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Bill Cherry's Galveston Memories


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Columns | Bill Cherry's Galveston Memories


by Bill Cherry
Bill Cherry
I don’t know who had chosen which records would be among the 100 on the Seeburg Selectomatic jukebox with the neon-style lights that added the only tinge of brightness in the teeny night club, but it didn’t matter, really.

Because out of the 100 possibilities that were in the jukebox’s record slots, five had inadvertently been found that the clientele would play over and over again, almost always ignoring the rest.

The favorite one was sung by a one-tune wonder named Toni Fisher. And even though it had come out in 1959, seven years later it remained Number 1 on the Metropole Club Hit Parade, six plays in succession for a quarter. Its title was “The Big Hurt.” It went like this:

Now it begins, now that you've gone
Needles and pins, twilight till dawn
Watching that clock till you return
Lighting that torch and watching it burn

The Metropole Club was no more than 15 feet wide by 50 feet long. There was a bar on the right with about 12 stools. Along the other wall, front to back, were leatherette overstuffed chairs and a couple of loveseats.

Next was the Seeburg jukebox.

At that point, an archway separated the front portion from the back where there was a small dance floor surrounded by a series of tables for two and a spinet piano.

Around the dance floor’s walls were little wooden lockers where members of the Metropole kept their own individual bottles of liquor.

The club’s owner, president, manager and bartender was Dorothy Graham, a holdover from the days of slot machines, and the all night debauchery that Galveston had been famous for as recently as ten years before.

Next door to the Metropole Club was the Busy Bee Cleaners, owned by Ed Wheeler, who was also Miss Dorothy’s landlord.

Miss Dorothy would open the Metropole Club each morning just before noon, and she would try to abide by the law that required her to close no later than midnight.

But if the place was jumping and she was partying with the others, she would oft times run over into the wee hours of the morning.

The Liquor Control Board didn’t seem to care enough to catch her.

A number of Miss Dorothy’s regulars were doctors. Of those, two or three were on the staff at John Sealy Hospital, and the others, St. Mary’s Infirmary. Four of them would come in together about seven each evening, begin buying each other drinks, and then the one of them who was called “Dr. B” would make a bee-line to the spinet piano to play his theme song, “The Sweetheart of Sigma Chi,” with a banging segue and extreme rhythm change into “When the Saints Go Marching In.”

Others customers came and went, but these four doctors usually stayed late, playing, singing and drinking.

One night when the four rang the doorbell, one of the regular customers did the peeking and admitting. Miss Dorothy was asleep on one of the loveseats.

That hadn’t stopped the customers from making their own drinks, ringing up their purchases and listening to “The Big Hurt.”

Someone said to the doctors that Miss Dorothy was not feeling well, and had been on the loveseat for at least several hours. Dr. B felt her forehead and proclaimed she was OK, that she just had a bad cold. Miss Dorothy didn’t move or open an eyelid.

Dr. B went to the spinet and started banging out his “Sweetheart of Sigma Chi”--“When the Saints Go Marching In” medley, drowning out Toni Fisher’s “The Big Hurt.”
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The next night when the doctors arrived, again they were greeted by a customer when they rang the doorbell. Miss Dorothy was still asleep on the loveseat.

Since she had on the same clothes, it was fairly certain that she had been there since the previous night.

One of the doctors went behind the bar to fix the four their toddies. Dr. B. glanced at Miss Dorothy on his way to the piano. Miss Dorothy didn’t open an eye. Toni Fisher was warbling. “The Sweetheart of Sigma Chi” began.

On the third night, everything was the same as before. And Miss Dorothy was still lying asleep on the loveseat.

But this time, Miss Edna, one of Miss Dorothy’s friends and a customer said to the medical four, “I’m very worried about her. I’ve been waiting for you to come in. Could one of you examiner her and maybe give her a shot of penicillin? I think she should be in the hospital.”

Dr. B and the boys walked over, stood above Miss Dorothy and proclaimed that she just had the bug that was going around.

“She’ll be fine in a few days. She can take aspirin if she wants. It might make her feel a bit better,” Dr. B said, now on his way to the piano.

Toni Fisher continued to sing.

Oh, each time you go
I try to pretend

It's over at last
This time the big hurt will end

The next morning Mr. Ed, Miss Dorothy’s landlord, noticed that her little Mercury was in the same parking spot where it had been for the past four days. It was three hours before the time she usually arrived. He decided to investigate.

The Metropole Club’s door unlocked, so he went in. Miss Dorothy was stretched out on the loveseat. Mr. Ed was shocked. He called for an ambulance. Later that day Miss Dorothy died.

That evening the doctors moved their activities to a neighborhood bar that was nearer to John Sealy and St. Mary’s. Toni Fisher and “The Big Hurt” and the memory of Miss Dorothy stayed behind at the Metropole Club.

Bill Cherry's Galveston Memories
October 3, 2009 column
Copyright William S. Cherry. All rights reserved

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Bill Cherry, a Dallas Realtor and free lance writer was a longtime columnist for "The Galveston County Daily News." His book, Bill Cherry's Galveston Memories, has sold thousands









































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