Thursday, January 9, 2020

In Their Footsteps: Cape Cod History - Mill Hill Club, West Yarmouth

     Though there have been countless hundreds of nightclubs, bars, and other forms of nightlife on Cape Cod since as far back as the late 17th century, very few locations have reached the iconic heights of the Mill Hill Club. Born out of a restaurant which debuted in the mid-1920’s, and standing atop Mill Hill for more than five decades, this was more than a bar, more than a nightclub, this was a destination, a landmark, it was an institution.
    The history of the Mill Hill Club must be traced back to its predecessor. Nearly thirty years before the king of Cape Cod entertainment would open another business sat atop the hill overlooking what is today known as Route 28. In the summer of 1924 a restaurant would open its doors. It was called Old Mill Tavern and it would carve out its own niche.
     Old Mill Tavern was owned by Rose Klous, who based her restaurant on the idea of ‘traditional Southern cooking.’ This was further stressed by the fact that advertisements from the day would proudly trumpet the fact that they had a real ‘Southern Mammy’ cooking the meals such as chicken and waffles. The 1600-square-foot establishment came complete with a 12-foot piazza and enticed passers-by in a time when automobiles were very much still a luxury. Klous would eventually sell Old Mill Tavern to Henry Fern who would run the restaurant up until his death in 1941. His death, and the outbreak of World War II, effectively ended the tenure of the establishment and it would in turn lay dormant for the most of the 1940’s.
     In 1948 the most famous resident of Mill Hill would take root in the former restaurant building and Cape Cod would be forever changed.
     In the beginning the Mill Hill Club was far different from how it would be viewed during its heyday. It was originally owned by Harold Smith, whose son Jack Braginton-Smith would eventually own Mill Hill, Sandy Pond Club, and later Jacks Outback. Mill Hill was an upscale establishment hosting fancy gatherings, weddings, and other parties, while also having an orchestra which played there.  Smith sold the fledgling establishment in May 1952 to a company called Mill Hill Development headed by Joseph Sullivan for $100,000 ($970,000 in 2020).
Though it was known more for strings and suit jackets during the 1950’s the initial incarnation of Mill Hill Club did play a big part in the early days of Cape Cod jazz. It was during the early 1950’s that legendary jazz trumpeter Lou Colombo got his start on the Cape by commuting from Brockton to play as part of a Big Band ensemble at Mill Hill. In the 1970’s he would get a full-time gig there leading to him moving to Cape Cod with his family permanently.
     Though still maintaining a finger on the pulse of Cape Cod jazz throughout its early decades the Mill Hill Club began to incorporate other forms of music inside its walls. Purchased in the late 1960’s by Carmine Vara the club would usher in acts like Folk rockers Peter, Paul, and Mary while later on during the days of punk Black Flag would blister through a set during the early 1980’s. Comedian, and future Crystal Palace owner Dick Doherty would begin to perform on the Mill Hill Stage. In addition to those performances stars such as Jonathan Edwards, B.B. King, Gary Lewis and His Playboys, The Grass Roots, local legends The Incredible Casuals, and more would make appearances. So legendary were the live sets at the Mill Hill that in 1979 a live album was released.
The Mill Hill Club Live Album Cover. Courtesy of Kings of Cape Cod

Vara along with his son Henry and manager Corydon Litchard would oversee the most prosperous and yet controversial period of the Mill Hill Club. From 1969 to 1978 the same management team would be in charge. That changed when Litchard left at the beginning of 1979 to try his hand at owning the venerable Velvet Hammer in Hyannis.
     The Mill Hill Club was one of the pioneers of the Cape Cod Happy Hour and attracted countless thousands of people yearly especially in its peak period of the 1970’s and 1980’s. The club would expand from its original 1600-square-footprint of the old tavern to an enormous 8500-square-feet plus parking for 150 vehicles. It truly was the king of Cape Cod clubs.
Inside the Mill Hill Club. Courtesy of Kings of Cape Cod

However its popularity became a problem. Wrought with liquor violations, small fires, rowdy crowds, and increasingly louder entertainment Mill Hill became a target of the town. Beginning as early as the late 1970’s resident complained to the town about overflow parking with people parking vehicles wherever they could just to get into the iconic establishment. Liquor and entertainment licenses would be temporarily suspended at times like in 1983 and 2001 however the club would soldier on. Henry Vara would take full control of the club from his father in late 1985 with Jim Liadis coming on as manager. He would introduce the appropriately named Mill Tavern at the Mill Hill Club as part of the complex.
The coming attractions at Mill Hill during the late 1980's. Courtesy of Kings of Cape Cod

At the dawn of the 21st century complaint calls would continue to rise and the Mill Hill slowly slid into obscurity. Though it remained technically open until 2008 the club was virtually deserted in the years leading up to its official demise. The shell of the once mighty Mill Hill Club fell into disrepair, sitting on high overlooking Route 28 as a relic of the Golden Age of Cape Cod nightlife.
The fa├žade crumbled over the period of several years before finally being razed in 2014, making way for a senior living facility, Mill Hill Residence, owned by Maplewood. Opening in August 2017 this retirement community sits where the former king of Cape Cod nightclubs once stood for more than five decades. In a piece of irony, the disco ball which hung inside the Mill Hill Club for decades now sits in the lobby of Mill Hill Residence, enjoying its retirement.
The retired Mill Hill Club disco ball.

