The Times and Tides of Ocean City, Maryland
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A Local Perspective
The Alaska Stand
by Bob Givarz
June 2017

Unfortunately Bobby passed away before this article was to appear in the Scuttlebutt. Bob was a business leader on the Boardwalk and a dear friend to many of us. Perhaps his most important legacy was as an employer, role model and mentor to hundreds of young adults, many of them local Ocean City kids that worked for him at the “A” Stand over the years. He was a positive influence on their lives and those real life lessons will live on. We will always miss you and never forget you Bobby G!

Rick Meehan
Mayor, Ocean City

Bob Givarz, age 8 in Ocean City, MD
“Meet me under the Boardwalk by the pier after work and then we’ll go for a swim,” little 15-year-old Jerry Givarz said. “Pop will let me take a break for a few hours. Let’s go!”

And you really could walk under the Boardwalk back then. Just look at old photographs. Can you imagine how many grains of sand have been deposited to build the beach?

That was the summer of 1933. It was the year that the “Big One” hit and created the Inlet. That was the year my grandfather, Benjamin Givarz, and his wife and kids decided to operate a little food stand in Ocean City, the Alaska Stand.

Sixty-four years later, he would not recognize the boardwalk or Ocean City. At the turn of the century, the Boardwalk was removed at night and then replaced the next day,

Now we have a three-mile promenade of shops, hotels, restaurants and arcades for the thousands of people walking up and down the east coast’s best ocean walkway. Tacky, yes. Honky-tonk, yes. But where else can you see hear and smell so much in such a short time.

Back then (pre-World War II and before the Bay Bridge was built), Ocean City and the Boardwalk were just starting to grow. Expansion from the Inlet northward progressed slowly, but surely. Fine hotels like the Atlantic, Plimhimmon and the Lankford catered to guests with fine food, good service and a cool spot to beat the summer heat.

The Boardwalk back then provided a place to walk or ride, sheltered sun-bathers from the hot, humid summers and became the place to be in OC. There were very few food places on the Boardwalk. Aside from the dining rooms in the hotels, there were Thrasher’s French Fries, Joe’s Restaurant, also in the Pier building, Dolle’s Popcorn and then the Alaska Stand on Wicomico Street and maybe a few others. But not many.

Through the years of blood, sweat and tears, Benjamin Givarz, his wife Eunice, sons Jerry, Leon, Alan and Sid, plus daughters Ida and Sara, managed to build a business from selling chocolate covered ice cream on a stick called an Alaska (hence the name), frozen chocolate covered bananas, fresh fruit juices, hand-pattied hamburgers and hot dogs. Today the Alaska Stands provide a full range of items including breakfast, lunch, dinner and delicious desserts like funnel cake and soft ice cream.

As a kid growing up in Ocean City in the ‘50s and ‘60s, I was on the Boardwalk every day. Getting up early and helping the beach stand boys set up their long lines of umbrellas at the water’s edge was routine but fun. By then, the beach downtown had grown from a few yards wide to a couple of football fields long. It was a haul carrying the ‘umbees’ over the hot sand.

Then it was off to Marty’s Playland where “Uncle Lou,” the mechanic, would give me free games on the pinball machines. Pinball was only a nickel then. After wearing out my welcome there, it was across the street to Nathan Rapoport’s clothespin pitch game. Throw a little brown wood doughnut over the pin and see how many coupons you could win. I would save them for that one big prize at the end of the summer.

Next, it was a stop at Dumser’s Dairyland next to Dolle’s, where Pete Dumser would play his melodic organ. I can still hear the strains of “Lida Rose”…”Lida Rose, I’m home again, Rose, without a sweetheart to my name.” He had magic fingers and feet, always moving but never out of sync. And by then, it was time for a quick midmorning dip in the ocean before lunch at the A-Stand, and then all afternoon on the beach, swimming, playing Frisbee (we called them flying saucers), riding surf mats and just hanging out.

But as dusk fell, it was time to make some money. Selling comic books or seashells on the side of the Boardwalk at First Street where we lived was my first sales experience. My sidekick was Jeff Albright. His parents owned property on First Street (and still do) and we could get into trouble at the drop of a hat. Sifting for loose change under the Boardwalk around the arcades and some of the old hotels like the Rideau and the Roosevelt was worthwhile. But, for a kid, it could be a little spooky, especially walking around what I called the ‘catacombs,’ the basement areas under the hotels where the staff stayed.

The teenage years were great to spend on the Boardwalk. In the’60s the Pier Ballroom was happening. Rock and roll bands played every night. Groups like the Admirals and the Lafayettes were regulars. What a great place to dance and meet girls. And then after the dance, a walk on the boards or with a blanket, a short stay under the Boardwalk for some privacy. I know you old-timers will remember that.

The ‘70s saw regular and constant growth northward not just on the Boardwalk but all over Ocean City. Businesses started popping up everywhere but it wasn’t just local people. Lots of Baltimoreans made Ocean City their home, and to this day not only live here but have been elected to various posts in city government.

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