Friday Flashback #151

Two of the biggest Compo Beach controversies in recent years involved the South Beach bathrooms and the playground. Opponents of both projects worried they’d block scenic views of the Sound.

That didn’t happen, of course. But for many years — through the 1960s, in fact — our vista was quite different.

Enormous wooden bathhouses stretched from what is now Joey’s to the pavilion near Soundview Drive. (The concession stand was located then at the current volleyball courts.)

I have very dim memories of the bathhouses. They were dark and musty. The floors were sandy and wet. My friends and I played inside, but it felt like danger lurked around every corner. There were many corners.

The bathhouses went through several incarnations, before they were finally torn down. Here are a few.

Note the familiar 2nd story roof atop the bathhouses at the right. When the structure underneath was damaged in a hurricane, the roof was lowered. Today it houses the pavilion near the volleyball courts.

Another view.

Wooden ramps served as an early Mobi-Mat. Beach attire was much different. Note the float off shore too.

The brick bathhouses (currently, Joey’s by the Shore) contained bathhouses too. Check out the rocky condition of the beach itself.

An earlier view, from 1906. 

15 responses to “Friday Flashback #151

  1. Peter Barlow

    According to the postcards, everything was a “pavilion” including a “bathing pavilion.” (!) My recollection was the pavilion was the large square restaurant out by the road where the C.R. & L. bus came. The bus went from the beach to the railroad station, then to the center of town and up Main St. to Clinton Ave. where it turned around.
    And yes, there were rocks on the beach – smooth, round, rocks of various small sizes. I thought the rocks were fine – you didn’t have to wash sand off your feet. Sand, or mud, was at low tide.

  2. Cristina Negrin

    I didn’t like the rocks! Had to wear my sneakers in the water!

  3. I remember taking the bus to Compo with my mom (In the late 40’s very few families had 2 cars). There was a building with a large covered porch at the beach entrance. People would gather there during thunder storms to catch the bus home. I was fascinated by the bus driver operating the coin box and counting change while driving the bus. Sort of like texting and driving today.

    • Sharon Paulsen

      “ I was fascinated by the bus driver operating the coin box and counting change while driving the bus. Sort of like texting and driving today.”

      Great observation/memory … and the comparison to today’s tech “issues” of texting while driving.

      Plus, you’ve stirred up memories of those “coin boxes”, which I recall still existed into the 1970’s and maybe 80’s. (Mini-bus maybe? Anyone else know if that’s the case?)

  4. Kempton Coady

    Great nostalgic photos!

  5. Just last night at Town Hall I was admiring a painting of the old bathhouses. The painting is on the left in the lobby (walking into the building) if anybody is interested in seeing it.

  6. Sharon Paulsen

    This is wonderful, Dan … great post!

    It’s soooo interesting to see the historical past of “the beach” in old pics/postcards.

    Puts things in perspective as well (regarding issues of building sizes/locations, amenities, and “views”.

    Cool 😉

  7. Peter Barlow

    In the fourth postcard notice the spires on top of the brick bathhouse. One of these was the Sunday Puzzle a few months ago and nobody remembered them. But they don’t look quite right on the postcard.

  8. Richard Craig

    Excellent pictures. We used to play hide and seek in those long buildings when we ate at chubby lane’s.

  9. David Barton

    There was an archway entrance to the brick lockers where Joey’s is now. Our family had tiny locker # 87 for more than 25 years. My folks fixed it up. My dad even hung paintings in there for a while. Besides the standard beach chairs, there were extra towels, change of clothes, a plaid thermos, a beach basket, books, sketch pads, sun tan lotion, insect repellent, sandals… etc

    I almost drowned underneath one of wooden floats off shore when I was 6.. Does anyone remember when they were removed?

    The wooden lockers were strictly for racing around & playing tag with a gang of kids and getting in trouble.

  10. Bonnie Bradley

    I have a photo of the destruction of the original bath houses built in the 1800s by my great grandfather David Bradley who owned all of the Compo Beach/Soundview area until it was taken from him by decree of the Connecticut Supreme Court in 1903. (The Court’s compensation to David Bradley for this act was, I believe, about $1,500 – yes, a “small fortune” in those days but still…) I’m sending the photo to Dan and maybe he will add it to the comments.

    • Unfortunately, I can’t post a photo here. It’s a newspaper photo, and won’t reproduce well anyone. Trust me, though: lots of devastation.

  11. Joshua Stein

    very cool photos and looking forward to seeing bonnie bradley’s photo

  12. Karen Kristensen Wambach

    Love the photos, wish we still had floats off the beach to swim to!

  13. Theresa Saponare Kovacs

    Love all the photos and comments, I remembered all of this beach and still love it. My grandmother had a wooden bathhouse and umbrellas, chairs, and I remember the bus porch and waiting for the bus if we didn’t have a ride. We all had lots of fun on the floats and the sun porch on the second floor……Fond fond memories with my grandmother, for me when I was a kid and for my children growing up in Westport down at the beach!