to Victor and
stroll along the street
"Is there a doctor on the
Most of us can recall being in
a public place when someone needed medical attention and we
heard the cry "Is there a doctor in the house?" My
recollection is the response to this plea usually brought the
attention of several "doctors in the house" to the
person needing help. I am told that would not be the case today
because of the prevalence of malpractice suits. Doctors are
reluctant to identify themselves in public to care for someone
not already a patient of theirs. What a sad country we have
become in many ways.
This is perhaps a little
brighter spot on the more distant horizon. I have altered the
quote used as a title since this piece has to do with a street
in Galveston named Caduceus and how it came to be.
According to Webster's Third
International, a caduceus is "one of the symbols of a
physician" and "a conventionalized representation of a
staff with two snakes curled around it and two wings at the
top." I can remember when doctors had automobile license
plates bearing the caduceus which permitted them to park
anywhere at any time. (Doctors also made house calls at that
The rest of this writing is
freely based on "The Birth and Adolescence
of Caduceus Place" an unpublished essay by the late Willie Dean
Harris-Williams of Galveston. Just to place things in some kind
of chronological order for readers who are old timers, Mrs.
Williams was the mother of Robert Harris who would have
graduated from Ball High School around 1953.
I cannot be certain of the year
in which Mrs. Harris-Williams wrote "The Birth and Adolescence of
Caduceus Place" but according to her she was the only
living member of the "founders" of the street. I
suspect the essay was written in the early Fifties. Mrs. Harris-Williams
does note that at the time she wrote "the only progeny of
the original settlers who live there now (on Caduceus) are Adele
Eggers Roosevelt and Bryan Williams, Jr." Bryan Williams,
Jr., was an attorney in Galveston and a stepson of the author.
Mrs. Lloyd Roosevelt was the daughter of Dr. G. W. N. Eggers and
she and Lloyd continued to live in the family home on Caduceus
through their married lives. Mrs. Roosevelt died a resident of
Caduceus just about two years ago so she probably held the
record for continuous living on "Caduceus Place."
Caduceus always fascinated me
as a young man growing up in Galveston. It was divided into two
parts by 45th Street and only a couple of blocks north of the
Boulevard. The west side of Caduceus was a dead end at what now
is 47th Street. The east end stops at 43rd Street. What
fascinated me about the street was that the pavement on both
sides of 45th Street was pink. And I mean "pink pink."
I never knew why this was and no one I knew at the time was able
to tell me.
While Mrs. Williams does not
write about any reason for the pink pavement, she does state it
was "wonderful because the white chalk we used for
outlining hopscotch, baseball and other games showed up
perfectly." I am sure it did. I still wish I could find
someone who could tell me why that pavement was pink.
When Mrs. Williams wrote her
essay she includes the thought that she has compiled her
"facts, figures and foolishness" about the street for
its residents at the time.
1925 Galveston and part of the
era of "Wonderful Nonsense"
Here are some highlights from
"The Birth and Adolescence of Caduceus Place" by Mrs.
Willie Dean Harris-Williams. A lot of it is the kind of
"foolishness" that I love and that made me decide to
move back to Galveston in 1995 from Washington, D. C.
In 1925 there were no zoning
restrictions in Galveston. One evening in 1925 a group
consisting of one lawyer, three doctors and their wives met in
the office of Doctor Willard Cooke to discuss starting a small
residential area with "desirable" restrictions.
someone jump on this as being racist, let me make it clear that
Mrs. Williams wrote the "desirable" restrictions were
to prohibit gasoline or ""filling"" stations
and corner grocery stores from being too near the new houses.
According to Mrs. Williams, one
of the available tracts of land in 1925 was "newly filled
land around 45th Street and just north of the Seawall.
been filled with sand, sand and more sand plus a few brave
weeds. The committee decided this land was the most desirable
because of drainage, cool Gulf breezes and Seawall protection in
the event of storms. We then decided to go out and have a look
at the site but there was no way to do so. We could only drive
out the Boulevard and each of us, like Moses with field glasses,
looked toward the Promised Land. Not one road, path or footprint
was to be found.
The committee continued to meet
and plan. The city had announced it would put in electricity,
gas, water and telephones but how to get to the property? The
city agreed to build a "road" so building materials
could be sent to the chosen area. The committee also asked the
city's permission to "face our houses on the alley between
what technically would have been Avenue T and T ½ to create a
private street." Mrs. Williams reminds readers that all
street designations in the area in 1925 were "only make
believe on some map, certainly not on the ground." She also
writes that the city allowed her group to close the 47th Street
end of Caduceus because there really wasn't any 47th Street at
the time." Present Galveston Zoning Board, listen up to all
of this !
Whence the name
Naming the street was something
the committee worked over for a period of time. The one lawyer
on the committee got nowhere with the idea of "Justice
Street" (too bad in one way as the television series
"Law and Order" would probably have been filmed there)
and two more doctors had been added to the group. Ergo, Caduceus
prevailed. Mrs. Williams delighted in noting for current
residents that the street is "just a glorified alley."
In my opinion, only in Galveston would someone be proud of
building an expensive house on an "alley." I love it.
Mrs. Williams writes that when
the city permitted her group to create a "private"
street they required the group to pay for their own paving. The
committee chose pink cement and, according to Mrs. W.
"going first class all the way." I don't disagree that
the pink cement was "classy" but it still doesn't
explain the color choice to me.
The little road built by the
city for hauling building materials to the area was narrow and
very sandy. Mrs. Williams writes that "when we got to the
end and wanted to turn around either our front or our back tires
would settle in the sand and then the question was whether to
"heave" or to "ho."
The group soldiered on and the
two houses were built. The Harrises moved in around April 25 and
the Willard Cookes on April 26, 1926. At my age, that was
When "Bitching" Was
At this point I think things
got quite amusing. In her essay Mrs. Williams writes:
A hue and cry went up that was something.
