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Texas | Columns | Bill Cherry's Galveston Memories

How Photographer
Drew Kapalach’s Camera
Sees Galveston

by Bill Cherry
Bill Cherry
George Mitchell leaning over the trash can
George Mitchell with an ice cream cone in his hand
Photo courtesy Drew Kalapach

I’ve known Drew Kalapach for nearly thirty years. And what makes that significant to this story is that he was one of the first full-time residents on Galveston’s Strand when its adaptive restoration began.

Without anyone asking him, Mr. Kalapach, who has always worked in the oil industry, began chronicling with his camera the Galveston that he saw. There are hundreds of photos in his collection.

And he began when a lot of this story was happening in Galveston’s old and dilapidated downtown.

George P. and Cynthia Mitchell and others were beginning their heavy investments in it, trying to bring it back to life.

Drew Kalapach was to Galveston what Victorian photographer, Julia Margaret Cameron, was to the “Little Pals” of New York City in the mid-1800s, photographing what everyone would want to know about a century later.

Both blended into the streetscapes as they quietly took pictures of those things they personally found interesting and important. Nothing, absolutely nothing, was posed.

Mr. Mitchell recently died, and many who knew him – whether casually or closely – clamored to announce to the world their relationship, and why that gave them the authority to regurgitate the same list that others had enumerated of his accomplishments in the oil and gas industry, and then to ratify that they deeply admired him, suggesting that those listening to or reading their comments should, as well.

At the top of this piece, there is a photo taken by Mr. Kalapach that reminds me of a great George Mitchell story, one that’s completely different; one no one knew to tell.

The photograph is of Mr. Mitchell with an ice cream cone in his hand. He has just bought it from the Strand confectionary he owns that is in the building that’s in the background.

It’s known as Old Galveston Square.

He owns the building, too.

He’s leaning over one of the trash cans as he eats his ice cream cone so that it won’t drip on the sidewalk. No one other than Mr. Kapalach and his camera is nearby to see him, and even if they were, the chances are they wouldn’t know who Mr. Mitchell is, much less why he is being so fastidious.

But, you see, that’s the George Mitchell that Drew Kapalach and his camera believe those who come after us should meet.

And he’s right.

George Mitchell
George Mitchell
Photo courtesy George Mitchell
George and Cynthia Mitchell had ten children, and when the family was young, they lived in Galveston.

Mr. Mitchell rode the Santa Fe train everyday to and from his office in Houston.

On weekends, Mrs. Mitchell would pack up their station wagon with beach gear, hot dogs, chips, an ice chest full of soft drinks, beach balls, fishing poles, crab nets, floats and a croquet set, and they would drive the few blocks from their home in the San Marino neighborhood to Stewart Breach.

As evening would begin to come into view, sometimes rather than hand crank ice cream, they would repack the station wagon and drive to an ice cream shop on Seawall Boulevard that sold hand dipped Purity Ice Cream – made in Galveston, and even today is the only Texas-made ice cream that could have ever given Blue Bell a run for its money.

George Mitchell would tell the ten kids – Pamela, Meredith, Sheridan, Scott, Mark, Kent, Greg, Kirk, Todd and Grant - “I’ll buy each of you an ice cream cone if you’ll each give me 10% of yours.” They’d all agree.

And that’s how he taught them the importance of percentages. How?

Well, think about it. He was the only one who got 100% of an ice cream cone, and he had not had to buy one for himself.

As George Mitchell eats his ice cream cone over the trash can in Drew Kapalach’s photograph, if you have a keen eye, you can learn Mr. Mitchell’s respect for an ice cream cone and the lessons that one can teach.
Bill Cherry's Galveston Memories
December 22, 2013 column
© William S. Cherry
All rights reserved

Bill Cherry, a Dallas Realtor and free lance writer was a longtime columnist for "The Galveston County Daily News." His book, Bill Cherry's Galveston Memories, has sold thousands, and is still available at Barnes and Noble and Amazon.com and other bookstores.

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