Fast Company with the Two Jacks of Hampton Beach
Compiled by Dave Waller
Edited by Carol and Lynn Waller
[Special Thanks to Peter E. Randall for Facts and Photos]
Ed Tibbets, the Lynn Buick salesman and part-time artist came up one spring day in his station wagon with plywood, saw and paint set. All alone, he set to work.
By day's end, he had made all the comic strip characters along the roofline. A few years later, a lawyer felt the copyrighted images might be a problem and they were removed.
This daytime photo from the same era shows off the modern exterior of the building. The round windows ventilated the upstairs dormitory where the Arcade Boys lived, and a few more beds were rented out to summer help for area businesses. Bennie and Jack Hines pose.
[Photo on left:This tiny five foot wide alley was all fast talking "Entrepreneur Ernie" needed. Each year he came back to the beach with a new "gimmick and a gadget."
Ernie & Carol Hines:
Photo on right: One year he brought a fortune telling mechanical robot. Another summer he had a "big blonde" reading lipstick impressions - "what your lips reveal."
July 14, 1950
The Great Fire:
I was a youngster at the time, playing with friends on the beach in front of our house when I noticed dark gray smoke billowing into the sky. My friend Nancy and I raced to "The Center" on our bikes, and I heard a spectator call out "Playland is on fire!" Playland was my father's business, and he was there! I pushed my heavy bike past blockades and fire hoses calling his name, and was swooped off my feet into my dad's arms.
Almost at once, I turned towards the fire to see the wax life-sized figure "Grandma" enclosed in a showcase. Two pennies would set her lovely face to motion, her glass azure eyes would sparkle as she lifted her hands over cards on a faded, fringed table. But today, her wax face ignited into a blaze of horror and I buried my face against my father. It was then, when the Two Jacks and I stood on the sidewalk that we saw the roof of their two-story business collapse into its interior. Cascades of glass, wood and metal sent firemen into temporary retreat.
The Two Jacks turned in tandem in an exchange of sadness and support, and firmly shook hands, vowing to rebuild.
The fire consumed three hotels, two rooming houses, a number of cottages, and fifteen stores before it was brought to a halt. The slow firefighting effort was blamed on the lack of water pressure, and lines were run down to the sea to fill the pumps. It was a fire to remember, but the beginning of new hopes and dreams for people to rebuild.
By Carol Hines Waller
The roof collapses:
Smoking in a nearby photo shop was the cause of the $500,000. b1aze.
Hines family, 1950:
Irene, author Carol and Jack Hines in August at the beach.
This view was taken at the peak of the inferno. It was the worst fire in Hampton's history, and Hampton had suffered many fires. The town got serious about fire prevention after that, and public outrage demanded new mains and a saltwater system.
Some of these establishments had been in business since the 1800's. Many rebuilt, and only three days after the fire a cornerstone was laid as a symbol of the will of the town. Incredibly, only a handful of firefighters were injured and no civilian fatalities.The photo shows the blaze as it roared through Playland, a penny arcade on Ocean Blvd, facing the beach. PLACES DESTROYED OR DAMAGED AT HAMPTON BEACH. The list of places damaged or destroyed from the Hampton fire were:
OCEAN BOULEVARDExeter & Hampton Electric Co.
Margaret M. Junkins Candy Shop.
Lea's Tea Shop.
. Henry's Real Estate Agency.
Gendron's Ice Cream Parlor
C STREET:Wesley Guest House.
South View Manor
Color Spot Photo Shop.
Joe's Barber Shop
John's Barber Shop
Eileen's Sandwich Shop.
Dudley Gift Shop.
Real estate office in the Hotel Dudley
Two small wooden buildings
B STREET:Howard Johnson stand.
Mahoney's Tea Room.
The Wigwam (smoke damage).
Boston Herald photographer Dan Murphy circled the scene and recorded this dramatic view looking East. Had the Ocean House Hotel (far right) caught fire, the Casino would have ignited as well, and the entire center of Hampton Beach would have been lost. A strong westerly wind was credited with slowing the blaze.
The ruins had hardly cooled before workers began sifting the ashes. But the tremendous heat had melted anything that couldn't burn.
This scene from the next day shows the extent of the damage. "We had a cashier's booth in front with five thousand dollars in it." said Hines. "Didn't even stop to get it out." The National Guard jeep in the upper right was needed to prevent looting, and the whole family came down to the site to sift for coins in the ashes.
It was almost futile trying to find anything in the charred heap. The Jacks recovered a few legal tender coins, but most of them looked like these twisted relics to the right.
This picture from early 1951 shows the determination of the Jacks. Here you can see building materials being delivered and the new structure nearing completion.
Mike Mumvis from Harlem offered free equipment and a tent to salvage the rest of the season, but it seemed best to cut the losses and wait until next year. Here the Jacks take a break in construction and test drive the new cashier's booth. Is that a ceremonial 'first penny' In Hines' hands?