You Shoulda Been Here Yesterday

During all of the years I lived in Houston I went fishing in various spots in Galveston Bay. More times than I can possibly remember.

I was shown some of the very best places to catch fish, where the good reefs were, how deep they were, and how to rig my line for specific fish that might be biting.

Among others I fished at Deep Reef, Carancahua Reef, Offatts Bayou, and the Texas City Dike.

I fished mostly out of a boat, but occasionally from the bank, and once or twice I tried wade fishing.

I tried live bait, dead bait, cut bait, and once even tried artificial bait.

Yet, in spite of all the different places and things I tried, I consistently ended the day with a nasty sunburn and…no fish. And almost without fail, when I returned to the bait camp with out any fish, someone would say, “You shoulda been here yesterday. There were so many fish they were practically jumping in the boat.”

Hurricane

It was back in the 1940s. There was a hurricane in the gulf and it was heading for Galveston. I can’t give the name of the storm because this was before the weather service started giving names to hurricanes.

After listening to the latest advisory my dad suggested we drive to Galveston and see what the gulf looked like when there was a storm coming. The forecast had said it wasn’t expected to make landfall until sometime during the coming night. Since it was then mid-morning we should have ample time to go there and get back out well before conditions started getting bad.

As we passed through La Marque, the last town on the mainland before the highway crossed the flats and then Galveston Bay via the causeway, the sky suddenly began to look ominous. My dad pulled over to the shoulder and stopped. Looking at the gray clouds he said he didn’t feel comfortable continuing on into Galveston.

My sister, several years older than me and always highly adventuresome, wanted to go on. I, on the other hand, felt afraid and said so. My sister glared at me and mumbled something about me being a scaredy-cat.

My mother pointed out that there didn’t seem to be any wind and it wasn’t raining. She thought the overcast sky didn’t look all that bad, especially since we were so near the coast.

My dad decided we would continue on to Galveston but if the weather started showing any signs of worsening we would turn around and leave immediately.

We drove across the causeway and as we turned onto 61st street and crossed Offatts Bayou my dad mentioned the wind must have picked up since the water looked somewhat choppy. We continued on and soon arrived at the gulf. He turned left onto Seawall Blvd. and after driving only a short distance he pulled into a parking space.

The surf was rough and the same color as the gray sky. My sister wanted to get out and go look over the seawall to see how close the waves were to the base. My mother said OK since the wind seemed to have died completely.

My sister asked me to come with her but I just shook my head. She gave me another disgusted look and got out of the car. She was almost to the edge of the seawall when the wind hit. At that particular location there was a railing that she was able to grab. Had it not been there she would have been blown off the seawall into the rocks and surf below.

She turned around and tried to come back to the car but the wind was blowing so hard it kept pushing her back against the railing. Finally, she got down on her hands and knees and was able to slowly crawl back to the car.

As soon as she was safe inside my dad said we needed to get away from there and started the engine. Just after we drove onto the causeway torrents of wind-driven rain started lashing the car. Because we were already on the bridge we couldn’t turn around or stop. Although he had the windshield wipers on full speed they were doing nothing to clear the glass. My mother pointed out the reason why. The wind was so strong it was actually lifting the wipers up and they weren’t even touching the windshield.

My dad discovered another worrisome thing that was happening. The bay was extremely rough and as the water crashed against the bridge pylons the wind was blowing the spray up through the expansion joints. He feared the water coming up from below might cause the engine to drown out. Fortunately the car kept running and we finally got across the causeway.

After fighting high wind gusts as we drove across the flats we suddenly reached the edge of the storm and found ourselves in fairly calm weather with only light rain falling. My dad drove about another mile and pulled off the road to try and settle his nerves. He had been gripping the steering wheel so hard his fingers were cramped and he had trouble straightening them.

While we were sitting there my mother turned on the radio just as the announcer said the hurricane was hitting Galveston at that very moment. My dad said, “No Kidding!”

The rain and wind started picking up so we headed for Houston. We arrived home and had enough time to get in the house and have some lunch before the storm arrived there and the power went off. Lucky us, we got to experience the hurricane twice.

And that was my introduction to the power of Mother Nature. It was a lesson I’ve never forgotten.

Galveston Roller Coaster

One of my first adventures in Galveston, but definitely not one of my favorites, involved a roller coaster called the Mountain Speedway. It was located behind the Buccaneer Hotel on Seawall Blvd.

We had gone to the beach in the afternoon and afterward had a seafood dinner at Hill’s Restaurant. By the time we finished eating the sun had set. My sister wanted to go to the amusement park just a few blocks down the street so we headed that way.

As we neared the Buccaneer we caught sight of the roller coaster with all of its dips and curves outlined with small lights. My sister, who was several years older than me, just had to ride it. My mother and dad talked it over and decided that we would all ride it.

Now I was still quite young and didn’t know what a roller coaster was. Rather than several cars hooked together the Mountain Speedway used single cars that held about six people. My sister wanted to be in the front seat, of course, so my dad rode with her. My mother and I sat in the second seat.

Nobody told me what was going to happen but as we began the tow up to the top I began getting nervous. My mother used the diversion of pointing out how pretty the neon sign at the top was. That worked until we got up there and the car was released.

We screamed down the first dip and I totally freaked. My mother had to hold her hand over my eyes while at the same time hold me tight because I was shaking like a leaf.

It was the longest and scariest couple of minutes in my life.

I never rode the Mountain Speedway again. In fact I was in my late 20s before I rode any roller coaster again…and I didn’t enjoy that time either.

