The following oral history of the founding of OBC was dictated by Edna Grumbach in preparation for the 75th Anniversary of Ocean Beach Club in 1979. Since this piece was written, additional club historical details were uncovered which will be added to a subsequent manual. For now, this is a lovely story of The Club’s earliest years that deserves to be shared:
As one of the early members of our Club, I am occasionally asked about how it was started, so with due apologies for my inexperience as a writer, I shall attempt to tell our story.
With the kind assistance of Miss Alice Lively, our Executive Secretary, I have been able to find some important dates and to have access to our rather sketchy early Minutes. Unfortunately, these records only date back to the year 1906; therefore, I must also depend on my childhood memories and what was told to me by my parents.
Around the 1880’s Long Branch was at its zenith as a fashionable summer resort and ocean front property was in great demand. To satisfy this need, the swamp that is now Takanassee Lake was drained and Ocean Avenue extended to the Deal border. An enterprising real estate broker named E.L. Brown bought up the farmland that is now Elberon and sold it in lots for building summer cottages. In those days the most pretentious summer homes were called cottages, cabanas and lockers were called pavilions and bathhouses and lifeguards were bathing masters.
Until about thirty years ago Long Branch had good beaches and the ownership of ocean front property included 300 feet of beach extending into the sea. These were called Riparian Rights. Mr. Brown realized that the sale of property on the west side of Ocean Avenue would depend on also giving access to the beach to this group of summer home owners, so about every quarter mile he intersected the ocean front properties with fifty foot wide roadways leading to a corresponding width of beach and assigned these Rights to nearby property owners in equal shares.
One of these intersections separated the homes of Solomon Guggenheim and Temple Bowdoin (subsequently sold to Lewis Gawtry) and is now the site of our south entrance driveway. Some fifteen property owners shared this Right on which they build bath houses and employed a bathing master during the summer months. I do not recall the names of those responsible for managing the affairs of this informal association but it was probably the same group who organized our Club in 1906, when Mr. William I Rosenfeld was elected President and the other officers included Mr. L. Napolean Levy, Mr. Theodore Herrmann and my father, Louis J. Reckford.
Our records show that there were twenty-five charter members, most of whom were young married couples with pre-teen or teenage children. At that time few children were sent to summer camps and then only when they were in their teens so our younger members were an older group than those we now see most of the summer. It is nice to note that a few of the great grandchildren of our founders are among our present group of youngsters. I did not read any special mention of the new Pavilion that was built at that time except one rather amusing entry that concerns the inclusion of seventeen bathhouses for domestics. We were, of course, rather crowded on our fifty feet of beach and there were occasional complaints from both our neighbors about our trespassing on their Rights, but as children we had a wonderful time and I clearly remember our husky bathing master Pietro Tomaini who taught us the rudiments of swimming and how to dive under the crest of the waves. As time marched on we became increasingly concerned about the deterioration of our beach and storm damage to our pavilion. Salt water pools were becoming increasingly popular and our young members began to drift away from the Club. As a result of these conditions, serious consideration was being given to moving the Club to a larger and more desirable location when the outbreak of World War I interrupted these plans.
In 1921 Mr. Gawtry decided to auction his property. Our directors were afraid that if we bid for his home that the price would be jacked up so my father quietly arranged to have one of his company’s executives act as our anonymous agent at this Sale. Our friend was able to buy the property for $31,500 then immediately transferred it to our President, Mr. Rosenfeld. The next step was the building of a salt water pool at a cost of $18,000. This meant that within one year our club spent nearly $50,000 and this was in the days when the dollar had twice its present purchasing value.
To finance these costs proprietary memberships were increased from twenty-five to forty and the fifteen additional memberships were sold at a price of $2,500 each. The Club also took on a mortgage of $20,000.
This brings us to the summer of 1922. By then or Club was in many respects the same as it is today. We had our swimming pool, a residential club house and an adequate bathing establishment, so I bring my story to its close with the hope that the friendly comradeship so well established by our founders will continue to be the guiding spirit of our club.
– Edna R. Grumbach