No letter from you for a couple of days now; got one from Lawrence yesterday. I hope, darling, that by this time you’ve managed to have a vacation and if so I hope you had plenty of sunshine and good swimming. It’s years since I last visited Old Orchard – but it sure is a swell spot for bathing. You’re absolutely correct in your opinion about the bathing at Winthrop. It’s definitely not good. But it used to be a nice quiet place to rest – especially evenings. I wonder how it is now.
Yesterday I was busy with battalion duties all day. I had to get one of our men to a certain hospital and before the day was over, darling, I had been in every town – practically – on the whole peninsula. It’s amazing to see how people in the rear go on about their business now as if nothing had happened. Most homes have only partial roofs; practically none has windows. Stores are doing business – with no fronts to them and impromptu entrances. It’s all very strange – darling. I don’t know what the news reels are showing you – but I’m seeing it in the raw. All for now – Sweetheart. I do miss you something awful and I don’t know which is worse – a quiet nite when I can think and yearn – or a noisy one – when I’m scared and too busy to think.
|Old Orchard Beach on the Cover of The New Yorker|
29 July 1944
1842 brought the first steam railroad from Boston to Portland with a station just 2 miles west of town. The first restaurant to sell seafood treats and "shore dinners" opened in 1851 near Staples Street. The Grand Trunk Railroad opened in 1853 connecting Montreal to Old Orchard Beach, enabling Canadian visitors to flock to this closest beach to Montreal. The seaside amusement park "Palace Playland", located in Old Orchard Beach, dates back to 1902 and sits on four acres of beachfront property. Palace Playland is one of the last old-time ocean-side amusement parks in New England.
In the past, two carousels were constructed with hand-carved horses and other animals. Old Orchard Beach was home to the first carousel in the United States, "Noah's Ark", a kid-friendly, boat-shaped fun-house with hand-carved figures of Noah and his family, designed to provide an exciting but not frightening experience for a 5-year-old. The entire structure would rock back and forth while guests meandered through dark passages. Colored lights would flash, loud electric horns would sound, and compressed air would shoot from the floor. On the "Jack and Jill" slide, two people would be placed on a large hemp mat in a wooden bucket, which would take them to the top of a 50-foot (15 m) tall tower and dump them onto a metal slide for a quick ride down.
The current 2011 version of Palace Playland consists of a newly built Ferris Wheel, a 24,000-square-foot (2,200 square meters) arcade,and 25 rides for both children and adults. The new Ferris Wheel replaced the 70-foot (21 m) high, decades old Sunwheel with one that is environmentally sound and technologically superior.
In addition to on-the-beach theme parks and a 700 foot long pier above the Atlantic Ocean tides, Old Orchard Beach's main attraction is its seven miles long, sandy beach. Maine has a tidal shoreline of 3,478 miles, of those only 35 are sandy beach. Old Orchard Beach has the largest share of any location in Maine. The beach stretches from Pine Point south to Camp Ellis. Old Orchard Beach has been repeatedly voted "Maine's Best Beach" by the state's residents. For many years, Old Orchard Beach served as a vacation place for America's rich and famous, including the Kennedys. It is rumored that Joe Kennedy first kissed Rose on Old Orchard Beach, under the pier.
Three versions of the Pier were constructed by man and modified by nature. The first, 1,770 feet (540 m) long, was built of steel in 1898. At its end was the Pier Casino, a ballroom with room for 5,000 dancers. Shortly after its completion a storm reduced its length by 150 feet (46 m). It was rebuilt, but 10 years later, after another storm, the pier was shortened to 700 feet (210 m) and the Casino was moved. Between WWI and WWII, the Casino hosted such acts as Guy Lombardo, Louis Armstrong, Benny Goodman, Xavier Cugat and Frank Sinatra. After the war Old Orchard became somewhat downscale, becoming known as a destination for working class party-goers. A fire in 1969 destroyed Noah's Ark, the two carousels, and the Jack and Jill slide. The Casino was demolished in 1970. The current pier was built in 1980 after being destroyed by a blizzard in 1978. The current structure stretches 500 feet (150 m) into the Atlantic Ocean. The wooden walk way is lined with souvenir shops, fair-style foods, and a night club at the end of the pier.