Silver Beach, A History

Alright, in all honest’s truth, I wrote this short piece on the history of the Silver Beach Amusement Park when I first began working at Shadowland in May 2014. Today I met a group of my girlfriends for lunch on the bluff of St. Joseph this afternoon though, and took a walk around the familiar stomping grounds. I absolutely loved my time at Shadowland and am now feeling extremely sentimental. I feel it is only appropriate to share with you a bit about the beginnings of the wonderful place I was able to call my work environment for awhile, as well as my hometown.

The town I grew up in is surrounded in whimsical history and entertainment. Once named the Most Romantic City in Michigan, St. Joseph also was home to the Silver Beach Amusement Park years ago. The lakeside town is centered in the Lake Michigan Wine Trail and offers a number of attractions for explorers, couples, and families. If you’ve ever wanted to experience small-town life in Michigan, look no further than St. Joe on your next vacation!

Below the bluffs of downtown St. Joseph, Michigan, hugging both the Lake Michigan shoreline and the St. Joseph River lays an area where carnival music was once heard, merry-go-round carousel horses galloped in place, a roller coaster roared, and Charleston dancers strutted their stuff.

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The St. Joseph area was a hotspot for boaters. Canoes, rowboats, and riverboats provided scenic tours from St. Joseph to Berrien Springs. Logan Drake, owner of a boat livery on the St. Joseph River saw a higher calling of tourism in the area and began looking at ways to draw more people to the less-popular beaches of St. Joseph.

Romance has always played a key role on Silver Beach. During one of their moonlit courtship beach walks, Drake’s bride-to-be, Maude Schlenker, coined the name Silver Beach saying the water “shimmered like silver.” This inspired a new concept with Drake’s tourism aspirations.

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In 1891, Drake and his partner Louis D. Wallace established the Silver Beach Amusement and Realty Company with the intention of giving tourists more to do in St. Joseph. Initially, ten cottages were built along the beach as rentals for vacationers. By the end of the amusement park’s run 80 cottages were available.

To make the beach more popular for renting, Drake and Wallace invited local concessionaires to sell novelties such as swimming caps and lemonade in a barrel. Within months games of chance and a photographic studio emerged to allow couples to have their portraits taken. By 1896, an ice cream parlor, souvenir shop, and a pavilion which hosted dancing and a big band music were erected. Wooden stand and white tents could be seen up and down the beachfront. A couple of water slides were anchored in shallow water for children around the turn of the century. This marked the beginning of the Silver Beach Amusement Park!

Photo Courtesy of Fort Miami Heritage Society, St. Joseph, MI

The park continued to grow as the years passed. A wooden boardwalk was built above the Silver Beach sands to allow lake water to rush underneath. This boardwalk was a common place for courting couples to stroll at night.

Along the boardwalk were three buildings. The first building, the Natorium, housed a bathhouse and swimming pool, a rarity for the time. This was a dream of Drake’s to give beachgoers the option of swimming in either the lake or the heated indoor pool. The second was an open-ended roller skating rink which also housed Southwest Michigan’s first pipe organ.

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The third building is allowed Drake and Wallace to capitalize on the growing need for a big dance hall among the twin city area of St. Joseph and Benton Harbor by constructing a dance pavilion in 1907. The hall featured two stages for bands which urged the “Battle of the Bands” to become a popular event on the beachfront. In addition to the dance hall, the House of Mysteries was built alongside the penny arcade and concession stands to provide entertainment for all ages at the Silver Beach Amusement Park.

As the park’s popularity sky-rocketed, Drake and Wallace added a variety of amusements. In 1905 the Chase through the Clouds rollercoaster was built. Utilizing several separate one- or two-person capacity cars, the “Figure 8” coaster, as it was known to be called, became a staple of the amusement park until it was torn down in 1923 and replaced by the Velvet rollercoaster. Additionally, the merry-go-round carousel first appeared in 1916, a bowling alley opened around 1917, and several “firsts” event day activities such as the first all-male bathing beauty contest took place on the beach.

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The last improvement, and my personal favorite, was the building of the Shadowland Ballroom in May of 1927. Once it was completed, it became one of the finest dance facilities in the entire country. The Ballroom was decorated with 5000 yards of silk pongee stretched between arches that permitted natural lighting throughout. Ballroom dances were held seven days a week and were usually free, unless it was a big band night. It wasn’t uncommon to have over a thousand dancers on any one evening, and Silver Beach Amusement Park even staged at least one of the fad marathon dances during the 1930s.

