I mentioned in a previous column that when I started working for the Beach Patrol back in the early ’80s I was assigned to the area of 29th street for a couple of years as a tower lifeguard. At the time, it was unofficially an African American beach. Later, I realized that my time there came at the end of a long history of African American beach patronage at that location. Supervisor Lauren Hollaway has been working on an on-line museum for our website for awhile that focuses on the beginnings of lifesaving in Galveston up to the agency we are today.
I was speaking with my wife about where Lauren and our staff want to go with the museum project next and I mentioned that we thought we might include the two historically black beaches that were unofficially designated African American beaches. My wife, who teaches English at Texas A&M Galveston, suggested that we look at recreational beach use of the various immigrant groups of Galveston. We’re beginning with the history of African American beach use in Galveston.
The two areas that we are aware of so far are 29th Street and the west end of the seawall at 8 Mile Road. We are getting assistance from Peggy Dillard, Special Collections Manager at the Rosenberg Library and Sharon Gillins, a Galveston based genealogist, and Carol Bunch Davis at TAMUG, but we could use your help. If you, or someone you know of has information about the historically African American beaches, we’d love to get in contact with you. We’re looking for:
- Submissions of old pictures, names and stories of lifeguards who worked on these beaches.
- Any articles or newspaper clippings from the Galveston Spectator or Galveston’s The Great Idea (both African American newspapers)
- Anyone interested in being interviewed about these beaches or the businesses associated with them.
- Information about and pictures of the businesses on the historically African American beaches.
- Any information about Beach View, the first African American bathhouse that opened in 1922 at 29th Street.
If you are interested in giving an interview or have any submissions, please post in the “Save our Stories Galveston, Tx” Facebook page at www.galvestonislandbeachpatrol.com, or email is at firstname.lastname@example.org, or give us a call at (409)763-4769 and ask for Lauren to give you a call back. The long-term plan for this project is to complete an e-museum and then to develop a traveling exhibit. Also all the interviews will be kept for posterity at a central location and edited versions will be able to be put on display on some type of device that could also be included in the traveling shows. Once we complete this first phase, we’ll be reaching out again for other groups’ historical use of the Galveston beaches.
There are plenty of people around who either were actually there during the times the project relates to and we want to make sure and capture those oral histories of people who experienced it first hand or heard about it from the generation before them.