East Texas with ice and snow, an army of workers have been restoring electrical power.

On Thursday, the Bradford Cafe in Montalba made special arrangements for those who had been climbing poles and driving trucks down slippery back roads to fix broken power lines.

"They've been out working hard and there's no other place open around here," owner Jerry Ornelas said.

Montalba is just over 20 miles south of Athens on the way to Palestine. Like much of East Texas, the countryside is thick with trees. That makes it prime territory for broken limbs snapped by high winds or burdened down with snow.

The cafe opened the inside only to line workers, while still serving its regular customers through drive-up and take out.

"We had a bunch of them," Ornelas said. "We had 100 to 150 of them today."

When he agreed to give a spot for the line workers, he didn't know what to expect.

"I was surprised." he said. "I was hoping they could see us. I didn't know how to reach them."

But a steady stream of trucks did begin to arrive, with workers looking for a hot meal and a place to rest.

Ornelas said the plan began with a phone call.

"They asked if we could handle 70 people. I said, 'Sure, come on.' It ended up being a lot more than that." Ornelas said.

It was evident they were exhausted, pulling a long shift in bitter cold.

"We all need them," Ornelas said. "We're all in this together. We don't have any choice. That's how I see it.

Facing a long day in biting, cold conditions, the line workers made sure there was plenty of fuel on their orders.

"They told us they didn't care what we served. They just wanted to get a hot meal," he said. "Obviously, they were hungry. We ran out of ground beef today."

No worries, another truck was due Friday and Ornelas expected to see a lot more hungry linemen.

"I'm just glad we did it," he said.