Echoes of the Past
By Doug Sheer
While Long Beach was certainly in its glory during the early decades of the 20th century, it changed direction by the 1950s with the influx of a more middle class demographic and the building of homes to house the many people moving out of New York City. For many young people growing up in the 1950s and 1960s, the boardwalk became the place to go on weekend summer nights. Gone were the women with long dresses and the men with straw hats, and long gone were the many hotels and bath houses which catered to wealthy visitors to the beach. The entertainment offered by the old stately hotels was replaced by the rides of Playland with screams from The Whip heard from atop the Ferris wheel as one looked out to sea. The motor boats that took youngsters in circles were soon followed by a ride on the carousel and ultimately on the roller coaster. Moving west along the boardwalk, one could play miniature golf next to the ever popular shooting gallery. And after shooting at some moving ducks, one could enjoy a custard cone and continue onto one of the two popular skeeball establishments—Seidel’s or Faber’s. The backdrop of Seidel’s was the Tower Bath building. Though the Tower Bath house long remained out of use, it was a reminder of a bygone era. Just to the west of Tower Baths was the one time center of the boardwalk, the Nassau Hotel. By the early 1960s, the Nassau Hotel was no longer the place to go for the well-to-do but rather just another reminder of Long Beach’s past. One could always throw a softball at some metal milk bottles, and for the more daring, there was the mysterious lady who would tell your fortune. Horse racing was possible by pushing a lever that placed a ball in one of two holes and could win one a teddy bear or other great prize. A trip to the Long Beach Bowl could entertain one by either watching others play from the deck overlooking the lanes on the first floor or playing on one of its 24 lanes. By this time of the evening, a knish would surely make for a wonderful snack as one walked back home in the refreshing evening breeze coming from the ocean.
A real remnant of another era was the fire control tower located next to the boardwalk between Edwards and Riverside Boulevards. Despite endless attempts to close up the entrance it was repeatedly re-opened and allowed brave teens to climb the metal rungs to the rooms with slits for viewing out to sea. A trip to the top of the tower allowed one to easily see the Jersey Highlands off to the southwest and to imagine what soldiers might have thought as they looked out over the horizon.
The days of entertainment along the boardwalk have passed and another era has come to Long Beach. Jogging and bicycling have replaced the era of the rolling chairs, and the sounds of the popular Music Park with its rotunda hosting bands for summer visitors has been changed into the city’s moveable band shell as it tours spots along the boardwalk. The boardwalk that was first constructed in 1907 has changed over its 104 years, but it continues to draw crowds to view the sand and surf and to breathe in that fresh salt air.
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