Last fall I attended a museum exhibit called On The Waterfront, where they displayed a number of old photos and postcards of the waterfront from days gone by. I thought I might share a few of these, for those interested in history and vintage memorabilia.
In this postcard, we see swimmers enjoying the beach in Grand Bend in the 1920’s. One hundred years later, it remains a popular beach resort, but my how bathing suits have changed, although these may have seemed daring in the flapper era.
Imagine paying five cents for a dance – if you ran out of money, you were done for the night and maybe went for a moonlight stroll instead!
Many of the waterfront amusements then involved dance halls or pavilions which attracted people for the nighttime entertainment, as much as the beaches did during the day.
My great-grandmother lived across the river from this resort and dance pavilion. One of my father’s earliest memories was of hearing the music floating across the water while being babysat – with the probability of a cookie and a reassurance that his parents were not too far away. Built in the the early 19th century, it hosted parties coming down river on steamships to attend the dances and stay at the hotels and cottages. Long torn down, it is now the site of a private clubhouse with a beautiful wood floor which would make a perfect dance floor.
Before there were bridges and motorcars, you, and your horse and carriage, could also hop on the ferry to get to the party.
Fast forward to the Big Band era…
When my parents were dating in the late 1940’s, they attended the Big Band dances at this venue on the shores of Lake Huron. Opened in 1946, it had an outdoor dance floor, as dancing under the stars was very popular back then. It attracted big name bands such as Tommy Dorsey, Guy Lombardo, Louis Armstrong, and Glen Miller who played to crowds of up to 3,000 on weekends. My mother recalls going for a hamburger and a Coke at a nearby diner after the dance – hamburgers were 25 cents, a sum they could barely afford.
Moonlight Serenade – by Glen Miller and his Orchestra
By the 1950’s as musical tastes shifted, it attracted the likes of rock and roll’s Bill Haley and the popular crooner Pat Boone. I’m certain my parents did not attend this crowded Pat Boone concert, as I was born a few days later.
By the 1960’s when we used to picnic in the park there on summer Sundays, there was nothing left of it but some broken cement from the dance floor and a few crumbling walls. Now, it’s a tennis court, with a historical plaque marking the site, although a few years ago they held The Simply White Dinner (link) there, and dancing under the stars resumed for one enchanted evening.
When we see pictures of young people congregating on the beach this summer, partying and having fun in the midst of a pandemic, it seems crazy, but youth is ever optimistic. Although, looking back at these old photos, it does seem a much more romantic time. Perhaps music and moonlight never go out of date.