Mickey and another Galveston Update Wednesday, Nov 19 2008 

Mickey on the Bed

18 November 2008

Happy Birthday, Mickey Mouse!

Mickey turns 80 today!    I think that’s incredible, and it inspired me to shoot a colourful photo of the bed in our guest room—the room some of our guests have dubbed, “The Mouse Suite.”  Is it just me, or is this birthday being very overlooked?  I guess perhaps the powers that be at Disney, are saving their efforts for the big blowout that will happen in 2028!

On another subject entirely, here’s the latest article regarding Dickens on the Strand—scaled back, but still ON!

http://www.galvnews.com/story.lasso?ewcd=a31cdd8f07a7fdc9&-session=TheDailyNews:42F946A71b45c0279CQnM29BEDE2

I sent a message out to the Yesteryear Enthusiasts Society group last night with some other update information.  Sparked by an email from Larry who was confused to have received a refund for his Galveston Historical Foundation Dickens Ball tickets, and needing to talk to her, anyway, I called the GHF offices and spoke with Molly late yesterday afternoon.

It seems that there were not enough advance ticket sales for the foundation to justify the expense of the event.  Our group alone, represented nearly half of what was presold.  The Galveston Historical Foundation Dickens Ball is cancelled for 2008.  And, Molly indicated it would seem logical to anticipate a much more intimate Dickens on the Strand, than we’ve seen in a very long time. 

To what can we attribute the presale of only 27 tickets to this event usually enjoyed by 150?  Are the usual Ball attendees Galvestonians who are too caught up in their own recovery efforts to be able to make time for Dickens?  Perhaps they’ve lost all their Victorian costuming in the flooding?  Are they too short on money?  Or, were they simply assuming the event was cancelled, thus creating a self-fulfilling prophecy?

Kyle and I discussed it last night, and we are concerned that that does not bode well.  We are a bit fearful that the “average joe” who normally thinks about attending Dickens on the Strand, may not actually bother to find out that the event is on.  Certainly, I’ve tried to do my part to spread the word, and the Galveston Historical Foundation website has been very clear from the earliest point possible that the event is happening.  And, there have been a few mentions of it in the local news, there.  But, if people don’t pay attention, the assumption could be made that Galveston isn’t ready, and that the event can’t happen. 

What those people are forgetting is that Galveston can’t afford for the event NOT to happen!

Dickens on the Strand is the largest annual fundraiser for the GHF.  Its ticket sales, and vending proceeds help monetarily power all the important restoration efforts of the foundation.  Over the years since the festival started in the seventies, the Historical Foundation, and a few special philanthropists have put Galveston Island back on the map of tourist spots and places to visit.  Even in the decade and half that we’ve been attending the festival, we’ve seen amazing growth and renaissance efforts in the beautiful little downtown area.  Antique stores, banks, museums, boutiques, condos, restaurants, and even a few tasty little national chain stores (like Chico’s!) had come in and turned the once forgotten downtown zone into a bustling little business center.  And, now, in the aftermath of Hurricane Ike, the hands of the clock have been turned back, and once again this charming Victorian era city is struggling to survive and needs help.

Hopefully, the Dickens on the Strand Festival will provide some of that help. 

Progress is slow, but it is happening.  I got word yesterday that a couple of downtown businesses have reopened, including the Emporium.  In our early years of doing Dickens that was always a favourite stop.  Kyle has purchased many a beer from that fine establishment.  I can remember befriending employees and being invited to walk into the huge room-sized refrigerator on hot Dickens days.  I’m glad they’re back, but so far, they are among the very few. 

Bravely, the GHF pushes forward with festival preparations, despite the obstacles nature has placed in its path.  This cancellation of the ball is only the latest disappointment.  The first difficult decision was to scale back the festival borders.  Usually two blocks wide and four blocks long, comprising a large, ladder-shaped portion of downdown, this year’s event will take place entirely on The Strand itself.  Then, recently came the realization that the over 400 lanterns used in the annual Candlelight Parade could not be saved from the badly water-damaged warehouse, and so the sparkling parade and evening hours of the event would have to be pulled from the schedule.  And on a purely financial level, some things just aren’t possible.  For example, this year’s event will not include the usual “snow hill” that is such a crowd-pleaser in our southern land of non-white Christmases.  The financial cost was just more than the foundation could pay.