Not since the
1900 storm had there been such consternation and dismay on our
island. Our friends had suddenly turned into critics and enemies
and we were practically outcasts. "What on earth do
they think they are doing? Who on earth would even think of
building west of 39th street? Don't they know their houses are
going to sink down in that sand? Who do they think they are,
closing the street so that people can't drive
I think a controversy of this nature is
wonderful and wouldn't you have liked to live when that kind of
thing could preoccupy a considerable segment of a community? I
am assuming nasty letters were being written to the then
Galveston Daily News or the Galveston Tribune because of what
Mrs. Harris writes about next.
After a while, Willard
(Dr. Cooke), who could be quite sarcastic, wrote a letter to the
paper, the gist of which was "yes, we made a big
mistake." "My house was originally three
stories high and the Harris' was two. Now mine is only two and
theirs is only one. And the cracks in the walls are so wide we
don't even use doors anymore." Dr. Cooke went on to
write "our critics are unprogressive old mossbacks,
Mrs. Harris writes that when the Cooke diatribe
was published the critics "went underground because who
wants to be classified as an "unprogressive old
mossback." Apparently the critics became friends
again, came out to visit the Caduceus Cadets and the pink
pavement group was "reinstated."
Need Any Sand?
There were still problems for
the Cadets---if not with people with the land itself. There was
still more sand around than anyone wanted and nothing would grow
to anchor the sand so the sand blew around making the Cadets
feel they were Bedouins in the Sahara. Mrs. Harris writes:
We hired yard men, not to cut the grass but to spade up
sand from our drives and walks. One day my yard man was pulling
some weeds and when I saw him, I ran out the door screaming
"Stop! Stop! Those weeds are valuable." He looked at
me in amazement and at the end of the day when I paid him, he
took my money all right but he never came back. He just didn't
want to work for nutty people.
After many loads of topsoil
were trucked to the area and spread and much effort spent,
something the Cadets called "grass" began to grow.
When the city put in water they did not put in sewers, however,
and septic tanks had to be used.
Yes, Erma Bombeck, the grass really does grow greener over
Again, for us old people, I
will include a bit more about the "founding" of
Caduceus according to Mrs. Harris. At the first meeting in 1925
were Doctors Willard Cooke, George Lee, Boyd Reading and lawyer
Brantley Harris. Later, these were joined by Doctors E. B.
Crutchfield and Dick P. Wall. Later came the John McCulloughs
who built in 1930. Mrs. Williams notes that "in 1931 we
were four families living on the street and what fun we
Galveston is always Galveston.
Dr. Lee's property developed "a depression" that was
several feet deep and when there was a strong rain, this became
a lovely lake that delighted the children living on the street
who even acquired a small boat in which to go rowing.
As Mrs. Williams continues her
story, Dr. Cooke decided to build a boat. This was to be no toy
but a "big boat." Dr. Cooke was twitted by his
neighbors about being Noah building his Ark. He liked that and
referred to himself as Noah. (Funny thing is, I don't think Dr.
Cooke ever finished that boat. I remember seeing a boat, which
was partly built up on racks behind the Cooke house on Caduceus
during the Fifties when I was a boy.)
New York Times Move Over
There was also a newspaper for
Caduceus. Jessie Lou Harris acquired a small, portable
typewriter and mastered "hunt and peck." Writes Mrs.
This was the beginning of a famous publication called
"The Caduceus Spotlight." Other children
on the street were editors, reporters and delivery boys. Some of
the adults contributed articles.
Mrs. Harris makes a wonderful
crack about the publication in her essay that this was a
"fine weekly journal, being unbiased, non-political,
non-factual and analytical." All of this is not a bad trick
to pull off in a publication of any size. Certainly some of our
newspapers today would qualify in the non-factual area but I am
not sure about the others. Apparently the publication had its
own "Louella Parsons" of the day and some articles
were "revealing and embarrassing" but to my sorrow,
Mrs. Harris does not get specific about any of that---damned
shame if you ask me.
Continuing the Caduceus
history, Mrs. Williams writes about other Galveston families
building and moving into their houses. Drs. George Lee and G. W.
N. Eggers (previously mentioned), Louis Pauls and Leland Dennis.
But Was It a Democrat?
In due course, a donkey came to
live on Caduceus. The animal had been given to the Beach Club as
a mascot. The club had no place to keep it and offered to donate
it to the Cadets on Caduceus. The Harrises kept the donkey in
their back yard and the children on the street loved riding it.
The donkey took to braying very loudly at the moon, however. Mr.
A. A. Horne, a resident on Woodrow, was annoyed by this, called
Brantley Harris and asked that the donkey be housed elsewhere. A
bridge party was held by the Cadets and Bryan Williams won the
booby prize which was---the donkey. Mr. Williams was City
Attorney at the time and the papers picked up on his winnings
and headlined "City Attorney Wins Donkey for Prize."
expect that took a bit of time for Mr. Williams to live down.
One other little vignette from
that earlier era had to do with Dr. George Lee buying a station
wagon (which then had wooden sides). There was a yard man who
worked for many people on Caduceus named Sanford who was
evidently quite a character. Sanford was very friendly, wore a
long frock coat, blousy trousers and carried a cane. According
to Mrs. Williams, Sanford loved to visit with everyone in the
neighborhood, priding himself on keeping up with all current
news. Sanford took note of the Lee station wagon and was heard
to say "There goes that man in that car made of
Reading the essay on Caduceus
by Mrs. Williams was, for me, like finding some of LaFitte's
treasure. I don't think I need explain why I love old stories
about older Galveston after relating portions of the Williams
saga about Caduceus Place to you.
Victor at Victor@guidrynews.com