4. The Monte Carlo Pool
Begin the Beachfront
Right beside the foot of Deal Lake (between Deal Lake Drive and Eighth Avenue) was Walter Reade's Monte Carlo Pool. I remember hearing it called "the world's largest outdoor salt water pool" (or something like that). True or not, it was pretty big; it covered one whole block between Ocean Avenue (the street that runs alongside the boardwalk) and Kingsley Street. The shallow end was east, near Ocean Avenue; the deep end was west, near Kingsley. Two torpedo-shaped fountains spouted near the edges of the pool's middle zone.
Image 1.4.1. Asbury Park's fabulous Monte Carlo Pool photographed from the Kingsley Arms Hotel across Kingsley Street.
The entrance to the pool was through the edifice that sheltered its south side. This was the official front of the place. Outside, it was pretty much all red brick and looked like a nondescript factory building.
2.4.1. The front of the Monte Carlo Pool from a distance.
Vaguely I recall passing through the ticket booth: You found yourself in a grayish concrete entrance with pillars, arches and those tall medieval-looking turnstiles. It was the kind of place that one imagines immigrants passing through on Ellis Island - or perhaps a room one crosses to board a great ocean liner. It was dim in there, illuminated mostly by daylight from the entrances. I seem to recall some nautical ornamentation, mosaics, I think, perhaps images of mythological sea beings. You could glimpse the clean blue water beyond the arches that led to the pool. The salt-water perfume was everywhere.
As I remember it, the pool had a lollypop-green boardwalk around it (different from what is shown on most postcards). The warmth of the sun lightly brought out the smell of the green paint and mixed it with the summery scent of salt water. The innumerable deck chairs were painted fruity circus colors. On the north side, there was an athletic pool. It was fascinating and scary to watch the occasional expert diver do tumbling tricks from the high diving board. Next to the athletic pool was the baby pool. This was nothing more than a shallow recess with a little fountain in the middle. It appears oval in the above photo (1.4.1), but I recall it being saucer-shaped. Mothers would sit their tots along its edge.
Image 3.4.1. The northwest corner of the Monte Carlo Pool, looking west. In the right foreground is the athletic pool. Just beynd it is the baby pool. The Kingsley Arms Hotel is in the background. To the right are Deal Lake Drive and Deal Lake. The building in the right-side background is the Santander Hotel, which in recent years has been nicely restored and turned into condominums.
My family used to sit at the east side of the pool, the ocean side. This was fine with me, because my cousin Fred and I were not much interested in learning how to swim. I enjoyed the vehicular fact of a rubber raft. My Uncle Danny (Danny DeVito, who grew up to become famous) had lots of friends and was always wandering around. Danny knew how to swim, so he could go in the deep end. I never quite had the nerve to paddle out as far as the fountains. It was like a distant land, always out of reach. Once, I saw Danny out there with his girlfriend from North Jersey. They were close to the south fountain. I thought I'd give it a shot and see if I could reach them and say hi. I did! I made it! So what did Danny do? He overturned my raft! I remember going under and somehow bobbing rapidly up and back to my barge. Whimpering, I paddled back, my hands like twin propellers. I heard Danny's girlfriend scold him with a tone of sympathy in her voice for me. I suppose he wanted to teach me to swim.
The tunnel to the beach is one of the things many people recall about the Monte Carlo Pool. By the northeast snack bar (the yellowish building in image 1.4.1 or the brownish building in 4.4.1), a short stairway led to the tunnel. A hazy darkness infused the rough concrete passage as it went under Ocean Avenue to the beach. The little overhead lights were almost useless, but you could see daylight powdering the beach-end of the tunnel. It had the smell of cool-concrete and plumbing-water mixed in with the usual salt aromas - and great reverberation. People walking through would cry out to hear the hollow effect. I could never understand how people could walk barefoot on the rough, sand-slushy floor of the tunnel. (It gives me the chills just to think about it!)
A long, straight, concrete stairway led up to the beach. Before leaving the tunnel, you had to get your hand stamped. At one time, you were given a little rubber bracelet with a dangling "charm" on it that identified the pool. Later, a blacklight hand-stamp was used. The old sea-captain-type, who sat at the beach entrance, had to make sure you had paid to get into the pool before you could return.
Okay, let's show our stamped hands and go back...
Image 4.4.1. Another photo taken from the Kingsley Arms Hotel.
As you can see, the pool was bordered on the south by two stories of cabanas. On the very top of this edifice, sunbathers threw their blankets over long tar-sheeted steps. When you were up top and looked north, across the pool, you saw the eastern part of Deal Lake. Near the foot of the lake was the Marine Grill, a beachside restaurant. Beyond the lake, you saw the trees and Mansion rooftops of Loch Arbour, Allenhurst and Deal, wealthy well-manicured towns. When you climbed to the very top of the tar steps and looked east, you saw the boardwalk, the ocean and the Eighth Avenue pavilion (shown in Image 4.4.1 and 1.4.1).
Click HERE to see more images of the Monte Carlo Pool.
Some ofAsbury's real glories faced you when walked south - beginning just a block beyond...