In fact, much of what is going on in Galveston right now, is really all about the money.  Our nation’s government has not yet come through with the millions of dollars needed to relieve Galveston after Hurricane Ike.  The GHF finally got to have a meeting with FEMA this week.  I read where the Meadows Foundation of Dallas (big SMU money) has given $100,000, to the GHF restoration efforts, but that’s only a drop in the bucket, and won’t go far.

Everyone who’s heard me speak or read my writings of the last couple of months is familiar with my mantra:  Galveston needs us.  The island needs us to visit.  The island needs us to attend Dickens on the Strand.  Galveston needs our love—but far more importantly, it needs our dollars.  I know the economic climate we live in doesn’t allow for us to be overly “spendy” or careless with our money.  But, if ever there was a worthwhile cause for a little frivolity, this is it.  Go to Galveston.  Pay for parking.  Buy tickets to gain entry to Dickens on the Strand.  Buy food and drinks and souvenirs from the vendors, there.  Do your holiday shopping there.  Fill up your gas tank on the island.  Have dinner in one of the many restaurants on the seawall.  Stay at the Galvez.  Treat yourself to a fun weekend and the satisfaction that you’re helping. 

Kyle and I will be proudly promenading The Strand on the 6th and 7th of December.  We’ll be proudly carrying our new Galveston Historical Foundation membership cards.  We’ll be with a group of at least a dozen or two of our dearest friends.  It is my sincerest hope that thousands of other folks have similar plans!

~MB

Galveston Historical Foundation Plea Friday, Oct 31 2008 

Galveston Historical Foundation Plea

28 October 2008

After yesterday’s adventure, I found it to be rather poignant timing that this flyer arrived in my mailbox today.  The bottom of the page states that Dickens on the Strand will go on, and gives the dates. 

Whether it’s with a Foundation membership, a simple donation, or just the price of an admission ticket to Dickens on the Strand—the island needs our help.

www.galvestonhistory.org

I was wordy enough yesterday, to last us all a while, so that’s all you get, today. 😉

~MB

Galveston: A New Face After Ike Friday, Oct 31 2008 

A New Face After Ike

27 October 2008

Galveston Pilgrimage

What had begun as a germ of an idea on Friday night, had become a reality by Monday morning.  I had to go to Galveston. 

It wasn’t terribly responsible—I should have headed home and started in on this week’s sewing.  It wasn’t really going to be fun—it’s hard to think “fun” when surrounded by damage and destruction.  And, it certainly wasn’t profitable financially—an extra tank of gas, a “spendy” luncheon, and a lost day of work.  But it was food for my soul.  As difficult as it is to explain, I needed to go to Galveston.  And this was going to be my one chance between now and December.  Not necessarily wanting to go it alone, I suggested the adventure to Ginger and to Kelly (who had work responsibilities she simply could not shirk—good girl, Kelly) and learned that Laura had expressed exactly the desire to go to the shore, and see the Gulf of Mexico!  Laura is a native Canadian, and she and her husband Paul and son Ben currently live in Wisconsin.   She’s visiting Ginger this month and working for Faire Pair, and this was just the sort of thing she’d been hoping to do.  So, a little bit of logistic planning the night before, and off we went!

It was just about noon as we rounded the southwest corner of Beltway 8, and started to notice various signs of Hurricane Ike’s destruction.  The closer we got to the island, the more blue tarps we saw.  I was glad for Laura’s presence, because pointing out landmarks gave both Ginger and I something to focus on that wasn’t sad and negative.  It was as we approached the causeway that we saw our first boat alongside the road.  Then there was Tiki Island—looking a lot more empty of houses on stilts than I remembered it.  On the causeway itself, we were surprised to still see dozens of wrecked boats of all shapes and sizes.  We’d seen photos of that scene, but after six weeks I guess I thought they’d be gone.  But then, time moves slowly in the wake of a natural disaster.

