Sunday, June 25, 2017

Saturday, June 24, 2017

A SUPERB 2004 Marlene Womack article on the history of Bay County's Gulf beaches. Sun 05-Sep-2004

Full Text:

Local: Beaches defined between 1930 and 1960s

Sunday, September 5, 2004

Beaches defined between 1930 and 1960s

By Marlene Womack

Contributing Writer

Until 1929 and the construction of Hathaway Bridge, Panama City Beach could be
reached only by a ferry boat ride across the bay or a long, circuitous ride
through the town of West Bay.

During the next three decades, the beaches underwent several small spurts of
growth. But a boom came in the 1960s with the opening of Miracle Strip
Amusement Park and other tourist attractions, which put the beaches on the

The first beach developments on what’s now Panama City Beach date back to the
1930s. They included Long Beach, Panama City Beach, Sunnyside, Laguna Beach
and one or two other small beaches, all independently owned by their

Long Beach

W.W. Sharpless and Hubert Brown were the original owners of Long Beach. In
late 1929, they purchased the popular Sherman Pavilion at Lands End (the
eastern end of Shell Island) and moved it by teams of mules and oxen to Long
Beach. They had big plans to attract the tourists and the local crowd. But
Sharpless was killed in 1931, and Brown died a short time later.

J.E. Churchwell, a Panama City banker, purchased the 220 acres of Long Beach
property for $10,000 from their widows and John McCall. He developed Long
Beach, adding more cottages, wooden walkways and a deep well.

Panama City Beach

The name, Panama City Beach, can be confusing to some. Most people refer to
the 20-mile strip of stunning white sand and turquoise-hued water between
Hathaway Bridge and Phillips Inlet as Panama City Beach.

But in the 1930s, Panama City Beach was actually a 104-acre piece of land
developed by Gid Thomas of Jackson County and his daughter and son-in-law,
Claudia and Angus Pledger.

They opened the original Panama City Beach on May 2, 1936. It was located at
the west end of Thomas Drive near what’s now the Sunbird Condominiums.

The resort offered a two-story hotel, cottages, a windmill with a water tower
and a 1,000-foot wooden pier. Thomas trucked in loads of oyster shells to make
the sand road more accessible. This beach grew, and many recall the famous
welcoming arch at its entrance.

Some other well-known spots developed prior to World War II included
Sunnyside, promoted and developed by M.E. McCorquodale of Gadsden County;
Laguna Beach, developed by J.B. Lahan of Birmingham, Ala.; the Old Dutch
Tavern; and the Sea Breeze Hotel at the “Y” (south end of State 79).

During the 1930s, the beaches grew slowly. Beach lots were available for $25
to $50, but most people wanted only to visit the beaches and not to purchase
the sand.

World War II

For the most part, World War II halted expansion of the beaches. Hotels and
cottages were commandeered for housing military and shipyard workers. Lookout
towers were constructed every 12 miles. Coast Guardsmen patrolled the beaches
on horseback or on foot with their German shepherd guard dogs looking for
enemy agents to come ashore or surreptitious activity along the beaches.

Edgewater Beach

In 1946, the A.I. DuPont Estate headed by Ed Ball purchased the 300-unit, red
brick Gulf Shores Apartments built as wartime housing the previous year. Under
the name of Wakulla Edgewater, the company refurbished these units and offered
one- or two-bedroom apartments with a living room, kitchen, dining room and a
full-tile bath at reasonable rates. Some of these units also featured air
conditioning and phones in the rooms.

Edgewater attracted the tourists with its paved streets and walkways,
shrubbery, flowers and grass lawns. On the south side of U.S. 98, the complex
maintained a huge beachside parking area for guests and visitors. Besides its
many homes, Edgewater also featured its own grocery stores, bars, other
amusements and Jenkins Drive-In, a year-round dining and dancing center.

