Friday, August 24, 2012

Jersey Shore Memories: Tradewinds Beach Club, 1975 - 2002

Aerial view of Tradewinds Beach Club in an old postcard that my grandmother sent me circa 1985. I think the ocean was "colorized" to look more turquoise than it ever actually looked.


Here is the other side of the postcard containing what my grandma wrote to me. I was living at 1801 Little Road in frickin' Glen Burnie, Maryland -- already a highly neurotic and screwed up teenager, and on my way to settling eventually in hateful and deadening Washington, D.C. -- so it must have been about 1985.


The main building of Tradewinds Beach Club as seen from outside with its distinctive shape. Seeing that building approach while on Ocean Avenue coming up from the south in my grandfather's car meant I was starting my summer day.


OK, this is an entry that I have wanted to post for a long time. It contains a series of scanned images of black and white photographs that Jonathan, my childhood best friend from New Jersey, took of the old Tradewinds Beach Club* located in Sea Bright, New Jersey in or around November 2002**. He took them specifically in black and white mode with a camera to create a certain effect that I think works.

*The name was "Tradewinds" rather than "Trade Winds."
**The date on the back of the photos is Nov. 8, 2002.

It also contains scanned images of postcards and one other photo. The scanning quality is kinda poor but I did this whole thing in a hurry.

A view from the north side of the pool deck looking at the main building. Those skylights in the 1970s were the last word in modern "daylighting" design.


I've mentioned Tradewinds a number of times on my blog and in September 2008 I went with my mentally ill father (who came up from Florida to go to his 50th high school reunion at Long Branch High School) to where the beach club used to be.

North side row of cabanas at the old Tradewinds Beach Club, Sea Bright, N.J., Nov. 2002.


I took a series of pictures posted in this entry (yes, that entry includes pictures of my Aunt Babe, my grandmother's younger sister whose 100th birthday is set for January 2013 and I hope to be at the celebration) and especially this entry. Trouble was, it was a foggy, windy day and my cellphone camera at the time was beyond shitty.

The view from the north side row of cabanas where Jonathan's parents and my grandparents had their respective cabanas. That's how Jonathan and I met. We are almost identical ages -- he is about 2 weeks older than I am.


Jonathan took the photos in this entry on a brightly sunny, probably brisk day in November 2002 (or at least Autumn 2002) shortly before the old beach club -- which dated back at least to 1930s -- was razed to make way for some shitty condos. The beach club consisted of an "old" part with an indoor pool and adjoining night club that was thoroughly renovated at some point in the early 1990s with that pool now a sort of weird outdoor fountain.

This was cabana 18 (although later they were renumbered). This was Jonathan's cabana. They were about 10 feet by 15 feet or so (maybe 150 square feet, maybe a bit less) and contained a sink, shower, and mini changing room. You could do a lot with them and people did.


The part featured in these photographs was the "new" part constructed in 1975. It included twin rows of "cabanas" and two sea-facing "lanais" as well as a labyrinth of lockers located beneath the main outdoor pool deck. There were also beach houses.

Cabana 21, Tradewinds Beach Club, Sea Bright, N.J., Nov. 2002 shortly before it was bulldozed into oblivion and memory. This was my grandparents cabana and where I spent so many summers.


Tradewinds was one of a series of such beach clubs along this part of the Jersey shore that actually date back to the late 19th Century and included places such as Monmouth Beach Club, Peninsula House, Ship Ahoy, Driftwood, and Edgewater. At least a few of these are still there, and indeed Aunt Babe's daughter and son-in-law go to Edgewater (or maybe it's Driftwood - I've been there twice but can't recall which is which because it's NOT Tradewinds).

Here was the view from our cabanas looking out across the pool deck.