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The old dance pavilion remained, but as ballroom dancing was becoming more popular, the Shadowland Ballroom was needed. The old dance hall was renovated into the Fun House. The House included a 35-foot Maplewood slide, revolving barrel, spinning saucer, sugar bowl, and a haunted house. The Mirror Maze was placed under the same roof as well.

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Drake made every attempt to change the amusement park to keep the attractions interesting and up-to-date. Silver Beach expanded with the debuts of The Whip, electric bumper car house, beer garden, Ferris wheel, and miniature diesel train called The Century Flyer. By the late 1940s the park assumed the look that would be its final face until its official closing three decades later.

During the 1950s and 60s, the park continued to evolve to the times. Kiddieland was created and featured rides customized for children too small to enjoy the larger rides. Miniature golf, go-karts, and various other carnival rides also came and went during these two decades. It was not until the late 1960s that Silver Beach Amusement Park’s popularity began to dwindle. The crime rate of the park rose significantly due to out-of-town teen gangs and the park’s congenial atmosphere decreased. After a particularly violent season in 1970, local police closed the park.

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Another factor fighting against the park was its age. Extensive repairs were needed for many of the buildings that had stood in the park for over 70 years. With a costly estimation for repairs and improvements needed for the park to open in 1972, the owners of Silver Beach were left with no other choice and the park was closed permanently.

Many of the rides were sold to interested amusement companies throughout the country. Parts of Silver Beach made their way to Indiana, Texas, New Mexico, and Virginia. The remainder of the park was left abandoned for three years before the owner cleaned up and threw the historical pieces away. It wasn’t uncommon, however, to see couples still walking the crumbling boardwalk hand-in-hand among the ruins of the once-prestigious amusement park.

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The spirit of Silver Beach is alive and well, though. In 2010, the Silver Beach Center publicly opened. Only a short walk from the expanse of beach sand and Lake Michigan, the Center offers a newly constructed Silver Beach experience. Walk through the doors and look up into Michigan’s tallest kaleidoscope. Take a stroll down memory lane by walking the boardwalk to the Silver Beach Carousel or Silver Beach Amusement Park Museum, or peek a glimpse of the Shadowland Ballroom. Curious Kids’ Discovery Zone offers excitement for kids of all ages with 15 water activities, a climbing wall, virtual reality fun, and traveling hands-on educational exhibits. Directly across the road from the Center is the Whirlpool Fountain which provides fresh, free fun to all the public. The community of St. Joseph is proud to continue a dreamer’s delight with this new vision of what Silver Beach is and will be.

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If you decide to visit my quaint little hometown, I would love to recommend the best and tastiest restaurants and accommodations. Please comment below so we can connect.

Happy travels, friends,

The Gray Space Between Blessings Vs. Wants

I came upon this wonderful post the other day by MySweetJesus entitled “I want Jesus. But, also a husband. And kids. And a job. And an apartment. And, maybe a dog.” Even with only the title, I knew this post was going to speak to me, and speak to me it did…

I have been conflicted lately. I have been conflicted in what I want from my life, what I have in my life, and feeling guilty about that gray space in between the two. I cannot emphasize my guilt enough: I am happy with what I have, I feel incredibly blessed, but then I also want more. And I want that “more” now.

Just like Melissa, I want to be a homeowner. I want to summon my inner Pinterest demon and create the coziest and warmest home to be enjoyed by my family and friends. I want to travel and see every nook and cranny of the world. I want to get engaged. I want to experience the excitement of planning a marriage, seeing the man of my dreams look at me with only love as I walk towards him; I want to be a wife. I also want to be a mother. And a grandmother. I want to have parts of my life remembered through stories passed down. I want pictures of my adventures to be admired, I want my prom and wedding pictures to be poked fun of due to fashion changes, I want my descendants to look at a photograph of me and wonder what I was thinking at the exact time the flash was taken…

But I also want Jesus. I want to see Him come back in all His glory. I want to experience what perfection truly is, I want to know heaven.

Sometimes the joys of the world seem a lot larger than what True Joy will be, and I struggle with this Battle of Wants on a daily basis.

It was so comforting, then, to read what Melissa said: “I don’t think there’s anything wrong with wanting those things.”

