Tootie and I had a free place to stay so why not escape for a couple days? My late mother’s house was sitting empty. We could still keep to ourselves and social distance. We brought our own food and drove the four hours from Chapel Hill to Virginia Beach.
I have always had a soft spot for Bruce Springsteen because like me he grew up in a beach town, hanging around the boardwalk. “as the wizards play down on pinball way on the boardwalk way past dark…you know this boardwalk life for me is through. You know you ought to quit this scene too.”
Bruce may have hung around the boardwalk but I did not hear from him sing about bicycles. For me the boardwalk was always about bicycles. My friends and I rode our bicycles up and down that boardwalk. Back and forth. We rode bicycles to our jobs working at various hotels and restaurants. We rode bicycles to the amusement park Seaside Park so we could play skee-ball.
On this recent Coronavirus Sunday morning there were two bicycles sitting in the beach house garage. Tootie and I started at 83rd street to ride down to 1st Street and back.
All the streets north of 40th are zoned residential. Atlantic Avenue heads south and the streets tick off one by one. There is a pleasant side street along Atlantic Avenue that locals call the Feeder Road. For forty blocks it functions beautifully as a path for walking and bicycling.
South of 40th street (the South End) the scenario changes abruptly to hotels and the boardwalk begins. The boardwalk is just its name, it has always been made of concrete. Hotels line the oceanfront for forty blocks.
In my sixty-four years I have witnessed the complete teardown of these hotels twice. The photo below is from the 1940’s. When I was a child in the early 1960’s the older wooden oceanfront cottage hotels had not changed much since this 1940’s postcard.
One by one starting in the late 1950’s with exactly one exception every single cottage type oceanfront hotel shown above was torn down and replaced by a motel. The new ones had catchy names like the Gay Vacationer. The old pictures below are taken from the internet.
By the mid 1970’s I had moved away and I only came back to visit family. Over the past forty years almost every one of the Googie Mid-Century Modern architectured 1950-60’s motels have themselves been torn down, one by one, to be replaced by flat higher rising hotels along the oceanfront.
Tootie and I continued bicycling down the boardwalk strip heading south. Back in my day there was not this bike path and the bicycles had to mix with pedestrians on the concrete boardwalk.
The boardwalk ends at 1st Street and Rudee Inlet. Tootie and I turned around and headed back north. Where we live in Chapel Hill and in some parts of Virginia Beach people cautiously keep social distance and wear face masks. Here at the south end on a sunny but chilly Sunday morning people did not seem to care.
We biked back north, this time on the street Atlantic Avenue. In the 1970’s my friend Steve used to work at the Schooner Inn motel.
I had said that every single wooden oceanfront cottage hotel in the South End had been torn down except one. The De Witt Cottage was owned by three elderly sisters when I was a child. They went to our church. One of them used to baby sit for us. Their home has been saved as a museum which sits forlornly between high rises.
This shows Tootie biking north on Atlantic Avenue.
The 1950’s-1970’s Mid-Century Modern motels are now historic structures and in Virginia Beach on the oceanfront only two or three remain, including the Seahawk Motel.
On less expensive non-oceanfront land there are other remaining motels, including the Cutty Sark and the Royal Clipper.
We bicycled back to the beach house. It was almost lunchtime.
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