The Early Years 1925-1947
Sandy Beach was developed by Thomas Pugh and William Davis. In October
1924 they began a series of purchases until they acquired most of
the beach lands at the northwest corner of the Lake. 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 Lake 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.
The Expansion Years 1948-1955
In March 1948 the lakefront
at Sandy Beach was acquired by Sam Slomowitz. He purchased additional
Sandy Beach property in August 1961. Slomowitz improved the park
with the addition of Kiddie-Land, an amusement area near the dance
hall. He acquired a new Merry-Go-Round and new children’s
rides for the small amusement park. Slomowitz also converted the
restaurant into a cafeteria. On June 12, 1948, the Sandy Beach
Drive-In was opened. Built by Ray Heddon of Dallas, it was completely
modern, with in-car speakers and inclined parking. The Saturday
grand opening of the Sandy Beach Drive-in featured the technicolor
musical I’ve Always Loved You. Regular movie
features began on June 13, 1948, with the comedy The Time, The
Place, The Girl, starring Dennis Morgan and Jack Carson. The
drive-in was enormously popular and ran for twenty seasons.
There were other improvements
added to Sandy Beach by Sam Slomowitz. The original bathhouse was
removed to provide enlarged sanitary facilities. Men's and women’s
locker rooms were relocated under the original dance hall.
Slomowitz improved the beach with tons of white sand from Atlantic
City. Bingo was also added in the pavilion under the supervision
of John Lynch. The dock in front of the dance hall was lengthened
and forty rental slips for boats were made. U-drive boats, with three-horse-power
motors, were rented to the public, but after a few years the small
power boats were withdrawn in favor of paddle-boats. Eventually,
rental boats were discarded in favor of Lake cruises on a pontoon
Old Sandy Bottom/Rood Campground
Irwin A. Rood came to the Lake from Sweet Valley in 1898. He taught
at the one-room Rock School on Sorber Mountain for two years, but
in 1901 he purchased the Al Goode store at the West Corner. Rood
ran an early horse and wagon school-bus service, and in 1918 also
became the Laketon postmaster, a post he served until 1937. Two generations
of the Rood family managed the general store and served the West
Corner until 1965.
In 1928 Ben and Vernon Rood, the two sons of I.A. Rood, began to
rent tent sites on a large plot of land previously used as a truck
farm. The site was across the Lake road and opposite the Sandy Beach
site. Guests had a camping ground and access to the beach. The tent
ground was an enormously popular attraction and was frequently called
Tent City. A camp site rented for two dollars weekly.
In May 1930 a Pure Oil gasoline station was added, which later changed
to Atlantic-Richfield. The tent ground soon attracted trailers. In
1933 five rental cabins were built. Shortly, additional cabins were
built until sixteen cabins were available. They were one-, two- and
three-room cabins which originally rented for fifteen, twenty and
twenty-five dollars a week. At the height of its popularity, the
Room camp ground would accommodate six hundred people in 125 tent
sites, fifty trailer sites and the sixteen cabins.
In 1935 Rood built the Martha Washington Inn. It had rooms for six
boarders in addition to a restaurant trade. In December 1954 Joseph
and Margaret McCaffrey purchased West Corner beach land from Margaret
Pugh. Brush and trees were cleared and tons of fill dirt topped with
the find sand were used to improve the beach. In the summer of 1955,
Old Sandy Bottom Beach equipped with a convenient refreshment stand
and picnic tables, was opened to the public.
A second generation, James
and Carlene McCaffrey, continued to operate the attractive beach.
It was a lucky child whose parents had a cottage at the West Corner
or whose family rented one of Rood’s cabins
for a week. Sandy Beach had all the attractions of a small resort.
It was a delight to fill the hours with the exhausting adventures
of a summer day at Sandy Beach. Some of the camp children could earn
welcome change early in the morning by helping to clear the Sandy
Beach Drive-in of the candy wrappers and small trash thrown from
the cars during the evening.
For another generation after the 1950's, the Sandy Beach area continued
to attract large crowds. It was the largest public beach at the Lake,
especially after the addition of Old Sandy Bottom. But the changing
recreational demands of the public challenged the owners of area
parks to attract large crowds. The cost of renovations to maintain
public interest often taxed the resources of family-owned parks.
Then, too, small parks became casualties of the costs of compliance
with increased environmental and safety standards.
The Final Years 1965-1984
Interest in Sandy Beach was renewed when dances were revived at
the beach restaurant during the rock and roll era in the mid-1960's.
Eddie Day and his bands, along with other popular dance talents like
Dennis Yost and The Classic IV and Johnnie Maestro and The Brooklyn
Bridge, played at Sandy Beach. But the beach itself was attracting
smaller crowds, and the Sandy Beach Drive-in was closed after the
1968 season. The Slomowitz family, which had nurtured Sandy Beach
for over two decades, sought to sell the park.
In August 1973 Scarlet Enterprises, Inc., purchased Sandy Beach.
But in late May 1974, as the season was to open, the original restaurant,
which was serving as a cafeteria, arcade, and dance hall, was lost
to fire. After the fire, Sandy Beach was not opened to the public,
and two years later the dance hall and bathhouse were dismantled.
Old Sandy Bottom Beach continued
to operate as the Lake’s
largest public swimming area as the Hanson lakefront operations were
converted to marina facilities. In 1968 James and Carlene Kocher
McCaffrey assumed the family business. Carlene is descended from
T.T. Kocher, a pioneer Lake settler. Her grand-father, Arthur Kocher,
was an engineer on the Lake steamboats. After the 1984 season Old
Sandy Bottom Beach was closed to the public -- the end of all practical
public swimming access to the Lake. The beach was reopened in 1986
as Harvey’s Lake Beach Club, Inc., on a private membership