For a few short postwar years, nothing significant happened. Guns and mountings were removed, firing ranges cleaned up and made safe, etc.
But in preparation for the 1950 summer season, the county budgeted $100,000 for beach improvements, including reconstruction and repositioning of South Jetty Road, which was erased by storms along its southern half.
It was subsequently named Boddeker Road in memory of James Boddeker, the county commissioner who championed the original road.
As public interest in fishing off the South Jetty and in access to the east beach via Boddeker grew, so did the profitable opportunities for private enterprise to the point that ultimately bait and fishing camps and restaurants and bars lined the jetty.
Fishing boats could dock on the channel side of the jetty in a channel between it and Big Reef. For many old-timers looking back, it was the pinnacle of fun and sociability, if somewhat different in style to the prewar Beach Club.
When Earle Nash Sr. passed away at 86 in 2001, it was said that he had owned and operated for 41 years the Bait Stand on the west side of Boddeker Road by the lagoon.
It was really more than that, it also was a favorite watering hole, and bands would perform there. After his death, his son Earle Jr. continued the business. Assuredly, Nash had an agreement with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers from 1960 to 1975 then with the Park Board after the title to the land moved to the city in 1975, and until the Park Board decided that any further long-term concessions were not compatible with longer-term plans.
Tugboats was an early lessee on the jetty, the furthest south and well protected by the reef.
Shagg Nasty’s Bait Camp, Restaurant and Bar also was pretty far south and had a boat ramp, which might well have been present as far back as 1930.
The business originally was owned by John Lynch, who like others, had a lease with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. Lynch incorporated an old barge into the facility. Nothing apparently was level.
Folks recall having to go up a long ramp to the bathroom. They left the bar regretfully and came back quickly. Stan Miller purchased the lease rights and business in the mid 1990s.
Alongside Shagg’s to the north — there since the late 1960s — stood Tuffy’s, owned by the swashbuckling George Youmans. In the ’70s, he assumed the operations of a previously existing seafood restaurant and bar closer to the lagoon entrance.
In 1978, he aired dreams for a 100-unit dry boat storage facility. Both bait camp and restaurant establishments were flattened by Hurricane Alicia in 1983, then by an explosion and fire in 1984, and while rebuilt. It was finally closed for good in 1988, a victim of the mid-80s economy, the gradual silting up of the small boat channel and the changing arrangements with concessionaires by the Park Board.
Tuffy’s was a crowd-favorite destination with a sharp-talking Myna bird, one attraction, and good music, another.
Wilson’s was another long-standing bait and fishing camp and restaurant which also operated south of the bridge but closer to the mouth of the lagoon with deeper water.
It actually sat just north of the bridge created in the ’80s to cross the channel and get to the outer reef. It was originally owned by Bob Wilson and had large, live concrete bait tanks and access for shrimp boats.
It was later owned by Doug Sefcik and Wayne Tucker — now of Tuckers Bait Shop on 61 Street. By the late ’90s, it was closed and in need of repair. Stan Miller then took it over, restored it and ran it mainly as a restaurant and bar until lease terms were reduced. Stan is still around and is an insurance adjuster.
The Waddells offered world-famous hamburgers at Waddell’s Bait Camp located immediately south of the lagoon outlet.
Ann Waddell was giving fishing reports as early as May 1973. Jerry Flanagan bought it from them in the early ’80s, suffered through Hurricane Alicia in 1983, and the last fishing report from Waddells was in June 1987.
Sometime in the late 1970s, land that Youmans (Tuffy’s) had under lease just north of the lagoon mouth and just south of the Sealy’s Beach Club site, was let go and, despite Youman’s objections, Angelo Montalbano was allowed to lease it and create a seafood restaurant.
The first ad promoting Angelo’s Fishermans Reef was dated July 1981. Tax foreclosure notices were first posted in 1997 then annually until 2000.
In 1999, under some prior permit to create a boat ramp, he was subject to a complaint from the Park Board and the Corps of Engineers about dumping concrete at the exit point of the lagoon and his permit was revoked. Angelo died in 2013.
The Baja Beach Club — a restaurant, bar and nightclub — was created immediately north of Angelo’s Fishermans Reef, and at right angles to the site of the Beach Club of the 1930s.
The club was built in 1993 by Rosemary Oparenovich for her son Michael, who passed away at 54 in 2004. It was very popular with great views. Vacationers enjoying the outdoors would buy a drink there so that they could use the toilets.
The writing was on the wall for the bars and bait camps well before Hurricane Ike dealt the coup d’etat in 2008. By 2007, while relics and concrete remained, only the Baja Beach Club was still operating alongside the south jetty channel.
After the government passed the title for the first 396 acres of land and lagoon to the city and also agreed to lease most of the Coast Guard land, all in the years 1975 to 1976, the Park Board formed a committee to create a plan for land use according to certain conditions of the land transfer. One actual outcome was new Beach Park facilities.
In the early 1980s, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service donated funds to build a bridge to Big Reef and create two walking trails, one west and one east of Boddeker Road, together with signage, benches and waste baskets.
The trails were impacted by high tides from subsequent storms with some parts remaining, but the bridge across the channel was destroyed by Hurricane Ike and as far as known not subject to Federal Emergency Management Agency largesse.
The north end and channel side of Big Reef itself was badly eroded but past geology suggests that it will gradually repair itself.
After the 232 acres of Coast Guard land was deeded to the city in 2005, a new master plan for the entire area was created by AECOM, a worldwide consulting firm. It included an interpretive center. After Ike-related delays, it was reviewed with City Council early in 2011, but detailed design, permitting, engineering and funding is still only inching along.
Boddeker Road has had a colorful history. Storms, silting of access for boats to the jetty, poorer fishing and a change in ownership of the underlying land, finally brought the boisterous postwar chapter to an end.
All that remains of it are some of the concrete slabs that the camps and bars sat on and warm memories. Today, the area is an underutilized asset with the next promising chapter potentially before it.
As an eco tourism economic driver, as the Galveston City Center for Out of Doors and Nature Appreciation, much more could be achieved.
But like the projects of the 1930s, we need strong leadership, creativeness, super cooperation by all parties — and some risk taking and philanthropy to get there.
These East End columns will shortly appear in their entirety with additional historical material on Galveston Island Nature Tourism’s website, www.galvestonnaturetourism.org.