Port Bolivar Ferry

Taking the ferry from Galveston to the Bolivar Peninsula was something I really enjoyed and was part of just about every trip I made to Galveston.

I made the crossing many times in a car but usually I preferred to park in the adjacent parking lot and walk onto the ferry.

I have ridden it on early mornings when there is fog, noon and afternoon in the bright sunlight, and at night, which adds a kind of special quality to the trip.

On the daytime runs there are views of Seawolf Park on Pelican Island and the remains of the S.S. Selma, a sunken concrete ship partially visible above the waters of Galveston Bay.

Oh yes, and there are the ever present seagulls, flocking around the stern of the ferry and hoping for a bit of food. Warning…don’t get beneath them as they seem to have rather loose bowels.

Galveston

As far back as my memories go there was Galveston. The family went there often. We even went there one time when we shouldn’t have and got caught in a hurricane.

Even back in the early days there was always a variety of things to do. We used to go to Murdoch’s to swim because they had a bath house.

There was an arcade on Seawall Blvd. which my sister and I always wanted to visit. That worked for my mom and dad because there were also slot machines they could play.

Within walking distance, behind the Buccaneer Hotel was a big, scary roller coaster that I rode once…and only once. That is another story, as is the hurricane. I’ll tell them in later posts.

Even after I was married and moved from Dallas back to Houston, our place to go when we wanted to get away for awhile was always Galveston.

Although we live at Lake Tahoe now Galveston is still a special place to me and always will be. Quite often I go online and look at their live webcams.

sea-431772_640

Four People In A Leaky Boat

We arrived early in the morning. The sun was up but hadn’t been very long. At the Galveston end of the causeway we turned left onto the road that led to a bait camp that sat next to the railroad tracks.

There were four of us. My sister, her friend Clara Faye, Clara Faye’s father, Mr. Cannon, and myself. While three of us unloaded the fishing tackle Mr. Cannon went over to the office and rented a boat. He also bought a goodly amount of live shrimp for bait.

We all got in the boat, and let me tell you it was a pathetic excuse for a boat, and after Mr. Cannon attached the motor to the back, we cast off and headed out into the bay. We didn’t really go very far since he wanted to fish near the railroad causeway.

He found a spot that he thought looked good and he told my sister to drop the anchor. She found the rope and when she found the anchor it turned out to be a round hunk of cement with a hole in it. The rope went through the hole and was secured with a big knot. Like I said, it wasn’t much of a boat.

Mr. Cannon baited his hook and that was when we noticed that all the live shrimp were in fact dead. Looked like they had been dead for several days. Anyway he got ready to cast and that was when we discovered that when Mr. Cannon casts everybody else in the boat ducks as low as they can.

We had been fishing for awhile when my sister noticed her feet were getting wet. It turns out that the boat was made out of aluminum and a couple of rivets on the bottom were missing so the owner of the bait camp had stuffed pieces of a paper coffee cup in them to stop the leaks. Clara Faye wasn’t fishing so she had sat there and pulled the paper out, not realizing that would let the water in. We had to quickly get busy and start bailing.

Then I happened to notice that our cement anchor wasn’t holding, probably because the rope was too short. We had drifted into the middle of the Intercoastal Canal and there was a tugboat with some barges heading our direction. I pointed that out to Mr. Cannon and he freaked. He threw down his rod and reel and grabbed the starter rope to fire up the outboard motor. It didn’t start. He kept pulling on it and adjusting the choke. Finally it started and we got out of the way, just in time.

He decided we’d been fishing long enough and we headed back to the bait camp. We hadn’t caught a single fish. Hadn’t even had any nibbles.

When we got back to the dock Mr. Cannon told the owner about the leaks and the owner acted surprised. Said that was one of his best boats.

After we got back in the car Mr. Cannon said if that was one of the best boats he darn sure couldn’t imagine what the bad ones were like. Needless to say we never used that bait camp again.

Stuck In The Sand

In the late 1950s I picked up my grandmother and we headed for Galveston. Back in those days the two of us regularly made spur of the moment trips together.

When we arrived on the island I decided to turn on Stewart Road and head for west beach. At this time there were no developments on the west end of Galveston so after I turned off of 61st Street we quickly left civilization behind.

This was quite a few years before the bridge across San Luis Pass was built and my goal that day was to get as close to the pass as possible and hopefully be able to see the treacherous currents that flow between the Gulf of Mexico and West Galveston Bay.

Now it wasn’t the world’s best maintained road and as we drove further west it got somewhat worse. Finally I turned off onto a sandy track that led to the gulf. Once on the beach the sand was firm and after traveling a mile or so I could see water in front of us so I knew we were close to the pass.

Suddenly the firm packed sand became deep and loose. I slammed on the brakes but not quite soon enough. I put the car into reverse and tried to back out. No luck. We were stuck. We got out and looked. Fortunately, when I had realized we were in loose sand and couldn’t back out of it, I had quit trying so we weren’t in very deep and it wasn’t far to where the beach was firm.

I looked around and found a couple of planks that had washed up during high tide. I scooped out the sand behind the tires all the way back to the firm beach. Then I jammed the planks under the back tires.

I asked my grandmother to stand over on the beach near the water where she wouldn’t be in any danger. She told me if I got the car moving to keep going until it was well away from the deep sand.

I got in and started the car. I put it in reverse and let out the clutch a little. When I felt the back tires bite into the planks I hit the gas and popped the clutch. Sand went everywhere and I practically flew out of there.

My grandmother hurried over, got in the car, and suggested we find a paved road to drive on. I totally agreed.