Memories of Colonel Bubbie’s, Galveston, TX

It may be an odd memory to share for the holiday season, but I never claimed to be normal. The photos below were taken in February 2015 just at the end of Mardi Gras.

The building at 2202 Strand in Galveston is a historic structure. It contained the iconic Colonel Bubbie’s Strand Surplus Senter for 42 years, making it the longest-running business on the famous Strand. Opening it’s doors in 1972, selling military equipment — gas masks, camo, canteens, mess kits, medals and insignias, you name it — encompassing 60 countries and conflicts from the Civil War to Iraq, it stood as a guiding light for historians and reinactors of all ages.

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“Col. Bubbie’s has the largest standing inventory of military surplus in the free world. If we don’t have it, and it is available, We’ll get it for you.”
-Sign posted at Colonel Bubbie’s

Until a few months before the business closed it’s doors for good, it was the go-to spot for local theater productions to get period uniforms. It was also a hot spot for reinactors from many periods. The shop assisted in outfitting the hit TV show “MASH” and war films as diverse as “Saving Private Ryan” and “1941,” among many others.

DSC_0471The building itself survived Hurricane Ike in 2008, no small feat considering the serious damage sustained by some nearby buildings.

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Meyer Reiswerg, Col. Bubbie’s founder, said he’d seen a ghost he named “Harold” living on the third floor of the building. Harold is reported to pushes thing off shelves and move things around, but is mostly just mischievous. “He’s a nice ghost,” Reiswerg was quoted. “I’ve gotten used to him. The first time I saw him, I was scared to death.”

Now the building stands, a forlorn testament to it’s builders and the will and pluck of the Reiswergs. The property is for sale if anyone wants to pick up where they left off and rebuild the Galveston landmark business.

My own memories, sadly, do not include ever having been inside, nor have I made Harold’s acquaintance. I’ve admired the architecture and the entrepreneurial spirit many times, though, and often have wished I were able to be on the bandwagon for restoring the place.

“Colonel Bubbie’s Strand Surplus Senter sold its last piece of military surplus this week, ending its run after 42 years, according to The Galveston County Daily News, on Christmas Eve. Back in October owner Suzie Reiswerg, widow of Meyer Reiswerg (who was known as Col. Bubbie to devoted customers), told the Houston Chronicle that the Christmas holiday was to be the popular outpost’s last stand.”
-as reported in the Houston Chronicle December 26, 2014.

We’ve been missing you, Colonel.

–Ann Cathey

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