full moon washed Trinity Bay in silver. In the quiet water, trout
and red drum preyed on scurrying schools of baitfish moving in the
summer night. Backlit by the refineries off toward Houston,
an oil tanker silently slid toward the Gulf through the deeper water
of the ship channel.
Despite the hard times brought by the economic collapse in 1929,
all seemed at peace and as it should be. But one Texas preacher
soon came to believe that the devil himself had walked the bay’s
shore that night. Assisted in his work by the awful effect of distilled
or brewed grains and hops, the very lubricant of sin, the prince
of darkness had emerged to lure more lost souls to eternal damnation.
Hedonistically imbibing whiskey or beer or both, more than a dozen
children of God – men and women -- had immodestly removed all their
clothing and plunged into the warm brackish water of the bay, frolicking
in joyful ignorance of the evil that had befallen them.
Fortunately for the pious people of the upper coast, where in nearby
roughnecks, visiting conventioneers, soldiers and sailors newly
in port had their choice of bootleg booze, open gambling or the
paid companionship of women in one of the numerous houses of ill
fame lining Post Office Street, a righteous man of the cloth stood
between his flock and Satan.
The preacher had received information regarding the scandalous outbreak
of co-ed skinny dipping at Trinity Bay. Not only had the reverend
been advised that naked wading, and who knows what else had taken
place within the protective cloak of his pasturage, a concerned
informant had provided the names of the debauchers.
This shocking news merely reinforced for the preacher that the battle
against sin went on as surely as the ebb and flow of the tide. Indeed,
the same preacher, and several of his fellow ministers, had been
fighting the outbreak of further evil – a proposed bathing beauty
review in Goose
Creek. There, home of one of the state’s most productive oil
fields, hundreds of hard-working roughnecks and other denizens of
the petroleum industry had to be protected from the many temptations
placed before them by a devil who seemed busier in the Houston-Galveston
area than any place else in Texas.
As the Goose
Creek Tribune reported that late spring of 1931, the sky pilots
serving the community’s congregations had succeeded in putting the
kibosh on plans for a swim suit pageant in southeastern Harris
County. No young women in revealing bathing attire, tight-fitting
suits that exaggerated their breasts and gluteal muscles while exposing
bare legs, ankles and painted toes, would be parading before the
good people of Goose
Creek. The project died, yet the seeds of sin had been sown.
“The other night,” the newspaper reported, “a party of some 17 Tri-Cities
men and women (young or old, exact number of each sex unknown) held
another sort of bathing revue on Trinity Bay. While the June moon
looked pleasantly on, the bathers proceeded to divest themselves
of their raiment, and to plunge into the cooling waters attired
as they were when nature first plunged them into the world.”
Oh, the horror.
Rev. J.T. Little, pastor of Trinity Tabernacle, soon “talked of
the affair from his pulpit,” calling out the perpetrators and warning
that the wage of sin is always death.
The anonymous journalist who had thus informed the whole community
of the disgusting reverie that had taken place beneath their very
high-held noses tried to put the licentious behavior into perspective.
“Rev. Little, having as a man of the gospel experienced humanity
in its grossest forms, perhaps knows well enough by his comparative
experience of the past that today is the day of extremes,” the newspaper
That was why squelching the bathing beauty review might have been
a case of throwing the baby – well, the babes -- out with the bath
“If the original bathing review had been carried out in the first
place,” the editorial writer continued, “then the men and women
Creek] might not have had any incentive to defy all the laws
of common decency by exposing their bodies on a beach in the moonlight.”
Indeed, what red-blooded man other than one already enslaved by
Lucifer would want to see fully nude women cavorting in the gentle
shadows of moonlight when instead he could watch girls in bathing
suits competing for a sash and a trophy?
Having viewed the situation with such clear logic, the newspaper
editor admitted that, no matter the preacher’s tireless efforts,
publicly identifying the 17 skinny dippers would serve little purpose.
Nor would preferring any criminal charges.
“Why appeal to the sense of shame of the culprits,” the journalist
typed, “when they probably feel no shame about what they did? Why
resort to law, when they probably violate the law, in some manner,
nearly every day of the week and will continue to do so?”
While those who had splashed around in their birthday suits that
night would have to live with what they had done, the upstanding
citizens of Goose
Creek, secure that they had been saved from all temptation attendant
to the staging of a bathing beauty review in their community, had
only to drive 40 miles to Galveston
to discretely enjoy all the sin they wanted.
© Mike Cox
January 29, 2015 column
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