before, George Mitchell had finished up the stuff necessary for him to buy the
long out of business flop house called the Belmont Hotel.
It sat on the
northwest corner of Tremont and Mechanic streets, adjacent to the two other buildings
he would also be using to comprise his latest vision for Galveston,
a reenactment of the Tremont Hotel of days gone by.
As I stood looking
up at the building from across the street, I noticed the four windows at the top
floor’s southwest corner were open. Old curtains were ruffling in the gulf’s breeze.
“Oh great, some bum has gotten into the building,” I thought. With me
being only about five and a half feet tall, coupled with a coward’s mind, I went
to find Oscar Ekelund.
When my generation of the ‘50s was growing up in
Ekelund was the sidekick of John Kaiser. They were the police department’s juvenile
officers, the ones we had been taught to go to when we thought things weren’t
By now, 25 years later, Ekelund was walking the downtown beat,
keeping the wineos from sitting in doorways and making the tourists feel safe.
I found Ekelund at the Old Strand Emporium, finishing up his poboy sandwich.
courtesy Family of Oscar Ekelund
When we got to
the padlocked front door of the Belmont, he said to me, “Look at that! There’s
a mezuzah on the door jam. Looks like some Jewish guy must be camping out in the
centuries, Jews have marked their homes with these small metal tubes. On the outside
of the tube is the Mogen David. Inside it on a teeny piece of parchment paper
in Hebrew are a few words from Deuteronomy.
When I had gotten the padlock
off of the front door, and we had walked across the lobby floor to the big circular
staircase that tied all of the floors together, Eklund cupped his hands together
and yelled up the staircase atrium,” Shalom aleichem” – peace be with you.
followed him upstairs to the very top floor. When we got to the southeast corner
room, we found a neatly dressed young man lying in a bed looking at the pictures
in a Playboy magazine.
The room was immaculately arranged. In fact, it
was decorated, for goodness sakes!
Ekelund said to the fellow who was
lying in bed looking at the pictures of the pretty girls, “Vuz machs du?” That’s
Yiddish for “What’s up?”
For the next few minutes the man and Ecklund,
a German Lutheran, spoke, each with sentences of part English and part Yiddish
words and phrases.
Ekelund translated for me, “He says he’s an Israeli
seaman whose ship sailed into the Galveston
port a few days ago, and now he’s the building’s manager.”
to me indicating he wanted us to step out into the hall for a private conference.
“I don’t think he’s lying. I think he’s used the English word “manager” improperly.
Why don’t we let him stay. He’ll ship out in a few days. I’ll keep my eye on things
while he’s here. Probably would be good to have someone staying in the building
Not one to argue with Oscar Ekelund, I said, “OK.”
we bid the building manager goodbye, he smiled, shook our hands and said to us,
“Gay gazenta hayt.”
When we got downstairs, I asked Ekelund how he knew
Yiddish. “Oh, come on, Bill. You know Yiddish, too,” he said proudly. “We’re from
The next day tacked on the Belmont’s front door, just above the hasp and
padlock, was a hand lettered sign on white poster board. It said, “Under New Management
by order of O. Ekelund.
2013 – William
Cherry's Galveston Memories"
March 18, 2013 column
| People |
Texas Town List | Columns
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
|Book Hotel Here
Cherry's Galveston Memories|