Thank You – Towns of Carolina Beach & Kure Beach

August, 2016

Resolution:

The Federal Point Historic Preservation Society would like to thank the towns of Carolina Beach and Kure Beach for their generous donations to be used for the operation of the Federal Point History Center which is a function of the Society. 

We appreciate their continued support of our mission to preserve, protect, and promote the rich history of the Federal Point area.

 
 
 
 

Vintage Swimwear: a well-suited retrospective

By Anne Rose | Cape Fear Living Magazine

Vintage Swimwear: a well-suited retrospective

Give them beaches, and they will come, with a parade of swim attire that reveals a decade-by-decade slice of life.

Covered up, cut-out, lowered down or raised up – even emblazoned with seaside bathhouse rental insignia – the vintage swimwear in this captivating local collection illustrates both the story of Wilmington’s connection to its nearby beaches, and snippets of cultural and social history.

The swimsuits and other memorabilia, which belong to Elaine Henson, are on display through the end of August at Federal Point Historical Society. Elaine undertook the challenge of collecting vintage bathing suits when she retired her effort adding to her thousands of postcards and advertising artwork featuring the seashore, seaside tourist attractions, and swim fashions.

On the August cover: Photographer Waverly Leonard captured our cover models in vintage swimwear from the collection of Elaine Henson, currently on display at the Carolina Beach History Center. Wyatt Bear graces a private yacht in a 1940s yellow woven rayon and Lastex two-piece suit with a bra top with straps that tie and trunks with a modesty panel. Karli Owens is ready for the beach in a 1960-70s dark aqua polyester gabardine one piece suit with straps that button, cotton lined bust, a back zipper, modesty panel and white cording detail. The models were photographed on location at Port City Marina, in downtown Wilmington.

On the August cover: Photographer Waverly Leonard captured our cover models in vintage swimwear from the collection of Elaine Henson, currently on display at the Carolina Beach History Center. Wyatt Bear graces a private yacht in a 1940s yellow woven rayon and Lastex two-piece suit with a bra top with straps that tie and trunks with a modesty panel. Karli Owens is ready for the beach in a 1960-70s dark aqua polyester gabardine one piece suit with straps that button, cotton lined bust, a back zipper, modesty panel and white cording detail.

The models were photographed on location at Port City Marina, in downtown Wilmington.

It seems a natural progression: the vintage swimwear brings Elaine’s 2-dimensional art collection to life.

This historical retrospective is particularly well-suited to the beaches – from Carolina to Wrightsville – lined up like a swimsuit competition for “Best in Nostalgia.” The exhibit includes 23 suits, and includes women, men and children’s suits and a pictorial display highlighting Carolina Beach beach life and swim fashions over the years.

Each suit evokes a mini history lesson. For example, the circa 1920 men’s one piece suit was a rental, stamped with the letters S A M, the initials of the bath house, in gold. When railroads began to crisscross the country in the late 1800s, beachside towns were suddenly accessible to people who had never been to the shore. Making a train trip to the seashore was a “spa” experience: saltwater and fresh ocean air were purported to be therapeutic to the skin. Going to the beach for the day was not just a recreational experience, it was a health pilgrimage.

People from around the country came to Wilmington and the beaches for the weekend, hitting the sand in rented suits. This “midwinter surf-bathing” was not an athletic outing; bathers waded into the waves and held onto straps that hung from heavy lifelines secured to poles sunk deep into the sand along Wrightsville and Carolina Beach.

(l to r) Lank Lancaster, Jimmy "Boggie" Myers, Jerry Wilkins and Coley Brown, sitting on the Carolina Beach life boat, which was a Simmons, in the summer of 1961

(l to r) Lank Lancaster, Jimmy “Boggie” Myers, Jerry Wilkins and Coley Brown, sitting on the Carolina Beach life boat, which was a Simmons, in the summer of 1961

Other highlights of the collection, after the early “swimming costumes” that bear more resemblance to overcoats than swimwear, are the 1930s cotton “Velva-Lure” lady’s pale jade one piece suit with crisscross self-ties in the back and Jantzen swim girl logo, a 1940s yellow woven rayon and Lycra lady’s two piece suit with bra top, and a 1970s red and white polyester check lady’s one piece suit with boy short legs and bust boning.

vintage swimwear“I’ve had a collection all of my adult life,” Elaine says, explaining how the swimsuits evolved from her vintage postcard collection. “I have almost 2000 postcards of Wilmington, Carolina Beach and Wrightsville Beach, and a whole collection of bathing beauties in vintage advertising art. I was just captivated by the gorgeous images, and then a suit would come up in my search, and I thought I might use them as beach house décor.”