Incorporated in 1953

In the middle of the 20th century, people found a changed society — one that
offered more leisure and vacation time. The beaches attracted the local crowds
along with tourists from Alabama and Georgia, who came for a day in the sun
and the surf. Those able to afford beach lots started purchasing them for the
still low price of $50.

About this time, several beach owners began pushing for “bridge-to-bridge
consolidation” and incorporation of the 20 miles or so of the beaches area.
Residents took strong sides with some in favor and others opposed.

When the consolidation effort failed, disputes over closing time and the sale
of liquor on Sundays arose on the different beaches. In 1953, to settle the
controversies, state Reps. J. Ed Stokes and Jack Mashburn created six small
municipalities empowered to make their own laws. They included the original
Panama City Beach, Long Beach, Edgewater Beach and lesser-known places by the
names of Playville, Dutchville and Julia, all along Panama City Beach.

In the 1950s, conditions on the beaches were much different from today.

Not many motels existed on the strip. Some had begun installing air
conditioning. If motel rooms were full or visitors could not afford lodging,
people were permitted to erect tents and sleep on the beach if they desired.

After a day on the beach or out fishing, most tourists were content to sleep
with their windows open feeling the cool, soft breezes from the gulf and
listening to the waves crash on shore. Neon lights or colorful flashing lights
were used to attract tourists to some of the motels. An air-conditioned
waterfront motel with a kitchenette rented for $12 to $14 per night, and
regular units rented for $8.

The Snake-A-Torium attracted visitors year after year, and night clubs and
supper clubs provided live bands and floor shows. Fun-Land featured several
arcades and gift shops.

Soft shoulders

U.S. 98 and Back Beach Road, cut in 1952, still needed improvements. Not many
buildings and businesses existed along them, and deep, loose sand edged these
roadways. After one wrong turn of the wheel on the blacktop, many motorists
found their vehicles mired in sand. They had to dig their way out using
cardboard boxes, wood or anything else they could find for traction.

Beachgoers learned to carry shovels in their cars.

At Long Beach, Churchwell added swings, a merry-go-round, a bowling alley and
skating rink. He also refurbished the casino with a new dance floor, and added
a snack bar and jukebox. This became the popular “Hang-Out,” a favorite of

A 100-day season

These beaches differed from others in Central and South Florida, which catered
to the winter crowd. Here, most beaches and attractions were open only during
the 100-day summer season from Memorial Day to Labor Day. Then hotels, motels,
restaurants and amusements shut their doors until next year.

With the increase of visitors to the beach, some promoters began thinking
about the day they could attract year-round tourists to the beaches.
Churchwell and others began equipping some of their cottages with heating
units and hot water.

Lee Koplin built Goofy Golf, a miniature golf course. Jungle Land and the
Magic Forest lured some of the families. Giant figures such as Sir Loin, a
huge Sphinx, the Abominable Snow Man, a Pirate, the Volcano (which became part
of Alvin’s Magic Mountain) and Angelo’s bull marked several restaurants and
attractions on the beach.

West Panama City Beach

In 1959, several independently owned beaches voted to become part of the town
of West Panama City Beach. This new municipality extended about seven miles,
from east of Laguna Beach to the western side of Edgewater Beach.

West Panama City Beach took in smaller beaches such as Beacon Resort at the
foot of State 79; Betty Lou Beach; Florida Beach; Larkway Villas; Bahama
Beach; Mara Vista Beach; and the Old Dutch Beach area up to Edgewater Resort.

The 1960s

Jimmy Lark, a local builder, enlarged his small amusement park, which had been
constructed after the war. With a few partners, he designed a 2,403- foot
roller coaster, the “Starliner.” John Allen of the Philadelphia Toboggan Co.
built it, and this roller coaster became the fastest and largest on the Gulf
Coast. The price of admission was 25 cents.

Lark added a haunted castle, Ferris wheel, merry-go-round and other rides and
opened Miracle Strip Amusement Park on Memorial Day weekend in 1963.

