Oral History Interview of Wilbur Goodman

OH – Goodman, Wilbur
Title: Oral History of Wilbur Goodman
Interviewer: Bob Nesbitt
Format: Typescript; 2 tapes
Description: Goodman (1887-1979) lived with his family at 2816 Avenue J at the time of the 1900 Storm. His interview runs 144 pages. Only the Storm-related pages are available here. An edited version of them appears 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), 164-67.
Date: Jan 17 & Jan 23, 1975
Terms: Chinese Laundries; Saloons; Beach Hotel; Fires; Houses; Cisterns; Water; Thompson, _____ (Mrs.)

Interview with: Wilbur Goodman
Date of Interview: January 17 and January 23, 1975
Interviewer: Bob Nesbitt

The following is an excerpt from an interview with Wilbur Goodman. The interview consists of 144 pages. Only those pages that directly concern the 1900 Storm are available here. To view the rest of the oral history, please contact the Galveston and Texas History Center.

Goodman, Page 5

Nesbitt: Were you the sole owner when you sold it?
Goodman: No, we had about six stockholders. They all died. I was the only one remaining.
Nesbitt: I was looking at the Galveston City Directory for 1900. I made a little study of it. Galveston was quite a little city in 1900. This was before the storm. The census that year gave Galveston 38,000 people.
Goodman: Yes, at the time of the 1900 storm, Galveston was larger than Houston.
Nesbitt: I was looking at the laundries, not because I was coming over to talk to you; I made a list of every- thing that they had in those days. They had some- thing like 175 grocery stores, and they had quite a few tailors. Things that we don't have now. They had a lot of dairies. Seems like they had 25 different laundries. A lot of them were Chinese laundries.
Goodman: Quite a few Chinese laundries in town at that time.
Nesbitt: They were actually run by Chinese people.
Goodman: They were actually run by Chinese and they used to have a sack and they used to call at your house. In those days, they used to wear separate collars. Very highly starched.
Nesbitt: Celluloid collars?
Goodman: Celluloid collars. The Chinese would come around with a big sack and pick up your laundry and bring it back to you. That was way back in the horse and buggy days.

Goodman, Page 6

Nesbitt: Do you know what the biggest classification of all was among the business establishments in Galveston in 1900. The ones that had the most interests, like grocery stores, funeral parlors, laundries, and livery stables. Do you know what outfit had the
Goodman: No.
Nesbitt: Saloons. There were about 200 and some odd saloons.
Goodman: Every corner practically had a saloon. The only thing that limited the saloons was the corners played out. (laughs)
Nesbitt: Walter Chuoke, didn't he say that his father had a saloon at one time?
Goodman: That's right. Walter Chuoke, at one time, I think he did say.
Nesbitt: How is Walter? Have you talked to him lately?
Goodman: I went out to see Walter Chuoke about three weeks ago. He had just returned from the hospital.
Nesbitt: His legs are giving him trouble.
Goodman: His legs are giveing him trouble and I spent about 30 or 40 minutes with him in his apartment on 22nd and I.
Nesbitt: I want to ask you about the burning of the Beach Hotel. Do you remember that in l898?
Goodman: I remember that very well. At that time, I was living at 2816 Broadway.
Nesbitt: The Beach Hotel was about 23rd and... .way out on the

Goodman, Page 7.

Nesbitt: water right across from . . .
Goodman: That's right. The old site of the Beach Hotel is out in the Gulf now. The night that the old Beach Hotel burned--we had a fire whistle on the water works that blew whenever there was a fire and it would give the location of the fire. 2816 Broadway was just about four blocks from the water works, which was located on 30th and H.
Nesbitt: You said the whistle would give the location of the fire?
Goodman: It would blow--like one--it would blow one, and then hesitate and blow two, and then hesitate and blow three, and you knew it was box 135. All you had to do was look at the record and you could tell where the fire was. The night of the fire, the whistle blew about midnight. Of course, whenever the fire whistle blew, I always listened to see if I could determine where the fire was. I looked out of a south bay window, that I had at our home in the bedroom, and I thought the Ursuline Convent was on fire. I could see the fire from the bedroom window. I made a rule in those days, never to miss a fire. I didn't care whether the fire was at midnight, two o'clock in the morning, or any other time. I was interested in going to the fire. I got up and I don't think I even put on my shoes, and I dressed very hurriedly and told my mother and father that