Once on Galveston Island, it was impossible to turn our heads without seeing more damage.  All along the main road (I-45 becomes Broadway) we saw ruined buildings and piles of debris.  And brown.  Everywhere was brown.  I’d read where the island was struggling to save the 600-plus Live Oak trees that line Broadway.  But, I hadn’t stopped to think how brown everything would look.  Trees, shrubs, ground cover, flowers—all poisoned by the salt water, and dormant if not dead.  And the tall, proud palm trees were so horribly battered from the wind and water-tossed debris, that some looked like they’d been attacked by chainsaw. 

We had decided our first destination on the island would be the 1861 Custom House—the home of the Galveston Historical Foundation offices.  So, we followed Ginger’s GPS (hers works great!), made a couple of turns off of Broadway and found ourselves looking at Rudy and Paco’s.  Contrary to a news article I recently shared here on The Daily KRuMB, the building is still standing, and shows signs of continued renovation and recovery.  That was good news.

We found the Custom House, poked around a little, and climbed the stairs to the GHF offices.  I was hoping to meet Molly, my primary contact at the GHF, but she was at lunch and we chatted briefly with Judy, instead.  From there, we drove the short distance to Mechanic Street and parked right across from the Tremont House Hotel.  Seeing that was very near the top of our list for the day.  First we peered in the windows to our Gingerbread BallroomWow.  Then, around the corner, peering into each dirty window at naked studs and little else.  At the front doors of the Tremont, the extent of this recovery project became really evident.  Virtually all the walls have been removed.  The grand entryway is nearly unrecognizable.  A huge amount of work has already been done, but the project ahead is mammoth.  We actually learned that the current plan is to rearrange the whole floor plan, including moving the kitchen and restaurant to the opposite end of the lobby.  No wonder they need until after the first of the year to get it all done!

Having begun our tour of downtown at the Tremont, we were somewhat numbed to the rest of what we were going to see.  Across the street, the big ballroom lobby, The Strand Theatre, Fitzpatricks Pub, and the site of the late Midsummer Books—all stripped to studs and concrete slabs.  We soon realized that the spaces with brick or stone or concrete walls had a considerable advantage over anyplace that had had drywall walls.  But, at least the damaged walls all seem to be gone, now.  I’m sure that it must have been a very high priority of early recovery efforts to remove anything that would promote mold and mildew.

We walked down Mechanic Street, visiting the Galveston News Building to which I am so fondly attached.  On the way, we passed the building in my photo of the day—sporting a brand new coat of paint!  I was amazingly cheered by that simple green wall!  It was almost as if this building’s owner was thumbing his nose at Ike and saying, “Think you can bully the green off this island, do you? Ha!”  We walked over to the Strand and snooped around a bit, taking photos of high water marks and showing Laura specific sights. Amazed at how much time we so easily killed walking around and taking pictures, we finally had to give in to our hungry bellies, so we got back in the truck, and I pointed it toward the Hotel Galvez.

As I drove us down Seawall Boulevard, we were pleased to see a number of open restaurants and a fair amount of traffic.  We pulled into the Galvez, and in trying to decide where to park, were told that they weren’t busy, so we could just leave it there in the driveway with the valet.  They’d move it if necessary.  Lunch at Bernardo’s was very nice—the restaurant was technically closed (we got there just after two), but they obligingly served us anyway.  We had delicious burgers and sweet potato fries, and a delightful visit with the hotel’s concierge, Janet, who we instantly adored.  She was able to answer our questions about the island, and arranged for us to view rooms.  And, as icing on her cheerful cake, she engineered a meeting and introduced us to Mr. George Mitchell—the owner of Mitchell Properties, and much of historic Galveston, including the Tremont and the Galvez.  We were honoured and indeed rather charmed by Mr. Mitchell.  He was jovial, and seemed genuinely delighted to meet us and was very chatty about all the work being done to make Galveston whole again.  I was pleased to get to shake his hand and tell him how admired he is, and how much we appreciate all he does for Galveston.  It was pretty special.

