Most people I know assume I live in Galveston for the beaches and the beauty. That’s part of the story and easy to explain. But it’s more difficult to articulate the real reason — one that comes from a deeper journalistic instinct, perhaps.
It was a salty cast of characters living and dead that appealed to me nearly 20 years ago when I moved here. And it was those characters, with their bent toward defiance and a wariness about outsiders, that lured me back again when I had errantly taken a position at another paper.
More than the beaches, more than the buildings, I found myself missing the stories and the back stories of people who shaped the city — the Kempners, Fertittas, Maceos, Mitchells, Moodys, Sealys and too many more families to name.
I missed living in a city that attracts outliers and outlaws; pirates like Jean Laffite, scoundrels like conman J.R. McConnell, plus a few unforgettable transgressors who will remain unnamed because they’re still around.
How could I leave a place that routinely supplies stories like the weird saga of Robert Durst and the Shakespearian tragedy of Clara and David Harris?
I love the way the past and the present collided here like waves against the beach, stirring things up and making Galveston a newspaper town like no other I’ve ever seen.
Galveston keeps its characters and history alive — holding them close and like badges of honor. We see it in the buildings, we hear it in the tales of long-dead people who still seem with us today.
Who can’t help but smile a little at tales of the Balinese Room, a place where locals turned blind eyes to illegal gambling and the band struck up “The Eyes of Texas” when state lawmen came around.
Who can resist stories of grit, resiliency and rebuilding after storms?
And while the island is a place that keeps its past alive, it’s constantly reinventing itself. Newcomers have joined BOIs — born on the island — to guard a rich legacy worth protecting. You can see it in the care of historic cottages featured in this issue and a robust Galveston Historical Foundation dedicated to ensuring we don’t lose sight of the past.
This issue celebrates the island’s past and present. And if they’re any indication, an interesting future.