Thursday, September 08, 2016

A Ferry Tale

My dad was born October 23, 1926, the youngest child and only son of Walter Lee Sr, and Fannie Gunstream.  He grew up during the Great Depression, and though they were better off than many people, they still didn't have much.  He told me once that the only vacation they took during his childhood was a week long trip to Galveston Island.  Although he never said so, I think it was this vacation that instilled in him his lifelong love of the sea.

On the other hand, it could have come from our Viking ancestors.  Just sayin'...

Nevertheless, this trip did instill in my father a life long love of Galveston Island.  When I was a child, we went there every year.  Some years, we'd take a real vacation and stay for a week.  Other years, it was just a day trip.  Either way, sometime during the summer, we would make it over to Galveston at least once.  The summer I was 12, my parents discovered that they could rent an entire cabin on the Bolivar Peninsula for about the same cost as an hotel room on the island.  From then on, that's what we did, but we still went to Galveston a few times during that week.

As I mentioned before, my dad had a deep and abiding love of the sea, and he passed that love down to his oldest daughter.  That would be me.  It was this love that influenced my decision to join the Navy.  But that's another story for another time.

Galveston Island Ferry

Any time we went to Galveston, the thing I looked forward to the most was the ferry ride across Galveston Bay.   I loved it.  The smell of the salt air, counting jellyfish, looking for dolphins, feeding the seagulls.  When I was 15 or so, my dad and I drove down to the ferry landing, parked the car, and the ferry back and forth a few times.  I know that's not something teenage girls are supposed to get excited about, but what can I say?  I am my father's daughter.

Back in those days, there were three ferries: the R.S. Sterling, the E.H. Thornton, and the Cone Johnson.

Of the three, the Cone Johnson was always my favorite.  The reason for that was purely practical.  The other two ferries had solid steel safety barriers around their observation decks, whereas the Cone Johnson had a chain link fence for a safety barrier.  I could see out.  It was much more fun than looking at a metal wall.  As I got older, and grew tall enough to see over the safety rail, this became a non-issue, but I still felt a thrill of excitement any time we got to ride the Cone Johnson.  

I can neither confirm nor deny that a few tears might have been shed when I heard the old Cone Johnson had been retired for good.

Since then, five new ferries have been built, and the original three have all been retired.  It's a part of my childhood that has been lost, yet the memories remain.  Just this week, I was having a rough day at work.  I stood there at my work station, closed my eyes, and was back at Point Bolivar.

I could see the lighthouse, smell the creosote on the pilings, hear the raucous cries of the seagulls and the blast of the boat's horn, and just for a moment, my heart was at peace.

Things change, and children grow up, as is the way of it.  When I was about 6 or 7, I began losing my baby teeth, right on schedule.

Galveston Island Ferry

My mother told me to put the tooth under my pillow, and the tooth fairy would come in while I was asleep, take my tooth and leave me money.

This confused me.  "How does she get into the room?" I asked.

"She just flies in at night," was my mother's reply.

I was still confused.  "But how does she fit?"

"She's very tiny,"  my mother told me.

"But how does she get the tooth out from under my pillow?"

I think my mother was getting a bit exasperated by my questions by this time, and she rather impatiently informed me, "She's got arms!"

Years went by, and I eventually lost all my baby teeth.  I didn't think about the tooth fairy any more, until I was grown and had a child of my own.  When he was 6-ish or so, he lost his first baby tooth.  I probably should be embarrassed to tell you this, but I'm not.  I was 35-ish years old, with a child, telling my son to put his tooth under his pillow, and it suddenly hit me.

"Oh, that kind of fairy!"

I've long since given up trying to find an explanation for such things.  But I can guarantee you, I'm probably the only child in the world who had her teeth picked up by a tiny little boat with cranes for arms.

.**Photos courtesy of

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