We peeked at guest rooms and large meeting rooms (always thinking about future events!) and decided that the Hotel Galvez would be a fun change from our usual accommodations for Dickens.  Finished there, we drove on down the Seawall, and found the Memorial to the Great Storm of 1900.  And Laura found stairs down to the beach!  Ginger and I took photos and Laura put her toes in the Gulf of Mexico!  We were all happy!  By the time we were done there, the sun was low in the sky and we figured we’d missed the worst of the Houston traffic.  There hadn’t been time to tour the Elissa or Bishop’s Palace—things I had thought we might do—but it was a good, full day.  It was sad, but inspiring.  All around us was both destruction and hope.  I was content enough to leave, knowing, of course, it will only get better.  Even the green will grow back.

It was the longest drive home, ever.  I first took Ginger and Laura back to where we’d left Ginger’s truck, and that was a bit of an adventure in itself.  Then, food on the way to the highway and north.  But, the emotions of the day, and the shortage of sleep the night before conspired to make me too tired to finish the drive without a nap.  I slept for nearly three hours in a gas station parking lot in Centerville, and finally got home around three a.m.  One tired, but fulfilled, pilgrim.

~MB

Artemis and a Galveston Update Tuesday, Oct 21 2008 

Cat Head

20 October 2008

It’s been a while since I posted any links to stories about the aftermath of Hurricane Ike.  I feel rather like I’ve fallen down on this job—self-appointed as it may be.  Much of the news from the island is still harsh.   The trash and debris piles are still growing.   The Strand is being described as a “ghost town.”  And saddest of all, the hunt for over 200 missing persons continues.  Funny how the major media have all rather left that story behind, isn’t it?

In fact, that’s a soapbox I’m dancing on right now.  They can send reporters to the island and to Houston to stand in the wind and rain, and tell how bad it might get.  They can cover the evacuation stories, and interview (and then broadcast those interviews!) islanders who are confused and distraught, or who are stubborn and represent their neighbours rather poorly, making Texans “look” stupid.  And then, they can fly helicopters over the horribly damaged areas and talk about how much the recovery efforts will cost.   But, a week later . . . almost nothing.   If it hadn’t been for Frank Billingsley who apparently lives on the island and works for a Houston news channel, there would have been almost no information.  And, now, even after the island is open . . . almost nothing.  I really have to dig around on the internet to find articles, mostly from Houston and Galveston-based sources, dealing with the recovery efforts. 

I talked to my little brother the other day (who, by the way, seems to have found the lucky lady he wants to spend the rest of his life with, and she’s sporting a ring!  Yay! Congratulations William and Melanie!), and he was surprised that we would be going to Galveston this December.  “Isn’t the island wiped out?” he said.  So, I gave him the history lesson of the Great Storm of 1900 and the raising of the island five feet, and the building of the seventeen-foot seawall.  I told him how the downtown area buildings survived that storm, and this one, as far as the wind was concerned, but that this time, it was the water that did so much damage.  I explained the geography of the island and the way the storm surge worked.  He knew it had been bad, but “not as bad as other recent hurricanes.”  So, we talked about how Ike had been classified a Cat 2, but one more mile an hour in the wind would have made it a Cat 3, and the storm surge had been more like a Cat 4.

We talked about the pictures he’d seen—Bolivar, Crystal Beach, etc.,  and the actual path of the storm.  And, although he’s seen the pictures of concrete slabs where once stood homes like that of Terrill’s family, he had no idea there were still so many “missing” people.  It really made me think, and realize just how little accurate news has been readily available to the general public.   Even online, I found forum after forum of folks asking if certain buildings and places were okay—-because there’s no news coverage telling them!

Do we as a society just not care about anything but the fact of a disaster happening?   Are we not as interested in the people as we are in the weather?  I refuse to believe that.  I believe instead, that this is yet another case of the major media being driven by sensationalism and horror, and not placing a high enough level of importance on actually reporting “news.”  As the people of the area are trying desperately to dig out of the muck and get their lives back, they’re a little too busy to write or tell their own stories.  This is the time when it would be really nice to have some good national coverage on these efforts.  And, perhaps, if the media would report loudly that there are still body searches in progress . . . maybe, just maybe, the concept of “evacuation weariness” wouldn’t be such a problem in the future.   My mind comes back to the phrase used by those ordering the evacuation to describe what awaited those who chose to stay . . . “certain death.”