For More on the Golden Age of Cape Cod Nightlife check out Kings of Cape
My 5th book, Cape Cod Nights, is on sale at and through Arcadia Publishing

Cape Cod Sunsets 2020 Calendar available at Zazzle here: Cape Cod Living Store

Be sure to check out my websiteChristopher

Thursday, January 2, 2020

In Their Footsteps: Cape Cod History - Storyland Amusement Park, Hyannis

     Today on Cape Cod Hyannis is the hub of business. Route 132, Route 28, Main Street, these roads in Hyannis are lined virtually end to end with shops, restaurants, and other attractions. However there was a time before the endless array of businesses, it was a time before the Cape Cod Mall. In the middle of the 20th century Route 132 was a rural road, in place of stores there were thousands of trees. In the time between Hyannis being a rural village and it being the center of activity on Cape Cod there was an attraction that enthralled children and although it was short-lived it seemed to be a catalyst for the modernization of Cape Cod’s center. It was Storyland and this is its story and its impact.
     The idea for a children’s amusement park in the center of Cape Cod came from the mind of George G. Spalt, a Cape summer resident. Formerly from Loudonville, New York and working as a contractor in Albany Spalt saw several small children’s amusement parks during vacations to the Adirondack Mountains during the early 1950’s specifically Storytown USA which opened in 1954. George Spalt was inspired to create his own amusement park and found a perfect location along Route 132 in Hyannis only a half-mile from the airport.
Courtesy of The Imaginary

     Plans were put in motion in March 1955 when Spalt, only thirty-four at the time, purchased a nine-acre lot on a heavily wooded section of Route 132. The park was based around the Mother Goose nursery rhymes. There were thirty structures scattered around the property along trails leading from the parking lot which had room for up to 400 vehicles. All in all the design of Storyland took three months and cost Spalt $40,000 to build ($384,000 in 2020). The park opened in June 1955 situated between a Sunoco gas station and the Top O’ the Morn Motel.
Courtesy of Imaginary

     From the get go Storyland was a huge hit for its target audience. The trail leading to the park was like an entrance to a fairy tale world with attendants dressed as clowns. Nursery rhyme characters like the Big Bad Wolf, the Three Bears, Old Woman Who Lived In a Shoe, House That Jack Built, and many more were there to be seen. Many of them had large colorful buildings and figures. These were the work of Matthew Cobb, a talented artist whose great-great grandfather Daniel Cobb had run a general store in Barnstable at the turn of the 19th century. There were actors playing characters like Little Red Riding Hood, other figures were mechanical like the Big Bad Wolf who was voiced by an unseen actor including Cotuit Kettleer baseball player Frank Burleson in 1955. There were booths for candy and gifts and to top it all off there was a barnyard with farm animals, ponies, and even a duck pond.
     Spalt’s take on the children’s amusement park was a success. Children came for birthdays, on field trips, or just on a whim with their families. During its first few years not much changed in the surrounding area. Route 132 remained wooded and rural, so much so that when the locusts returned in 1957 you could hear their hum as you drove along the road. Hyannis though was always destined to become the hub of Cape Cod it seems.
Courtesy of The Imaginary