By then, Long Beach also had its own Ferris wheel, “Tornado” roller coaster,
pop the whip, shooting galleries and other rides. When amusements with Wild
West themes became popular, Petticoat Junction and Tombstone Territory
entertained the crowds, as well “the world’s highest skyride” and the frontier
train ride. Shell shops, a deer ranch and observation tower drew the
vacationers when they weren’t on the beaches.

In the mid-1960s, Cliff Stiles built the first “four-story hotel,” and it
immediately became a tourist destination. Vacationers heard about it and came
to see the first tall building on the beach. The seven-story Fontainebleau was
constructed a few years later. Panama City Beach’s answer to Okaloosa County’s
Gulfarium came with the construction of Gulf World in 1969.

A year later, Long Beach joined old Panama City Beach, West Panama City Beach
and Edgewater Gulf Beach in becoming one municipality called Panama City

But today, many of these old amusements are gone because of changing times and
increased property values. Big beach stores, shopping centers and high-rise
condominiums now occupy most of this land.

The Miracle Strip Amusement Park closes forever today. Then the thousands of
teenagers who worked their first job at the Miracle Strip or those who enjoyed
trips to the park through the years will have only their memories.

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Monday, June 19, 2017

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"Happy to be at The Old Dutch", but do WHAT......"Teen Angel", 12 noon till 2 AM. Whew. Paying 'dem dues. I almost had to sing a song. Almost...thank GOD.
Sonny coughed all night and 'on that fateful night the car was stalled upon the railroad track..........'. The RGs were cramed in a moldy, roachy basement and they were never invited back...or something like that. HELP! I'm dying up here." Rusty Crumpton, guitarist for THE ROCKIN' GIBRALTARS

"My throat was ate up." Sonny Grier, lead vocalist for THE ROCKIN' GIBRALTARS

Friday, June 16, 2017

Wanted to send you a follow-up email after our phone conversation.
The wheels of progress are rolling for a new OLD DUTCH exhibit at the new Bay County Historical Society Museum on Harrison Avenue and also the production of a video.

Please go to this link to my PANAMA CITY LIVING Old Dutch article so you can scroll down to the end and read all the wonderful comments from the readers. There's a lot of interest out there and folks have some great reminiscences.

In order to get the ball rolling on this new project, I have dedicated my blog ROCK PILGRIMAGE to all things OLD DUTCH.

We are interested in all images, reminiscences and memorabilia pertaining to the Old Dutch so please pass this information along to friends and family who may be able to help us.

Remember that I have passed your email address and phone number over to Kenneth Redd of the Bay County Historical Society. He has a portable scanner and will be the contact person for both the museum exhibit and the video.

