Oral History Interview of Emma Beal (1889-1972)

 Oral History Interview of Emma Beal (1889-1972)
Accession#: OH-Beal, Emma [Apr 26, 1972]
Title: Oral History of Emma Beal
Interviewer: Marilee Neale
Format: Typescript; one tape
Description: Beal (1881-1972) lived at 3616 Avenue P at the time of the 1900 Storm. An edited version of this and Beal’s interview, April 26, 1972, published in Casey Edward Greene and Shelly Henley Kelly, eds., Through a Night of Horrors: Voices from the 1900 Galveston Storm (College Station: Texas A&M University Press, c2000), 148-51.
Date: Apr 26, 1972
Terms: Houses; Avenue P – 3616; Trees; Bodies; Pyres

The following interview took place in the home of Miss Emma Beal on April 26th, 1972. The interviewer was Marilee Neal. Parenthetical statements indicate remarks and questions asked by Mr. Doyle McDonald and Miss Henerietta Hoffman.

Beal [April 26th, 1972] -6 -

chums with?
EB: They've all passed away. One was Clark Fisher. His father had been the Mayor of Galveston. I don't even remember the others.
Q: Well what about Clark? Was he a very good friend of yours?
EB: Oh yes, we were gonna marry. [Laughs.)
Q: Oh.
EB: I think I was about twelve, and he was thirteen.
Q: Well what did his father have to say about that?
EB: I don't suppose he knew.
Q: Or more important your father?
EB: My father had died; he died before the 1900 Storm.
Q: Did he die, excuse me; did he die in 1900?
EB: He died in '99, I think.
Q: SO you were with your mother at that time?
EB: Oh yes.
Q: Were your sisters and your brother still at home, too, during 1900?
EB: Yes, I think they were. Yeah, they were all here. I know my brother got the axe, and he made a big hole in the floor so the water could come in.
Q: During the 1900 Storm?
EB: Yes. The house wasn't high then.
Q: You said that the house was new?
EB: Yes, it was new. It was built in June, and in September the Storm came.
Q: It wasn't up on stilts, or it wasn't high-raised?
EB: Oh no. No...it...it was just...like you know. 'Bout as high as that house next door. Incidentally, that old house has a history. The uh...it was a grocery store when I first knew it;

Beal [April 26th, 1972] - 7 -

and they moved it from the corner and had...They made three houses out of it.
Q: Good night.
EB: Mrs. Rexer lives over there; and she's paralyzed. Just pitiful the way she lives on and on.
Q: Well now, was this house at 3616 Avenue P in 1900?
EB: Yes.
Q: It was here in this same spot?
EB: Oh yes.
Q: What do you recall about that week-end in particular?
EB: I don't know. People coming in here, and scared to death, and all. The Tucker trees had people hanging in them.
Q: Well now you said people coming in here. Do you mean into your house, scared to death?
EB: Was it what?
Q: You said people coming in here, scared to death. You mean, into your house?
EB: Oh yes. They came to...get out of the water.
Q: To get shelter?
EB: That was in the beginning. Because later on, the water was so deep, you know, they were all dying and...
Q: Well now, what about the people in the trees over there? They had climbed trees across the street?
EB: They were...you know, some of them were saved and some of them were not. Any number of 'em got over here, you know. Mr. Cannon down the street was a commission man. He'd send the provisions, and my mother would cook for all the crowd.
Q: What commission is this?
EB: Uh, commissioner? I mean...

Beal [April 26th, 1972] -8 -

Q: Oh, he was County Commissioner?
EB: No, he was selling goods; Commission Merchant, they call it.
DMD: (Right. Right. Wholesale grocery like.)
EB: Yeah, That's it.
Q: Well your mother had cooked for a lot of the people around then, during that storm?
EB: She certainly did; she said, "Don't talk about my workin'; if I didn't have the work, I'd be crazy.” She was glad that... you know, to keep busy.
DMD: (Do you remember much wind in that storm, when the, when the water was rising? Or can you just remember the water rising mostly?)
EB: I don't ever remember the water rising, 'cause it...you know.
DMD: ('Cause there must have been water in your house, you know.)
EB: Oh yes, I remember my brother taking the axe and cuttin' up the floor you know. Cuttin' places in the floor so the water could get in.
DMD: (That was smart of him; otherwise, your house would have been shifted off the foundation.)
EB: Yeah, that's what he knew.
Q: Well how high did the water reach? Uh, could you wade around in it? Was it shallow enough within the house itself?
EB: I don't know; nobody was thinking about wading. [Laughs.] I was going upstairs and getting the...
DMD: (I was wondering if you had to go to the second floor, to get away from the water?)
EB: Yes.
Q: Were you a young woman at this time, or a teenager?