     In 1961 plans began for the All-Cape Shopping Center located on forty-acres of land between Route 132 and Route 28 to the west of the Airport Rotary. Centered around Picture Pond the property would be Cape Cod’s largest shopping center, the land east of Storyland was bulldozed. The first business to be erected on the property was Abercrombie & Fitch going up in April 1963. Although the plaza never fully materialized it set plans in motion for the development of the area in the future. Miniature golf courses, restaurants, and hotels began to spring up in the area around Storyland during the early 1960’s. Despite its relative success the land Spalt’s property sat on was highly coveted.
     Based on Storyland’s success Spalt developed Adventureland in Newburyport, MA as well as Cowboy Town in Plainville, MA as he expanded his amusement park collection. A big change in Hyannis was in the works though. Over a period of two years negotiations were going on for the Storyland property and surrounding area with the desire to create Cape Cod’s largest shopping center and actually have it open this time. In July 1968 the negotiations were completed and signed off on at the Neptune Room restaurant. Anchored by Sears, Filene’s, and Woolworth the Cape Cod Mall was announced with an estimated price tag of $6 million ($44 million in 2020).
     Storyland was on borrowed time during the 1968 season and George Spalt looked for alternative locations for his beloved amusement park. As luck would have it Spalt found a new home for his amusement park in Orleans. In January 1969 the process began of moving all of the structures from the Hyannis property to a filled in cranberry bog near the Orleans Rotary. It was moved and ready to reopen in time for the summer.
     As for the Cape Cod Mall the skeleton structure began to rise from the ground during the summer of 1969 with the first section of the complex opening to the public on Tuesday August 4, 1970. Twenty-eight stores would open that day bringing a culmination of the four and a half years from planning to completion. Today the mall is a Cape Cod staple, checking in at over 800,000 square feet and currently undergoing yet another expansion with Target opening this past fall and Dick’s Sporting Goods in the spring of 2020.
     Storyland’s second chapter in Orleans was not quite as successful as its tenure in Hyannis. By 1974 the park was closed and sat abandoned for several years. The property eventually became home to Stop & Shop. For those of a certain age that grew up on Cape Cod the short-lived little amusement park known as Storyland will live forever in their memories.

View my previous blog posts: In My Footsteps: My Cape Cod Roots


Cape Cod Sunsets 2020 Calendar available at Zazzle here: Cape Cod Living Store

Be sure to check out my website: Christopher

My 5th book, Cape Cod Nights, is on sale at and through Arcadia Publishing

Thursday, December 19, 2019

In Their Footsteps: Cape Cod History - The Baxendales and Amrita Island

     Cape Cod hides many fascinating out of the way locations, especially for a place that is less than 400 square miles in size. Nestled snugly in the Cataumet section of Bourne lays an island. Surrounded by Squeteague Harbor and sheltered from Buzzards Bay by Scraggy Neck this island is as difficult to find as a parking spot at the Cape Cod Mall on a rainy summer afternoon. It is a hidden gem with a mesmerizing story. It is Amrita Island.
     Located on the way to Megansett Beach in Cataumet is Baxendale Road. This rural side road heads west toward Buzzards Bay over a creek to an island of roughly 430,000 square feet. Today there are ten homes on the island however at the turn of the 20th century there was only one. It belonged to Thomas Baxendale.
     Born on February 29, 1840 in Blackburn, England, Baxendale dreamed of the American life and emigrated to the United States in 1867. He settled in Brockton where he met and married Esther Minerva Simmons in 1871. Baxendale would make a fortune in the shoe business in the latter decades of the 19th century by perfecting the ‘box toe’ boot. These tougher, rounded toes helped the leather toes of boots last longer and added to their appearance.
     Thomas and Esther made a fortune in business in Brockton with Thomas running the plant and Esther keeping the books. Eventually the couple purchased land along Buzzards Bay in 1890 as a summer residence and christened it ‘Amrita Island.’ The word Amrita is from Sanskrit, the language of Hinduism, Buddhism, and Jainism, and means ‘immortality’ and in mythology it is the name for the nectar of the gods which gave said immortality.
Island Haven

     The Baxendales brought in scholars and deep thinkers of the day to deliver lectures at their estate on the western tip of the island which they named ‘Island Haven.’ One such topic they often hosted lectures on was animal welfare, of which they both cared deeply. The couple frequently donated money to the Animal Rescue League of Boston. Established in 1899, Esther was dear friends with the organization’s founder Anne Harris Smith. Esther even wrote a book written as an ‘autobiography’ of her Italian-gazelle hound Fairy in 1904 entitled Yours with All My Heart. A loving tribute and further proof of her love of animals.
     Baxnedale hired a Portuguese builder named Manuel Brazil in 1908 to add a unique entrance to the island. Brazil was born in the Azores Region of Portugal in 1836 and emigrated to Provincetown in the mid-19th century. He constructed medieval castle towers, eight in all, which beckoned you across the 120-foot bridge leading to Amrita Island. This bridge to this day seems out of place for Cape Cod and creates a feel as if one is heading into a different world.
The Bridge to Amrita Island

