Apr 26, 2006

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Big spenders from Chicago and St. Louis sparked the summer economy and in spite of the depression Saugatuck and the Big Pavilion remained a bright spot on the west shore of Lake Michigan. Management hard work and innovation paid off. Instead of having one orchestra perform all summer name bands were brought in to perfrom in weekly succession. Special events were broadcast live and direct from the floor of the big dance hall. Souvenirs were offered as a come-on. “Bank of Joy” night offered cash prizes. On “Lindberg Night” 2000 toy aeroplanes were dropped from the rafters. In 1930 the movie theater installed a Western Electric sound system (“Where sound sounds best” – the ad line ran), cushioned seats and an Arctic Nu-Air circulating air system. The movie feature changed nitely.

In the spring of 1936 Elmer Deac Weed died at the age of 72. He had been an original incorporator and a driving force behind the business for thirty years. George F. Barrett, an investor and prominent Chicago attorney, then became active, along with sons George, Robert and Tom. In 1938 the Barretts obtained a liquor license and created “The Dock” - a bar and restaurant with organ music - it was located beneath the dance floor in the northwest quadrant of the structure. The décor was elegant – paneled and polished walls and a marble top bar, in front of a mirrored wall. The river side wall had windows looking out on a wide boardwalk-dock. A posh place indeed: “Sparkling drinks, charcoal broiled dinners and entertainment…” the advertising bragged. Strollers on the dock lusted to the sound of the Hammond organ music and the odor of sizzling steaks and beer wafting riverward.

On summer weekends, a Big Pavilion berth was reputed to be the choicest mooring spot on the Great Lakes. For weekend fun, what more did a yachtsman need? They came… and made the Big Pavilion and The Dock a legend.                 by Jack Sheridan

My thanks to Kit Lane and her book “Saugatuck’s Big Pavilion:
The Brightest Spot on the Great Lakes”.

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