43 Beil's Grocery Store (later changed name to Opportunity Store)
Beil's Grocery Stores. In 1960s there was a Beil's grocery store on Leopard, across from Gulf Radiator, sandwiched between a large furniture store, and other side was a Kelly's Tires. Lester on west, Doss on East. A railroad track ran in back of it to Bekins Furniture store, this was Doss & Leopard, or parallel between Mestina & Leopard. Beils is #43 on my BIG MAP you will have to click on the link to view the location as I rampage thru my old neighborhood in 1960s. Beils is #43, the furniture store #44, Kellys Tires #42, Bekins #51 where the rail road (follow #5 Missouri Pacific railroad, if I could follow this around as a kid under 10 you can too).
Beils. In the 1960s this old industrial working class blue collar hood was thriving in Corpus Christi. LOTS of small businesses. Like the ones mentioned here. Beils had several locations all over Corpus Christi, including the building that one day would be White Rabbit Disco. But we are in my old hood so lets stay here. This Beils was a smaller store but had lots of things piled high, on the east side was fruits, veggies, breads, tortillas, cookies, in back was a small meat market where you could get fresh cuts of all sorts of meats cut by butchers. About 10 aisles front to back. 4-5 check out counters, they also had baskets to push around food, a modern thing. Near front was some gumball machines, and one of them had Super Balls that looked like pool balls, with numbers. The most coveted one was of course 8 Ball, but not a lot of those in machine, and no matter how much you shook it, they never move. I was about 7 years old this time. Would buy Super Ball for 5 cents, take to Cathedral school 7 sell them for 10 cents, quite a racket, the nuns feared those would break the stained glass on church but of course never did and many kids lots their balls (ha ha) on roof when it went down gutter, so would have to sell them another one.
I bought my first can of fried onion rings here for about 20 cents, what type of sorcery is this in a can? It is DELICIOUS!! Eh, but also 20 cents a ton of moolah for a kid. The employees were always nice, and one Mexican guy I do not remember his name, said 'no te des rascando lot pelotas de la cocina!' one day to another employee, they both started cracking up, as did my two friends Mondo & Junior Rabago who lived next door to us. They knew spanish, I didn't so was like laughing at a Cantinflas or Herma Linda Linda or Super Raton cartoon, laugh but not sure why. I thought it was funny too so when I got home repeated it and momma turned several colors of red then plaid then green. I basically said 'don't be scratching your balls in the kitchen!' of course not knowing spanish, this fell into same line as when I was yelling 'puto, puto' and momma had same face reaction. I tried to quickly tell her it was Pluto! Pluto! to no avail. So she got the Hot wheels track and spanked my butt really bad telling me never to repeat that even though she didn't tell me what the heck I just said. Now my hinie was same color as her face, but hurt. I DID use that saying thru years at bars & restaurants I worked at ha ha to my fellow co workers who loved it. Ok, no one was scratching anything, just thought it was funny getting same reaction as decades before. Sometimes while walking past the fire station #36 on the big map) the firemen would ask me to go buy a box of crackers at Beils, give me 25 or 50 cents and 'keep the change' wow I was OFFICIAL fireman, the crackers mostly about 19-26 cents so profit margin was good for walking block! The old firehouse is #36 on the big map, had a bell tower. The firemen always welcomed the kids in firehouse, super friendly guys, and place was always spick & span clean, smelled good as always seemed to be cooking something.
There was a open trash area behind Beils next to railroad tracks. Same type as HEB at corner of Leopard & Port 2 blocks away, brick enclosed area, no lights. Everything got tossed in there, old fruit, veggies, bread, boxes, everything. The mice & rats easier to catch in here as just stand near open door, there was upper part, lower part, but stand there with box, chase them towards door, get in box, then go out to Leopard & time stop light at Port & toss them into street as cars got close, many squished, others actually got away! Sometimes they met their fate with the cats at our house people who didn't want cats dropped off in middle of night. There was a old wino who ate lots of food back there, us kids called him 'The Wino Behind Beils' of which we saw him as far away as Ben Garza park, and walking down Agnes, and behind buildings walking along tracks on Agnes too. Looked like Jesus, scraggled, smelled like a sasquatch, we always just strayed away from him he had issues in head. His clothes were tattered & torn, beard & hair matted, and more than a few times he surprised us kids by popping up like Jack In The Box in back of Beils where he was sleeping in trash.
One day the Oscar Meyer Weinermobile showed up at Beils. This was a huge event in Corpus Christi am guessing, at least on Leopard street. There were midget chefs, bands (might have been Miller High school or maybe the junior high place on Old Brownsville Road near Johnnys Fish & Chips, don't remember name, possibly Driscoll?) but band, free hot dogs, free Cokes and Sprites.
all the neighborhood kids there eating up a storm. Even the firemen came by, a number of Coca Cola people from across street on Lester too. I took home 6 hot dogs to my mom & dad. Brother Tommy didn't try to put them out of business eating like he did Shakeys though. The Weiner car was covered by Caller Times & some TV stations then, again, was really big deal, some promotion, either by Beils, Oscar Mayer or both. Catholics and old blue haired ladies who would never leave a open bingo card came over from KC Hall (Knights of Columbus) across street as did Mobil gas station people. Mobil is #30, KC Hall #31 on the map.
This nice, generally clean store ended up turning into something called Opportunity one night, went there that day, came back next day, new sign, and same employees, and everything else. As the neighborhood changed, this was Opportunity LOST as it closed down later, too much competition from I guess HEB (#15 on map) which was 4 times bigger Port & Leopard, maybe even from Hameweis (#85 on map) next to Sears corner of Sam Rankin & Leopard, too many grocery stores, not enough people in slowly dying off neighborhoods.
