Saturday, July 21, 2007

The Island, Buick, Jimmy and Me ...

The best way to go to Galveston back in the early 1950s was to drive along the beach road (Highway 87) and cross the bay on the Bolivar Ferry. Jimmy Cassady and I did that several times during our high school days.

My old 1939 Buick was quite the car in those days. Well it was the only car I had so that made it “the car” for me. I could carry up to 10 passengers plus myself. Of course 7 passengers in a sedan was the maximum number allowed by law. So the only time I crammed in 10 passengers was when our summer league baseball team wanted to go somewhere. The Buick was our team bus.

Beaumont Police Officer Sylvester Garbo put a stop to our excessive passenger load practice. He pulled us over one afternoon and said if he ever caught me carrying too many people in my car again, that he would write me a citation. Then he added, “And I’ll let the air out of your tires and call your parents to come pick you up.” Officer Garbo had a way of scaring the living daylights out of me. I didn’t mind the “citation” threat or the “air” threat. But the “calling my parents” threat caused me to get legal in a hurry.

Anyway, back to the Galveston story. One morning Jimmy and I drove to the ferry and “crossed over.” The Bolivar Ferryboat ride was an intriguing experience. There were seagulls in the air catching and eating whatever edible tidbits we pitched to them. The playful Porpoises swam alongside the ferry displaying their fascinating abilities to move about in harmonious formation.

On this particular trip, Jimmy and I drove along the Galveston seawall to view the beautiful scenery. If you have ever been a teenaged guy driving along that seawall then you will understand the “beautiful scenery” included more than the expanse of water and sky. But I digress.

Then we went down to the beach waters and walked along looking for sand dollars. On this particular day, we succeeded in finding only broken ones. We really couldn’t stay on the beach very long as we sunburned easily. So we went on to our next adventure.

That adventure was to explore one of the underground bunkers. There were bunkers still there from World War II. There was one bunker located where one of the nice hotels now is situated. I believe it is the San Luis Hotel. Anyway, we entered that bunker by climbing down a hole using a ladder that was embedded into concrete. Once inside the bunker we eased along with the help of a flashlight. My, it was musty and cool down there. There were rooms to either side. We were in kids’ heaven inching through the bunker.

We came to a big door that was closed. It was an iron door on old hinges. I grasped the handle and gave a tug. The door creaked opened. As I poked my head through the open door to take a look, a strong odor of gunpowder slapped me in the face. It smelled like someone had been setting off fireworks. The room was empty but there was a sign on the wall that read, “Ammunitions Room.” So I guess that is where they stored their arsenal of weaponry. It amazed me that the Nitrate odor or whatever was still so strong.

Later we ate at one of the several outstanding seafood establishments situated along the seawall. Finally it was time to return home. Again we rode the ferry, fed the gulls and watched the Porpoises perform their routines.

And the old Buick didn’t miss a lick.

Winston Hamby
The Beaumont Enterprise


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