Thurs. Dec 7th: The four of us headed to Galveston. We had lunch at Willie’s G’s Seafood & Steaks on Harborside Drive. Three of us ordered the special of shrimp and lobster tacos. Jr. had gumbo. Very good food. It was cold and windy and raining, so we did not walk the Strand, a street in the historic district of Galveston, as we had planned, instead we decided to check out the Antique Warehouse on 25th Street.
When we arrived, the lady at the counter asked if we wanted to join the tour on the 2nd floor, she said that Scott Hanson (the owner and tour guide) would not care if we joined the group late since “He loved to talk.” We said that would be great. Joe and I had been here before and knew that the building used to be a hotel, but we did not know its history. We walked up the creaky wooden steps to a find a fifty-something scruffy looking man talking to three gray haired women. He was standing on the top landing with his back facing down the steps. One of the ladies said to him, “Never stand like that. Never with your back to the steps. NEVER,” she empathized. “Something wants to do you harm.” She seemed very serious and concerned for his welfare. Then we stood aside as the three ladies walked down the stairs, Scott looked to his new group and said, “Those ladies were ghost hunters.” We took the bait, and asked, “Is this place haunted?” “Oh yes,” he replied and proceeded to tell us a story of his experience with one of the ghostly inhabitants. He said one night he came upstairs alone to retrieve a check from the locked room at the end of the hall. When he got to the door he felt a cold chill and he said the hair on the back of his neck stood up. At this point, he used his hand to fluff up the scraggly hair that covered his neck. He continued to explain the experience, saying that as he retrieved the key from his pocket and stuck it into the key hole, he saw not his hand holding a key, but another hand. And he heard a distinct voice commanding him to “Leave now.” Being the brave soul that he was and a good business man who had to complete a deal, he hastily opened the door, grabbed the check and, in his words, “I ran like a rabbit all the way down those stairs.”
We then followed him along the hall stopping at different rooms. Each, still identified by the old hotel numbers, held merchandise with differing themes; a Victorian room, 1960s furniture and peripherals, vintage clothing, and so on. We also passed the remnants of an old wash – bath room shared by all the tenants. But Scott was on a mission and he jumped into his tale of the brothel that was operated in this building in the 1920s. He told us this used to be the Oleander Hotel built in 1913 and the roof had actually blown off due to heat expansion years ago, thus the newer facade that looked nothing like an old hotel.
He showed us the Madam’s lounge, and the long columns of digits scratched in pencil in various places on the painted wood plank walls. He said that these were the tallies the ladies kept of the “tricks” they performed that night and the amount they earned for each. There were multiple columns of numbers, .50, .60, .25, .30, 1.20….. totaling $10.40 or some other piddly amount.
Jackie asked “How do you know that is what these are?” I don’t believe Scott had ever been questioned about his sources, and he replied, somewhat flustered, “What else could they be?” Well, there are a lot of things they could be, but we weren’t able to come up with anything at that moment, so Scott’s explanation stood. (Later we Googled the Antique Warehouse and learned that Scott and his business and his stories were written up in the Houston Chronicle in 2013.)
Not missing a beat, Scott went on to tell us another story. He said that several years ago a “hulk of a man” with long stringy hair covered in tattoos came in and told him that as a 6 year old orphan he had lived in this very room, that he was raised by the Madam. He even showed Scott the closet off the kitchen where he had slept, locked in each night. He cleaned and ran errands for his keep until he was 17, when he was put on a Merchant Marine vessel. And now he stood, in his childhood home, after being away for over 60 years, telling his story to Scott.
We finally were able to extricate ourselves from our guide after hearing too many details about the latest deal he’d made for certain pieces he had procured. But one last tale Scott shared was way too crazy. He showed us a wooden block table that he said was part of the original kitchen. The table top was hinged so that half of it could be raised at an angle. And there were holes in two corners and one at the other end in the center, where, according to Scott, metal poles were inserted. These poles may have served to hold butcher paper on a roll, or did they? He told us that one member of the Ghost Hunters who had just left, said she picked up very bad energy from the table and she felt it may have been used as a birthing and/or abortion table, an altar where desperate pregnant girls, endured horrible butchery so they could continue to make money for the Madam. Scott explained that the metal poles would be used for the girls to hold onto, or maybe even be bound to.
And he indicated the center hole at the other end would be where the stirrups for the woman’s legs would be fitted.
So with all these grizzly images in our heads, we wandered around the rooms, and tried to forget what we had just heard. There were so many awesome pieces, and many more overpriced interesting items from previous decades to see. Downstairs there was a whole section of salvaged material from old buildings; rails, pillars, ornate carvings; windows, doors and planking; a plethora of items for renovators and restorers of older houses and structures.
With the miserable weather none of us felt like doing any more touring of Galveston. So we decided we’d come back another day to check out what we missed. Joe wants to go to the Railroad Musuem, which we had only partially toured in 2015 and I would love to tour one or more of the historic mansions from the Gilded age of Galveston: 1895 Moody Mansion, 1892 Bishops Palace and 1859 Ashton Villa. They are all decked out for Christmas and cost $12 a head to go inside.
Back at Jamaica Beach we watched through the front windows of our humble bungalow, as the waves rolled in, white and frothy, inching the ocean further and further up the beach below a steel gray sky. Later we watched TV and had ice cream, too cold and wet outside to enjoy the deck.