Goodman, Page 8

Goodman: were in the adjoining bedroom that I thought the Ursuline Convent was on fire.
Nesbitt: Was this late at night or did it wake you up?
Goodman: It was about eleven o'clock at night. The fire whistle always woke me up. Nesbitt: You were asleep.
Goodman: That's right. The fire whistle always woke me up.
Nesbitt: Did you want to be a fireman or something? Is that why you were interested in it?
Goodman: I just wanted to see the fire. I was just interested in things of that nature.
Nesbitt: Curiosity_. .
Goodman: So, I got up and ran. I ran all the way to the Ursuline Convent and there was no fire there, so I continued to run until I got to the Beach Hotel. I was there when the Beach Hotel was in flames and the guests had just gotten out of the hotel and were in their nightgowns walking away from the hotel and the heat was so intense that the fire engines couldn't get any water on the~, so the Beach Hotel just burned to the ground. Nesbitt: So, that was in 1898. Goodman: l898--that's right.
Nesbitt: You were eleven years old.
Goodman: I was eleven years old. That's right.

Goodman, Page 9

Nesbitt: I guess nobody lost their life in that fire, I don't believe.
Goodman: What was that?
Nesbitt: I don't think anybody lost their life in that fire.
Goodman: No, nobody lost their life in it. The firemen couldn't get close enough to it to put any water on the fire. All they could do was sit there and watch it burn to the ground.
Nesbitt: Of course, it was really a hot fire with the wood, I guess. Of course, they didn't have big pressure in those days like they have now.
Goodman: No, they didn't have pressure. We had what we call a pumper. Those engines were all horse driven in those days before the automobile came along.
Nesbitt: You pumped it by hand. Was it a hand driven thing?
Goodman: They had a steam pump. They would build a fire. When the engine was on the way to a fire, the fire- man would build a fire under the boiler and build it up and create pressure.
Nesbitt: They could do it that fast?
Goodman: That's right. By the time he got to the fire, they had the pressure built up and they were able to pump the water 30 or 40 or 50 yards further than they would otherwise. I have a book on the 1900 storm here.
Nesbitt: Is it a red book?

Goodman, Page 10

Goodman: I think it is one of the few books that is in circulation now. I brought it from home on 45th. Have you seen that book? Nesbitt: Yes, yes. I think my wife and I have a copy of that book.
Goodman: I don't know if there are many books like that in Texas or not.
Nesbitt: No, there are not many.
Goodman: Of course, when that book was published, the Beach Hotel had already burned.
Nesbitt: Let's see, when the 1900 storm came along you were 13 years old.
Goodman: I was 13 years old.
Nesbitt: I remember that. That's when you and Walter, you said you thought you hung a ride on the buggy that was carrying Walter Chuoke.
Goodman: The storm was on September 8th. That was on a Saturday morning. I was practically raised at a YMCA here in Gaveston. I went to the YMCA that morning.
Nesbitt: It was where? At 23rd and Winnie wasn't it?
Goodman: That's right. 23rd and Winnie. Jesse B. Palmer, was secretary. I caught the last street car going home. The old 27th street streetcar. I got off at 27th and Broadway and walked to the house. The storm was then.. .the wind was blowing, the rain was coming down, but the water hadn't yet come over the

