It was “Great Depression Times” and Long Branch tried to shuffle by.
Few people recall that there was a large dance hall at the end of the Long Branch Pie. Built by future city mayor Daniel Maher, it opened in May 1925. The “most beautiful ballroom on the Jersey Coast” could seat 1,500+.
People turned to dance for popular entertainment during the Depression time. Ballrooms and dance contests were popular diversions. Beginning in the summer of 1932, a series of “Danceathons” and “Walkathons” were held on the pier. The events were broadcast live on WCAP radio.
Prize money reached $2,000 ($42,000+ in today’s dollars) and couples had to dance at least 1,000 hours (with 15-minute breaks) to win. Talk about Depression coping?
By 1935, “Red” Skelton was on the “Recreation Pier” — paid $25 a week for his MC duties. Skelton’s star would later burn bright. In 1951 he signed a $9.5 million contract with Procter & Gamble to work in Hollywood. The “Clown Prince of TV” would entertain CBS prime-time audiences for some 20 years.
With pier fishing increasing by day and night, the dance hall was converted into more space for anglers. The building was torn down in 1950. The pier burned in June 1987.
Note: All facts from the Long Branch Daily Record digital archives.
Story by Greg Kelly, a local writer and historian who blogs at MonmouthBeachLife.com.