Monday, May 5, 2008

The Islander

If there were such a thing as a Kid Paradise during the 1970’s in Mathews, the Islander Motel and Restaurant on Gwynns Island would hands down be IT.

OK. This picture  has to be blurry. I apologize. But never fear. I have other unblurry ones that will be featured in future editions of The Islander: Unattended Children Gone Wild.

The Islander, pictured above, used to be a combination “anyone can join for a small fee” county swimming pool, restaurant, lounge (shhhh, don’t tell anyone, but people actually drank in Mathews, they don't do it anymore) and marina on The Most Beautiful piece of waterfront property known to man.

If that man lives in Mathews.

It was also where I learned many of life’s lessons.

I’m feeling frisky today, so let’s take a Pop Quiz, shall we?

1. You are 12 years old and either your mother or your father’s mother is responsible for your well being and determining Some Activity for you to do over the summer. The ideal solution is:

a) a nice Baptist summer camp;
b) arts and crafts with your parents, to include a performance of Koom-By-Ah beside a campfire at night;
c) to be dropped off, with no adult supervision, at a swimming pool exactly 8 miles from home and 6 As the crow flies. This would be The Islander Pool. It was 8 feet at the deep end and had a diving board along with a "life" guard.

2. You are 12 years old, and you and your younger sister have been dropped off at The Pool at the Islander. Some of the things you do are:

a) swim in the pool;
b) hope that some nice young couple will walk off with your younger sister so she doesn’t cramp your style and
c) go rooting around in the marina trash cans for aluminum cans for money.
d) A,B & C

3. The reason you are rooting around in the trash cans located every 5 feet on the dock of the marina is:

a) You want to help them keep up with their trash maintenance;
b) You are searching for a spare quarter to put in the nab machine (Who remembers –or even knows--what a pack of nabs is? Anyone? Bueler? Anyone?)
c) Your father’s mother promised to pay you a certain amount of money, namely a PENNY for every aluminum can you procured, no matter how much disgusting Pabst Blue Ribbon was swirling around in a hot, hellish vortex of NASTY at the bottom of each can, so therefore you stood on your head in trash cans trying to locate any and all things aluminum.
d) B&C

4. When you were left unattended like every other child in the county at the time at the Islander swimming pool, what are some of the things that occurred that your parents never witnessed?

a) I was running away from Mark Fry, rounded a corner too soon, ran square into a metal telephone box (back in the days of public telephones) and cut my head enough to receive a “butterfly stitch.”
b) I got married and they never knew.

OK. Enough. The Islander is going to be the subject of many future posts here, because there are simply too many stories to tell in one sitting.

Sadly, the Islander currently is in a state of decay, although it has so much potential, and is really only used as a marina and a place for the occasional hotel guest. Hopefully with sense enough not to round that corner too quickly and run dead into the metal telephone booth.

Or dig for beer cans.


A.M.Foley said...

How fortunate you were! For public amusement here on Elliotts Island, MD a kid had to settle for a walk to Miss Nora's store to fish a soda out of a big, tepid, metal bin. A few oldtimers usually sat there talking, but chances were you'd heard their stories before.

Anonymous said...

You forgot to mention that if you hand up-side-down from the gymnastics handles at the playground, you were very likely to find quarters to use in the nab machine. Also, under the drink machines and in the change compartment were target rich environments. Michigan cherries were my favorite things to come out of the machine. A little sugar after a long day of running around never hurt anyone, now did it? I'll send you some pictures of the islander that are more in focus if I can find them. -Sis

Chesapeake Bay Woman said...

Thanks for commenting, a.m. foley. We have a store like that too - or rather we did. I'll write about that one later.

Sis - Yep, I forgot about the quarters in the change compartments. And Michigan Cherries were, indeed, The Best out of that nab machine.

Thanks to both of you for visiting.

foolery said...

Oooo, I love quizzes! The answer is FOUR!



I'll check back. Great stories, Cheeky, but there's one in particular I can't wait for you to elaborate on . . .

Anonymous said...

Love the summer memories. After we did chores, we could get dropped off at the pool in our small town for the afternoon. There was a jukebox there that never got updated, and to this day there are certain songs I can't hear without thinking about the "Millerstown Pool"!

Chesapeake Bay Woman said...

Foolery, I cannot imagine to which story you are referring....lest it have to do with your Nick A**hat story, in which case, I'd best share that offline...

And Soup - I can only imagine the songs on that jukebox, and I am sure that whenever you hear a song from then it takes you right dead smack to that time. (Whether you want to go there or not!)

kaffy said...

I was lucky enough to actually stay at the Islander and watch my kid swim in that very pool. It was like a scene from the 70s even a few years ago. There was a great, beach-like, carefree feel to it...and the rooms were, well, interesting to say the least. I bet if the carpet could talk, it could tell some pretty spicy tales.
When I was a kid of 7 or 8 in NJ I remember walking a mile to our community pool and spending the entire day adult supervision of course. We'd eat ice cream from the good humor truck for our lunch. No worries. Sigh.

tj said... moly! You are killing me here! lol... ;o)

..."in a hot, hellish vortex of NASTY..." How can something so bad sound sooo, provacative? lol... After today, I will never look at an empty beer can the same way again... ;o)

...Great post and thanks for the laughs! I can't wait to hear more stories about this

...You're the best CBW! ;o)

...Blessings... :o)

Chesapeake Bay Woman said...