My grandfather started renting a cabana -- cabana 21 on the upper level north side(facing south) in the summer of 1975. I vaguely recall it cost about $1,000 to rent for the whole summer. By the end run of the place, they were going for ten times that amount. The place was packed in the summers of the 1970s and through the early 1980s. Then it was abandoned for a few summers with almost no guests because it was supposed to be sold / razed even then. But it came back very strong in the 1990s (by which time I was already gone), only to finally succumb to frenzied development in 2002.

The light pole outside cabana 21 with its old-style incandescent bulb. The north side lanais are visible in this image as is the Atlantic Ocean.


The beach club was located right on the Atlantic Ocean and faced onto a beach whose size varied wildly depending on tides and sand flows. This whole stretch of the Jersey shore in Monmouth County from Long Branch to the bottom of the Sandy Hook peninsula (a distance of about 6 miles) featured a fortress-like sea wall.

At certain times, the ocean waves would batter and over-top the sea wall.

The outside stairwell on the east end of the north row of cabanas looking toward the "old" part of Tradewinds long after it had been renovated.


But in 1993 or so, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers - New York District undertook the first in a series of  massive beach replenishment ("nourishment") projects that resulted in a 150 foot wide beach that buried the whole series of small jetties -- which are properly called "groins" since a jetty is a very specific kind of structure. This was one of the largest such projects of its sort ever -- stretching eventually the full 21 miles of Monmouth County from Manasquan Inlet (where there are two proper jetties) to the base of Sandy Hook.

Here is the outdoor pool from the deep end -- having mostly been drained for the last time. That's probably mostly just rainwater collected in there. Jonathan wrote on the back of the card, "Half empty pool. I nearly jumped in."

That's Jonathan.


These groins invariably have the effect of "robbing Peter to pay Paul," so to speak, when it comes to sand and the north side of each groin along this part of the Jersey shore had in effect no beach. This is what you see in the lead aerial image above. Back then, we called that small beach (which at low tide was could significantly expand in size) as "Little Hawaii." Not sure why.

The view from the lockers under the pool deck. They formed a seemingly vast labyrinth of wet, dimly lit concrete and cheap wooden doors.


In that replenishment project, the groins were "notched" as well to allow for littoral sand flow. And once all that beach was available, every restaurant and beach club and condo development did the nature thing and started planting palm trees.

True, they (usually) don't survive the winters but that's almost beside the point.

Another expansive view of the old "new" Tradewinds Beach Club, now gone.


I recall being there in the summer of 2000 and seeing way on the northern horizon the Manhattan skyline -- yes, you can easily see it on clear days as on a direct line it is only about 25 miles away. In fact, I saw the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center THROUGH palm fronds located, I believe, at a tiki bar at Donovan's Reef.

The view looking south along the seawall next to the beach club. That row of beach houses on the beach itself was not there back in the 1970s or 1980s.


At night, the lights of Long Island and all the ships entering / leaving the New York Harbor and jets buzzing over Jamaica Bay / Idlewild JFK Airport.

Oh, and you used to be able to clearly see the old Ambrose Light back in its "original" location. It looked like a giant chair located waaaay on the horizon. I wrote about it here.

The view looking north along the seawall.


Tradewinds Beach Club is where I went every summer from 1975 through about 1987, except when I visited my mother in Belgium or Texas, and later on, I would come up from Glen Burnie where I was living with my mother. Tradewinds was my home in those summers. Back in the 1970s, you could actually sleep overnight there before it was prohibited. This was tied in as well to the chaos and fights at the adjoining night club.

Here is a scanned picture I've posted before. This is the view looking north from the lanais to the north beyond the seawall as it looked in August 1987.


I actually went to that nightclub with my friend Joe -- who is also from the same par of New Jersey but is about 6 years younger than I am -- in 2002 on what I understand was the nightclub's final night. I forget who or what we saw there.

In the 1980s, I would live with my grandparents at their senior citizens apartment building in Long Branch about 4 miles south (in Ocean Pointe Towers*) and then go daily to the beach club.

*There is a senior citizens house located at 15th and U Streets NW here in D.C. near where I live looks EXACTLY like that building, and it is a senior citizens home as well.

