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  Texas : Feature : Columns : Bill Cherry's Galveston Memories :

"SET 'EM UP, BACIGALLUPI!"

by Bill Cherry
By the time 1937 had rolled around, the W.L. Moody, Jr., family had its fingers in many Galveston-based ventures. The was the American National Insurance Company, of course, a dry goods store, a chain of hotels, a couple of banks, a printing company and a cotton compress. There was even the Rex Laundry.

I figure that back then about one-fifth of Galveston's workers were Moody employees. So employee esprit de corps was important.

Mr. Moody's favorite business partner was his son Shearn. Mr. Shearn decided to build esprit de corp by encourage team sports for the employees. And he named it the Moody Club.

He built a big gym and some tennis courts and a four lane bowling alley. Mr. Shearn hired renowned bowling professional, Edward Bacigallupi to design and operate it.
Bowling professional Edward Bascigallupi
Edward Bacigallupi
Photo courtesy "House of Moody"
The bowling alley made its debut around Christmas in 1937, and by the following Christmas, an incredible 48,000 games had been played by Moody employees

And you know, back then there were no automatic pin setters. Teenage boys, called pin boys, put the pins in place. And it was a pretty dangerous job. Sometimes a wise guy would throw a ball before the pin boy could get back on his perch. If the ball didn't get him, flying pins would.

When the war broke out in 1941, our government decided to help finance it by issuing war bonds. But with the economy tight, a lot of people had to buy their bonds on the installment plan. They'd buy savings stamps at the post office or the bank. When they had accumulated enough stamps, they'd trade them in for a bond.

The Moody Club bowlers came up with their own unique way to raise money to buy war bonds. Here's how it went.

As soon as a bowler rolled the last ball of a frame, but before the pin boy was off his perch to reset the pins for the next frame, the next man up had to yell at the top of his lungs, "Set 'em up, Bascigallupi!" If the pin boy got there first, the bowler lost, and he had to buy another war stamp.

What a challenge. And wouldn't you know, it raised a lot of money.

Soon "Set 'em up, Bascigallupi!" became the greeting that one bowler would yell to another when he saw him in a crowd or across the street. It was no longer reserved for just the bowling alley. That tradition continued long after the bowling alley had been torn down and Edward Bascigallupi had passed away.

That exclamation was like a fraternity hand shake or the secret code to gain entrance to the club house.

You know, it's been a long time since I've heard someone yell, "Set 'em up, Bascigallupi!" But I remember the smile on the face and the glee in the voice of the man when he was able to beat the pin boy. And it was all in the name of Galveston Island's own way of expressing and sacrificing for patriotism.
Bill Cherry's Galveston Memories
September 3 , 2007 column
Copyright William S. Cherry
All rights reserved

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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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This page last modified: September 6, 2007