L.C. “Stringbean” Gillins was born on April 12, 1926, the third child of ten and the first son of Limos Chester Gillins and Annie Hollingsworth Gillins.
According to his son, Chester Lee Gillins, “L.C.” was his father’s legal name and resulted when L.C.’s mother refused to name him Limos Chester, so only the initials were entered on his birth certificate.
When he was in his early twenties, L.C. moved to Galveston from Louisiana and first found employment working at the grain elevator on the wharf as a longshoreman.
His Galveston friends soon nicknamed him “Stringbean” because he was very thin and six feet, two inches tall.
This photograph of him was provided by the Gillins Family.
When L.C. lived in Louisiana, he was very impressed with those in his community who owned their own businesses, particularly an African American lady, Ms. Thigpen.
She owned ’a little hole in the wall’ restaurant and sold barbecue and side dishes, like a bowl of red beans and rice for twenty-five cents.
Annie, L.C.’s oldest child, recalled that her father after he worked regular jobs for twenty years, borrowed money from his mother-in-law to lease a building at Twenty-Seventh and Church Streets. This is where L.C. opened Little Harlem in the early 1950s.
He didn’t serve food, but he sold sodas and, without a license, sold bootleg beer and liquor. Little Harlem had a jukebox and was a place for people to socialize and have parties.
After several years, L.C. closed Little Harlem and purchased a new two-story building at 2826 Church Street, the building pictured here.
The new business was named Up Town Tavern but soon became known to the community as ‘Stringbean’s.’
Up Town Tavern was a full-service business. The first floor accommodated a dining space, a dance floor, and a stage where bands performed Friday and Saturday nights.
L.C. sold barbecue ribs, beef, chicken, fish, and boudin. Popular side orders were potato salad and beans.
Up Town Tavern had a liquor license and sold beer, mixed drinks, and sodas. Occasionally, L.C. would buy wild game from neighboring communities and would sell rabbit, squirrels, and raccoons to anyone who wanted to take it home and cook it.
He also sold boudin and deer sausage and would place a sign outside the building when they were available.
Up Town Tavern closed after L.C. passed away in August 2007, and while there was an effort to reopen the business after his death, extensive damage to the building after Hurricane Ike diminished those efforts.
Shared from Galveston Historical Foundation