1900: The Eye of Destruction

I remember that storm. The eye that put my hometown underwater. It started up from a small rainstorm and in a few hours transformed into a ferocious cyclone that swept buildings off their feet and took people’s lives—people who I loved. But that storm had changed my life, and I would’ve been a different man if it had never happened. I go by the name of Alexander Cleveland, and I survived the Galveston Hurricane.
My life changed in 1900 in Galveston, Texas. I lived in a wealthy family of four in a huge apartment with a view of the entire city. My father, George, owned the Galveston chocolate factory and it produced the most amount of chocolate in all of Texas. My mother, Mary worked in the house and kept us in task. Lastly, my sister Allison, helped my mother with housework and grew flowers in her spare time.
One day, my family and I were in our apartment doing chores for mother, and I heard the front door open and saw that my father returned from the chocolate factory with a bag.
“Hello Pa!” I said.
“Hey Alexander, what have you been up to today?”
“Nothin’, just doing some chores for Ma before I start my homework. What’s inside the bag?”
“Some extra chocolates that I picked up from work, and they are fresh and made today!”
Before he hands me the bag, he takes a small envelope out and puts it in his pocket.
“Pa, what is in that envelope?”
“It is a surprise! Get the family together and meet me in the kitchen.”
The four of us gathered around the dining room table with the amazing scent of carrot stew my mother was cooking and wondering what my father was going to say.
“Papa, what is in the envelope?” said Allison.
“Everyone, we are going on a vacation!”
“George, this is wonderful! Where are we going?” said Mother.
“Well, first we are traveling to New York to see the big city, then we are going overseas!”
“Where!?” I pleaded.
“We are going to France to tour around the country and stop by in Paris to see the Exposition Universelle fair that just opened last month! I just read in the newspaper that the international participants were ‘42 nations and 25 colonies!’” (Exposition).
“Papa, that’s amazing! When are we going?” exclaimed Allison.
He took out the envelope in his pocket and opened it. In his hands were four tickets for a ship in New York with France for its destination.
“We will leave for Paris on November 10, but we will have to leave Galveston a week earlier in order to be there on time.”
“Thank you, Pa!” I said.
“You’re welcome Alexander. It is getting late, both of you finish your homework and hop into bed.”
We finished our food and done our homework. I don’t care much for school, I would simply sleep in class or not pay attention, which resulted in a few ruler marks in my hands, but I didn’t really mind. When I finished, I turned out the light and started to fall asleep. However the lights turned back on and my father was standing next to my bed.
“Hey Son, before you turn 18, I want you to come work with me at the chocolate factory after school starting tomorrow.”
“Ok Pa, are you going to teach me how to use the machines?”
“Yes, and I also have a better job for you, goodnight.”
The next day after school, I walked outside and heard my father’s automobile engine revving at the side of the school. He gave me a hug and we both started for the factory. Automobiles were very scarce in Galveston—only the wealthiest families could own these vehicles. My family owned an 1899 Duryea and it had a whopping one cylinder engine and produced four horsepower! It wasn’t quick, but it beat walking. To my surprise, it was very smooth on top of the mossy cobblestone roads in Galveston.
When we arrived at the factory, my dad toured me through his factory. He has shown me before, but he made it super in-depth to prepare me for work. When the tour was over, I asked, “Pa, what was that ‘better job’ you mentioned last night?”
“Oh, Alexander, I completely forgot! When you finish up school, I am going to retire from this job and give it to you to run the family business.”
“Really Pa? To me?”
“Yes son, all of it. I can’t wait to see you make this company better.”
This new job I was soon going to have excited me. How much money was I going to make? How much do I have to do? I couldn’t wait to see what my future holds.
A week had passed by, school was frustrating and boring. The only thing I remember learning is Allison telling me that the United States’ population exceeded 75 million people and it was “a 21 percent increase since 1890” (America’s).
After school, my best friend Jacob wanted to hang out. Knowing him for a long time, I assumed that he wanted to play baseball on the field or go to the beach, but it was different. We were going to look for trouble.
“Hey Alexander want to do something cool today?” said Jacob.
“Yeah, whatchu’ got planned?” I replied.
“I was thinking we could go to Old Larson’s liquor store and take a few bottles.”
“Stealing liquor? Isn’t that illegal?”
“Yeah sure, but that old man is usually sleeping half the time and no one will see us.”
I thought about it for a little while. Knowing it was wrong, I still made the wrong choice.
“Ok, let’s go.”
Jacob and I walked along the road until we reached Mr. Larson’s liquor store. We saw that business was slow so we had our chance. Jacob’s prediction was correct and Old Larson was sleeping and unaware. So Jacob waited at the front door keeping a lookout and I slowly crept past Mr. Larson and swiped a bottle of liquor. We ran out of the store, drank some, and hid it behind a box in an alley.
