Ocean City Life Saving Station Museum
The Normandy Hotel 1946 - 1950
by William J. Wright - Irvington, VA
2012



I was born and raised in Washington, D. C. and at age 12, piled into the family’s 1936 Ford with my mother, sister and uncle for what became an annual visit to Ocean City, Md. We always stayed at the Atlantic Hotel and came to know the owner, “Doc” Purnell, quite well over the years. In 1941, lights from the hotels and boardwalk were blacked out to prevent submarines from silhouetting the tankers and cargo ships that made up the convoys which stretched from horizon to horizon 24 hours a day. No one was allowed on the beach at night; National Guardsmen patrolled the area between the boardwalk and surfline from sundown to sunup. The beaches were not pristine in those days; the constant leakage from thousands of ships caused globs of oil to float in with the tide and it soon became impossible to avoid them in the sand and surf.

After the war, and things began to return to normal, my uncle, John B. Garton, married Betty Carmel, the daughter of Mary B. Carmel who ran the dining room at the Atlantic Hotel. In 1945, they bought the Normandy Hotel at 6th and Boardwalk, and by 1946 it was a highly successful American Plan hotel. In those days, an American Plan designation meant that your reservation included meals served in the hotel’s dining room; a European Plan was for a room only. Few of the rooms had baths. Sinks only, and no air conditioning. Everyone opened their windows to the night sea air.

In 1946, at age 17, I began working as a waiter at the Normandy from mid June until Labor Day. The other waiters came from Loyola and Maryland University. Things didn’t work out too well with male waiters, so the following year an all female staff was hired from Marymount, Mt. Saint Agnes and Maryland U. I hired on as a reservation clerk, spelling my uncle every night from 4pm to 8pm the following morning, with one night off each week. I received room and board and $100 per month, but the best part was living in the middle of what seemed to be a sorority house. I returned to work at the Normandy for two more years: 1949 and 1950. In the summer of 1950, all of the waitresses were sophomores and juniors from Maryland U., and it was one of these sophomores, Jinx Hewett, who later became my wife. In 1952 I was commissioned in the U. S. Army. We had two children, Leslie Ann and Brian. I retired in 1979, but my family now includes Leslie’s husband Bill Fisher of Salisbury and two grandchildren, Hank and Alex Fisher, all of whom consider Ocean City a second home.