Elaine curated the current vintage swimwear exhibit, adding postcards, historical narratives, vintage photographs and memorabilia to the display of swimsuits. The history is fascinating, she says, from the bathing suit companies’ cutting-edge use of fabrics to the evolution of sexy, body-baring swimsuits that foiled earlier generation’s attempts at modesty. Jantzen and Catalina, fashion and advertising vintage swimwearpowerhouses, are important components of the swimwear story, she notes.

“There needs to be a stopping point with every collection,” Elaine suggests. “Now that I have the swim dresses, I’m done … I have a whole century represented in the swimsuits – after I’ve added mine from the 80s and 90s, I’m done.”

She hesitates. “Yes, I’m done,” she reiterates, with the wistfulness of a dedicated collector.

Visit the exhibit!   Vintage Bathing Suits 1900-1990

View the Swimsuit Collection:
Now through September
Tuesday, Friday and Saturday from 10-4
Carolina Beach History Center next to Town Hall on Lake Park Blvd

Opening Reception for Swim Suit Exhibit

Sunday June 12,Bathing Suit Exhibit 10

Wow! We had at least 75 people attend the opening reception for the Swim Suit Exhibit.

Don’t forget that the exhibit will be open on Tuesdays, Fridays and Saturdays from 10 am to 4 pm through Labor Day.

Bring your family, friends and summer company down to take a look.

Bathing Suit Exhibit 13

 

Swim Suit Recepton

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

From the President — July, 2016

By Elaine Henson

As our summer Vintage Bathing Suit Exhibit continues this month, we are continuing to showcase Carolina Beach bathers. We hope you can come by our History Center and see our exhibit on Tuesdays, Fridays and Saturdays from 10 – 4 pm.

Presidents letter #1It was a beautiful day at Carolina Beach in the 1950s when local girls, Mary Frances All (left) and Sylvia Fountain (right), posed for this post card. The girls are wearing suits with the “modesty panel” in the front like many of the suits in our exhibit.

They have chosen to take off the removable straps for a day of tanning without strap marks. Mary Frances shared with me that they were actually wearing each other’s suits that day. Most girls only had one suit each summer and tired of wearing the same one over and over so they often switched with a sister or friend.

Mary Frances All was a Winter Park girl but she and Sylvia were best friends graduating from New Hanover High School together in 1957. Mary Frances was crowned Teenage Azalea Princess at Wrightsville Beach’s Lumina Pavilion during the Azalea Festival in 1956. She now provides a scholarship for the festival princesses. Mary Frances lives in Stanly, North Carolina, and is the widow of the late Dr. James S. Forrester who also served in the North Carolina Senate. Her son, Dr. James Forrester, Jr. is a cardiologist practicing in Wilmington.

Sylvia Fountain was the daughter of Elmo and Plina Ritter Fountain. She was the granddaughter of W. G. Fountain who built the Fountain’s Rooms and Apartments in 1935 and the Royal Palm Hotel the following year in 1936. Both were in the first block of Harper Avenue. He also served three terms as a Carolina Beach Alderman from 1937 to 1945 and was mayor of Carolina Beach from 1945-47.   In 1949 he founded the Bank of Carolina Beach and served as its first president. W. G. Fountain was one of the honorees inducted into the Carolina Beach Walk of Fame this past Presidents letter #2January, 2016.

Sylvia’s mother, Plina Ritter Fountain (1916-2013), is posing in the Carolina Beach moon on the boardwalk in this photo from the 1940s. It is a little hard to see, but her black and white halter neck suit has a triangle shape cut out in the front just above the waist. These were the forerunners of two piece suits which were popular in the mid-1940s.

Plina ran the Fountain’s Rooms and Apartments on Harper Avenue while her husband Elmo managed the Hotel Royal Palm next door. They were the parents of four children, Ray, Sylvia, Griff and Janet.