So, after quite a bit of research, here’s a few bits of actual “news” about what’s going on in Galveston, a month after Ike.

I’ve just come across this article that speaks of the complete loss of our beloved Rudy and Paco’s Restaurant.  The article claims that the damage was so extensive that the building had to be demolished.  But, it also tells us they are rebuilding and hope to be back up and running in a matter of months.  We will just have to look forward to our next meal there in December of 2009!

http://media.www.utdmercury.com/media/storage/paper691/news/2008/10/06/LifeArts/South.Texans.Still.Reeling.From.Ike.Aftermath-3470720.shtml

Here’s another article indicating the Strand area was still without power last week, and likely will be for another two or three weeks.

http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/27178823/

But, there’s good news, too.  The Elissa and Bishop’s Palace will be reopening this coming Saturday, 25 October.  The Galvez Hotel has in fact, reopened to the public as of last Wednesday—just as promised. 

http://www.marketwire.com/press-release/Hotel-Galvez-A-Wyndham-Historic-Hotel-NYSE-WYN-908270.html

http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/27225670/

This one is specifically regarding the Mitchell properties:

http://www.chron.com/disp/story.mpl/ike/galveston/fyi/6062261.html

And this one, with a very upbeat, tourist-attracting tone:

http://www.emailwire.com/release/16519-Galveston-Island-continues-to-recover-after-Hurricane-Ike-.html

Meanwhile, plans continue for our group, athough a bit smaller this year, to descend upon Galveston Island on the first weekend in December.  We’ll be staying at the Hotel Galvez, with a few of us peppered through other hotels on the island and just over the causeway.  Many of our group will attend the Galveston Historical Foundation’s Dickens Ball on Saturday night, since our own beloved Gingerbread Ball has been cancelled for this year.  We’re in the process of planning a game night, determining our dining options, and re-assessing how to pack for the much smaller guest rooms at the Galvez.  But, we will go to Dickens on the Strand, and we will support the recovery efforts of Galveston Island.  We will buy our tickets to get in the gate, we will purchase t-shirts, and ale, and glogg.   We will look beautiful and have our pictures taken, and do what we can to make the event successful. 

I personally, urge anyone with the slightest inclination to attend—-please do so.  Please support Galveston Island as it climbs out of the mud, and debris and loss, and works toward recovery from the awful storm that was Hurricane Ike.

Dickens on the Strand, Galveston, Texas is always held the first weekend in December.  Always.

~MB

Postscript:  The cute cat head, is of course, my Artemis, as she was deciding whether or not to jump onto the bed at bedtime.

Old Bricks Wednesday, Sep 17 2008 

Old Bricks

17 September 2008

This photo is of the side of our house in Arlington.  The bricks look old and worn, but not nearly so abused as most of the bricks in Galveston, Texas.  We continue to send our healing thoughts and prayers to folks in the Houston/Galveston area as they attempt to get their lives back on track after Hurricane Ike.  The Daily KRuMB continues to see an elevated number of hits each day, due to our Google ranking on searches about Ike and Galveston.   I thought it might be a good idea to include the text from the Houston Chronicle article that Starr found a couple of days ago.  This remains the most recent news we have about our beloved island and its Historical Landmarks.  What follows is quoted: 

Some 7,000 documented historic buildings are located on Galveston, an island that served as a gateway to Texas in the state’s early days. Of those, it is estimated as many as 1,500 of the structures sustained serious damage during Hurricane Ike.

An early assessment by the Galveston Historical Foundation shows the following conditions at historic sites.

U.S. CUSTOM HOUSE: Built in 1861, this structure serves as the headquarters for the Galveston Historical Foundation. It was flooded by as much as 8 feet of water, which damaged files, archives and equipment. An upstairs door is damaged. Roof damage, if any, is unknown.

 ASHTON VILLA: This 1859 Italianate mansion lost two to three windows on its second floor and had up to 18 inches of flooding that likely caused extensive first-floor furniture damage.

