And the Music Plays On

Vol. I No. 2 - WINTER 1988

By: Karen Donnelly

For over 20 years the swing music and dancing couples have been absent from the corner of Sheridan Road and Berwyn Avenue.

But last month they were back…

The Breakers, a senior citizens’ residence built on the site of the old Edgewater Beach Hotel, hosted "An Afternoon of Nostalgia" on Sunday, October 30. The party was held just to celebrate the memory of the old structure that was world famous for its dance music, fine dining and elegant atmosphere.

Many partygoers attended in vintage clothing from the ’30s and ’40s. Hats, gloves, black rayon and strings of pearls were popular with the ladies; gentlemen sported dapper dinner jackets and fedoras. Some submitted their recollections of the hotel for a story contest.

For Maxine Crane, who lives at The Breakers with her husband Philip, memories of the hotel began via radio in her home state of Kentucky.

"When I was 12, my brother made me a crystal set and I would listen to the broadcasts of the bands," she said. After moving to Chicago, she and Philip would dine and dance at the hotel. A singer in her younger days, Maxine also got to meet a number of the performers there.

The couple recalled their steps well at the nostalgia party, winning a prize in the dance contest, as did John and Estelle Baker, Andersonville residents of the past 30 years.

Another winning dance couple was Mr. and Mrs. Leonard Gouldstein. Leonard remembered the time bandleader Xavier Cugat was ejected from the hotel for the indiscretion of bringing in his girlfriend, a major scandal of the time. Such an arrangement would likely not raise an eyebrow nowadays. Haven’t times changed?

"Not really," Gouldstein responded. "People were just quieter about such things back then."

Partygoer Josephine Laird won a prize for her black sheath, red gloves and lace cap from the ’30s. Two other elegantly dressed winners, Elizabeth Seitz and Clyde Zuckerman, recalled dancing at the Edgewater Beach.

"Every Sunday night they had CYO (Christian Youth Organization) dances. A lot of people I know met their spouses there," Seitz commented with a smile.

Helen Hansen, first-place costume winner, wore a dress she got when she was 16. It was a black, Oriental-inspired garment with brightly embroidered panels down the front. "I’ve always liked to wear something a little different. I’ve treasured it for years," she said.

Hansen acquired that dress for the occasion of her first European cruise in 1933. "On ship, we had dancing every night," she remembered. "Back then it took several days to get to Europe. Nowadays traveling from one place to another far away doesn’t happen quite so leisurely." Except for a trip back in time on an afternoon at The Breakers.