PORT ARANSAS, Texas – There’s nothing like partying in Port A. Since 1946, this small shack with an even smaller porch has been the place to forget about your problems. When we visited the oldest and friendliest bar on the island during the summer of 2017, things were A okay in Port A.
Owner Edwin Myers is a bit new to this bar businesses. Edwin purchased this pillar of the community back in 2012. He embraces its long-tenured history on the Texas Gulf Coast.
“You don’t get the opportunity many times in this business to be able to run something that’s been around and open for 70 plus years,” Edwin says.
The story of this saloon started with woman named Shorty, Gladys “Shorty” Fowler.
Brian Underwood is in the fourth generation of Shorty’s family to work at Shorty’s, he started here in 1991.
“You would not believe the things that you see or hear if you work in a bar on a regular basis,” Brian said.
Brian was hired by his grandmother, Ms. Rose, who operated the business after inheriting it in 1978.
“She kept everybody in line,” Edwin explained. “Nobody got crossed with Miss Rose. If you did, you knew the consequences real quick.”
Shorty and Ms. Rose made this hole in the wall what it is today. With both of them gone, Edwin is simply trying to keep their memory alive by keep Shorty’s as simple as it’s been since the start.
“I enjoy doing this,” Edwin shared. “I came up in the restaurant business. I’ve always been an outgoing person, always enjoyed talking to people. That’s what you have to be to be in this business in a sense. When I took it over, there were all these expectations. I just let Shorty’s be Shorty’s. That’s all you had to do. It didn’t need anything. It just needed to be taken care of. Shorty’s has taken care of itself.”
It feels like home to so many parched people, that many like to leave a hat hanging.
“It’s there until it falls down or falls apart, one,” Edwin shared. “Some of them are pretty old.”
Some folks will even use the hats to help pay for a round.
“They’ll put a 10 dollar or 20 dollar bill in the hat, and when their friends come down here they’ll go, ‘Hey go find my hat. There’s a 20-dollar bill in the rim. I’ll buy y’all a drink,’” Edwin said.
No one knows for sure how long this hat heritage has been hanging here, some say it started in the 70s. Regardless of when it started, it’s worth crossing off the list.
Over the years, Shorty’s has seen its share of major storms. In 1961 Carla came through and in 1970 Celia caused an incredible amount of damage to the building.
“This place has survived hurricanes and all kinds of stuff,” Edwin informed us. “I believe Celia washed it off, and they rolled it back over here is what I’m told.”
While talking about the history of hurricanes around here, none of us knew that just a few weeks after this interview, Hurricane Harvey would wreak havoc on the island.
We returned a month after the storm to find Port A slowly recovering. Most of the business along Tarpon Street are heavily damaged and months away from opening, except one.
Bartender Jo Cross was back behind the bar, the place she feels she needs to be.
“We need to get some normalcy back into the island,” Jo said. “People like to drink.”
For some, coming here is another part of the recovery process; pondering the predicament Port A is in.
“It was a real mess; still is,” Jo shared. “We stayed. We got some buckling and we lost our walk-in. Beer coolers, we got them replaced. We’re going to go through it. Port A strong.”
Like the great Gary P. Nunn says in his song, My Kind of Day on Padre, stop by Shorty’s, have a round, and help a town recover from this once in a lifetime storm.
“Give us your business,” Jo requested. “That’s the main thing. The bar tenders need the business, the restaurants. We just need to get it all back working and right.”
Like Edwin says, “It’s a great place to experience Port Aransas.”