She is so right! God gave me these passions. God put these desires into my heart. And even though each and every one of my desires will be satisfying to me, it is all really pointing to Jesus. Melissa gives some great examples by saying marriage is a glimpse of Christ’s devotion to the Church, children allow parents to feel a smidgen of the Father’s love for us, and community assists us during our journey to our heavenly home. This is so beautifully and honestly said!

In the future, when I start to feel deflated by the guilt of blessings versus wants in my life, this lesson is something I plan to look back on. The desire for more in life is a good thing, as long as I continually glorify my Lord and Savior through them.

I will continue to desire success, and love, and community, but I will also desire Jesus more. Because it’s not about trying to change my heart. Instead, it’s about giving my heart fully and completely to God.

And with that, I say Amen.


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Let Other People Happen

When contemplating what you want in life, it’s interesting to consider that you don’t necessarily always want your life to be better, but rather different. I came upon this article once upon a time and finally see what the author meant by this perspective. One path in life does not always mean it is the best one, just different from another. And to one person this may or may not be good thing. However, one thing I’ve learned for sure: different is always good. You either succeed in the end or learn from the experience; both are wins in my book.


Originally posted on Thought Catalog:

There are few things worse than not living up to the expectations you put on yourself. I understand the strain of obligations and pressures piled on by friends and family, but frankly the only ones that end up mattering are those accepted as your ‘own problems.’

Anyone can say to your face what he or she expects from you, although unfortunately on some occasions they wait three months and then blow up in your face, leaving you nonplussed yet inexplicably speechless. That’s neither here nor there and I suppose there are some things better yelled than calmly stated, but the way you imagine someone to be when you should know as well as anyone it isn’t who they are is nothing to break down over. But, ah, this is one of the many problems with less than a quarter century of life experience; you don’t really know anything.

Well, not literally.

I absolutely fall into the aforementioned demographic, and so of course I’m lacking in the substantial, ever-vague, and commonly accepted truths of life that appear to vary from personality to personality but essentially all play out to the same end. I mean I know extremes are bad and consequently, moderation of almost everything is good. I also know that life tends to work itself out, even if it’s not necessarily for the immediate, perceived best. What’s better than a surprise you don’t comprehend and don’t know is coming anyways? Not much. Still I’m absolutely baffled as to whether there’s a pattern to any of it. I don’t believe in luck or tempting fate, but I can’t imagine there’s no way to get a grip on this stuff.

The more you want something involving more than yourself, the less likely it seems to work out. The biggest hindrances to unexpected, welcome tricks of fate seem to be lofty and baseless to expect. Unfortunately, there’s no way of knowing exactly what to do in most situations so you tend to push your ideal agenda, never thinking that maybe, just maybe, your ideals are irrevocably askew from reality.

We’ve all been there before: first impressions worked a little too hard on, straying too far from yourself to fit in with the picture perfect group or frame, the unappreciated good things, that ought to, but never will satisfy, and of course, the monster, the champion of all things kidding-yourself: love in vain; in spite of all the facts and advanced metrics. There is no worse kind of blind misunderstanding than the disbelief brought by flat out, straight up, not being wanted by the proverbial one.

It’s one thing to want a better life, whether via a job or healthier lifestyle, etc, but those kinds of expectations never leave you shaking on the steps at midnight, unable to breath through your nose, just staring. Ambitions to be with someone aren’t about knowing your life will be tangibly better, they’re about knowing your life will be tangibly different, and that they’ll be a part of that incarnation. Unmet expectations are a drag, but I suppose it’s worse than not wanting anything at all.

This article was originally written by Alex Johnson on February 5, 2015.

Freshmen Year Advice

My Facebook Newsfeed is being infiltrated with collegiate move-in posts from sobbing mothers, well-wishing friends, and happy yet naive freshmen. Having stumbled through my undergrad years, I feel very well armed with both experience and confidence that I lacked most of my freshman (and sophomore and junior) year of college. So since I’m feeling generous and a state of superiority in my qualifications, I’m going to give those college freshmen out there a little advice which I wish I had known my first year of my college career:

(If the memes don’t make sense now, they will next year…)

The Art of Making Friends
The most essential part of the college experience, meeting new people and making new friends, is also the most frightening. I moved an hour away from home into a school where I did not know a single soul. Being the basic definition of an introvert at the time, I was terrified of this move for the sole reason that I had to go out and create friendships from scratch. I realized as soon as I walked onto campus that I was no longer in my high school environment where I had the same friends since preschool.