OH my gosh, I love the comments. Thanks Kaffy - I knew you'd get a kick out of seeing this place again since you've actually been there and "experienced it." I would love to hear stories about YOUR unattended shinanigans (sp).

And tj - you're hilarious - I had not even THOUGHT about any such provacative interpretation, but once again you prove you have the ability to see through what's obvious and understand the under current....even if the author doesn't quite see it yet!

Again, thank you both for commenting. It makes my day. Or night, as it were.

cats said...

hey cbw,
I used to love the Islander. I also worked there when I got older. I met alot of interesting people there. great times! Also don't forget the Yacht Club. That was a cool place too. The lifeguards there were hunks. They had this little window, where you could go and buy snacks. That beautiful porch on the front overlooks Stutts
creek. I have alot of memories there. Makes me feel old.
Keep up the good stories.

Chesapeake Bay Woman said...

cats - I don't remember you working at the Islander, but I am not surprised since it was one of the major employers around here in its heyday. I worked there as a substitute lifeguard and thank goodness nobody needed help while I was on duty because, hello, I was not TRAINED to save anyone's life!

Yes, the Yacht Club was awesome too. Situated on a gorgeous part of Stutts Creek. I don't remember the hunky lifeguards though, maybe I went at the wrong time. I do remember the salt water they had in that pool. I always thought that was strange.

Anyway, good to hear your stories as usual.

cats said...

I worked at the Islander when I was 19. You were probably at college. I was a waitress at the restaurant.
I was 14 15 and 16 when I used to visit the YAcht Club. Robert Brown was the lifeguard. Now he is a doctor. I don't know if you know him. He went to Christ Church school. Good friend with Michael Reardon, another good friend of mine.

Anonymous said...

I bet getting things out of the nab machine must have been exiting since the nearest McDonalds and all the good things we have today were 50 miles away!-your son

Chesapeake Bay Woman said...

Yay, son! You are correct. The nab machine was ALL we had to eat. McDonalds was in No Man's Land!

David said...

Wow. I thought I was the only one. I can remember visiting the Islander as a kid in the 70's. Believe it or not, Gwynn's Island and Mathews were an eagerly anticipated summertime paradise and still hold a special (and almost hallowed) place in my memory -- Tom's Diner, the general store and five and dime in Mathews Courthouse, and the Islander.

I recently returned with my wife, ready to share this great spot, drove past my uncle (Fernald's?) old house, and up the drive to the Islander. What a depressing sight. I had no idea it had changed so much. My wife kind of looked at my like my youthful imagination had run wild. We left and got a room at Buckley Hall, a home, now turned a Bed and Breakfast, where I used to spend summers with Miss Baines.

Anonymous said...

30 years ago this very day (July 4th,1979)I was a 10 year old in that pool. We (my grandparents and I and the Lynnhaven Yacht club, as it was then)spent every 4th there. That brings back all kinds of memories. Fireworks on the beach, the old lady in the gift shop who couldn't stand me, begging my Grandma for something from the snack bar, getting dressed up and having dinner at the Islander. Swimming in the pool until my fingers had wrinkles upon wrinkles.

Sheesh, thirty years went by quickly. You wouldn't happen to have any more photos? I would love to see them.

Anonymous said...

So glad I stumbled on your blog. When I was younger, we came down every weekend to the area - first to Deltaville back in the early 70's, then over to the Narrows in the late 70's/early 80's. The islander pool was always a high point, I remember when they finally opened the snack bar (pizza slices for lunch!!), and also the lady in the gift shop - I think she hated kids in general. I was really sad to hear that the Islander had closed up a few years ago. I hope that someone can bring it back before it's too far gone. Really a wonderful place, wonderful memories. Anyone know whatever happened to Preston Jenkins, or Niles?

Anonymous said...

I keep coming back here. Late. Like this might be some sort of portal through time. A drive down long sand and shell covered lanes and a summer full of transistor radios and Coppertone. What happened? Where did it all go? Conjure for me.

JMM said...

Who actually owns the Islander now? Has anybody tried to fix it up recently or has it been condemned?

My grandparents useed to have a place on the East River and I remember having dinner down there and I also recall watching birds skim over the pool and snatch a beak full of water. It was entertaining to watch as a youngster and they flew with the precision of a fighter jet landing on an aircraft carrier.

I stayed at the Islander a few times after they sold the property and I remember the rooms being very musty and not maintained. I guess Isabel was the final blow.

I would be interested to see if anybody has ever tried to make a go of that place but I'm sure it would take a lot of money to get it going again.

Chesapeake Bay Woman said...

JMM - As far as I know, the same family owns it now that owned it then, and I am unsure of their plans.

Those little divebombing birds were probably swallows.