Looking at the beach and ocean from Tradewinds. You can see all the crappy construction being done even then.

Well, in a hundred years or so, sea level rise will probably mean the ocean reclaims this bit of human real estate.


All the hours and days and months I spent at that beach club, swimming in the ocean, or swimming the outdoor or indoor pool, or spending about $20 of my grandmother's money per day in quarters that I ALWAYS stole from her purse in the stupid pinball and video arcade. And I got in trouble a number of times -- even "banned" a few times from this or that spot at the beach club. And I developed early fixations on the hunky male lifeguards.

Sound familiar?

Now my dad actually got into at least one big physical fight when he threw a drink on his ex-girlfriend and her new boyfriend at the annual closing party that used to be held. A big fracas erupted -- remember my nutty dad used to be a black belt in karate and he was drunk -- so it was huge melee with the lifeguards-turned-bouncers that evening running in. I was actually in Texas visiting my mother (I think it was late summer 1980) at the time and returned a week or so later.

The most difficult part for me. was that I was there with my paternal grandparents -- I loved my grandma dearly. Trouble was, we were there with her rotten younger brother and his wife Rosemary, and they were horrible. I had hideous fights with that old bastard.


Well, anyway, I just wanted to post these pictures. It is getting late (nearly noon) and I have to get ready and get up to Greenbelt Metro to meet Gary and Wendy and head out on our Jersey shore trip to Wildwood (on the opposite end from Sea Bright).

Before I conclude, though, let me conclude with a scanned image of a postcard that Jonathan sent me in 1998 from Australia (see image directly above).

As context, Jonathan ended up the drummer in a "stoner" rock band called the Monster Magnet. It's so not my kind of music, but the band had some real success and popularity, especially in Europe. He is no longer the drummer but he did this for at least a decade.

This post card was on the occasion of the band going to Australia.

Here is the postcard. I only whited out his last name, which he included in it.


Jonathan still lives in Monmouth County and I keep in touch with him, mostly by text now. He is now in a band called the Ribeye Brothers, but I can't find a website for them. He had no objection to me posting these images and content.

My next planned update won't be until Wednesday or Thursday next week.



Amanda said...

Hi, I don't know you, but I was nostalgically looking for Tradewinds, because of the devastation in Sea Bright, and I found this post. I was a member of Tradewinds much later than you. 1989-2002, Cabana 8. But, everything you said rang true (especially the crushes on the hunky lifeguards). So thank you for posting this. My friends and I have been posting our favorite memories of the Jersey Shore, and almost every single one of them revolved around Tradewinds in someway. It wasn't just a beach club, it was our lives.

Thank you again for sharing these pictures and memories.

thesuz53 said...

I too remember Tradewinds...I belonged to the swim team at the Driftwood beach club but all these clubs connected us. I remember when they first enclosed one of the pools with a blow up type top..and during a stong wind it blew down Ocean Blvd. I actually witnessed it...couldn't find any news articles about it but it was something to see...

Unknown said...

hello!! I totally enjoyed your recollections/photos of tradewinds...thank you. I was a member there as a kid from 1965-1985. and went to that an "adult"....saw Springsteen and other local groups of the time. we had one of those lockers under the pool area. it served our family well. we always sat on the little beach to the north of the jetty ...less waves I guess. went to the indoor pool...even during was a separate membership for the winter months. made friends, fell in love with lifeguards, have great memories.

Jim said...

I worked at Tradewinds in the early 80’s as a beach boy. Thanks for the pictures and stories, they brought back some good memories. Jim

Regulus said...

You're welcome.

This entry has a few more old scanned photos from Tradewinds back in the 1970s and '80s:

Anne said...

Anyone have pictures of the original Tradewinds from the early 60's? My family had a winter membership for the first of its kind covered indoor pool. The bubble as it was called blew off in a storm!

Unknown said...

Wow...spent my summers there in the 60s grandparents had cabana that faced the pool and ocean thanks for photos