Photo stirs memories

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Our most recent Mystery Photo took some of our readers on a long trip back to childhood. Among the many who called and emailed us in response was Ray Jennings, who was born in the house just visible on the left side of the road in 1941.


Jennings lived in the house until the early 1950s, when he moved to his grandparents’ home after the death of his father. The house is no longer there, destroyed by fire several years ago.


He remembers well the Glyde Beach Club, so named for the swimming pool on the premises.


“They had big dances in the summer, and a radio station used to broadcast from there,” Jennings said.


Amazingly enough, Jennings was able to identify even the horses in the photo. “That’s Duke and Dan, sorrel horses, and that’s either Tom Martin or John Fowler taking them down the road,” Jennings said. The two men worked on the Ross farm. The Ross barn in the photo is still standing, although it now sits on the opposite side of Route 40, which was realigned 75 years ago.


“There were seven or eight men who worked on the Ross farm because they didn’t have a tractor, they only used horses,” Jennings said.


Dick and Vaughn Ross lived in East Washington and owned the farm.


“Dick Ross used to sell livestock – just horses – out of that barn,” said Inez McCauley, who lived in the house two doors west of the Glyde Beach Club.


McCauley’s parents, Tom and Mabel Dague Gween, were schoolteachers but moved to Glyde to take up sheep farming.


“That was during the Depression,” McCauley said. “I remember men would come to the kitchen door and ask my mother for something to eat. You could tell they hadn’t eaten anything for days. She would always give them something, if not a meal, at least pie and coffee.”


The history of the Glyde Beach Club was recorded in “Rural Reflections of Amwell Township,” published in 1977:


“William Dague erected a store building and store room, which was later acquired by William Hootman. In the early 1920s, Mr. Hootman built a commercial swimming pool and it was known as Glyde Beach … Knute Norris bought the store and swimming pool from William Hootman, operated it for two or three years as a hotel, and continued the beach until it was destroyed by fire about 1930. After the fire, Mr. Norris built a dance hall that was very well known in the area until about 1950.”


A number of our readers who responded agreed that the end of the club, or at least its swimming pool, was the result of racial prejudice.


“At that time we think of segregation as only a Southern problem,” wrote Ralph Gatten. “However, I understand that the demise of the beach began when blacks from Washington began to use the pool. The white people from the area refused to use the pool. … The owners then filled in the pool, and it became a motel only. It’s a rather sad ending to the beach, but that was a different era.”


Quite a few of our readers told us they possess the same photograph as our Mystery Photo and also have others taken along Route 40 at about the same time. It is likely that the photos were taken by a professional photographer to document what the road looked like before its major reconstruction.


Look for another Mystery Photo in next Monday’s Observer-Reporter.


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