It was Kathy who introduced me to the best Italian Restaurant in Galveston, Texas. The year was 1964 and I was a young Lieutenant Junior Grade in the United States Navy stationed aboard the USS Howard D. Crow, a Destroyer Escort home ported in Galveston. Kathy and I had eaten at a number of the restaurants that were right in the center of town along the Seawall Boulevard that ran parallel to the seawall that separated the beach and the Gulf of Mexico from the city of Galveston. There was The Cove, The Seawall, Paul's (a/k/a The Golden Greek's), Seaview, Roddy's, Luigi's and Le Celvestana. But Anapola's was off the proverbial beaten path. It was maybe a 15 to 20 minute drive and kind of out in the woods. You wouldn't find the place accidentally. No, you had to know where it was --- and Kathy knew. Maybe it was because she was Italian, herself.
Even being located on the outskirts of Galveston --- in the Southwest of America --- not in Philly or New York --- Anapola's was still a typical Italian restaurant. It had the checkered tablecloths, the recorded Italian music and Chianti in wicker baskets. It also had great Italian food --- especially their lasagna.
Kathy and I would usually sit at our favorite corner table, split a bottle of wine and eat salad, Italian bread and lasagna. We would always take our time, of course. Anapola's was a relatively small place with all the patrons seated in one room. The service was always good and the owner would always stop over to see if everything was okay. And it always was. I mean that lasagna was to die for!
One time, as we were halfway through our meal, a nicely dressed black couple entered Anapola's and sat a couple tables away from us. I don't recall that I had seen any black people in Anapola's prior to that time, but I had no problem with black people. Heck, 25% of my high school classmates were black and most of them voted for me when I ran for Class President. Many of them had also campaigned for me and they were all at my house for our victory party, as well. Kathy and I continued our conversation. But about 15 minutes later I realized that no one had served anything to the black couple, nor had any of the staff even acknowledged them. I guess, at the time, I figured that the couple would get served eventually or they would just leave. But I don't recall spending a lot of time thinking about what might or might not happen because I had consumed a half a bottle of wine and Kathy and I were having a great conversation and I was probably looking forward to what we would be doing when we got back to my apartment. When we left, the black couple was still sitting there.
A couple of weeks later Kathy and I were back at Anapola's for our wine and lasagna. As we were drinking our wine and eating our salad, the owner came over, asked us if everything was okay and handed me a card. I assured him that everything was all right and thanked him for the card. Kathy and I continued our conversation and dug into our lasagna after it arrived. Later, as we were having our coffee, the owner stopped by again. He said to be sure that I brought that card with me next time we visited his restaurant. I asked him what the deal was with the card. He replied, "Well we've become a private club now and that is your membership card. But it's free, so you don't have to worry." I asked him what the point was in becoming a private club. He answered, "Being a private club gives us control over who we have to serve in here. You see we want this to just be a nice place where white people can dine and relax. And you know how it is these days with all the civil rights stuff and the coloreds wanting to go everywhere."
Back then, maybe I was a little slow on the draw. But his response suddenly hit me like a brick and my mind flashed back to the black couple that no one would serve. Geez! I'm in the South! And this is the kind of crap that is going on down here!
Kathy and I were alone again and we discussed this new development. Finally, I told Kathy that I didn't want to patronize a restaurant that practiced segregation. Kathy agreed with me. I then called the owner over and gave him back the membership card and explained to him our feelings on this matter. He said he agreed with us but explained that most of his customers simply didn't want to dine with colored people and if he opened his place up to "the colored" he would end up going out of business.
After paying our bill, Kathy and I left Anapola's --- for the last time. The lasagna was terrific, but our loss was quite small compared to the losses being suffered across the South back in 1964.