Stewart Beach has seen many iterations in the recent past. In the 70s and 80s it was booming. Everyone wanted to be at the beach, and to me, nothing was cooler than being a lifeguard. In the summer of ’83 I worked at a bumper boats ride, just outside of the Stewart Beach entrance. Later that summer, I started working for the Beach Patrol.
Throughout the 80s and into the 90s, after work my friends and I would often hang out and ride go carts or play volleyball. There were a lot of options. Two water slides, a bungee jump, restaurants, a swimming pool, miniature golf, a human maze, and more. If you wanted music, you could go see a blues band at the Patio Bar, which was at one of the water slides and had live music, an outdoor bar, and a pool. Or you could go to either of the two large beach clubs, each sponsored by one of the two competing rock stations in Houston. One club was “97 Rock” and the other was the “Hut Club”, which was sponsored by KLOL.
Many of the guards worked evening jobs as bouncers or bartenders at the beach clubs after they got off work on the beach. Lots of us went there just to hang out and watch bands play. The bars were nothing fancy, but they stayed packed with people dancing and partying on the sand floors till all hours. There was even a dance club in the pavilion, where we are headquartered currently.
At the end of the day in ’83, the guards would report back to our “Headquarters,” which was a trailer on the beach, to turn in our radios. We only had 17 guards then, so we made it work. Some would head over to Ernie Hunt’s little beach shack for a beer. Others would go in the water for a surf or a workout. Or we would go for a full dinner at Christy’s Beachcomber to enjoy some seriously good food and hang out with Willie, the owner.
Eventually everyone would “shower” in the little water pipe and change into evening attire. For some of us that just meant board shorts and a T-shirt with no shoes. Others got all gussied up with cologne, polo shirts tucked into shorts with a belt, shoes and socks and some hair product (80’s style). But eventually, all of us seemed to meet up at the Patio Bar for at least awhile where we’d drink, eat, and rehash all the day’s adventures. Lots of Galveston was down there so we’d always bump into people we knew. It was a great time to be a young lifeguard.
There weren’t a lot of beachgoing options for people back then, and much of the seawall didn’t yet have sand, so people naturally gravitated to Stewart and East Beach. And it certainly didn’t hurt to have all the attractions there in one place to draw a crowd.
Many of us are looking forward to the revitalization of Galveston’s flagship beach.