Resent Anthony Comstockian Slur on Beach
Lake Shore News (Wilmette, Illinois), 10 Aug 1916, p. 1

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Item Type:
Beach officials have had difficulty enforcing the rules governing the conduct of bathers. Phil A. Grau of 925 Elmwood avenue wrote a letter to the beach association which aroused tempers. Mrs. George L. Martin of 1046 Elmwood avenue, president of the Wilmette Beach Improvement association replied. Both letters published in the paper.
Date of Publication:
10 Aug 1916
Personal Name(s):
Grau, Philip A. ; Martin, George L, Mrs.
Language of Item:
Geographic Coverage:
  • Illinois, United States
    Latitude: 42.07225 Longitude: -87.72284
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1242 Wilmette Avenue
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U.S.A. Phone: 847-256-6930

Full Text

The difficulty which beach officials have had in enforcing the rules governing the conduct of bathers since the opening a month ago reached a climax Tuesday when Phil A. Grau of 925 Elmwood avenue addressed a written communication to the association which aroused considerable resentment. Mrs. George L. Martin of 1046 Elmwood avenue, president of the Wilmette Beach Improvement Association, in a reply to Mr. Grau's letter declared its author "showed his ignorance" of the rules governing the beach and suggested that he might solve his difficulties by wearing a bathrobe over his bathing suit en route to and from the lake. Mr. Grau is a lawyer with offices in Chicago. His letter as received by the Beach Improvement Association follows: August 7, 1916 Wilmette Beach Improvement Ass'n., Wilmette, Illinois Dear Sirs: When the European war broke out there were many who openly declared their faith in modern civilization was at an end. It seems that, of all the contradictory things possible, so terrible a conflict was the last to be thought of since man has become the educated, rational creature which he is at least supposed to be. But we in Wilmette can go the whole show one better when it comes to surprises. We carry off the palm. All others are amateur aspirants. For when it comes to double-crossing ourselves and yet hypnotizing ourselves into believing that we are the greatest little village on the old North Shore, none other need apply. Listen forsooth and I will narrate why. On Saturday afternoon, on the fifth day of August, to be precise--for preciseness seems suddenly to have become a necessary virtue in Wilmette--I hied me to the beach, for the privilege of using which I had deposited the small sum of $5 for a swim. There were several ladies in our party, together with my wife and two children. We deposited our various coats on the beach beneath the shade of a tree--which shade was freely furnished and without additional deposit to members of the beach association. Having driven over in my car, I wore over my bathing suit, an old pair of trousers and an old coat. I left both of these with my wife and our friends, on a bench, way back near the hill which skirts the shore, out of harm's way, disturbing no one, violating no rules of propriety whatever, and demeaning myself, as did all the rest of the party, like ladies and gentlemen. We were brought up that way.

"A Happy Spectator," Maybe
While I was out in the water a "rough neck" employee of the Beach association, with a coat of tan which would cause a wooden Indian before a cigar store to turn green with envy, rudely inquired of my wife whether the clothes were hers, made a few unnecessary remarks about "no undressing being allowed on the beach," "the locker, etc., we ought to have been fined," "if we were beach members" and such like. Had the worthy gentleman waited until I returned and then taken it out of me he might have been justified in calling my attention to an involuntary digression. But, I may add, had he done so in the same manner in which he addressed my wife and our party he or I would have been a fit subject for experiments for the Boy Scout Red Cross corps in a practice maneuver regarding first aid to the injured. And I am a little inclined to believe I would have been a happy spectator. But--all well and good. I came away knowing that I could not "wear 'em" to the beach unless I trotted away down to the check basket booth, waited many moons on a crowded afternoon or evening until I could get into a bathhouse to change, or perhaps to meet with the polite information that there were "no more rooms or baskets at present." The only thing to do, obviously, was to don a coat--gracefully drop that on the sands, leave it there and try to get by with it--in spite of the fact that under a strict interpretation of "the rules" it is also "undressing."

