SURVIVING THE ’38 HURRICANE AND REMEMBRANCES OF SALTAIRE
In the 1970’s Elizabeth Starkey, a long time resident of Saltaire, undertook a project recording the oral histories of many “old timers” still living in Saltaire. All these tapes still exist and are a real treasure that needs to be edited and released. They give a history of the Village from the perspective of those who were here almost from the start of the Village. One of the tapes that doesn’t need much editing is Marie Bitzer’s story of her experience surviving the ’38 hurricane which was recorded on August 8, 1975. The full interview session is about an hour and her actual experience during the hurricane is from about the 5th to the 25th minute.
Who was Marie Bitzer? The easiest way of learning a little about her to read the story below written by Robert Feustel and is on the ’38 blog:
Marie Bitzer was without a doubt one of the most flamboyant and memorable characters ever to grace the boardwalks of Saltaire. Her sense of high fashion and dress could have gained her admission to the most highbrow costume parties.
I remember specifically one Saturday night in the early fall of 1968. I decided to take a date to the old Oak Beach Inn, which in those days was a great local night club. The only problem was a means of transit from Saltaire to Oak Beach. My father agreed to take us over to the OBI in his boat. Invited along for the trip was both my mother and Marie Bitzer.
Marie got a few drinks poured into her and the entertainment for the evening began. She regaled us with her stories of trips to foreign lands. Among her circle of friends was King Farouk of Egypt and I believe the Shah of Iran. She was house (or more likely palace) guests of both.
Marie's best story was the experience she and her extremely near-sighted husband John had during the Hurricane of '38. As the wind and waves rose Marie (who owned the current McElhone residence at 113 Pacific) felt that it would be prudent if both she and John made tracks for higher ground in the Village Hall. Marie related how, as she looked back the tidal surge had ripped up boardwalks behind her. She implored John, who could barely see the nose in front of his face to "hurry the waves are destroying the boardwalk behind us" John, looking back, and barely seeing anything, responded, "Oh Marie, you've always had such a vivid imagination." Thankfully, for Saltaire Marie and John survived the storm with no injuries.
Marie also, in her day, was the preeminent realtor in Saltaire. No one, at that time could out-hustle her for either a sale or rental. Captain Al, out of either respect (or disgust) always would tell us that "if there was a vacant telephone booth in the Village that Marie would rent it to someone for the summer."
As noted above Marie lived at 113 Pacific Walk. During the hurricane she floated to the Lemay house which is at 101 Pacific and is now owned by Jeannemarie O’Brien and Yves Casimir. She also mentioned the Schmitt house which is on Bay Prom next to the Lemay house and is now owned by the Dietrichs. Below is the only picture of Marie we presently have. It seems to have been taken when she was coach of the East side women’s baseball team when they were playing the women from the west side of Saltaire!!!!