2012-05-24 / Island Life

The Bomaritos have been there

Joe, Maudina operated ice house, trailer park, ran elections
DAN PARKER
REPORTER


Maudina and Joe Bomarito, both 82, are all smiles as they pose for a photo May 17 in their Port Aransas home. “We’ve had a good life,” Maudina said. 
STAFF PHOTO BY DAN PARKER Maudina and Joe Bomarito, both 82, are all smiles as they pose for a photo May 17 in their Port Aransas home. “We’ve had a good life,” Maudina said. STAFF PHOTO BY DAN PARKER Maudina Bomarito was shocked by the phone call she received at her St. Louis, Mo., home, that day in 1974.

Her husband, Joe, was on the line, calling her from Port Aransas, a town they’d visited several times over the previous few years. Although they liked the community, they had no plans to move there.

But that was about to change.

Fast.

Joe was on a fishing trip in Port Aransas, and he ran across a business property he liked. He liked it so much (and he disliked the crimeridden neighborhood of his St. Louis workplace so much) that he met with the owner and agreed, right there on the spot, to buy the place. He even put some money down on it.

Fast-forward 38 years. It’s May 17, 2012. Joe and Maudina are now 82 years old. They’re sitting in sideby side lounge chairs in the living room of their home on West Oaks Avenue in Port Aransas. They relish telling the story of that phone call Joe made to Maudina back in 1974.


Joe Bomarito, center, with his wife, Maudina, hang out in front of their ice house with a Winter Texan friend, Lester Husband, of Indiana, on a day in the mid-1970s. 
COURTESY PHOTO Joe Bomarito, center, with his wife, Maudina, hang out in front of their ice house with a Winter Texan friend, Lester Husband, of Indiana, on a day in the mid-1970s. COURTESY PHOTO “I said, ‘Sell the house, I just bought a business,’ ” Joe said with a chuckle.

“I told him he was out of his mind,” Maudina said.

Joe was adamant during the conversation. Maudina was tearful. They’d just gotten their three-story house in St. Louis remodeled. Maudina was comfortable. She didn’t want to trade that in for the much smaller, not-so-nice house that Joe was buying next-door to the business properties.

Maudina called her mother for comfort and guidance.


Joe Bomarito stands on the porch out in front of his South 10th Street ice plant on a day in the early 1980s. 
COURTESY PHOTO Joe Bomarito stands on the porch out in front of his South 10th Street ice plant on a day in the early 1980s. COURTESY PHOTO “She said, ‘Joe has made you a good life, worked real hard,’ Maudina said, recalling what her mother told her. “She said, ‘It’s time you shut up and let him have his way on this.’ Boy, she bawled me out. So, here I am.”

Maudina gave Joe a playful look.

“I listened to my mother. Not you,” Maudina said.

The couple made a good life for themselves in Port Aransas. That business property they bought, in the 200 block of South 10th Street, held an icehouse and an RV park. They became Bomarito’s Icehouse and Trailer Park.

The icehouse sold ice in small amounts to individuals and in bulk to businesses. Part of that meant breaking down 300-pound blocks of ice into 25-pound blocks by hand, using ice picks. They also had to get the ice in bags. It was hard work.


Hanging out and swapping stories at Bomarito’s Ice House on a day in the late 1970s are, from right, Jerry Loubeck, Catherine Tichey, Ed Tichey, unidentified, Maudina Bomarito, Liddy Loubeck and unidentified. 
COURTESY PHOTO Hanging out and swapping stories at Bomarito’s Ice House on a day in the late 1970s are, from right, Jerry Loubeck, Catherine Tichey, Ed Tichey, unidentified, Maudina Bomarito, Liddy Loubeck and unidentified. COURTESY PHOTO Joe and Maudina and their children, Brian, Dawn and Carrol, personally did the labor, along with some employees. (Older siblings Dennis, Ricky and Joe Jr. lived in St. Louis.)