However, what I didn’t grasp until much later in the year was that every single student walking onto campus was experiencing the same emotions as me. Even if they knew one or two other people prior to beginning classes, there were 25,000 other people wandering around them who they had no clue who they were!

Here’s a secret I didn’t learn until after this revelation though: everyone’s door is open! So even if you meet a group of people and befriend them, never stop looking to expand your circle. Friendships don’t always last. People come and go in life. And by sophomore year, it’s harder to make friends as people are now in a routine and the freshmen dorm’s “open-door policy” may no longer be carried out. So expand your horizons, meet a number of intriguing and unique people, and be open to as many friends as possible!

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Roommates Are Not A Fool-Safe Bet
Roommates should never be assumed as built-in friends for your college career. For me, my freshman roommate and I had very different beliefs in life. Living together was an awful experience for both of us. However, there are those rare occasions when your roommate and you are meant to be; my senior roommates became my best friends within only weeks of living together and I think of them as my family.

As I walked into my new dorm room freshman year, I thought I had a friend waiting for me. Unfortunately, just because you expect something doesn’t mean it’ll pan out that way. I definitely recommend going into a roommate situation with confidence that a friendship could blossom, but don’t be heartbroken if plans fall through. Not everyone is meant to be friends, let alone live together.

Speaking of living together, one way to try to improve relations with your roommate: don’t treat them like your parent. You moved to college and are no longer at your parents’ house, remember? So it’s time to man-up and pick up after yourself. And always make sure to ask before you borrow something of your roommate’s, even if it’s a tissue. This is not a person you’ve known all your life, so respect their space and they’ll respect you.

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Homesickness: Don’t Stress About It
I’m not sure if this was a purely Ashley phenomenon, but the month leading up to my move-in date, I became obsessively nostalgic. I hung out with my high school friends daily, I skimmed yearbooks and family photo albums, and I posted on many a Facebook wall about how much I was going to miss my family and home. As I said above, going to a new place with no one you know is a very horrifying experience.

In reality, though, that fear lasted a whole five minutes after my parents walked out of my dorm room. I began jumping around the floor, walking into open rooms, and introducing myself to all the new girls around me. My persona of being a self-proclaimed introvert ended right away. And as I began to explore my new environment with new people, the independence of being “alone” had a strong, sweet taste of freedom.

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The Peer Pressure Effect
I lived on a dry campus my freshman year, but when I transferred to Western (lovingly nicknamed Wastern by many), I was worried that I would begin being peer pressured into activities I really had no interest in, namely drinking and drugs.

It was quite the surprise to me, though, when I ventured to my first party that when I shook my head to a bottle of beer, no one cared. College is kind of amazing like that; there are a lot of “no judgment” zones. Just remember it’s also your responsibility to not judge anyone else’s life preferences either; the world needs all kinds and no one type of person is better than another.

Another piece of advice: if you ever feel that you’re in a “judgment” zone, then get out! You have every right to say no to anything passed your way. A crowd wanting to pressure you is not the type you want to be around. Just pick up your things, make any excuse (early class or studying for a test is always a good go-to), and leave.

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Speaking Of Studying…
Do it. College is a fine time to learn the different between procrastination and time management. (Hint: employers like great time managers.) And even though freshman year brings the excitement of optional class attendance, I would recommend attending the majority. Why pay $20,000 a year for a degree you won’t ever reach if you keep failing classes? Prove to yourself and the world that you’re ready for that thing called Adulthood.

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The Mandatory Dining Plan
Freshman year means freshmen dorms, and freshmen dorms mean mandatory dining plan. We all know it and we all grow to hate it. That beautiful pasta bar at Davis may look appetizing the first month, but come October and even a plate of mac n cheese might make you queasy.

Be prepared that the cafeteria food will get old. Expand your palate. Listen to the little voice in your head that sounds oddly like Mom telling you to have a salad. Change it up and try not to get bored.

Fun fact: college is where my addiction to sushi began. I wouldn’t touch the stuff prior to my schooling, but one day the usual pizza, chicken wrap, or all-day waffle maker just wasn’t cutting it… so I tried something new!

We all have had "that kid" in a class...
We all have had “that kid” in a class…

Be Involved In Everything
This is the best advice I can give you. College is the time to not only meet new people and learn new things, but it’s where you find your passions and build upon them to grow into a career and lifestyle. Join that skydiving group, enroll in that 1 credit Tai Chi course,  pick up a sign and protest at the center of campus.