Beal [April 26th, 1972] -9 -

EB: EB: Well I wasn't a teenager. Let me see how old I was...You know, I don't think, I don't...think...very clearly. It was 1900, wasn't it? Well I was born in '89. I must have been eleven years old.
Q: Eleven?
EB: Is that right?
DMD: (That's right.)
Q: Yeah, that would be eleven, if your birthday falls before September.
EB: No, my birthday is December.
Q: So you would have been ten. Well did you look out the windows from up there, by any chance, and notice...uh people who were in, who were possibly dead or drowning, or anything like that?
EB: Oh no, nothin' like that.
Q: You didn't have that?
EB: Just all huddled in here and trying, you know, to be safe and dry.
Q: Well, was your mother furnishing a shelter for the neighbors?
EB: Well later she...I don't know whether they called it a shelter or not. Men workin' on the street came in for coffee and stuff and...
DMD: (Can you recall if there was a much damaged area between this house and the beach?)
EB: Wasn't anything left. It was a clear space, except that old Tucker place. Now those little houses have been built since, you know. That was all open space clear to the Gulf.
DMD: (Was there much debris out up infront of the...?)
EB: Oh yes. Dead bodies in it. I know my...mother was curious

Beal [April 26th, 1972] -10 -

with me, 'cause I stood out there and watched them burn some bodies.
DMD: (Was there a bad smell in the area, do you remember?)
EB: I don't remember.
DMD: (But you can remember the fire, when they burned the bodies?)
EB: Oh yes. I know one body, the arm went up like that, and I screamed. [Laughs] And I never will forget that.
DMD: (No,)
Q: You must've thought he was alive, huh?
EB: [Laughs] I don t' know what I thought; I just saw the hand go up.
Q: Well were they doing that burning they you saw on the beach as far away, or just across the street?
EB: Yeah, I could see it. All that was vacant property, you know. Tuckers owned it.
Q: Well now, there had been houses...or many houses, or a few or some between you and the gulf?
EB: Well there were very few. I know we used to...We had a bath house, you had to have your own bath house, if you had it, and we'd undress and go in the water. That little house was right on 32nd Street, on the beach.
DMD: (Were there many little bath houses out on the beach?)
EB: Oh yes. Then there was...were some...that the people owned, and they rented to visitors.
Q, Well what did a bath house, as such, look like? I've never seen one.
EB: Oh, it was nothing but just a little...little room. And you go in there and put on your bath suit and come out.

Beal [April 26th, 1972] -11 -

Q: Well uh, now these were public beaches, did you own your own bath house...did many people...?
EB: Everybody didn't. Of course some of 'em rented. There...There was a...oh, what was the name of it? A man had a big bath house down there about 25th Street; and he had a restaurant attached to it, and a dance hall. I wonder what they called it, now. I guess I...it might come to me...
Q: When was that approximately?
EB: Dalian's...Dalian's Bath House.
Q: Dalian's. When was that approximately? Was that...about 1900?
EB: Well, prior to 1900.
Q: Prior to?
EB: 'Cause 1900 swept it all away.
Q: Yeah, I'm sure there wasn't much of anything left standing, was there?
EB: Well none of that.
Q: Now you told us awhile ago, that your schooling had been interrupted during this storm. Do you have any...uh...other school age children that were here spending the time of the storm with you?
EB: Oh no, people didn't think about school then. Thinking more about something to eat.
Q: Right. Well were, did you, pass the storm or survive the storm with any of the other school age people that you had attended classes with?
EB: No.
Q: Well how long was it before you all got back to classes, do you recall that?

Beal [April 26th, 1972] - 12 –

EB: No.
Q: Did it seem like a long time?
EB: It would have been short to me, 'cause I don’t (laughs] like school.
Q: But you went back to San Jacinto School, is that right?
EB: No, it was so badly damaged, we went to the Alamo School. That was on L and 30...31st.
Q: Well now, were classes kind of crowded with the San Jacinto School population going over there?
EB: It must've been, but I didn't pay much attention to it.
Q: Well now we've gone...
EB: I know they had morning school, and then afternoon school.
Q: Separate classes?
EB: Yeah, they were so crowded, you see...
Q: I want to start in on the 1915 Storm, and see if there is...to see what you do remember about that; but you may have something...
EB: Well I remember we left this house. My sister was living on 33rd. That old house is still there, 33rd and L. It belonged to...Mr...John Sealy's sister. Her name was Hartley, and she died. And the house with four acres was sold to my brother-in- law for $7500.00. It was wonderfully built, and he just fixed it up; and he died there. So he died. I don't know; 1914, I think it was. So my sister sold it; we came back over here. My mother had died over there. So then my sister moved here with me and her son.
Q: When did your mother pass on, do you recall which year that was?
EB: As I...I have to...to think when it was. Of course I have a record of it somewhere.

Oral History Interview of Emma Beal (1889-1972)