 BISHOP’S PALACE: This home, also known as the 1889 Gresham House, is the most visited historic building in Galveston. It appears to have sustained little damage, as was the case in the catastrophic 1900 hurricane. The home had as much as 3 feet of flooding on its bottom floor, which is slightly below ground level and is used for a ticket counter and offices. That floor is under renovation to become a visitors center.

 THE ELISSA: The famous 1877 tall ship, restored in 1982 by the foundation, lost several sails but otherwise seemed to ride out the hurricane well. The vessel is attached to the shore through large steel pipes driven into the harbor bottom.

TEXAS SEAPORT MUSEUM AT PIER 22: This is Elissa’s home berth. It suffered damage to the brick and wooden pier, with a suspected total loss to the wooden workshops used for maintenance of the ship. The museum itself, in the 1990 Jones Building, suffered little damage.

 THE SANTA MARIA: This 1937 restored wooden shrimp boat fared well in her slip near the Texas Seaport Museum with only minor damage.

 MICHEL B. MENARD HOUSE: Built in 1838, the city’s oldest residential house sustained little visible damage.

SAMUEL MAY WILLIAMS HOUSE: Constructed in 1839 and one of the oldest residential houses on the island, it appeared to sustain little damage.

 GARTEN VEREIN: An 1880 German dancing pavilion in Kempner Park managed by the foundation, Garten Verein appears to be undamaged.

 ST. JOSEPH’S CHURCH BUILDING: The state’s oldest German Catholic church building, the wooden St. Joseph’s building was built in 1859. It closed as a church in 1968. The building lost one window but otherwise appears undamaged.

 HISTORICAL FOUNDATION WAREHOUSE: This warehouse on Mechanic Street was inundated with at least 10 feet of water and sustained extensive damage. Much of its contents was destroyed, including equipment used during Dickens on the Strand, the popular holiday festival.

 GALVESTON COUNTY HISTORICAL MUSEUM: Housed in the 1921 City National Bank Building, the museum is a joint project of the historical foundation and the Galveston County Commissioners Court. A floodwater line can be seen below the entrance to the first floor. Unless there is roof damage, the building is believed to be unharmed.

 Source: Galveston Historical Foundation.

End quote.

As you can see, the condition of the Tremont House Hotel, and the fate of the 2008 Dickens on the Strand Festival remain unknown.  

~MB

Addendum:  News Update on Historic Galveston.  Special thanks to Donna who found this:  http://www.click2houston.com/video/17485318/index.html

Frank Billingsley of Houston’s Channel 2, hosts a Walking Tour of Galveston Island, including visits to many of our well-loved landmarks.  It takes about thirty minutes to view the whole thing, but it’s well worth the time.  One small segment includes a quick interview with a representative from the Tremont who seems very positive about getting things back up and running—but no time frame is given.  He said the hotel damage is pretty much limited to the ground floor and a few windows.  One restaurant owner indicated his repairs and rebuilding would take “months.”  Of course, there isn’t much going on yet, in the way of clean-up and repair, because there is no power and no water.  Fisherman’s Wharf (our Saturday night dinner spot for many years), Rudy and Paco’s (our new favourite restaurant on the island), Willy G’s (our Sunday night dinner spot), and many, many other places we know well, all have extensive water and mud damage.  Furniture is tossed about like matchsticks.  Walls are already molding in the humidity, and first floors will probably need to be gutted completely.  Fisherman’s Wharf’s harborside deck seems to be completely destroyed (remember the spot where Clay stood to take our photo on the Elissa a few years ago?).   High water marks on the Strand are at about nine feet; on Post Office at about six feet, and on Broadway at about three feet.  Pretty much every retailer, every business for that matter,  in the area will have lost nearly everything they didn’t move to a spot higher than that.  The property damage is mind-boggling.  And, at this point, at least until services are restored, and work crews can begin, there’s no telling how long the recovery efforts will take.  So, still no certainty about Dickens on the Strand.  And, if there is a festival, where people will eat, shop, sleep, etc.

We’ll keep our Daily KruMB readers as updated as we are on all this.