Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Our Kitts Cabana

It was a dark and stormy night.

Well, yeah, I stole that lead from Snoopy and others who went before him, but it really WAS dark and stormy last night, so I spent a couple of lazy hours on my iPad randomly cruising around the Internet.

For some reason, something triggered a memory of my days as a kid growing up at the Jersey shore. We actually lived about 10 miles inland from the beach, and we belonged to a club called Tradewinds in Sea Bright.

I decided to google Tradewinds just to see if it was still there, and I ended up learning all kinds of interesting things about not only that club but also the whole phenomenon of beach clubs in Monmouth County.

It turns out that Tradewinds was demolished in 2002 and replaced by some ugly but pricey housing. And I found a blogger who has an amazing collection of old photos from Tradewinds. One of her entries includes this photo taken right before the club closed. I think it was deliberately done in B&W to preserve the old-timey feeling of the place.

But what really captured my attention was the whole concept of beach clubs. The town of Sea Bright got itself in some trouble in the early 2000s when tax revenues were used to replenish the beaches at private clubs.

And that leads to the whole question of who do the beaches belong to?

Many have referred to the wall in the photo below as the Great Wall of Sea Bright. It was built to protect homes on the narrow peninsula from the ocean, but it ended up having a very exclusionary effect making people feel they weren't welcome unless they were part of a private club:

The approach to our beach at Kitts Hummock looks a lot friendlier.

I don't think anyone should be allowed to own beaches--they should belong to all of us.

I also stumbled on the "cabana phenomenon" at these beach clubs. Although we didn't have one at Tradewinds, I remember now that you could rent a cabana for the season, and the blogger I mentioned above has some vintage photos of her family in their cabana.

The Sea Bright beach clubs that haven't been razed to make way for expensive condos still have the cabana option, so just for the heck of it, I clicked on the pricing schedule for one of them.

What an eye-opener.

At one of the more exclusive clubs, seasonal rental of a cabana can run more than $25,000.

People equip them with kitchens and lighting, bathrooms and furniture, and there's quite a social life around these little "houses," with Sunday dinners cooked inside and served up poolside.

People hold on to them for decades, and many of the clubs have four-year waiting lists.

It's a way of life for many of New Jersey's wealthy families, but it's not a way of life I can relate to.

Our little place may be humble, but it's all ours, and it costs us only about $2500 a year to maintain--and that includes water, sewer, cable, electricity, internet, and taxes.

We can go there any time we want and stay as long as we want.

Our furry friends are welcome too, even when their behavior isn't the best:

And dogs are welcome on the beach to run free with us as we enjoy the sand and the water:

Last night's virtual tour back to my childhood at the beach was fun because those times laid the foundation for the beach lover that I am today. I learned to swim in the outdoor saltwater pool at Tradewinds, and that's where I got up the courage to jump off the high dive when I was nine. Just once...

But I'll take our little cabana at Kitts Hummock over a fancy one in Sea Bright any day.

It's a pretty cozy little place: