frantically back to shore to avoid undertows from approaching tankers
in the Houston Ship Channel, swimmers dreamed of a better life on
In the late 1930s, inspired by plans announced for island improvements,
swimmers dreamed of a beach with lifeguards. Watching and warning
from tall stands, the protectors would rescue swimmers dangerously
near the huge vessels that sailed to and from refineries on the
On the beach, swimmers dreamed of amenities such as concession stands
and places to rent beach umbrellas. And don't forget float rentals
to replace the castaway inner tubes they were toting from home.
Home of the Morgan's
Point ferry landing, connecting north and south sides of the
channel, Hog Island would acquire an additional identity as a bona
fide park, concerned not only with water safety but with the natural
habitat as well. Native plants would be preserved, and a bird sanctuary
would be provided for migratory birds.
Gone with the breeze would be Hog Island's general reputation as
an eyesore. The island would become a thing of beauty, a recreation
haven, a tourist attraction.
Impossible dream, all of the above?
The East Harris County Federation of Garden Clubs had a plan to
make their Hog Island Project happen. Moreover, these visionaries
-- whose previous experience had been limited to local flower shows
-- won backing from state and Harris
County officials, plus Houston Navigation District board members.
Enthusiasm grew as local schools became involved in the planning
process, along with numerous organizations and individuals.
And then, World
War II started, and plans for the Hog Island Project stopped.
After the attack
on Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941, government officials and civic
leaders turned their attention to wartime efforts, and funds raised
for Hog Island improvements reportedly went to the Red Cross.
Surprisingly, the island continued as a popular swimming hole during
for a few months when a polio epidemic prompted "no swimming" signs
on the beach.
The Morgan's Point Ferry landing stayed in business until 1953 when
the Baytown-La Porte Tunnel opened. By then, fewer people were swimming
at Hog Island as postwar travel to Galveston
became more convenient. After the war, gasoline no longer was rationed,
and many people finally were able to buy newly manufactured vehicles.
in 1949 opened its first city swimming pool - with lifeguards! --
at Roseland Park.
Hog Island still had a purpose in life, though, even after the ferry
service ended. A highway strip was there for drag races, and the
waterfront for the ever-popular sport of crabbing. Never mind that
it wasn't safe to eat the crabs from polluted waters; the thrill
was in the hunt.
In 1961 Hurricane Carla blew the whistle on all that fun, smashing
the Tabbs Bay causeway - the link with Baytown
-- beyond repair. After Carla, the only way to get to the island
was by boat.
In the decades following the hurricane, Hog Island steadily subsided,
dwindling into a dot on the Houston Ship Channel map. If you have
good eyesight, take a look at a tiny sliver of land east of the
Fred Hartman Bridge.
From big dreams of water safety, beach amenities, beautification
and preservation of the native habitat, to a little dot on the map
- that's the story of Hog Island from then to now.
© Wanda Orton
Baytown Sun Columnist
2 , 2019 column