Sheraton Marina Inn Shoreline DriveSheraton Marina Inn. In the 1970s I happened onto the Sheraton by pure mistake. It was located on Shoreline, and at the time, one of the premier hotels in Corpus Christi, and while no rooms faced the water, still excellent view north & south of bay. And downtown. We had been thrown back into the stone age at the old crappy ghetto Doss & Antelope street house, after enjoying a few years living like white folks on 642 Naples, but Lloyd Remple, who was a friend of my dad Homer T Stakes, decided to hike the $300 a month rent, to $600 of which we could not afford. This was right after hurricane Celia, our 2009 Antelope shotgun house destroyed by Celia when 500+ lb fan from Coca Cola next door blew off hit roof and caved it in. 500+ So facing bleak prospect of moving back to the other house on lot, 723 Doss, we packed up and moved back unfortunately. So now, no electricity, no indoor plumbing, no hot water and my dad's credit was below zero so no help. Well, I was about 14, maybe 15, and with zero to do around a dump, I often rode my bicycle. The restrictions on me downtown in 'The Forbidden Zone' I thought no longer applied to me, so could go east of Schatzell to Kress Five & Dime, Ritz Theater, Als News Stand, and look at the facades of the Go Go Girls places that had paintings of I guess strippers somehow balancing a cocktail on their boob. How do they do that?
I was heavily into pinball, but there was no places in the old Leopard & Port hood that had pinball machines, the ones at Sheffields (where Vicks later at) across from Lew Williams Chevrolet were old and beat up. Bottom line was I could go anywhere downtown on my trusty bike, but dog Bootsy had to stay home. One day while riding around aimlessly downtown I had to go pee. That big blue building looked inviting had never been inside before, was too upscale for the likes of me. Could have probably went to Woolworth or Fedways, but didn't like to leave my bike out while some of their bathrooms either upstairs or way back in store. Probably could have gone to parking garage or behind some abandoned downtown building too, but something about the Sheraton attracted me. There were people playing tennis, and I could hear other guests having fun at the pool. So drove, ok, rode up, parked bike, went in, and walked past elevators, but there is small restaurant club back there, so walked back, and down small hallway, whoa...there is a PINBALL machine in the little game room, foosball and video game too. Was not into video games, didn't care for foosball, so I had a quarter which surprised me, didn't see too many 25 cent pinball games back then, most were dime. This was a new machine called High Hand by Gottlieb who made a LOT of great pinball machines back in the day.
So I won a game, you knock down 4 banks of cards, Extra Ball lights up, then Special. For those of you unfamiliar with Special that usually was free whole game, the pinball machine would made a wooden CLOCK sound when registering free game. Next thing I knew I had 15 free games racked up. A tall man with glasses came in and I thought might be the house narc or some security. I said 'sir I racked up 15 free games if you wish to try it!' in a feeble attempt to not get my ass thrown out on street. His name was Mister Pylant who was head Honcho there, the General Manager I believe. He was pretty good player but I was simply better. So I would throw the game, in other words, run off 12-13 games, then play, and knock it back up to 15 free games. This made him happy. Sometimes when he would lose he would knock the whole machine into the wall in fit of anger. I could relate to that, but I never did that. Besides I could play in air conditioned comfort for 25 cents all day. There was no cell phones, no internet, not anything to do at home, maybe watch rats.
One day while playing his daughter Lisa walked in. If you have ever seen the Comfort Inn commercial where the people have a glow about them, or just have seen painting of Jesus with glow about His head, this was well, what I saw.
