The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 100, July 1996 - April, 1997

Galveston as a Tourist City

DAVID G. MCCOMB*
IN THE OPENING LINES OF Karankaway Country ROY BEDICHEK TOLD A
revealing story about his inspiration to become a naturalist. In 1893 at
age fifteen he paid $2.50 to ride a "Katy" excursion train from Falls
County to Galveston, Texas. Since the largest body of water he had seen
in his drought-ridden home country was a one-acre pond, he was
astounded by the Gulf of Mexico. With "joyously naked" companions he
rushed from the shore into the waves only to be knocked down and
rolled about as if by an offended giant. He then learned to relax in the
natural rhythm of the sea. "For hours, in the new-found delight of com-
plete resignation," he wrote, "I yielded, body and soul, to the lift and
subsidence, the heave and fall of vast suspirations, to the huge breath-
ings of the great monster, now grown tolerant, even kindly." This was a
different world for the teen-aged Bedichek, a natural world that
deserved future thought and study.'
This early, pleasant adventure on the beach described by a beloved
Texas naturalist is so commonplace, so like the experience of others,
that underlying aspects can be easily overlooked. Nature provided the
beach and the waves, certainly, but the Missouri-Kansas-Texas Railroad
provided access for travelers at a cheap rate. Galveston City, an urban
entity and terminal point for the railway, benefited from tourism, and
incidentally, ruled nude swimming illegal. Bedichek was a tourist, and as
a teenager ignored the laws. Although at the moment he sought recre-
ation in the surf, the travel experience at Galveston changed the course
of his life. Thus, geography, technology, politics, business, time, travel,
* David G. McComb is a professor of history at Colorado State University and a fellow of the
Texas State Historical Association. His publications include Houston, a History (Austin: University
of Texas Press, 1981), Galveston, a History (Austin: University of Texas Press, 1986), Texas, a Mod-
ern History (Austin: University of Texas Press, 1989), and Texas, an Illustrated History (New York:
Oxford University Press, 1995). He is currently working on the recreational history of Texas and
the Gulf Coast.
'Roy Bedichek, Karankaway Country (Austin: University of Texas Press, 1950), 1, 2-3 (quota-
tion).

Texas State Historical Association. The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 100, July 1996 - April, 1997. Austin, Texas. The Portal to Texas History. http://texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth101218/. Accessed November 28, 2014.