Goodman, Page 11

Goodman: city. After dinner that day, my brother and I asked my father if we couldn't go out and see how the gulf was acting. We did. We went on down Broadway to 23rd street until we got as far as Avenue P. The water was almost over, it wasn't quite waist deep, but it was getting too deep for us, so we decided that we wouldn't go any further. On the way back, we stopped at a man's house and the water then was just up to his porch. Almost ready to come into the house. When we approached the house, he said, "What are you boys doing out in weather like this?" We said, "We are trying to make it home now." He said, "You can't make it now. The wind is coming out of the northeast and hurricane winds are counter- clockwise." We couldn't walk. We had a walking stick. Some kind of a stick we picked up. We tried to walk against that wind and we couldn't make it. He said, "You had better stay here tonight. I don't think you can go any further." We told him that we couldn't do that. Our mother and father were expecting us. We looked out and saw a hack coming down Tremont Street.
Nesbitt: This was about what time of day?
Goodman: This was about three or three thirty in the afternoon. So, I told this brother of mine

Goodman, Page 12

Nesbitt: Was he older than you?
Goodman: He is three years older than I am. He died here on the twelfth of September last year. I told him, "Well, Burly [Burleigh], Let's see if we can't hop a ride behind that hack. That's the only way we are going to get to Broadway." So, we did. We ran out and as the hack passed; we hopped on the big springs on the back of that hack. It was horse driven. We rode that hack to Broadway and then we walked to our home on 2816 Broadway. When we got home the water was up to our waist. By that time, the bay water was coming in from the bay. The bay and the gulf waters were meeting; the tide had come up so high. When we entered the home, our mother and father were at the front door and they didn't know whether we would be able to make it or not.
Nesbitt: They were glad to see you, I guess.
Goodman: They were very glad to see us. But anyhow, in about a half an hour, the water was over the fence. If we had waited, probably, forty or fifty minutes later, we never would have made it.
Nesbitt: You would have had to climb a tree or something.
Goodman: Then, of course, the wind was picking up. In those days, everybody had wooden blinds--shutters--on the

Goodman, Page 13

Goodman: home. The wind was blowing them off. The slate was coming off that house. It sounded like a freight train passing over the roof of the house. The water was coming through the roof and we were staying on a lower floor and we never realized what was going on south of us. The major damage was from Broadway south.
Nesbitt: It was lower there.
Goodman: That's right. The next morning, when we got up; we didn't realize what had taken place during the night. Mr. Russell, who was a friend of my father's, came up on the front steps of the house, and he was in wreckage. Mr. Russell, knocked on the door, and, my father said, "Mr. Russell, come on in. Why are you in the condition you are in?" He said, "Mr. Goodman, you have no idea. There are thousands of people who have lost their lives here. I'm the only member of my family that was saved. The only reason that I am saved is that at my house the second floor separated from the first floor and I crawled up in the attic of our house and that section of the house floated on the debris of the other houses that had gone down. I stayed up in the attic until the water had subsided, then I crawled off of the debris and got back on the ground and here I am."

Goodman, Page 14

Nesbitt: Did he live near you? No, I guess he wouldn't
Goodman: No, he lived out on 0 or N% or out that way. He said, "There is nothing standing south of Avenue N. Everything is gone. There is nothing." So, we took Mr. Russell in and he took a bath. We had a large cistern and in fact we furnished water for the whole neighborhood. We had no city water. The mains had been broken.
Nesbitt: This was rain water that you had.
Goodman: Rain water. The cistern was full of water and that is the only reason that the cistern didn't blow away, was the fact that the rain water held the cistern on its foundation.
Nesbitt: Was it up high?
Goodman: The cistern was up high, but it was pretty well built.
Nesbitt: In other words, you had water on the second floor of your house.
Goodman: No, no. We didn't have water on the second floor. We had a high-raised house. The water kept coming up higher during the storm.
Nesbitt: How high did it get? Did it get in your house? Goodman: We thought it was coming in the house, so we got a bit and drilled holes in the floors. He didn't want to damage the floors, because they were all solid oak floors. We put a pencil down there and the end of the pencil was already wet by that water.

