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Chapter 1: The Early Years 1925-1947
In October 1924 Thomas Pugh and William Davis began a series of purchases at the northwest corner of Harvey's Lake in order to build a new public bathing area and park. The park was rushed into preparation for an opening on July 4, 1925, although the bathhouse was still under construction. Tons of flat rocks from area farms and other fill was brought in to cover rough spots. Sand was brought by train to Alderson and then trucked to the site.
The following season Sandy Beach was in full operation. Independence Day 1926 was a three-day affair. A ban on Sunday musical entertainment was ignored as Gilligan’s Orchestra played for the Sandy Beach crowds Saturday, Sunday and Monday. The new park also sponsored swimming races, a high diving contest, and a speedboat race between two motorboats equipped with Curtis aeroplane engines. They could travel sixty-five miles per hour. The evenings featured fireworks at the beach.
A large one-story restaurant fronting the lLake was built in the center of the park. To the right of the restaurant was a large bathhouse for men and women. In 1928 Sandy Beach advertised 350 private lockers; the beach rented Bradley bathing suits.
To the rear of the bathhouse was a small amusement area with a Merry-Go-Round and Dodgem, each of which was enclosed in a small pavilion. A Whip ride was added later.
On the west corner of the park, a one-story dance hall hosted name dance bands and soon could not accommodate the crowds. Within two years, the one-story pavilion was removed, and on Memorial Day 1930 a new two-story dance hall was opened with Eddie Worth’s Master Musicians from Greenwich Village, New York. The second story was used for dancing while the first floor became the men’s bathhouse and a rental area for canoes and rowboats. In time the most popular bands of the 1930's were to play at Sandy Beach, including Cab Calloway, Willie Osborn, Guy Lombardo, Paul Whiteman and the Dorsey Brothers.
On June 30, 1931, Johnny Weismuller, the 1924 and 1928 Olympic champion and star of the Tarzan movies, was in Wyoming Valley for a swimming exhibition. At the time the six foot two sensation held forty-nine world records. After a morning demonstration in the Susquehanna River near the Market Street Bridge in Wilkes-Barre, Weismuller traveled to Sandy Beach where he equaled his forty-nine second record for a one hundred yard course. Weismuller was joined in the water exhibitions by Stubby Krueger, a swimming and diving comedian who was a former world swimming champion. The Weismuller and Krueger visit to the Lake was sponsored by a national swimwear manufacturer.
Originally Sandy Beach had a long swimming dock stretching out into the Lake from the center of the beach. At the end of the dock was a high diving board. Over the years the dock was shortened until finally it was replaced by a large floating dock anchored in the deeper water. A small dock was also built in front of the dance hall. For a time there was a children’s sliding board on the water front. Another beach attraction was shoot-the-chute which was built near the original bathhouse. Although the chute survived into the 1940's, it was not nearly as grand as the chute at the Picnic Grounds. The beach area ended at West End Creek and did not extend into the area known as Old Sandy Bottom.
Another feature of the West Corner was the home of C.N. Booth, built near the beach and popularly known as the Stone House. Booth was a detective for the Lehigh Valley Railroad. From 1933 to 1946 the Stone House was the quietly maintained bar of Jimmie Brennan. In recent years the Stone House was reopened as Sandy Beach Inn, but it is currently listed for sale.
Copyright 2006-2008 F. Charles Petrillo