Ladies Must Wear Mackintosh
"Well, to proceed. I did cover my two dollars and a half bathing suit with a waterproof coat. I left it on the beach, enjoyed a swim, threw it over my shoulders and in company with a young lady, who is a relative, started for my car to go home with the aforesaid coat draped about my none too manly form. It being hot and she being clad in a bathing suit which could be worn in a ballroom and put evening gowns to blush in a race for decency, wore nothing over it. She had heard the story of the previous day and was not going to give a boob with a beach star an opportunity to "call" her. Hence she took nothing with her which might be seized and have to be replevined if beach rule number nine thousand and seventy-four were differently interpreted by his "brownship" today. And, having had experience with crowds at the beach before, she was not willing to wait all afternoon for "a room and basket." Therefore the jump into the bathing suit at home and no excess baggage to hinder her. We had not walked through the park, through which one must pass in order to get to our benign beach, ten feet, before we were politely approached by a policeman in uniform, who informed me that the park board has ruled that "the young lady must wear a mackintosh or coat of some kind" and that I had to "wear my pants--yes pants" that's what he said "going through the park." To wear 'em or not to wear 'em, that is the question. If I wear 'em I cannot leave 'em on the beach. If I do not wear 'em I cannot get to the beach. Of course, the beach officials will come to the rescue with the statement that they have ample facility to check 'em for me but I differ with them. Not that mine are too large for their checking facilities--no --not yet. But by the time I park my machine where it is allowed to be parked by the gracious and Chesterfieldian, and Anthony Comstockian park board and walk down to the basket house, etc., I can swim out to the place where the high dive was located, before the last northeaster wrested it from its parliamentary foundations, and back again. And not having all kinds of time on my hands I for one do not propose to do anything so foolish.

Willing to be fair
I am willing to be fair and I am willing to have the omniscient rulers of the beach and park board make rules. But when they conflict--which of course you will deny--I am through with any effort on my part to live up to both sides idea of what is and is not "according to heul." [sic] In the meantime get busy with the park board and find out why a girl without a mackintosh can pose as a water nymph all day on the beach, and can be seen very plainly doing so from the park benches, but must be covered completely when she gets to the top of the hill and walks through the sacred grass plot cared for by the tender mercies of the judicious members of the board which is charged with its safe keeping. one solution would be to wear nothing but a smile, take an aeroplane to the water's edge and dip quickly, remain completely submerged while swimming, and reverse the proceedings going home. But simulating the garments of the lilies of the field, which "made Solomon's raiment" look as though it had been purchased at a fire sale, is a little bit farther than good breeding and manners will permit. Therefore what's the answer? Respectfully yours, (signed) Phil A. Grau

Mrs. Martin's reply follows in full:
Rules a Necessity
August 8, 1916 The above letter was received on Tuesday, August 8. The writer shows his ignorance of the law when he criticizes the beach rules. It would be illegal for us to try to restrict the beach to Wilmette people. In order to keep down the crowds we thought it wise to make a charge of fifty cents for a locker or dressing room without the use of bathing suits or beach towels. Everyone in Wilmette was given a chance to come in on the voluntary contribution before July 15. After that time membership tickets cost $5. Of course this led to the present difficulty which prevails in the custom of donning a bathing suit beneath a suit of street clothes, the latter being discarded on the beach. It can be readily understood that if this were the general practice the sands would be completely covered with clothing. We thought that Wilmette people would understand what we were trying to do and would co- operate with us by putting their clothes in a check room. It should be very clear to any thinking person that this small matter is the key to the situation. Obviously if people put their clothes on the benches, others cannot sit on the benches, and benches are made to sit upon. If the policeman was short in his remarks the man should not be blamed unduly, as these things occur from early in the morning till 10 o'clock at night.

Consider Public's Best Interests
The Beach association has nothing whatever to do with the rules which govern the park at the top of the bluff. No doubt the regulations of the park board are made after duly considering the welfare and best interests of the public at large. We wish further to state that hundreds of people are turned away every Saturday and Sunday because they will not pay our large fee and we feel that in the future we will have fewer strangers, as they understand our regulations. Perhaps, if the gentleman would wear a raincoat or a bathrobe over his bathing suit, make it up in a neat bundle and place it under the bench, not on top of it, after he reaches the beach, he would have no further difficulty.

Ask Co-operation
The association regrets that anyone should have any unpleasant experience while on the beach since it is the desire of those in charge that all shall be happy and contented while down there. The best way to bring this about would be for everyone to obey the rules which are posted in frequent and conspicuous places on the beach. The object of the association has been to provide a perfectly safe place for our own children to play in the sand and romp in the water. This would soon become a place of license if our rules were not enforced and our high charge maintained. Our work is entirely voluntary and it is rather discouraging to receive such communications as the one referred to. (signed) Mrs. George L. Martin, President of the Wilmette Beach Improvement Association.

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Resent Anthony Comstockian Slur on Beach