Goodman, Page 15

Goodman: He said, "If the water gets any higher, we are going to have to drill a lot more holes, because I want that water to come through those holes. I don't want it to do any more damage than necessary." The water got within three inches of that floor and that is as high as it got.
Nesbitt: How high was the floor would you say from the ground?
Goodman: About nine feet. In other words, it was too high for anybody. There was a Mrs. Thompson, I think Mrs. Thompson worked at the old Clarke & Courts-- a printing establishment at the time. She lived on west Broadway. She got as far as our house and she couldn't get any further. She came in and asked if she couldn't stay there. The water was just getting too deep. She couldn't go any further. She spent the night with us. There was a young fellow that was in a tree, on a telegraph post out on the esplanade. He was hanging onto a tree. A good swimmer could swim from the other side of the street to our house, but he couldn't swim back. He went by that post and asked that young fellow if he could swim. He said, "No, I can't swim a lick." He said, "I'm sorry, but the wind is so strong and the water is so rough that I'm not going to be able to get you over to that house over there." He was pointing to our home. He swam and came right up on the porch of the house. We let him stay with us

Goodman, Page 16

Goodman: that night. I said, "Well, I don't think that young fellow will survive the storm." He said, "I don't think so either." Then about midnight, a full moon came out. A beautiful night after midnight. For some reason or another, the skies began to clear and there was a full moon up there. As fate would have it, a big tree floated up and lodged against that telegraph pole and he stood on that tree and when the water went down he came over to our house.
Nesbitt: Saved him.
Goodman: He was saved.
Nesbitt: When did the water go down? When did it begin to go down?
Goodman: The water began to go down pretty quickly. At midnight, the water was falling pretty fast.
Nesbitt: This was . . .
Goodman: The next morning the water had . . .
Nesbitt: This was the day after. September the eighth. September the eighth was Saturday?
Goodman: That's right. That was quite an experience.
Nesbitt: Was the grade raised there at your house? You said it was nine feet high, so you really didn't need
Goodman: No, the grade was not raised at our house. Everybody north of Broadway had to pay for that fill. The grade raising started at Broadway and went south

Goodman, Page 17

Goodman: to the gulf. They dredged a channel coming in from the bay. That channel went right in back of where the Galvez Hotel is now. Hofphaur Dredging from Germany came over here and pumped the filling over the city.
Nesbitt: You felt the effects of that storm for a good many years didn't you?
Goodman: Yes, I remember very distinctly being at the YMCA that morning, what I did that day, and of course, after the storm was over they set up dozens of commissary houses, that we used to call "shotgun" houses.
Nesbitt: There still are some of those around. A few of them are still standing.
Goodman: My father's lumber yard was completely washed away.
Nesbitt: Where was his lumberyard?
Goodman: His lumberyard was on 30th and Church.
Nesbitt: What was the name of it?
Goodman: Moore and Goodman. It was the lumberyard that was originally started as A. J. Perkin's and Co. It started in the last century. It furnished all of the ties, lumber, and everything that the Gulf-Colorado and the Santa Fe used when they started building out of Galveston.
Nesbitt: How old was your father in 1900, would you say? Do

Goodman, Page 18

Nesbitt: you remember when he was born?
Goodman: I have a birth certificate giving those dates. I think it is in the lock box in the safe in the closet there. He died in 1928 and he was 79 years old.
Nesbitt: He was 51 years old. Goodman: He was 51 years old.
Nesbitt: How many brothers and sisters did you have, Wilbur?
Goodman: I had one sister and one brother.
Nesbitt: Both older than you?
Goodman: My sister was younger. There was three years diff- erence. If she was living now, she would be 84. She died last April. My brother was just turned 90 and he died last September. So, I am the last of the original family.
Nesbitt: You are in good shape. How tall are you?
Goodman: Six-two.
Nesbitt: And you weighed what when you weighed the most? You probably weighed, what, 220 or 230 or something like that. Goodman: No, I'll tell you, I weighed 218. I watched that weight very carefully.
Nesbitt: Were you athletic in your earlier years?
Goodman: Very much so. I played baseball. Baseball was my favorite sport. I played baseball at A & M. I played baseball at Ball High. Nesbitt: Do you still follow baseball?

Oral History Interview of Wilbur Goodman