It's so amazing how many people have wonderful, poignant memories of the Islander.

A book or a screen play needs to be written...

Connie said...

The islander... ( sigh)...
I remember going there with my mom and dad when I was a kid.
Why hasn't some great developer picked this place up and fixed it? DIY should take it on... seriously.. what a wonderful beautiful place!

Anonymous said...

the islander is still owned by the same people it was not sold that I know of.

Anonymous said...

Growing up on G.I. the ONLY thing to do as join the Islander. Once the stinging nettles got so bad we had to join. I was about 9 then. BEST decision my parents ever made!

John Everson said...

I was the lifeguard at the Islander during the summers of 1969-70, which was a truly fun job. The hotel was owned by a family named Jenkins, from Richmond, and run by Ed Beverly (can't believe I remember these names). My sister also had her wedding reception there. Mr. Graham came in to run things after Mr. Beverly left. I believe Mr. Graham was killed in a robbery at the front desk.
We had a lot of fun at the pool. My job was to keep kids from running and drunks off the slide, and pool chemical maintenance. I worked 9am-9pm 6 days and 9am-noon 1 day for $45.00/week. I was 16 and 17 at the time.
Instead of a raise the second summer, I got the title "Recreational Director in Charge of Water Facilities".
It was a good job. I met lots of interesting people. I saw the motel a few years back. Such a shame it's in such bad shape.

Chesapeake Bay Woman said...

John - It's quite possible our paths crossed one of those summers, because I practically lived up there during the summer months. Mr. Graham was indeed killed.

I'm very impressed with your job title! That's priceless.

Thanks for contributing your memories. It was such a special place for so many people.

Merrie said...

I also worked there as a "busboy/busgirl/busperson" lol. I am John's sister. the one that had her wedding reception at the Islander. :) Had many good times and memories there. It is a shame that is it is such disrepair. Hopefully someone will see what a good investment it could become again and make more memories for the generations to come!

Kat said...

The Islander was practically my summer home. And a tradition for every 4th of July.

I love that place. Can't go back now. It makes me too sad to see it as it is.

Kat said...

Anyone know Amy Small or what happened to her? She lived on the island.

RKelly said...

My husband lived on the Island when he was a kid. He took me there when we were dating and finally saved enough money to stay at the Islander on our anniversary, during the early eighties. We took our kids there later and watched the Islander start to go down. We loved going down there. Best of both worlds, pool and the beach. A lot of great memories, sad that it is gone.

Heidi Mullins said...

The Islander, was a family and friends summer retreat. I spent all my growing up summer years there with my family (the Jenkins & Tharps). To some the Old Lady in the gift shop but to me she was my grandmother (Fae Tharp). The Islander has so many memories not for just me but for a lot others. The summer place will never be forgotten. Wish i could have some of those summers back...

Holly said...

Wow,to read all the wonderful things here about The Islander has really touched my heart. You see, the truth is The Islander was built by my father Tom Jenkins and it was his lifelong dream of having a wonderful family place for generations to enjoy. I too spent every summer there and there are too many stories to tell ! It is very heartbreaking to have everyone see the condition that it is in now due to the many storms such as Isabel and we would love nothing more than to see it like it used to be back in the day but that is easier said than done. Hopefully one day it will be and thanks for the stories.

sabina said...

I was also very fortunate to have had many wonderful times growing up at the Islander. My best friend since my earlt teens was one of Mr Jenkins children. Later I wss married and had my reception at the beautiful hotel. Them when I had childten they enjoyed numerous pool days. I am so sorry othets did not get to experience this wonderful place
Thank you to the Jenkins family!!

debbie said...

Thanks for all the comments on the Islander. We knew that many had pleasant memories of times there just like we did as children of Tom Jenkins, the builder and owner. I worked there as waitress, lifeguard, cook, dishwasher, room staff, etc. I had my wedding reception there. It is still in the family and there are some of us who have been battling to keep her and restore her. She is gem that just needs attention and we hope to do that, yes, even after all these years. Pray for us that the doors will be opened for those of us who wish to save her are opened. Your comments are certainly an encouragement. Debbie

Anonymous said...

I lived in the area in the late 90's , I will always remember going to see fireworks and boat show on the 4th.I wondered what happened to the hotel,glad I found tis blog :-)

John Everson said...

I was there a few days ago. The marina is doing well (mostly full), but the hotel is still closed. There is a building permit in the lobby window issued to "The Islander LLC" to "seal closed buildings", and some of this has been done. I don't see any restoration effort going on.

Renee' Callis said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said...

I worked as a lifeguard at The Islander during the summers of 1978 and 1979. It was a "happening" place with all of the slips rented and rarely a vacancy in the motel. The seafood buffet was "unlimited" and there always seemed to be live entertainment upstairs in the lounge on the weekends. A lot of great people worked there including Vera, Shirley, Jeff, Susan, Lori, Niles, and Mr. Graham. The Jenkins family was always cordial and treated everyone well. I can now look back toward the Islander from my home on Cherry Point and wonder if it will ever regain its "glory".