Cherry's Galveston Memories
plaque on the front edge of the big desk said, “Mr. Russell,” as if
anyone who came through the door would ever consider calling him “Ed,”
You’ve known people like that. It just doesn’t feel right calling
them by anything other than Mr. or Miz So-and-so.
Mr. Russell was a tall, large man with the remainder of a commanding
Boston accent. He was kin to President John F. Kennedy. In fact the
relationship was so close that oft times his mother would call the
White House and give the president an ear full.
Mr. Russell had a serious amount of dark brown hair, wore beautifully
tailored-made suits from Ortiz’s, and walked very erect. When he walked
in the door, his very presence told the others in the room that from
that point forward, he would be in charge.
In fact, had someone put Mr. Russell and his boss, George Mitchell,
side by side and asked 200 people who didn’t know either, which one
had a lot of money, I’ll guarantee you at least 198 would have picked
Mr. Russell. The other two wouldn’t pick him just because they had
And it was always a weird relationship between the two men, really.
Mr. Russell had served his time in the service and gone to a business
college in Boston on the G.I. Bill. There he found his forte. It was
oil and gas accounting.
He got a job working for a Canadian oil company, and by some fluke,
George Mitchell’s young company, Christie, Mitchell and Mitchell,
bought it and merged the Canadian company’s administration with his.
Mr. Russell moved to Houston.
things were growing. George and Cynthia Mitchell were building a family
that would end up totaling ten children. And Christie, Mitchell and
Mitchell was becoming a major presence in oil and gas exploration.
So George Mitchell decided it only made sense to have his own Dr.
Watson, his own Man Friday. Mr. Russell was the obvious choice.
So for the next umpteen years, Mr. Russell managed the personal finances
of all twelve of the members of the George Mitchell family. And he
also was assigned to do his best to look after Mitchell’s eccentric
brother, Christie, who had a restaurant and bathhouse on Galveston’s
Stewart Beach called The Beachcomber.
There Mr. Russell met Christie’s secretary and side-kick, a former
Miss Splash Day, Juliet Pappi. They married.
When George Mitchell began the adaptive restoration of the Strand’s
T. Jeff League Building, to be the home of the Wentletrap Restaurant,
the whole thing would be destined to be an elaborate, complicated
and expensive undertaking.
Overseeing that was a new duty of Mr. Russell’s.
the Wentletrap Restaurant opened, rental offices were built on the
second floor, and a ballroom for the restaurant was added on the
When the ballroom was completed, the air conditioning system simply
didn’t keep the guests cool. The architect called in engineers.
They added additional tonnage. It didn’t seem to make much difference.
George Mitchell told Mr. Russell, “Go down there and do whatever
it takes to get that problem resolved.”
So on that next Friday, the architect, the project manager, the
heating and air conditioning engineer and the building maintenance
engineer gathered in the ballroom around Mr. Russell. Every one
of them was trying to tell Mr. Russell and the others why they thought
the room wasn’t cooling. Mr. Russell listened, then listened some
A painter walked through the room with a ladder on his shoulder,
some brushes and a drywall saw in his scabbard.
Mr. Russell cleared his throat, a mannerism he always used before
he gave someone a direction. “Jack,” he said to the painter, “See
“Yes sir, Mr. Russell,” Jack said.
“I want you to go get two 3 foot by 18 inch grills from the shop,
then come back and take your drywall saw and cut a 3 foot by 18
inch hole above the door. Put a grill on each side.”
“Yes, sir, Mr. Russell. I’ll be right back,” Jack responded.
Within less than five minutes, Jack was back with the two grills.
He cut the hole just as he had been instructed, and put on the grills.
Immediately the cool air volume in the ballroom began to quickly
displace the hot, stagnant air that had been there moments before.
The problem was resolved.
George Mitchell got a note from Mr. Russell the following Monday.
It said, “George, you’ll be pleased to know that the air conditioning
problem is totally resolved.” And Mr. Russell signed it, “Edward
T. Russell, Executive Officer,” then added “AIA and HVAC Engineer.”