Nearly every Galveston neighborhood used to have a bar. They were a part of daily island life like groceries, florists and bakeries.
One could drink at age 18 when I came up, and by the mid ’70s Tulip’s Swanky Inn, Pore ’Ol Fatties, the Elbow Room, Candy’s Place and Selena’s Blue Room were all on my itinerary. At the end of a long evening was The Pirate Club, then across from the State Theater.
One night on my way home, I stopped in at a little place called the Gizmo. It was on 26th Street and Avenue Q; since our family had lived between 27th and 33rd streets and Avenue Q since the 1800s, it was “neighborhood” to me.
Two little old ladies were behind the bar cleaning up as I ordered a beer. They told me they were closing at midnight and I said that was fine, that I was still living at home and had to be there by 12.
They asked where I lived and when I told them, they asked if I was related to the Smith brothers. My paternal grandmother and her Irish immigrant brothers were Smiths and they had lived next to the house my father eventually would build for us.
The Gizmo had been there since the 1920s, and the two ladies, Snookie and Vi, had remembered us. Tracing my heritage down through the years eventually to my father and then me, they were assured I was acceptable as a customer.
When I left for college in 1975, Vi and Snookie gave me silverware, table cloths and dishes for my new residence. I was told to study and to “meet a nice girl.”
Coming home for a visit some months after leaving, my first stop was the Gizmo. As I walked in with my new girlfriend, I found my dad at the bar with Snookie, Vi and a cold Pearl.
He had retired and stopped by the Gizmo from time to time to visit with Vi and Snookie. I introduced my new girl, gave her a quarter and asked her to play something on the jukebox for us.
One of the songs on the jukebox was Charlie Rich singing “Behind Closed Doors.” The final line of “Closed Doors” ends with repeating “behiiiind cloooosed doors.” But the old Gizmo jukebox always cut off “doors.” So as Charlie Rich’s song abruptly ended with “behiiiiind clooooosed” everyone would scream “doors!”
Everyone in the Gizmo loved doing this so much we wouldn’t let them fix it.
As Dad watched my future wife walk across the bar he said, “Son, that tomato is one tall drink of water.” I agreed and so did Snookie and Vi.
The Gizmo jukebox played “Behind Closed Doors” and my father, my future wife, Snookie, Vi and I screamed “dooooors!” at the end.
Behind Closed Doors
And when we get behind closed doors
The she lets her hair hang down
And she makes me glad that I’m a man
Oh, no one knows what goes on behind closed doors.
John Dundee lives in Galveston.