     Once the lectures got going the Baxendales made Amrita Island more inviting for scholars by having cottages built for visiting Harvard professors. These had names like Sorrento, Castle-la-Mare, and Guardian. Eventually Thomas and Esther retired from business leaving the reins of the company to Esther’s brother John Simmons.
     In 1909 Thomas Baxendale began having stone carted across the bridge to the island. Reports at the time thought it was for a sea wall, in reality it was for a mausoleum. His health failing Baxendale commissioned the elaborate final resting place that was christened ‘Sunset Terrace.’ It was built on the bluff on the west side of the Baxendale mansion facing the sunset. Sunset Terrace was complete with forty-four steps and three broad piazzas leading to the mausoleum. Thomas died on March 31, 1910 at age seventy at his home in Brockton. He was buried in Sunset Terrace in December of that year with a big dedication of the mausoleum.
     Esther Baxendale continued spending summers at Amrita long after Thomas’ death. She and Thomas loved Harvard so much in fact that after Esther’s death on March 17, 1927 the entire island was bequeathed to the university. Shortly thereafter Harvard in turn donated the land to the Animal Rescue League of Boston in 1934 who opened a school of humane education there. Until 2007 there was a summer camp for inner city children held on the island.
The Sunset Terrace mausoleum

     The Baxendales never left Amrita though. They, along with the previously mentioned dog Fairy, are interred in a striking mausoleum on the western edge of the Island Haven property. It faces the sunset and the phrase ‘Love Is Eternal’ is inscribed on the mausoleum door. Beautiful words on a beautiful hidden gem of an island. With no more summer camp held there it is important to remember that the homes across the bridge are private residences and they must be respected.

View my previous blog posts: In My Footsteps: My Cape Cod Roots

Cape Cod Sunsets 2020 Calendar available at Zazzle here: Cape Cod Living Store

Be sure to check out my website: Christopher

My 5th book, Cape Cod Nights, is on sale at and through Arcadia Publishing

Thursday, December 12, 2019

In My Footsteps: My Cape Cod Roots

            I am a 12th generation Cape Codder, my roots are that of the Doane family.  Deacon John Doane, one of the founders of the town of Eastham is my paternal 9th-great grandfather.  My maternal grandfather ran his own successful business, Sullivan's Donut Shop in Hyannis for two decades.  My family is deeply rooted in the history of the Cape, although throughout my childhood I don't think I appreciated where I lived.  Looking back now though I realize how specials those times and the days since have been.

             I feel that I was born at the absolute best time to appreciate Cape Cod for all that it is and was.  I am old enough to remember things ‘the way they used to be’, yet young enough to enjoy the way things are.  For those who are dying to know, I was born in 1977.  I straddle the line between generations that gives me insight into two worlds.  I am of the age where I was able to see and experience a little bit of Olde Cape Cod and watch as my home changed and adapted with the times.

              During my childhood landline telephones and phone booths were common.  I remember waiting for friends to call, and actually having to remember people’s phone numbers.  Yet as an adult I love the convenience and technology of smartphones.  I do not believe I could recite anybody’s phone number today.  However I could still rattle off my old home phone number, my Nana’s number, and a few friends from middle school as well.

            Throughout my childhood I would be tossed outside by my mother during summer to go off and play with my friends, only coming home when it was almost dark.  I do not believe we ever feared being abducted, though I am sure the bad people were not something invented in the last twenty years.  The Cape seemed more innocent though I am sure that it was not.

            I was born at a time when vinyl albums were mainstays.  I had a collection as a seven-year old that might shock people today with artists like Ratt, Twisted Sister, Quiet Riot, Van Halen, and Motley Crue lining my shelves.  Of course I had the first pressing of Michael Jackson’s Thriller as well and used to play it loudly out of my window on my Fisher-Price record player so all of the neighborhood kids could dance in the yard.  I had young hip parents which influenced my style growing up.  However as much as I loved making cassette mixtapes off of stations like Cape 104 and 96.3 The Rose I can honestly say I prefer MP3’s and iTunes to Maxell and Memorex.

            I am old enough to remember walking, or driving, to the video store to rent VHS tapes.  Yet I am young enough to fully enjoy Netflix and Hulu and the instant gratification they provide.  Sure I played Atari 2600 and the original Nintendo but they were bit parts of my childhood.  Admittedly I did spend a good amount of time at the arcade but Rampage wasn’t going to beat itself!  It was a time when walking seemed more common, like after family meals on holidays.  There was always a place to walk as a family.

            I am old enough to have seen the first two schools I attended close.  I went to South Yarmouth Elementary School on Route 28 with Laurence MacArthur as my principal.  The school would eventually bear his name before being closed in 2013 and reopening as a campus for Bridgewater State University in 2015.  I then attended John Simpkins Elementary located on the same plot of land.  It served as the town’s first high school before Dennis-Yarmouth opened in 1957 and housed Grades 3-5 after.  It closed in 2006 and was transformed into the Simpkins School Residences, senior housing, opening in 2014.