The work meant getting up way before dawn six days a week, because anglers would always drop by early to buy ice before heading out to go fishing. Often, the family worked until midnight.

The Bomaritos also rented out spots in their freezer where people could store their fish.

They were closed only on Tuesdays, but even then, they often couldn’t get rest. Customers tracked them down, begging for ice or for the fish they’d stored in the freezer.

“They’d find us,” Maudina said. “I don’t care where we were. They’d still find us.”

Despite the hard work, Joe and Maudina said they enjoyed operating the icehouse and the trailer park. Winter Texans who stayed there every year became like an extended family. The icehouse was a gathering spot where visitors – trailer park residents and others from around town – sat and sipped beer and swapped stories.

Among those who frequented Bomarito’s were the late Tom McNatt and the late Dennis Dreyer, former Port Aransas mayor and namesake of the town’s marina.

The Bomaritos’ dachshund, Killer, always hung out with everyone. He drank beer with everyone, too.

“Every day, he’d come up to the ice house at four o’clock,” Joe said. “He wanted his beer. But he never would drink it out of a dish. He wanted it poured on the floor. Then he’d lick it up.”

In addition to running the ice house and the RV park, Joe worked for some years as a desk clerk at Island Retreat and at Cline’s Landing. And Maudina worked as a cashier at the Island CafĂ©.

The Bomaritos sold the icehouse and trailer park around 1996, as best they can remember. The icehouse, trailer park and their old home have since been demolished.

Maudina said she started working as a Port Aransas city election clerk in the late 1980s, in addition to her work at the icehouse and trailer park. Joe started clerking shortly later. Maudina became the city’s election judge in 1995. Joe became an election judge about five years ago.

The couple did the same kind of work, starting about 1955, when they lived in St. Louis, until they moved to Port Aransas.

A lot has changed in elections work over the past 60 years or so. Methods of voting have evolved from filling out paper ballots, to using mechanical voting machines with levers. Later, paper ballots were scanned with scanners, and the voting machine became a computer. Most recently, the city this year started using voting machines with touch-screens.

Throughout that evolution, the Bomaritos have supervised operations at polling places where thousands of voters have cast their ballots.

In the early days, the Bomaritos worked until 1 or 2 a.m., counting paper ballots on election days. This year, on Saturday, May 12, the votes were tallied and released within one hour after the polls closed at 7 p.m.

The Bomaritos have a lot of stories about their experiences working elections. Joe and Maudina said they always have been sticklers for following the rules, and some voters haven’t always been so happy about that.

From time to time, Port Aransans have visited the polls, wanting to vote but carrying no identification. Generally speaking, the law says you’ve got to present a driver’s license or voter registration card in order to vote.

The Bomaritos remember a few lifelong Port Aransans who showed up to vote, couldn’t present IDs and then had fits when the couple wouldn’t let them cast ballots. One threw his wallet down. Another yelled.

“But you know me!” he bellowed.

The couple made them leave and get their IDs.

“It’s just one of the rules of the election,” Maudina said. “We go by them strictly. … If you let one of them get through, you’ve got to let them all through.”

Added Joe: “If we go against the rules, and someone complains, we could go to jail.”

One year when a couple showed up to vote in city elections, the Bomaritos checked their home address and found that the couple had moved just outside the city limits on State Hwy. 361, the Island Road. They no longer could vote in city council elections.

“The lady told her husband, ‘I told you we shouldn’t have moved there!’ ” Joe said with a laugh.

The Bomaritos have decided they’re pretty much finished with election work. They might help out when the general election rolls around this fall, but after that, no more, they said.

“I’m too old,” Maudina said. “Let some of these young people take over.”

The Bomaritos said they’re proud of the years they spent helping run elections in Port Aransas.

“We figure we’re doing something, contributing to the town,” Maudina said.

Questions? Comments? Contact Dan Parker at (361) 749- 5131 or dan@portasouthjetty.com.

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