Heritage, 2011, Volume 4 Page: 4
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By Bill Cherry
Beach Boulevard and the Gulf of Mexico, G
The majority of today's Galvestonians either were not
yet born or are not old enough to comprehend what effect
organized gambling had on the island's lifestyle and
economy before it left for good in 1957. Nor do many
know the story of an era when the city's illicit industry
flourished under the rule of one family whose influence
defined life in Galveston for nearly three decades during
the mid-20th century.
In the glory days when Galveston's famed vice was open-
ly operating, most homes and businesses were not air-con-
ditioned. So while tourists were drawn to the beach, they
primarily came to the island for the constant Gulf breezes
that blew through their hotel room windows and were not
present anywhere else nearby. Additionally, in the 1940s
and early '50s, as a result of World War II, cars were old and
unreliable, and tires, batteries, and repair parts were scarce.
There were no superhighways (until the Eisenhower admin-
istration), and a trip from Houston to Galveston took a
couple of hours. Traveling from Dallas seemingly took for-
ever, unless you rode the train as many did. Nevertheless,
since summers were all but unbearable in Houston and
Dallas, spending major portions of these hot months in
Galveston beachfront hotels was the common denominator
enjoyed by many Texans from both cities, as well as those
from nearby Louisiana, particularly among the more
During these decades, the island's casinos and gaming
devices were primarily owned by one family: the Maceos,
with brothers Sam and Rose at the head of the clan. At
the most-talked about of Maceo businesses-the
Hollywood Dinner Club, the Balinese Room, and the
Studio Lounge-guests were dressed to the nines, ate fine
food, danced to big bands, and gambled away thousands
of dollars in hidden casino rooms. (Author's note: Armchair
historians talk about the famous stars performing at the
Hollywood, the Balinese Room, and the Studio Lounge as if
their numbers were constant and endless. However, I've
never been able to count more than 50 who played these
venues, an average of about three each year. In reality, noted
bands with singers provided most of the music for dancing.)
4 TEXASHERITAGE I Volume 4 2011
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Texas Historical Foundation. Heritage, 2011, Volume 4, periodical, 2011; Austin, Texas. (texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth254223/m1/4/: accessed August 21, 2017), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History, texashistory.unt.edu; crediting Texas Historical Foundation.