I have to keep giving back to this city that has given so much to me

March 30, 2019

“I am adopted. My birth mother lived with my parents for six months before I was born. I was born and raised in Mobile. My mom was seven generations here.  My father started Uncle Bill’s News Hut about 1925 with magazines and papers somewhere in the Conti and Joachim area. He went off to World War II and when he came back he opened the Esquire House on St. Francis Street where Haunted Bookshop was. My mom was a cocktail waitress there and that is how they met. The Esquire House started as a place for bands where everyone traveling the circuit played and was quite popular. It later developed into a strip bar but there were shows with dancing and acting. He also had the 55 Club, where Gabriel’s is now.  The 55 club was the whorehouse with bedrooms upstairs. It opened in the early 60’s and the girls worked there for a couple of decades making a very good living. Some of them had families and some would never admit working there. Everyone had health care and benefits who worked at dad’s clubs. If they needed something, dad provided it. They were never outside working the streets because men came in the 55 club. As a kid, what my dad did was normal. I worked the kitchen washing dishes during the shows. There was a tiny little window in the wall, but I couldn’t look out it or I would get in trouble with my mama.  My dad was arrested in a bust in 1980 and died a year later from the pressure. If he hadn’t had the heart attack, the club would have gone into the early 90s

I grew up where everyone knew me. Mama knew if I got a speeding ticket before I hot home. I was a cop and detective with the City of Mobile for 12 years. I was working in retail and had friends who were officers. It looked interesting and I thought why not. I am involved with the downtown precinct and one of the founders of Family of the Fallen, a non-profit for police officers who have lost their lives or were significantly injured in the line of duty.

I need variety in my life and have Antique Emporium, Mobile Auction House, and Map of Mobile. We always had old buildings and dad bought old things to put in them and that is how I got into antiques. Truman’s will be an old-style diner on Conception Street. I started Alabama Hues for Art and originally wanted it to be an art co-op space but it never took off. I had plenty of other things to do and I let it go. Riley Brenes told me about the art projects for Strickland Youth Center. I want the kids from the Strickland Youth Center, the Child Advocacy Center and the N.E.S.T. program to have a place to come for art, so Alabama Hues is now for them.

I was lucky to be adopted by my family and the life they gave me. I still have the buildings dad owned downtown and have seen the ups and downs. I think Mobile is finally realizing its potential but it has taken outsiders to push it to be better and help us see it. Mobile is home. I miss it when I leave and I am always ready to come home. I have to keep giving back to this city that has given so much to me.”


  1. Sharon

    Hey Bill, you forgot to mention what a nice and intelligent young man you are, Miss working with you at HQ.

  2. June Hope

    you are really one of a kind! It’s wonderful that you’re helping Mobile in so many ways. You seem to really be coming into you own and it’s impressive!


Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

 More Southern Souls