Eugene and Marie Reynolds known as Mom and Pop, knew better
days were coming as World War II ended in 1945 and soldiers
were coming home. Big bands were the rave of the day and
the new money could be made on the north end of the Boardwalk
of Carolina Beach with the building of a large enough facility
to house big bands and large crowds.
The Reynolds had purchased four and a half lots and a bowling
alley on the northeast corner of Harper Avenue and Carolina
Beach Avenue north in August 1942, from L. M. Massey. They
decided to remove the bowling alley and make this the footprint
for their new Ocean Plaza building.
The building would contain a bathhouse and café on
the first floor; a large cabaret or ballroom with bandstand
area on the second floor; and a small apartment on the
Work began to build the Ocean Plaza after the beach season
of 1945 and continued through the winter and spring of 1946
under the direction of Mr. Shirley, a local contractor.
Once completed, the Ocean Plaza was a sight to behold.
It became the new “Crown Jewel” of Carolina
Ocean Plaza was opened for business on May 31, 1946, Memorial
Day weekend. Bill Grassick and his orchestra, featuring the
lovely singer, Betty McHugh, performed to an audience who
paid $2.00 per person to attend. Even though the big band
era was waning, Ocean Plaza remained the center of activity
as new trends changed musical entertainment.
The Reynolds sold Ocean Plaza around 1950 and it changed
hands several times before May 1961 then E. F. Courie Sr.
and wife, Rosabelle, purchased the property. Through the
years, many notable entertainers performed to large crowds
at Ocean Plaza. Jerry Lee Lewis, Chubby Checkers, Fats
Domino, Bo Diddly, and The Embers, to mention a few, attracted
audiences from all over. The Jitterbug, bob, shag, rock & roll,
twist and every variety of dance imagined occurred at Ocean
Plaza through the years.
With growth and development of better lodging facilities,
the need for a bathhouses up and down the seaboard diminished.
The bathhouse at Ocean Plaza was converted into a night
club. During the 80’s and 90’s the entire boardwalk
business fell into decline causing neglect to many of its
structures. In spite of the decline, Ocean Plaza remained
open struggling at times to do so. The Courie family, including
sons, Eli Jr. and Louis, continued ownership until April
1993, when Ocean Plaza was sold to Leslie and Darlene Bright
and son, Sam Bright.
The second floor ballroom was renovated again and opened
again after several years of inactivity as the private club,
Wranglers Dance Hall and Saloon, and later as the Shag Club.
The Brights sold Ocean Plaza to Robert Russo on January 31,
2000 and his Club Tropics was installed on the second floor.
Mr. Russo operated Ocean Plaza until April 5, 2006, when
he sold to Russ Maynard.
- Federal Point Historic Preservation Society
From Carolina Beach, NC -
Images & Icons of a Bygone Era
SlapDash Publishing, LLC, 2006