The former John Simpkins Elementary in South Yarmouth

            I am old enough to remember the Cape Cod Mall in the days before it expanded.  In those days it was anchored by Woolworth, Filene’s, and Jordan Marsh and had a separate cinema on the property.  I remember spending Friday evenings searching Record Town and Tape World for my next musical interest.  However I am also young enough to enjoy the convenience of what the expanded Mall has brought with so many stores under one roof.

The Cape Cod Mall entrance circa 1995

            I am old enough to remember Cape Cod icons such as Thompson’s Clam Bar, Mildred’s Chowder House, Joe Mac’s, and Mill Hill Club.  There were fewer Shaw’s and Stop & Shop’s and more Angelo’s, Purity Supreme, and A&P’s.  I frequented Bassett’s Wild Animal Farm in Brewster and visited the legendary Cape Cod Coliseum, although it was to see Sesame Street On Ice.

            I am old enough to remember the grounding of the 473-foot freighter Eldia at Nauset Beach in March 1984 and not believing how big it was.  I saw the breach of North Beach in Chatham in January 1987 and am amazed at seeing it healing itself.  In 1991 Hurricane Bob in August and the ‘Perfect Storm’ of October made me appreciate the wonders of electricity after losing power for many days.

The Eldia aground on Nauset Beach in March 1984

            My childhood was a time when drive-in theaters were still the norm.  At their peak there were nearly 4,000 drive-in theaters in the United States, as of 2017 that number has dwindled to 338.  The Wellfleet Drive-In is all that remains of their legacy on Cape Cod.  However I have fond memories of being elementary school aged and visiting the Yarmouth Drive-In across from Captain Parker’s Pub.  I was lucky enough to see movies like E.T., Return of the Jedi, and Flash Gordon in the warm summer air.  Other drive-in theaters in Dennis, Hyannis, and Falmouth once dotted the Cape decades ago as well.

            I remember there being more salamanders and fewer turkeys and coyotes.  I was warned about jellyfish stings when stepping into the ocean, Great White sharks not so much.  I remember the noon whistle in Yarmouth scaring me on numerous occasions.  I remember more Friendly’s and fewer Dunkin’ Donuts, Bradlees instead of Walmart.  Cape Cod seemed much larger then.  A family trip to Edaville Railroad in Carver felt like a drive across the country.  Today Chatham, Provincetown, and Falmouth feel an arm’s length away.

            Amazingly for all of the changes I have seen in my time there are some things which remain the same.  The scent of Cape Cod Potato Chips cooking as you pass along the Mid-Cape Highway between Exits 6 and 7.  106 WCOD on the radio.  Delicious ice cream during the summer from places like Four Seas, Lil’ Caboose, and Ice Cream Smuggler.  Kids and families sledding on the golf courses during winter.  The Barnstable County Fair in July, the Cranberry Festival in Harwich in September, the Yarmouth Seaside Festival in October.

            Then there is the natural beauty of Cape Cod.  It is everywhere.  The National Seashore is as close as one can get to how the Cape must have looked when it was first discovered.  Summer drives along the shore routes in Eastham up through Provincetown are heavenly.  Route 6A is a blast to the past with its historic homes and tree shaded scenery, just like I remember as a child.

            Yes I feel I was born as the absolute perfect time when it comes to the history of Cape Cod.  I have watched the Cape change in some ways and stay the same in others.  This is only my story though, what things do you remember about Cape Cod as children?  What changes have you enjoyed?  What changes have you not liked?  Thanks for reading.  

Thursday, December 5, 2019

In Their Footsteps: Cape Cod History - Cape Cod's First Radio Station

     In 1903 the first transatlantic wireless communication took place in Wellfleet thanks to the invention of Guglielmo Marconi. It was the beginning of radio. 2020 will mark the 100th anniversary of the first commercial radio broadcast. However it did not take place on Cape Cod but from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. There have been many legendary radio stations on Cape Cod. 106 WCOD is still going strong since debuting in 1967, others like 99.9 WQRC and 107.5 WFCC have been supplying music to various audiences for decades. In 2019 there are an estimated 15,330 radio stations in the United States. Did you know that Cape Cod’s first radio station came in with a bang, make a quick splash, and left with barely a whimper?

     On November 2, 1920 Pittsburgh radio station KDKA aired the first commercial broadcast. The station had chosen election day in America so listeners could hear the results of the race between Warren G. Harding and James M. Cox which Harding won. The broadcast was a huge success. Within four years there were 600 commercial radio stations in the country including WNAC in Boston, the future WRKO, and WEEI. These stations, and infrequently WEAF out of New York, could be tuned in to on Cape Cod.