Sylvia Fountain Logan passed away in 2008 in Fort Lauderdale, Florida; her funeral was held at Bethany Presbyterian Church on Castle Hayne Road. Her parents and grandparents are buried in Wilmington’s Oakdale Cemetery.

 

Bathing Suit Exhibit

Bathing BeautiesThis summer the Federal Point History Center, located next to Town Hall at 1121-A North Lake Park Boulevard, will host an exhibit called Vintage Bathing Suits: 1900-1990 which includes 23 suits from the time period.

The exhibit will be open on Tuesdays, Fridays and Saturdays from 10 am to 4 pm during June, July and August.

In for FunThe oldest suits are from the 1900-1920s and look more like dresses than bathing suits.  All three are fine worsted wool and were worn with stockings and bathing shoes.

Five suits are one piece tank suits of wool knit worn during the 1920s-30s.  One of those has the initials of the bath house that rented it stamped across the front much like those from our pavilion and bath houses at Carolina Beach.  And, one is a child’s suit in bright red that someone added elastic to the straps for another season of wear.

Two ladies’ suits are Jantzens with their distinctive swim girl logo, one of those has a zipper down the back.  Two men’s suits are bathing briefs made of wool knit from the 1930s-40s both with belts.  One has the Jantzen swim girl on the buckle and the other has a “Surfing Waikiki” patch.

There is an emerald-green ladies’ suit in silk taffeta with a flared skirt over cotton bloomers.  Bare Essentials - yellow 2 pieceThere is a yellow woven rayon two piece with a bra like top and trunks from the waist and a green woven cotton two piece with a halter top.

Wool, cotton and rayon gave way to synthetic fabrics from the 1950s on.  Several more one piece ladies’ suits are made from polyester blends most with a modesty panel to cover the crotch and some with zippers and boning.  There is a man’s cotton boxer suit and a ladies’ suit with a matching detachable skirt made from synthetic stretchy fabric.

The most modern suit is a 1980s-90s one made from linen and features embroidery and is fully lined.

We invite locals and beach visitors alike to visit our exhibit this summer at the History Center.  Call us at 910-458-0502 or email at rebecca@federal-point-history.org and please visit our Facebook page at Federal Point History Center and like us.

 

Calling All Members

New Boardwalk #2We Need You To Volunteer!New Board Walk #1

We are currently planning an outreach program that will put our members on the Boardwalk one or two nights a week, in June, July and August. 

We hope to display some of our great pictures, pass out our brochure, and answer questions about Federal Point.

If you could take a night or two please let Rebecca know: 910-458-0502

 

Elaine Henson on Vintage Bathing Suits – May Program

postcard of suitsVintage Bathing Suit Exhibit

This summer the Federal Point History Center, located next to Town Hall at 1121 North Lake Park Boulevard, will host an exhibit called Vintage Bathing Suits: 1900-1970 which includes 22 suits from the time period.

The exhibit will be open on Tuesdays, Fridays and Saturdays from 10 am to 4 pm during June, July and August.  There will be an opening reception for the exhibit on Sunday, June 12, 2016, 2-4 pm at the History Center.


Monday, May 16, 2016swimsuits  7:30 p.m. (past events)

The Federal Point Historic Preservation Society will hold its monthly meeting on Monday, May 16, 7:30 p.m. at the Federal Point History Center, 1121-A North Lake Park Blvd., adjacent to Carolina Beach Town Hall.

Our speaker this month will be our president, Elaine Henson, who will present The Bathing Suit in Vintage Advertising which looks at the evolution of bathing attire from early 1900s to the 70s.

Early suits were made of cotton or wool and looked more like dresses than the suits we see today.  The “dresses” had undergarments including bloomers below the knees and were worn with wool stockings, slippers and matching head-gear.  Men’s suits were wool knit tunics with sleeves and knee-length shorts.

Over time, the sleeves disappeared, the shorts became shorter, new fabrics appeared and suits became more athletic looking.  Suits became more stylish in many colors but still had little or no foundation features.  WWII brought the two piece with a brassiere like top and bottoms going from the waist to mid-thigh.  The post war years saw zippers, boning and other types of foundations in bathing suits.