My father was wondering why I was not at the chocolate factory that day.
“Hey son, where were you today at the factory?”
“Sorry Pa, I was out playing baseball with my friends,” I murmured.
“I’m glad you had fun, but I need you there, this is a very important job!”
“It will not happen again.”
September has just begun. School has gotten worse. I came to the point where I would not do my homework entirely and just tell my parents that I did do it. Jacob and I still continued our shoplifting. We started to rob local candy stores plus Mr. Larson’s liquor store, but today was different.
Me and Jacob walked down to Mr. Larson’s store but we encountered a large amount of protesters outside his store.
“What’s going on?” I said.
“We are going to close down this liquor store!” a man shouted.
“We support Carrie Nation’s movement to abolish liquor consumption!” a woman yelled.
By the end of the day, Old Larson’s store was closed down by Carrie’s Temperance Movement, and I didn’t even bat an eye. I’ve been stealing liquor from his store for months and now he has nothing.
Jacob and I made the decision to go to the alley and get the liquor and candy we stole to move it. However, while we picked up the bottle, a policeman walked by and saw us with the stolen goods.
“Hey, what do you boys have there?” the policeman asked.
“N-nothing, sir..” Jacob said nervously.
The policeman looked at us with disbelief and saw the liquor and candy we have stolen.
“Boys, you are going to the police station for stealing and illegally drinking.”
The police officer led us to the police station to have our parents contacted to come pick us up. Since our family had our own telephone, my father was called and he immediately came to pick me up. I was nervous. My father is going to be enraged and punish me harshly.
His car rolled up, and to my surprise, he didn’t look angry, he looked more disappointed in me. When we arrived home, my father immediately sent me to my room to have a talk.
“Son, you are in a lot of trouble, I got a letter from the school saying that you are failing, and now I had to get you from the station because you were stealing.”
“Pa, I’m sorry.”
“I’m very disappointed, now I am not sure if I should give you my factory.”
“Alexander, you are not going anywhere this weekend and you are staying in the house.” my mother said.
The next morning, I heard my father start his automobile, so I opened the door to say goodbye. He didn’t say a word to be since the previous day, and I felt awful. However, he never heard me. I felt a drop of water hit my arm.
The drop soon turned into sprinkles, then into a storm. It seemed like every other storm, but soon, the winds picked up and the palm trees looked like they were getting hit by punching bags. The whole house started to shake, startling my mother.
“Mama, should we go to the top floor?” Allison asked worryingly.
My mother paused, and took one look at the window. Gigantic waves were rising over the beaches and crashing into the coastal buildings.
“Yes. Alexander! Get to the top floor!”
We stayed upstairs for hours. During that time, I thought about one person—my father, who was at the factory. Allison was crying, and we heard buildings around fall and swept of their feet. The night passed and we couldn’t believe we survived.
It was September 9, 1900. We opened the front door and couldn’t believe our eyes. Destruction, sadness, and death were everywhere. My top concern at the time, was my father.
We walked through the destroyed city. Buildings were leveled, people were missing, and the streets were empty.
We arrived at the factory. The place horrified me. The whole place was in ruin. Floods breached the bottom floor, machines were damaged beyond repair and destroyed, but some were operational. But the horror struck me when I saw corpses of people who were unable to escape the storm. Among them, was my father. My family mourned for him greatly, and I will never hear his voice ever again.
Two weeks have passed, and Galveston had just began to rebuild. My father’s death was hard on me, and it gave me an idea.
I must change. I need to live the way my father had, with love and compassion, not being greedy and stealing from people less fortunate than me.
I took control of my father’s chocolate factory. I used all of the extra profits to donate money to the needy and to tropical storm research. Now being the owner of the company, I needed someone to work with me and I knew exactly the person for that job. I drove to the remains of Mr. Larson’s store, and I offered him a job to be the assistant manager of the company. From now on, I would live life to the fullest and help others who are in need.
My father, George Cleveland, would be proud.
Works Cited
America’s Best History. U.S. Timeline – The 1900’s, 2017. Web. 22 January 2018.
Exposition Universelle. JDPecon, 2017. Web. 31 January 2018.
Bobek, Milan, Judith C. Callomon, and Samuel J. Patti. Decades of the 19th Century: 1900’s. Eldorado Ink, 2005. Print.
Debnam, Betty. “Kids in the Early 1900’s” The Mini Page. The Mini Page Publishing Company. 15-21 Jan. 2000. Web. 17 January 2018.
The Editors of Encyclopedia Britannica. “Carry Nation: American Temperance Leader.” Encyclopedia Britannica. Dec 30, 1999. Web. 31 January 2018.
“The Galveston Hurricane of 1900.” National Ocean Service. Revised 6 July 2017. Web. 17 January 2018.