The Hatfields and the McBOIs

When I moved to Galveston in 2003, I learned to my amusement that there was a feud of sorts — certainly a rivalry — between residents of the East End and residents of the West End of the island. I stress the word “island” because that’s what this little spit of sandbar is — a barrier island. Its two distinct social/cultural ends — where people on the West won’t go (10-15 miles) “to town” and people on the East have never been past the end of the Seawall — is the stuff of Garrison Keillor’s ”Lake Wobegon, where all the women are strong, all the men are good looking, and all the children are above average.” I wonder if he means the East side or the West side of the lake…

But a little less funny, sometimes, is the rivalry, if that’s the word, between the people who were born here (“Born on the Island” or “BOI”) and those who were not. Here’s what that looks like: About six months ago, I asked my BOI friend what he thought about mayoral candidate, Betty Massey. He said he liked her very much and thought she would make a fine mayor. “There’s just one thing,” he said. “She’s not from here.” “She’s been here 30-something years,” I said. “Right,” he said. “She’s not from here.” I wondered if he understood that he had just called me fat.

He’s not an aberration. Yesterday I read someone’s musings in the paper about run-off Council candidate, Sheryl Rozier, speculating that possibly she didn’t get more votes because she wasn’t “Hispanic or BOI.” Aha! BOI is a voting block! See, this is where it stops being so funny.

Those of us who went through Ike, who came back first chance we got, who broke the law to stay on the island, who allowed the National Guard to point guns in our faces as we helped our neighbors, who gave up everything to help rebuild, who climbed through the muck and fetched and carried and stooped and groveled and stepped in front of moving trains, metaphorically speaking, putting it all on the line to make sure this place and its people — all of them — didn’t suffer needlessly when, face it, we could’ve just stayed gone and gotten on with our lives… those of us who went through all that and much too much more to enumerate in this short piece — and especially those who are willing to serve our community (singular) in what can be some pretty thankless positions sometimes — none of us deserve to be rewarded with a glass ceiling of prejudice based on a geographic accident of birth.

And this island deserves better than that, too. If you don’t believe me, try to do it without us.


Copyright © 2010 Alice Melott

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  1. #1 by Dana on June 21, 2010 - 7:56 am

    Absurd to think..but I know it to be true.
    Who would not want the best to lead?

  2. #2 by Nancy on June 21, 2010 - 8:35 am

    I think it is so true of the BOI’s but not all…it took the entire village to raise this island after IKE Many like you were wiped out…but we are still here!

  3. #3 by Alice Melott on June 21, 2010 - 8:40 am

    Certainly never intended to paint everybody with a single brush! They know who they are! ;c)

  4. #4 by Cindy on June 21, 2010 - 8:45 am

    Although I dont live on the island, I work and play here and much of my money is spent here. My heart is here. I know I have no voting rights for local elections, but I do try to stay informed to whats going on locally because quite simply, I love this little piece of paradise of ours. I have sold quite a few homes in Galveston. Some full timers, some not, but much of whom are just as in love with G-town as the rest of us. They care as much about her rich and colorful history as they do her bright and promising future. Many of whom are more than qualified to hold public offices should they aspire to do so at some point. The same goes for many of my friends like Betty who have been here for many years, and have served this community is so many ways. A simple history lesson of Galveston should cure negative attitudes about non-BOIers. The original founders were certainly not BOI. The same is true for the soldiers who fought to protect her shores, the architects who built her structural treasures and the business owners who moved their fortunes from elsewhere to see her prosper. You can be sure though, that most of them feels or felt exactly like the bumper sticker states, “I’m not from Galveston, but I got here as quick as I could.” I’m still working on it.

  5. #5 by Hank on June 21, 2010 - 8:50 am

    I have lived in Galveston for 20 years, moving here from Oklahoma. I’ve had professional opportunities in New Orleans and other places, but I prefer to live and work in Galveston. I bought my house in 2003, back when Lost Bayou was beginning to take shape. I could have easily moved to League City or West Texas City and made the commute to work like so many others. By choosing to live in Galveston, I have the benefit of island culture, a three-minute commute to work, and access to just about everything I need within minutes. My house flooded and I lost mostly everything with Ike. My insurance premiums are sky high, but I find a way to pay them. Historic home restoration is never ending and projects become more and more costly. The San Jac Neighbors have banded together to improve the island for generations to come. I feel vested in Galveston and will do my part to make a difference whenever possible. I am proud to be an IBC – Islander By Choice – and wouldn’t wish to live anywhere else.

  6. #6 by Sallie Waters on June 21, 2010 - 8:55 am

    Alice, interesting observation but I do have to comment that the pioneers like myself who live on the West End do indeed come East to town with great regularity! Interesting though…we don’t have nearly the prejudices shown regarding BOI as most of us are IBC’s…Islanders by choice and just like those who convert to a different religion, we are truly more committed toward the well being of this island now and for the future.

  7. #7 by Mary Hearn on June 21, 2010 - 9:00 am

    I like to sayI’m BOI too…Born Off the Island!! I love Galveston!

  8. #8 by Jake on July 13, 2012 - 9:24 am

    The NG had no weapons after Ike, there was no law requiring anyone to leave, unless you violated curfew.
    We don’t have a problem with non BOI’s, hell I like them, they taste good. Y’all just make it so easy to distinguish yourselves by complaining that your not accepted.
    What y’all may not understand is what we don’t understand; WHY, if we have such a nice place, it’s all you ever wanted in a home, do you insist on wanted to ‘improve’ it? So publicly and in a demeaning way. “Y’all got a nice place here but I would do it this way. Or, Back home in east ‘Bigcity’ USA we did it this way. They way you’re doing it is just plain stupid”
    I say hmphh.

    • #9 by Alice Melott on July 13, 2012 - 9:27 am

      Thanks for making my point for me, Jake.

      And yes, they did have guns. Many of them.

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