Down Memory Lane

61st Street Pier

Counting the rock groin leading out and the pier structure, anglers can place their bait offerings all the way out to about 1,000 feet from the shore. It has a 130-foot T-head at the end.

 Journey back to 1944 when another Galveston pier opened, the Municipal Recreation Pier. This one had good fishing off the T-head, described by a writer for the Galveston News as “fine enough for the most discriminating followers of Isaac Walton. Already some remarkable catches have been made. During the past week a few mackerel and pompano and many speckled trout were caught.”
The Municipal Recreation Pier, at a cost of $1,500,000, had its grand opening on June 14, 1944. The pier was constructed along the lines and similar to the famous steel pier in Atlantic City. Not only could a person fish from it, but visitors also had the opportunity to dance to name bands and enjoy various “spectacular” free acts. On opening night anglers fishing from the T-Head were serenaded by the Al Donohue orchestra, featuring vocalists Lynne Stevens and Dick Vance. Fishermen could have even put the fishing pole down and gone dancing if they could find someone who didn’t mind a dancing partner that smelled like cut bait.
 A general admission ticket entitled patrons of the pier to all the free services, accommodations and acts.
“Among the featured ‘frees’ is the big sensational open air acts on the stage of the Gulf Stadium where seats are provided in the stadium for 2,000 patrons,” continues the Galveston News report. “Comfortable deck seats (lined) the east and west promenade decks were sun worshippers may bask and picnickers may sit in the cool shade of the huge Hall of Victory building.”
 Admission price on opening night was $5, which included admission to the marine ballroom, the aerial circus, and other features. After opening night, admission costs dropped to .25.
“The first impression one gets when visiting the pier is the size of structure which extends out into the Gulf some 1,200 feet at the very end. Off the T-head fishing pier, the depth of the water at normal tide is 20 feet,” reports the News.
Big things were planned for the pier after the grand opening, however problems such as the lack of air conditioning for the ballroom made dancing and theatrical productions dicey. 
Yes, the space was available, but who wanted to sweat during the hot Galveston summers. As one reviewer put it, “the hot ballroom drew little more than flies.” Money wasn’t available to install the necessary air and heating systems.
Move forward to May 28, 1947, the pier reopened again, bigger and better than ever. The pier featured a (air-conditioned) marine ballroom, exhibit hall, concessions, an aquarium, outdoor rides, and outdoor theater, snack bar and the fishing pier.
“That pier was purely palpitatin,” was how one of the younger visitors described the second grand opening. The Galveston News reported that 1,500 fans crowded into the Marine Ballroom on opening night to celebrate the opening of the pier, now more commonly known as the Pleasure Pier, listening and dancing to the progressive jazz sounds of the Stan Kenton band.
The Pleasure Pier is just one of great recollections of Galveston history. The re-opening of the 61st Street Fishing Pier this summer is an exiting time for the many anglers who eagerly awaited the event. Although there is not stadium seating for 2,000 people, visitors can retire to the upper deck and sip a cool drink. 
There is no circus act going on, but some angler tying to land a five-foot shark might qualify as a noteworthy performance of sort. There is no music of a big band drifting over the water, but who knows. An angler listening to his iPod while fishing might be listening to Stan Kenton.

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