     News programming and musical shows were the norm with special guest performers. To offset the costs of paying the performers plus improving the radio station equipment stations turned to advertisers. The very first radio advertisement, a fifteen-minute real estate ad about apartments in Jackson Heights, aired on WEAF New York on August 22, 1922. Radio became big business with advertising and networks developing and sharing programming among affiliates.

     The rising popularity and profitability of radio led to Cape Codders longing for their own local station. Boston and New York stations were accessible to varying degrees however lacked the local feel and coverage. In July 1926 their wish came true. A station was created in Osterville through the efforts of James Henderson, the president of the firm of Henderson & Ross. It was a 200 watt station located at the Seapuit Golf Course, one of the first built in America, along South County Road. The station, which would operate on the 250 meter band, was to be known by the call letters WJBX, however it debuted with the letters WSGC possibly as a nod to Seapuit Golf Course.

     The job of running the new radio station fell to William Harrison who had been working as a broadcaster for WEEI in Boston. The hype for the opening night of Saturday July 24th was palpable in all of the local newspapers. Harrison stated the station’s signal was strong enough to be heard throughout Cape Cod and Southeastern Massachusetts. An additional promotion was begun by James Henderson, it was a cash prize of $25 for the telephone call received at the station from the furthest away by midnight of the first day on the air. All other telephone callers would receive complimentary copies of Cape Cod Magazine (the original version which was in print from 1915-1927)

Aerial view of Seapuit Golf Course from 1892, courtesy of Marstons Mills Historical Society

     Opening night of the new WSGC began at 7:30pm with a half-hour performance from Joe Rines and his Sunkist Garden Orioles orchestra. Sunkist Garden was briefly the name given to the Mill Hill Pavilion located where DiParma Restaurant currently stands in West Yarmouth. The music was followed by a brief introductory discussion by founder James Henderson. He then threw it to a discussion featuring Massachusetts Amateur golf champion Freddy Wright and golf course architect Donald Ross among others. It was fitting for the station’s headquarters. From 9-11pm there was a collection of dance music featuring the likes of Jim Moynihan’s Orchestra, soprano singer Jean Hinkle, and pianist H.C. LeBrie. The night was deemed a success. More than 200 telephone calls were received by midnight with the furthest point heard from being Lexington, Massachusetts approximately seventy miles away.

     WSGC was to be on the air every evening except for Monday between 7:30-11pm typically following the same format of musical interludes and discussions of topics central to life of Cape Cod. The programming found an audience with letters coming in from as far away as Concord, New Hampshire by the middle of August. William Harrison continued to bring in big time local musicians like Chet Copp and the Eagleston Inn Orchestra out of Hyannis. On August 17, 1926 Harrison was contacted by the Department of Commerce from Washington D.C. informing him that the station’s call letters were originally supposed to be WJBX not WSGC and that the department was immediately changing them.

Program Listing for WSGC's Opening Night, courtesy of Boston Globe Archives

     The new WJBX continued on with its successful programming six nights a week throughout the remained of the summer. It was announced that as Labor Day passed the radio station would cease operating until the following spring. The final night of Sunday September 5th featured a worship service led by Reverend H.P. Almon Abbott and finally a short recital featuring Jean Hinkle. WJBX closed for the season at 11:30pm. On September 13, 1926 the Radio Corporation of America (RCA) created the first national radio network, the National Broadcasting Company (NBC).
William Harrison stated that due to the station’s success he was excited for the second season in 1927, promising new shows from outside the confines of the Seapuit Golf Course station. The likely relaunch was set for June 1927. Unfortunately the relaunch never came. It is unclear why but WSGC/WJBX ended up being nothing more than a flash in the pan, a test run for what would be coming in the decades that followed.

     James Henderson went back to focusing on his real estate while Harrison went back to Boston to continue his radio career. The Seapuit Golf Course slowly declined through the Great Depression before the entire property was purchased by Canadian ‘Aluminum King’ E.K. Davis. The golf course was abandoned after severe damage during a hurricane in 1944 and today there are very few, if any, reminders of the golf course left.

     Cape Cod would not see a new radio station until the formation of the Cape Cod Broadcasting Company in 1937. Two years later came a proposal by Joseph Goulding for a station on 8 ½ acres of land on South Sea Avenue in West Yarmouth in June 1939. He said the station would have the call letters WOCB for ‘Only Cape Broadcasting.’ A 195-foot tall radio tower was erected and the second-ever Cape Cod radio station went live on October 2, 1940. It ran out of money and folded in May 1943 before being brought back to life by new owners E. Anthony and Sons in May 1944.

A postcard for WOCB from the early 1950's, courtesy of American Radio

     In May 1948 WOCB became Cape Cod’s first FM station. It remained in business until Hurricane Bob felled the radio tower in August 1991 and the owners could not afford to rebuild. The station was purchased by automobile dealer Ernie Boch Sr. to become the flagship station for his Boch Broadcasting. Its call letters were changed to WXTK and the station is still on the air today.

