From sometime in the 1930's until the very early 1980's, the Long Beach boardwalk, stretching from Magnolia Blvd to Edwards Blvd (formerly Jackson Blvd.), became less of the exclusive promenade for the wealthy, rich and famous, and more welcoming toward the growing middle class. Long Beach would adapt to the post Great Depression recovery in order to survive by attracting the middle class. First, arcades appeared, taking over spaces that were once posh dining rooms and porches in some of the boardwalk hotels, the Nassau Hotel on National Blvd. most notably. Games of chance, Fascination, the Greyhound Races, Shooting Gallery, Skee Ball, Fortune Tellers and more popped up and lined the frontage on the boardwalk. Custard stands and Knish shops, Kosher Deli's and hot dog stands, Harold's Sno Balls, Pretzels, Pizza, Kalin's Italian Ices and cotton candy kept the boardwalk bathed in sights and smells that rivaled, and to some surpassed, Coney Island. By the early 50's, the amusement rides, the batting range and miniature golf had arrived.
The boardwalk was a bustle of activity that continued east past the old lookout tower (actually a WWII spotting station) to the bowling alley and Dick's, at Long Beach Blvd. From Memorial Day to Labor Day the boardwalk became a place every adult and kid growing up would remember. At night the arcades and rides were lit up like our version of Las Vegas. They were good times; clean, fun times.
The demise started in 1965, with the loss by fire of the Tower Baths Complex at National Blvd. It, and all the businesses that were in it and fronted the boardwalk, were a total loss. And then, by the 1970s, a change came. People weren't coming to Long Beach anymore. The hotels became more run down, property values declined, New York State decentralized the program that cared for mentally disabled patients, and inevitably relocated them to Long Beach to fill these old hotels and rooming houses, where they roamed the local streets and boardwalk. Hard drugs became a local scourge. Real estate prices went down, the arcades lost money, suspicious fires took their toll on other businesses and properties which fronted the boardwalk, and the rides at Grubergs, once shiny and magical, were now rusted and tired. By about 1982 or so the magic was all gone.
What is left are our memories and these great photos we have been fortunate to obtain from various former and current Long Beach residents. These photos would not be possible without the submissions of many people, Dr Kenneth Tydings (who is credited with most of the black and white photos, courtesy of his son Albert Tydings), Laura Murphy, Lowell Taubman, Paul Shapiro, Jimmy Holmes, Steve Cooper, Gail Rapoport and Robin Stein. If we forgot to mention you, we apologize, some of the documentation for these photos was lost, please drop us an email so we can properly credit and thank you.
Enjoy these lost images of Long Beach!