A beautiful girl about my age, had all her teeth, long brown hair, and LIKED PINBALL!! So I would give her my games, could not play two players, just one at time. My experience with girls was limited you know, not counting Farrah Fawcett poster taped above my bed in attic where rats would run across me in middle of night to wake me up. I had stolen a Penthouse magazine at the Jitney Jr convenience store at Swantner & Texas avenue near Staples awhile back so knew what female anatomy looked like. Could I maybe ask her out on date? How would 2 people fit on my bike? I have more quarters for more pinball! She told me she lived off Nile way out near Ennis Joslin. The last time I was in one of those rich houses I was burglarizing it. Maybe she wanted to go by my place I could show her where the rats and possums come in roof, or the destroyed house at 2009 Antelope? Offer her a soda from one of the Igloo coolers we had outside with ice from Agnes Ice House to keep any food cold? Show her our outdoor shower pipe with curtain for privacy? Oh, no, no, no, no and hell no. So we would just stay at Sheraton and play pinball. And remain just pinball buddies!
A number of times I would troll the floors of Sheraton, some of the bellboys didn't like me but knew 'I was friends with the guy who signs their checks" so left me alone. I always wore shoes in this place. If hungry, would go up to maybe top floor, walk around looking for room service the people had put back outside their rooms for housekeeping to pick up. Americans are extremely wasteful and to a poor boy like me who had nothing, I failed to understand how someone might NOT eat a $7 burger thru, or $15 steak, or unopened orange juice or chocolate milk. There were no cameras on the floors, and I was deadly silent like a ninja taking what I need. So ate better at Sheraton that at home. Keep in mind in 1974 or so no AIDS, and many other things I guess out there. Anything non perishable went in pocket for later! Bottom line is hunger makes one do strange things!
Was riding bike near KEYS radio station home one day after 'a hard day of pinball' and a big black limousine passed me slowly. Don't see too many limos in Corpus Christi so turned around and followed it, and it went to...the Sheraton where I had left maybe 30 minutes before. So pulled up bike like I owned the place, and watched a bunch of long haired guys get out. It was band members of Lynyrd Skynyrd! I didn't know this at time, just though long hair important guys in limo. This was about 1974. So I went back in, and since had left 15 games on High Hand pinball machine, and Mister Pylant had not discovered them yet, cranked it back up to play. About 30 minutes later some of the long hair guys came in, started watching me play pinball, one said 'kid you pretty good' as I lit it up. Another said 'hey we want to play foosball but lacking 1 player' and asked it I would volunteer. I said sure but ain't no good! He said 'we ain't either'! Ha ha, so we played several games, then 1 wanted to play pinball, I told him knock himself out while giving tips on what to shoot for to get the Special lit.
One guy told me 'hey, are you going to be here a few minutes?' I told him sure. 10 or so minutes he came back and gave me 2 tickets to their concert, and backstage passes, you gotta be kidding me. Wow! I left and rode home on my bike like the kid in ET movie flying thru air. However at home, momma said 'can't go it is a school night' so stayed at home. Still got the tickets and backstage passes here somewhere boxed up, God only knows where but will scan them and post them if I find them. I sure as hell regret not going as 3 years later 1/2 of the band killed in airplane crash. And so it goes.
As with most teens, I would eventually move on to things like skateboarding all over downtown like at the parking garage behind Center Theater though. One day played High Hand 18 hours straight, with only breaks for bathroom & quick walk down halls for food run. That is EIGHTEEN HOURS. Mom was really worried & I told her never happen again. Here is a short video on youtube of someone playing High Hand pinball machine, they not very good but who cares, neat to hear the bells & whistles after decades! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KX25slXkuQ0
Photo #1, a photo I took in 1983 after I moved to Houston since was no work in Corpus Christi, sure missed my hometown, it was cold this day maybe in 40s.
Photo #2 vintage Sheraton Marina Inn flyer, you could find these not only Sheraton, but also Greyhound Bus station across from Kress, and also in Houston airports!
Photo #3 & #4, foldout other side of brochure, check out that pool. I never went though.
Photo #5 High Hand 1973 pinball machine in little game room!
Photo #6, from top floor of Sheraton looking back at on left Wilson Tower, 600 building, the Dricoll Hotel now a bank, the parking garage on right is where we skateboarded, the building with steps behind it Center Theater, next to it haunted Center Building, and rounded face building below the tall back building is Litchensteins.