Robert Register

Sunday, June 11, 2017

James Innerarity was entrusted with weapons and supplies for the Indians and to keep up the good work of stirring up the blacks.(ed. note: COMPLETELY UNTRUE AND AN ABSOLUTELY INSANE STATEMENT ABOUT James Innerarity who was elected THE FIRST AMERICAN PRESIDENT OF THE MOBILE TOWN COUNCIL IN MARCH 1814! HE PROVIDED JACKSON WITH THE MOST VALUABLE INTELLIGENCE ABOUT THE BRITISH INVASION FOR THE NEW ORLEANS CAMPAIGN. HIS COMPANY, JOHN FORBES AND CO.,who this idiot calls "THE FIRM", LOST ITS ASS IN THE WAR OF 1812 including it's slaves) Innerarity withheld those supplies put into his care, whereupon the Seminoles and Red Sticks showed their economic sophistication by annulling the cessions of land just made to The Firm and scalping those of its employees who strayed into the backcountry.(ed. note: THIS WRITER KNOWS OF NO WAR SUPPLIES BEING PROVIDED BY JOHN FORBES AND CO. TO WARRING INDIANS AND BLACKS AND ALSO KNOWS OF NO MURDERS OF JOHN FORBES and CO. EMPLOYEES DURING THE WAR OF 1812. THE CREEK NATIONAL COUNCIL cleared most of their debts with an 1804 land grant called THE FORBES PURCHASE. The Red Sticks and the Seminoles had no tribal council and NO AUTHORITY TO ANNUL A DAMN THING. In 1835 THE U.S. SUPREME COURT ruled that the entire 1.25 million acre FORBES PURCHASE east of the Apalachicola was perfectly legal and this comes down to us to this day as A LEGAL BASIS FOR CONTRACT LAW IN THIS COUNTY AND THIS LAND GRANT WAS NEGOTIATED IN PRESENT-DAY HOUSTON COUNTY, ALABAMA, IN 1804 BY NONE OTHER THAN MOBILE'S JAMES INNERARITY!)
Still under misapprehensions about the loyalty of the former Tories, the British commander at Pensacola informed its Spanish governor of his plans to attack Fort Bowyer, Mobile and then New Orleans. The governor confided in his confessor, Father James Coleman. Coleman promptly passed the word to another visitor to his confessional – Innerarity.(ed. note: The deluded author is now talking about James Innerarity's brother, Pensacola's John Innerarity) Innerarity dispatched an agent named McVoy posthaste to Fort Bowyer, to acquaint the Americans with what the British had in mind. Forewarned, the garrison made a massacre of the British assault.(ed. note: NOT ONLY WAS THE FIRST BATTLE OF FORT BOWYER NOT A MASSACRE OF THE BRITISH BUT THE BRITISH MISREAD AMERICAN STRENGTH IN MOBILE BAY AND ABANDONED IT AS A POINT OF INVASION FOR THE CONQUEST OF NEW ORLEANS.) Finally the British understood. After retreating to The Firm’s plantation next to the fort,(ed. note: John Forbes and Co. had a store, lumber mill and brick kiln at Bon Secour, many miles from Fort Bowyer) they freed nine hundred slaves (ed. note: TEN SLAVES! and did a total of $5,890 damage) and put to the torch all its buildings. Some of those slaves subsequently joined the coalition against the Americans, as did many released from The Firm’s plantations in East Florida. An indignant Inneraritiy wrote John Forbes: “Time was when the name of Englishman was honorable, now it is synonymous with nay it is a term to designate a man capable of every thing that is low, vile, base, villainous, atrocious.”(ed. note: THIS IS FROM A LETTER JAMES INNERARITY IN MOBILE WROTE HIS BROTHER JOHN WHO WAS IN PENSACOLA ON NOVEMBER 18, 1814, JUST A FEW DAYS AFTER JACKSON'S CAPTURE OF PENSACOLA FROM THE BRITISH)
Comfortably within the fortifications of Mobile, Jackson laughed at the British flotilla beyond the barrier islands and commenced moving at his own pace against Pensacola, the possession of Spain, a neutral state.(ed. note: JACKSON AND HIS MEN ANTICIPATED AN IMMEDIATE INVASION OF MOBILE BY THE BRITISH. MOBILE HAD NO FORTIFICATIONS! FORT CHARLOTTE WAS A JOKE WHEN GALVEZ TOOK IT IN 1780! NEUTRAL SPAIN'S PENSACOLA HAD BEEN INVADED BY THE FOE OF THE UNITED STATES!)

Wednesday, June 07, 2017

page 37: "She wouldn't come back, and Buck was listening again to the noises of the saloon. They came as if they were part of a crowded sleep. There was the jangle of the banjo, played day and night behind the thin partition that separated the whites from the colored folks' side. The banjo was supposed to have a happy whang to draw trade, but this time of night it was about played out. It was louder where Buck stood, near the curved slot through which the bartender shoved drinks to the Negro customers. There was a slow slap of cards on the damp table top, where three men played a careful hand of poker. There was always the steady thump-thump of a dog's hind foot scratching fleas under the bar."

Monday, June 05, 2017