to Victor and Jim Guidry talk about
the 2200 Block of Seawall Boulevard
The above are
actually the first two words of a pop song title. It’s the “splash” part that’s been running through my
head the past few days. I’ve
finally realized why—we are coming up on what used to be a
most important commercial weekend in Galveston---Splash Day.
When I was
growing up in Galveston there was a very brief observance of
Mardi Gras with a small parade.
Not only was this a very modest local celebration with
some private dances but it came to a halt with the beginning of
World War II. Dickens
on The Strand had not been remotely envisioned and there was no
Beach Party Weekend, Bike Rally Weekend, Spring Break or
anything else of that sort.
occurred around the first weekend in May and was supposed to be
the official start of the “summer season” on the Island.
As one might expect, the action was all on Seawall
from elsewhere in the state came to Galveston that weekend and
if the weather was fine, the Boulevard was a real madhouse.
I think I remember parallel parking being legal on both
sides of the Seawall which did not leave a hell of a lot of room
for moving traffic.
There was a
Bathing Beauty contest, lots of pedestrian traffic along the
Gulf side of the Seawall and people were taking the first
“splash” of the season in the Gulf of Mexico.
hotels, far fewer then, were jammed.
The Galvez and the Buccaneer were the premier locations.
The Galvez is still there, the Buccaneer is gone, now
part of the Edgewater senior operation at 23rd and
were some “tourist courts” along the Boulevard, most notably
the Coronado Courts and the Miramar Courts.
Little cabins they were and you parked your car right
alongside the one in which you were staying.
Some of them had small kitchen facilities and this was a
more economical way of spending a weekend in Galveston than
staying at the grand hotels.
There were other places to stay at the time.
One was built in the shape of a boat toward the east end
and the building still stands.
I believe it was called the S. S. Snort.
Gaido’s had a small “motor hotel” and there was the
Seawall Hotel at 17th and Boulevard.
Among the other “tourist courts” on the Boulevard
were the Blue Bonnet, Boulevard Courts, Catherine Courts,
Edgewater Cabanas, Esenel, Galbashores, Gulf View, Hawkins
Cottages, Orange Court, Queen’s, Rogers, S. S. Galveston,
Shell Camp, Treasure Island Tourists’ Camp and the Warwick
Courts. There may
have been others along the Seawall but I am centering more or
less on 1949 to give an approximate date to all of this.
You may be
sure that all the available quarters on the Seawall were jammed
for the weekend and other lodgings off the Boulevard were
crowded as well. As
much as we welcome tourists coming to Galveston to spend money I
can still hear my parents saying “Don’t even think about
driving on the Boulevard on Splash Day weekend that’s for the
there was a certain amount of irritation present in the tone of
that remark so far as the tourists’ presence was concerned.
There were a
good many public activities that were organized by the Greater
Galveston Beach Association in addition to the Bathing Beauty
the real mastermind of Splash Day was Sam Maceo.
Sam was always referred to as “Mr. Outside” and his
brother, Rosario or Rose, as “Mr. Inside.” What people meant was that Sam Maceo was a crackerjack at
dealing with the public. The
Maceos owned and operated the big nightspots in Galveston at the
time which featured gambling rooms and illegal sale of liquor by
the drink. These
wonderful nightspots were always represented as being “members
only” for in that fashion, “guest” cards could be issued
to tourists free or at a modest charge and that made the serving
of alcoholic drinks “legal” for the patrons.
The gambling part of these clubs was never legal under
Maceo excelled was in public relations.
