the other theo

There is no dark side of the moon really… as a matter of fact, it's all dark.

Category: Modern Design

Going To The Shore

I learned this morning that my sister and my nephew are enjoying a few days down at the Jersey Shore.

That happened to trigger some fairly memories of my own youth.   My parents somehow discovered this hotel called the Diamond Beach Resort just south of the city limits of Wildwood Crest, NJ, almost wedged up against a US Coast Guard training center.

We went there a couple times.  It had to be in the late 70’s because I remember wearing a Hildebrandt Bros. Star Wars movie poster ringer tee on at least one of the trips.  I also recall marveling at the utility of the air conditioning in my parents’ new 1977 Chevrolet Impala station wagon in the humid summer heat, after years of driving in their mid-60’s Oldsmobile F85 station wagon with black vinyl seats that lacked such conveniences.

A series of disjoint experiences come to mind.   Walking out into the waves with my Dad.   Early morning walks along the beach with my parents, feeling hermit crabs in a sandy tide pool occasionally nip at my toes.   Swimming in the hotel pool… possibly going into a hotel pool for the first time ever.   Flying a kite on the beach.  Collecting shells.  Finding a living dinner plate-sized horseshoe crab and bringing it back to the hotel room for a short stay in the sink of the room’s kitchenette.   Visiting the boardwalk and being utterly scared by my first rollercoaster ride.   Going to dinner down the coast in Cape May, where my Dad (or was it all of us?) got these marvelous looking steamed crabs that he ate on newspaper at the table.

As I have become more interested (or nostalgic) for the architecture and artifacts of the mid-20th Century world into which I was born, one memory sticking out more and more is the motel architecture around Wildwood.   Colorful and delightfully different and the same at the same time, it was wholly fitting that I also learned today (coincidentally) that the remaining motels of that type that were somehow saved from re-development are on the National Register of Historic Places and are known as the Doo Wop Motels:

wildwood-crest-doowop-motels

You can learn more about the Doo Wop motels here

As for the Diamond Beach Resort and its neighboring club/venue the Playpen, they fell to redevelopment wrecking ball sometime in the 80’s, as far as the Internet can tell me.   That’s fine.  I don’t expect to live life in a museum.  It’s nice to have the memories.

Maybe we should take the Peanut to the beach before the summer completely ends.   It’s a different ocean, but I’m sure he’ll still have fun.

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Roadside Architecture

carvel903

Carvel stand, Darien, CT
(courtesy of RoadsideArchitecture.com)

One thing that’s happened in recent years is increased fascination with mid-20th design and architecture.   I think part of this is due to the understanding that I no longer live in the world into which I was born, in so many ways.   Coming into the world in the late 1960’s, my early, early childhood was spent in a country that had only known prosperity and an increasing standard of living for 25 years or more.

It also marked the beginning of a long period of decline for the Northeastern United States.   The city where I was born ran out of undeveloped land to build houses by the late 1950’s, forcing workers drawn by a still prosperous economy to settle elsewhere… much like the area where I now live today.  That began a shift in revenue and cost that was the start of a decline, in development, in population, and eventually economic activity from which it still has not recovered.

Still, it was the tail end of a time of exuberance… where new things where tried, in design and in architecture.

One of the more curious examples of this time in roadside architecture was the corporate design of Carvel Ice Cream Stores.   The chain was the child of Tom Caravelas, a Greek-born businessman who is sometimes credited with the invention of soft serve ice cream, but who definitely developed and sold machines for freezing and dispensing it.   He developed a regular blueprint for Carvel stores, with a pitched roof and sheet glass front.   He and Ray Kroc knew each other, and the Carvel store design is said to have influenced the design of early McDonald’s stores.

I didn’t know any of that growing up, of course.  The local Carvel “stand” was just over a mile from where I lived, and we used to go there for soft or hard ice cream… usually soft, mostly on a cone, but sometimes in a sundae with chocolate syrup, whipped cream, peanuts, and a cherry.

The picture above shows a store in Connecticut that looks very much how “my” store exists in my memories.

I had occasion on a recent trip East to get some soft serve ice cream at the old location.   It’s fallen on hard times.   It ceased to be a Carvel store sometime in the late 80’s or early 90’s.  It had one independent owner for a while, and now on this recent trip, another.   The soft serve sundae was still delicious and much as I remember it, though made by different hands.   I was glad to share that particular experience with the Missus and the Peanut.

There was a citation in the window for Architectural Excellence for “preserving unique roadside architecture.”

My Mom tells me that she hears rumors around town that the store won’t be open for much longer.   That would be a shame.   If anywhere in town should have ice cream, it’s there.