Ocean City Life Saving Station Museum
A Local Perspective
by Janet Cherrix
October 2015

Sandpiper Restaurant
The Sandpiper Restaurant circa 1960
Collection of Hunter "Bunk" Mann
The Sandpiper Restaurant

It is hard to imagine that the present day Coastal Highway was once just a two-lane road called Beach Road. That was what it was when my parents, Robe and MaryBelle Holland, bought the Swan Club, a nightclub located at the corner of the Highway and 33rd Street, back in the year 1953, where the present day Guido’s Burritos is now located. Besides the restaurant building, the property included a five acre field that went from the road to a beautiful sandy beach.
My parents at that time were in the chicken business, and owned Hastings Hatchery in Parsonsburg, Md., which supplied baby chicks to various growers. My father thought opening a restaurant in Ocean City with fried chicken as the main entrée was a logical step, so to speak, from the egg to the final product. So the Sandpiper Restaurant was created, and was easily identified with a large wooden chicken on the roof.
My mother’s fried chicken recipe was an instant success. When a family owns a restaurant you quickly learn all the aspects of what needs to be done, from waitressing to prep work to loading the dumbwaiter, to make it all work. The meals were served “family style”, with the “Chicken Sandpiper” all-you-can-eat for $3.00. The famous seafood platter of flounder, fried shrimp, scallops, soft shell crab, crab cake and deviled clam could be bought for $2.50.


One could order a martini for 75 cents. Locals frequented the restaurant, and it was a real gathering spot to catch up on the gossip around town. After a liquor license was obtained, there were still no Sunday sales, so if a regular customer wanted a drink on Sunday we’d serve it to them in a coffee cup.
The restaurant was located at 33rd Street, but the family home was on 10th Street and Baltimore Avenue, across the street from the George Washington Hotel, an Ocean City landmark. Growing up with two sisters, Sandra and Marlene, and living so near the ocean, we were either on the beach all day or doing what had to be done at the restaurant. The notorious Beach Club was at 9th Street and the boards, next to Jackson’s Casino. Although we were only 12 and 14 years old, my sister Sandra and I thought it great fun to dress up and sneak into those establishments. In particular, it was a challenge to get past Powell Esham, the doorman with the wooden leg at the Beach Club. We wanted to see what all the excitement was about, with the crowd at the bar, the music, and the card games in the back. We would eventually be spotted, and someone would tell George Evans, the manager, to “call Robe, the Holland girls have snuck in again.” Our grandmother would also give us coins to play the slot machines at the Casino, and I don’t recall anyone ever telling us we were too young to play.
Ocean City was a small town back in the 50’s and 60’s. You felt like you knew everyone, and we all looked out for each other. The old saying “last one leaving town on Labor Day, please turn out the lights” was nearly the truth.