     Despite being the first radio station on Cape Cod nary a word is spoken about WSGC. Perhaps because it only last two months. Perhaps because its home base the Seapuit Golf Course is long since gone WSGC lends itself to being a mere footnote in the long history of Cape Cod radio. However in the legacy of radio stations on Cape Cod there had to be a first and that one was WSGC in Osterville.

In Their Footsteps: Cape Cod History - Angelo's Supermarket                                   

Cape Cod Sunsets 2020 Calendar available at Zazzle here: Cape Cod Living Store

Be sure to check out my website: Christopher

My 5th book, Cape Cod Nights, is on sale at and through Arcadia Publishing

Friday, November 22, 2019

Road Trip Day 6 - Wild Horses and the Long Journey Home

     The 6th day of my epic road trip was to be mostly the drive home.  It began in the small town of Onley, Virginia on the eastern shore.  I left the motel by 9am with one last great place to visit.  This was Assateague Island National Seashore home to loads of wild ponies.  

     There are signs everywhere warning visitors to stay back 40 feet from the ponies, to not feed them, or even entice them to come closer, you will get fined $100.  I parked at the beach first and took a quick look around there and some of the neighboring campground without seeing anything but seagulls.  So I drove to the park entrance which leads you about 3 1/2 miles south into the belly of the seashore.  There are several little roads leading off the main one along with off-road routes and walking/bike trails.  On my way down this road I happened upon a little brown pony grazing and stopped to get a photo of it.  

     Every so often I'd come upon a car stopped in the middle of the road, knowing they saw something good.  After puttering around for nearly an hour and see 1 horse and a deer I decided to head out.  It was when I was nearly at the exit, past the ranger station, that I saw an even smaller pony grazing.  I stopped to get some photos when it began to whine.  A few seconds later a pair of larger ponies showed up meaning this was the baby.  The threesome were followed by a few more ponies and I sought safety back in my car.  I did manage a great photo of the ponies heading down the road though.

     On my way back north I did have one more thing I wanted to see.  A skeletal lighthouse in Delaware.  Reedy Island Rear Range Light looks just like a lighthouse in Marblehead, Massachusetts except that it sits in a field nearly three miles west of the Delaware River.  Not wanting to tempt fate with No Trespassing signs everywhere I grabbed one photo and left, it was not too far out of my way to get there but still seemed like a little bit of a waste of time.

    After having lunch at Panda Express, one of my favorite places although the closest one to home is about 75 miles, I started the long journey home.  Rather than just put home in the GPS I picked stopping points along the way to make the 600 mile drive seem more manageable.  I stopped at a Wawa gas station to see what it was all about before I got too far north to go to one.  I had made the mistake of not stopping at a Sheetz convenience store and wasn't going to make that mistake twice. 

     Piggybacking on my visit to Panda Express my next stop would be Quizno's in Orange, Connecticut.  I used to frequent the chain when the had a location in Hyannis but that closed years ago and I was never willing to drive 3 hours to the nearest one.  Of course before reaching Quiznos I had to stop at a rest stop on the New Jersey Turnpike to stretch my legs.  I managed to get a good sunset photo, although not nearly as nice as the one at Bodie Island Light the day before.

     After sunset I had the obligatory getting stuck in New York City traffic, although my Waze app led me around it as best it could.  I ended up going northwest of the city and then coming down south to get to the Quiznos in CT.  That was my final stop, it was another 3 hours home from there to pull into the driveway at 11:30pm.

     All in all I drove 2,100 miles through 11 states, took 1,000 photos, tons of video I need to edit, and saw many Bucket List places.  I might be tired now but am already thinking of where my next road trip adventure might take me.  Thanks for following along.  These posts have been brief but as time goes on there will be much more detailed articles about most of the towns and attractions I saw just in case anyone needs motivation to go and see them for themselves.  

