HistoryCopyright 1976 by Ruth P. Berlinger
The dream of a new Yacht Club in Sea Isle City came true when dedication ceremonies were held for the original clubhouse on Saturday afternoon, August Thirtieth, in nineteen hundred and forty-one. For several years, this had been uppermost in the minds of many individuals, the most vocal of whom was Mr. William A. Haffert, editor of the Cape May County Times. Mr. Haffert had published countless editorials strongly emphasizing the advantages that such a club could offer to the community in providing a high-quality recreational area, which would offer an inducement for desirable property owners to settle here. The editorials, along with letters from several summer residents, urged the Chamber of Commerce to initiate the promotion of a Yacht Club, but the suggestions went unheeded by the city.
One of the later editorials written on the subject indicated that if the Chamber of Commerce did not get busy on the project that most likely a group of citizens would, and this is precisely what did happen. Interest grew among the townspeople and finally one day a discussion among four men relaxing on a sundrenched, time worn dock of Mr. Dever’s old boat house ignited the spark that ultimately resulted in the formation of the thriving club we know today.
The time was ripe for the idea to catch on and it was not long before the Mssrs. D’Alonzo, Hoffner, Kennedy and Berlinger had succeeded in securing the signature of thirty-five interested persons.
Theodore C. Wheaton, Jr. was appointed chairman of a committee of thirteen to complete the organization of the club, after which, with a final pledge of their support, the Chamber of Commerce withdrew, leaving all further responsibility to the new Yacht Club membership. Committees were appointed by Commodore Wheaton on the following Tuesday, for the purpose of drafting bylaws and to investigate methods of raising funds for building club headquarters. The choice of Mr. Wheaton as the club’s Commodore was a wise one. This genial gentleman with an irresistible grin promoted the Yacht Club Idea through personal contact with the people, spreading his own enthusiasm as he went.
To get the ball rolling, a Labor Day weekend Water Carnival, the resort’s first boat carnival in eighteen years, was held on September third, "In Ludlam’s
Channel, just north of the former railroad bridge." A crowd of two thousand spectators lining the banks were thrilled by boat races, aquaplaning, and a parade of boats. The following winter, on the fourth of November, a lavish formal dinner dance was held in the grand old Bellevue Stratford Hotel in Philadelphia.
The turnout of more than four hundred guests was beyond expectations, and the affair was a roaring success, both financially and socially. Another supper dance, this time for the younger set, was held at Cronecker’s hotel in July of the following summer for the benefit of the building fund. Now, with money in the treasury, the new club was formally organized with thirty paid-up proprietary members. The original charter was signed, in nineteen hundred and forty, aboard the "Adventurer," a magnificent seventy-five foot yacht recently purchased from the Floyd Gibbons estate by Frank Whaton, Jr. a charter member of the club. The original by-laws were drawn up by club member James B. Anderson, Jr., Esq.
On August third, in nineteen hundred and forty, the first election of officers was held in City Hall, with Joseph P. Hoffner being named Commodore. Carl Berlinger became Vice Commodore and
George Straubmuller, Rear Commodore. James B. Anderson, Jr. was named Secretary and Thomas Hargesheimer, Treasurer. Trustees elected for three years were Berlinger, Carl Rumpp, and Edward Kennedy for two years; Commissioner H.E.F. Hawkins and past Commodore Wheaton. George Straubmuller and Clarence Pfeiffer were each elected to serve for one year. It was decided at this time that lots should be purchased from the city, at the tip of Venicean Road, past the Dever boathouse. It was also agreed that annual memberships should be offered at a cost of ten dollars. George Straubmuller was appointed to select the colors and style for the Yacht Club pennant, which became the official emblem used to this day.
A second annual motor boat carnival, the first since formal organization was held on Sunday, August twenty-fifth, nineteen hundred and forty at two-thirty in the afternoon. This was held in Ludlams Channel at the south end of Venicean Road at the site of the proposed clubhouse. Twenty-five hundred spectators were on hand to join in the excitement of the day.
In nineteen hundred and forty one, on February fifteenth, a second annual dinner dance was held in the beautiful Oak Room, atop the Bellevue, where a large crowd dined on roast turkey, and danced to the famous Meyer Davis Orchestra.
The young crowd again sponsored a summer supper dance at Cronecker’s on August twenty-second, nineteen hundred and forty one, to augment the construction fund. This realized two hundred and eight dollars, and helped rekindle the enthusiasm which had waned during the winter months. It was now agreed to go ahead with the building plans, even though the financial goal of seventy-five hundred dollars had not as yet been reached.Commodore Hoffner stressed the importance of getting the building underway, in order to keep up interest in the venture, and so, plans which had been drawn up by the architect Peter Getz were cut to a minimum and ground was broken for the first wing of the proposed clubhouse. A four thousand dollar contract was signed, authorizing Ocean City builder Hubert Pontiere to go ahead with the building.
At long last, just as the summer season was ending, Sea Isle’s new Yacht Club, consisting of one large room, a veranda, and two lavatories, was officially dedicated, on the afternoon of August twenty-ninth. It was described as "as trim a landbound cruiser as the braid on Commodore Joseph P. Hoffner’s cap," and it seems worth of mention, that it was purchased totally without indebtedness.
For this gala occasion, charter members, now forty strong, gathered at the club for luncheon, and remained to enjoy the impromptu regatta which followed, to mark the first of scores of social events to be held at the Yacht Club of Sea Isle City.
References: Old issues of the Cape May County Times, papers of George J. Struabmuller, Jr.