Beils either pulled out of or was bought out eventually. And not sure how long they lasted into the 1970s. Competition fierce? Who knows, but for a lot of us who went to Beils, especially Leopard street location across from Gulf Radiator, a lot of great memories remain!
Photo #1, this is Beils on Staples, not Leopard, but the one on Leopard at Doss was identical fašade, even lights hanging down same.
Photo #2, diet Rite Cola, momma loved them...and Tab. Tab was made across street from Beils at Coca Cola on Lester. Vile tasting stuff, no amount of sugar made it taste good yuck. Pepsi, Diet Pepsi, French's Mustard in the little barrels, and mayonnaise in this end of aisle photo.
Photo #3. Beils didn't have a whole lot of push carts though they were a "Self Service Grocery" And there was a one foot drop off from around front of building to parking lot if you pulled in from Leopard. Never fear, the baggers and sometimes cashiers would take out the groceries for you.
Photo #4. Big carton milk. We didn't buy milk at Beils or HEB, we bought it stores all over Corpus Christi in GLASS gallon jugs, Old Bossy ha ha, there was small store across from Hi 9 bar where Old Brownsville splits at Leopard we bought at. I was fond of 1/2 & 1/2 milk people use for coffee, didn't know NOT supposed to drink it straight but every now & then momma buy me one.
Photo #5. The Oscar Mayer Weinermobile! With a chef, I guess he was a chef, looked like one to a 7 or 8 year old. Nothing says street party like FREE anything in the hood! Side note: I still have about 5 Hot Wheels Oscar Weiner Mobiles in my big Hot Wheels collection in 2018.
Photos #6 thru #12. These are Beil's downtown Corpus Christi at their location on Starr Street, before I was born ha ha. But you can see how unique, clean, the store was, and this extended to all the Beil's store, even the one on Leopard years later. NOTE HISTORICAL COMMENTS.Photo #6: The 4 guys in this photo at Beil's Downtown had same nice, clean aprons in 1930s that the guys on Leopard Street wore in 1960s. The fellow on left is John W. Buster who was a hired gun and owned the meat market inside Beil's until Beil's bought him out. Next to him Irwin Peterson. If you look closely, will see canned goods in back, and cakes and wafer, including Sunshine biscuits on right, can boxes of fresh picked strawberries on checkout counter. This was a novel idea in Corpus christi in 1930s, "self Service Grocery Store" now the norm.
Photo #7 416 Starr Beil's reconfigured, you know how places, even now like Wal Mart move stuff around. Goblin Sugar 6 cents; hot sauce 9 cents; Argo cornstarch 10 cents; apple butter which to this day I still can't stand taste of, 14 cents; Libby's 1/2 GALLON of fruit cocktail 53 cents' Pioneer Whitewing flour also shown. Upstairs in shadow you can see owner Emil Beil who was checking out action. A lot of stores even into 1960s/70s had offices upstairs to catch shoplifters like me. The Beil's on Leopard had long row up mirrors at back upstairs to see all rows for instance.
Photo #8 416 Starr Beil's downtown fresh fruits and vegetables from around Nueces County. Yum! Apples were 33 cents a dozen, not sure where the heck those came from as don't remember apple trees down there, maybe valley? You could get 3 for 10 cents. No refrigeration, no little happy misty rain things like at HEB then. Damn those are fun, can't get naked and crawl on cilantro and take showed though. For those of ya'll with not best eyesight or don't have dollar store glasses in every room in house or car, the sign in way back says: For Health And Slenderness Eat Salads Daily With BestFoods: Mayonnaise. For me would have just ate the jar of mayo.
Photo #9 416 Starr Beil's downtown meat counter. This Beil's had L shaped one in 1930s, the Beil's on Leopard in 1960s, it ran straight length of store in back. Deli foods too. Fellow in middle is Ray Peterson, and Joe Peterson on right. Besides fresh cuts of meat, a sign lets people know just came in Jones Dairy Farm sausages. Also in back Kraft Cheese, pickled pigs feet and big pickles, and Armour Ham to name a few. The big fan on wall on right is similar to what Japanese ladies dance with all flirty eyes, except huge, the ladies fans just cover face. If this was a fan for dancing girl, she would have to be a big Moody cheerleader. (Ok, don't write me deer meester ette) NRA sign is not NRA National Rifle Association of which I am a member for really no reason, but National Recovery Administration back in 1930s.
Photo #10 Beil's 416 Starr downtown Corpus Christi with owner Mister Emil Beil sitting at desk, 1930s rare photo of him. You can see how he could look down into whole store from upper office here, Starr street can see thru front window. Clearly visible is adding machine and a safe against wall.But what I stare at like a flounder staring at light on Oso Peir is those hanging lights, love them. These were also found in Sear's on Leopard street, UFO looking things, and in some churches too in the 1960s.
Photo #11 Beil's 416 downtown... since Self Service sort of unheard of back then, here is a interesting photo. The glass case willed with things like Dentyne gum, Baby Ruth, Life Savers, above Fuller's dental cream (not for kids ha ha) and Vicks cough drops to name a few. While in photo #3 no happy, misty tings like HEB has now, in this photo, something had changed and there are not one but two vegetable misters sticking up from lettuce, bell peppers, onions and other veggies in the box to keep them fresh. So somewhere in 1930s I would assume someone discovered one could make vegetables last longer with misty things. Photos courtesy of the Harry Ransom Center, of which I have IDed a few for.
And lastly A original Beil's Grocery Ad & a "new" Beils that opened on south Staples. Courtesy Corpus christi Caller Times newspaper