Thursday, November 21, 2019

Road Trip Day 5 - Wright Brothers, Piers, and Lighthouses on the Outer Banks

     This was the best day wall to wall of the entire road trip.  It began just after 6am. I stumbled out of bed and was able to walk only a few yards outside and was right on the beach to watch the sunrise.  I tried to go back to sleep after but didn't succeed, I was already too hyped up from sunrise.  I was up and out to have breakfast early.  Just down the street was a spot called Bob's Grill - Eat and Get the Hell Out, yes that's on their sign outside.  The food was great, the surf motif was great, I was glad I went.  
     One thing about the Outer Banks, at least the more northern part, is that it was way more developed with more people than I thought going in.  I was worried when I was driving there that I'd need to stop off and get any supplies I needed before getting to the Outer Banks and was surprised when I saw so many malls and restaurants, and tons of souvenir shops.  As I had said before I visited a Publix grocery store and now wish we had one on Cape Cod, it's like Market Basket and Whole Foods had a baby.
     Seeing that NC-12, the road which travels down the Cape Hatteras Seashore, was closed for most of the day due to sand and water from the recent storms this meant I had to wait and take my time enjoying the sites on the Outer Banks.  Gee, what a shame.  Right after breakfast I crossed the street to the Wright Brothers Memorial.  At the top of the 100-foot tall Big Kill Devil Hill is a monument to the brothers and their first flight.  I met a man named Steve from Ohio up there and we took photos for each other, nice guy.  There was also a memorial to the moment of the first flight, along with the markers denoting the flight attempt and stats about it located on the field below the hill.

The monument on Big Kill Devil Hill and the marker where the first flight ended.
     After checking out of my hotel I visited a pair of piers.  Kitty Hawk Pier and Avalon Pier, usually one of them gets shown on the Weather Channel when a hurricane is coming.  The waves were still big even a few days since the storms passed through making for some good photo ops.  Avalon Pier was being worked on so I couldn't walk out on it.

     Next was a little side track to Roanoke Island.  It was here that the first attempt at an English colony in America happened in 1587.  The first English child born in America was Virginia Dare born to this group, the highway that runs much of the Outer Banks is named for her, as is Dare County itself.  The colony vanished and it is still one of America's greatest unsolved mysteries.  Archaeologists found and reconstructed an earthen fort but have yet to find the remains of the actual fort where the 115 settlers would have lived.  Every summer they do a play at the outdoor waterfront theater about this colony.

     It was about 1pm by this point and I decided to go over the the entrance to Cape Hatteras National Seashore and check if maybe they had opened the road early.  By luck they had, although with a warning that they were still working on it so beware sand and water.  I knew it was quite a hike from the entrance south to Cape Hatteras Light, but once you're on the road it seems to go on forever.  It is nearly 50 miles on a beach road, with only pockets of civilization, before reaching the lighthouse.  

     I missed the entrance to Bodie Island Light on the way out, that one is only 6 miles or so from the entrance, but that would be to my benefit later.  They weren't kidding about the road conditions either.  Only a few miles out were front-end loaders removing buckets of sand, so the long trip was made longer when I had to slow down or stop.  One fun little side note is the Bonner Bridge which crosses the Oregon Inlet about 10 miles south of the entrance, both times I drove it there was a flock of pelicans hovering just above my car.  I didn't hit any but the bridge at the top was littered with dead pelicans.

     It took about an hour to reach Cape Hatteras Lighthouse.  At 210-feet tall I could see it from a mile away.  The black and white candy cane striped structure is one of the most well known lighthouses in the world.  This was the southern most point of my journey.  It was the top site for me on my road trip, I'd wanted to visit it for years and it's matched only by West Quoddy Head Light as my favorite I've seen.  I tried to soak it all in, shoot as many photos and videos as I could but also be in the moment there.  I had one more spot to see before beginning the long trek north, this time I plugged Bodie Island Light into my GPS.

Cape Hatteras Lighthouse, reaching higher than the sun.
      Bodie Island Light and the amazing sunset I saw there were happy accidents.  Missing it on the way out, then when I got there I had to wait ten minutes at the entrance.  The road out to it is being repaved and there is a truck that basically leads you out one by one to the lighthouse.  It was worth it.  This lighthouse is also black and white striped and also very tall, 156-feet to be exact.  The lighthouse was bathed in an orange glow when I got there so it was easy to get great photos.  The topper was walking on a boardwalk to an elevated pavilion behind the lighthouse.  It's a boardwalk the entire way due to warnings about venomous snakes located in the marsh.  

Sunset at Bodie Island Lighthouse

     The sunset was amazing but once it was done I knew I had to get to driving.  From Cape Hatteras it was just under 14 hours back to Cape Cod.  I figured the more I drove Wednesday night the less I'd have to do Thursday.  Along the way I got to drive through the Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel.  It is 17-miles of bridges and tunnels and also cost $14 in tolls to cross.  By the time I made it across I was ready to stop of the night.  The Eastern Shore of Virginia is more along the lines of what I thought the Outer Banks would be, desolate and sparsely populated.  I managed to find an ok hotel in the town of Onley, not as good as my Outer Banks hotel but whatever.  

     So Thursday begins the long trek home, it is over 9 hours, with a few stops along the way still to see.  When I pull back into my driveway I expect to have put about 2,200 miles on my car.  Nearly 400 were put on it Wednesday but the experiences are worth the highway hypnosis.