The area of Murdoch’s Bathouse just across from the
Buccaneer Hotel was the center of much of the big Splash Day
Sam Maceo did was be sure that whatever big names were
performing at the Balinese Room or the Studio Lounge in downtown
Galveston were on hand to entertain the public for free on
Splash Day. The
boardwalk area of Murdoch’s became a giant stage for this and
the crowds overflowed the sidewalks onto the Boulevard and
across the street onto the sidewalk in front of the Buccaneer
Hotel. Many people
were never able to understand how they could stand on the
Boulevard and hear people such as Peggy Lee singing for them at
no charge. One may
be sure that there were handsome additions from Sam Maceo to the
fees of people like Miss Lee for appearing on Splash Day.
subject of Sam Maceo and his
skills in public relations it should be mentioned that when the
horrible disaster took place in Texas City in April of 1947, Sam
Maceo did a wonderful thing for our area.
While fires were still burning in Texas City from the
explosions, Sam Maceo called some of the top names in show
business. Many of
these people had been booked in Sam’s clubs in Galveston but
many had never seen our Island let alone Texas City.
Sam Maceo brought a gathering of stars to the old City
Auditorium in Galveston to do a benefit for victims and
survivors of the Texas City Disaster. I remember that Frank Sinatra was one of the bigger names,
George Burns and Gracie Allen, Phil Harris and Alice Faye and
perhaps Bob Hope though I am not certain about the latter.
There were more big names.
A great deal of money was raised
and the Maceo interests realized no financial gain from
the benefit. On the
contrary, the Maceo interests made a substantial contribution to
the relief fund themselves.
On one Splash
Day, Johnny Weismuller appeared in Galveston and I am almost
certain he came at the request of Sam Maceo.
Weismuller had quite a movie career playing the part of
“Tarzan of the Apes.” Johnny was also quite a swimmer and on this particular
occasion in Galveston he participated in a swimming race out in
the Gulf which I feel sure he won.
Galveston went wild over that one.
Hotel had Jimmie Powledge as Manager in those days.
Jimmie was a great friend of my parents, a real
“southern boy” and never met a stranger.
He was also a scratch golfer and a great business getter
for the Island. Jimmie Powledge traveled constantly and brought many
conventions to Galveston. He
also organized a golf tournament for the Splash Day weekend that
was very popular.
As the years
went on, I would come home from school for Splash Day and so did
most of my friends. We
would have never admitted that Splash Day had anything to do
with coming home that weekend. Nor would we have ever mingled with “tourists” in
prowled the Island by both day and night having a grand time on
that particular weekend. One of my oddest recollections is I don’t think my toe or
any of the toes of my friends ever went into the Gulf of Mexico
on Splash Day weekend. The biggest splash
we heard was that of ice cubes plopping into the drinks
we were buying while underage in all the local hotspots.
My, did we think we were sophisticated.
My, we were not!
Splash Days for me were the ones when Tooee and Bill Vogler
lived in the Buccaneer Hotel in what had been the apartment of
Mr. and Mrs. Sam Maceo. Mr.
Vogler was Chairman of the Board of American National Insurance
Company and I think having an apartment in one of the Moody
hotels was one of the “perks” that went with his job.
When the Voglers moved into the former Maceo apartment
they decided to keep a very swanky leather door covering.
It was dark brown and handtooled
with a large “M” worked into the middle of the
apartment was situated on the Gulf side of the hotel and had a
large terrace where we partied and watched all the activity down
on the Boulevard. I
got in on all this splendor since Mike Guttersen was the son of
Tooee Vogler and Mike came home from school in Dallas.
Mike also was dating Penny Quinn.
Both Penny and Mike were and are friends of mine.
Later these two married, had three sons and continue to
live in Colorado where Mike is a rancher of some note.
I cannot help
but reflect on “Splash Day” weekend.
I think much money was spent on the Island by both
tourists and locals. I
don’t recall it being a particularly noisy time except around
while driving on the Boulevard might have been slow and
especially so around 23rd
Street and Seawall.
While my parents and others may have spoken about
“avoiding the Boulevard on during Splash Day” I think it was
more something to talk about than actually do.
Many people had great fun on the Island at those times
and I hope recalling it all brings some happy memories to those
of you who do remember “Splishing and Splashing.”