I had never volunteered prior to college. Then my sophomore year I mistaken walked into a Habitat for Humanity meeting. Not wanting to be rude or be embarrassed by admitting my mistake, I stayed — and I was hooked. It’s moments like those, when you might have no idea what is going on, that make you look back years later and smile over your college years. I made some great friends at Habitat and even decided to pursue a minor in nonprofit business due to the mission behind the organization.

So don’t be afraid of what you can do on campus, and don’t be afraid that you’ll do too much. Most clubs do not require mandatory meetings, so you can pick and choose when you attend and still keep an active lifeline. Partying will only get you so far in life; it’s the deep-rooted experiences we make that mold the person we become.

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Now take a breath, unpack the essentials, and get out there and start living some of the best years of your life!

And never forget what you’re actually in college for…

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Permanent Inklings

I recently witnessed an exchange on social media on a person’s choice of tattooing himself. The conversation turned rather hostile, with the tattooer being verbally abused over this choice on his own body. His responses, though, made me think about how entitled our world seems to be in their opinions and beliefs.

Society has an issue with entitlement. There are so many people in the world nowadays who believe they are entitled to many things, the most popular being their opinions. How many times have you browsed Facebook and witnessed an outrageous post of a person “only giving their honest opinion” and thought to yourself, “This is hinging on cyber bullying.”

In today’s world, many people tend to be very opinionated on those with tattoos. Wearers of tattoos are misjudged, thought negatively upon, and lumped together in a very poorly-conceived stereotype. The fact is though that those with tattoos are the same as everyone else; they have a story to tell and they have found a way of expressing themselves.

I do not personally have a tattoo, but I plan to get one before the year is over. I have said this for nearly four years; I am dead-set that 2015 is the time though. To me, body art represents something deeper than just needle-to-skin. To me, a tattoo generates conversation and contemplation for both the wearer and observer. Tattoos mark the venture into a person’s past, present, and future.

For me, I have a few concepts which I like in regards to a tattoo, and they all have some sort of meaning behind them. But I cannot decide which one I should get! At least, which one should be my first… So I’m going to leave my ideas here and hope to get some bites on what you all might think.

(Also, I was pretty impressed by my little drawing here.. I haven’t drawn in forever so this wasn’t half bad for a 30 second sketch.)

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  1. Always – A reference to the series that sparked my love for words, Harry Potter, and also for the greatest force on earth: love. I like the idea of having this one simple word tattooed along the underside of my wrist to give evidence to the true passions in my life.
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  2. Swan – The swan is a symbol of perfection, something I strive for in my life. Being a perfectionist has its dark and light moments, just like a swan. I have been thoroughly disappointed in myself in the past, always acting as my worst critic. However, just like the swan also symbolizes transformation, I take pride in what I have done to get to this point in my life. I am morally-sound, intelligent, and beautiful woman who trusts that her future will be vibrant and bright. I would want this small tattoo placed behind my ear.
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  3. Faith – My faith is the most important aspect of my life. Without God and his saving grace, I would be a wretched and wicked person with no hope of happiness. But with the faith He has granted me, I am capable to become and do everything. I’ve heard the rib cages are the most painful for tattooing, but this clean design would be worth it.
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  4. Dragon – I have always been fascinated with the worlds in literature that cannot exist. In a way, these fantasy worlds break barriers in my mind and allow my imagination to soar. That is why I would include the words, “Never set limitations.” — my personal mantra. I am not one who wants to set any sort of limits on my life; I want to experience everything to the fullest, to try my hardest, and to gain the most knowledge in every situation. (I plan to draw my own dragon for this idea, which would be located on my hip… a location only those closest to me would ever see it.)
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  5. Compass – As if I need to say it again, traveling the world is something I desire. I want to step forth on each continent, learn about different cultures, experience the diversity of the world. I want to discover how people, so different from me, can also be so similar. We’re all here for the same purpose, but we all go about “it” in different ways. This intrigues me. Placing this on my ankle shows this desire.
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No matter which tattoo I choose, I will also be getting the Michigan Heart, which is a delicate little thing placed on a Michigander’s hand in the place they call(ed) home. As someone who returned to her home after college, I love my little section of the world and would never give up my memories of this beautiful state for anything.

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So, what do you guys’ think? This is seriously a difficult decision — and a permanent one! Any words of advice or snippets of suggestions?

A tattoo is an art form of telling a story; a tattoo is the symbol of a story waiting to be told.