The Westside All Wars Memorial Building reopens in Atlantic City
The Club Harlem, The Seagull Classic, Garwood Mills, the Million Dollar Pier, Hackney's -- I could go on and on naming great places and events, here or near the shore area that are gone. Just as the Ocean One Mall has been revitalized to the new Pier Shops at Caesars, many of the city's old places can and should be brought back to life.
The All Wars Memorial Building ("The Old Solider's Home"), located at 1510 Adriatic Ave. in Atlantic City and built in the 1920s, is a place that almost vibrates with memories for many people.
On Saturday, April 26, the city will celebrate the completion of a multi-million dollar renovation/expansion of the building and what it's meant to the community. There will be a parade starting at 11am, beginning at the Oscar E. McClinton Park (New Hampshire and Melrose aves.) and following down Madison Avenue (which becomes Baltic Avenue) to Martin Luther King, Jr. Blvd., then onto Adriatic Avenue to end at the All Wars building. At noon, there will be a ribbon-cutting ceremony. An open house, as well as other activities, will continue until 4pm.
The renovations include three ballrooms, an atrium and deck, warming kitchens and tennis courts, as well as memorial courtyards. The ballroom and other facilities will be available to rent, with discounts for residents of Atlantic City.
I have had several memorable experiences at the All Wars Memorial Building over the years. I attended a funeral and said my last "good-byes" to a childhood friend there. I saw my cousin Zorvita Quarles do a Tina Turner dance and music tribute. I have supported several, but not enough, fundraisers for the Stanley Homes Scholarship Fund over the years. I have been to a few "oldies but goodies" and more than a few talent showcases there.
In the years that I have lived in Atlantic City, the building has functioned as a community center, lodge, church, dance hall, and more. One of my fondest memories of the building is a wedding reception that I attended just before the building closed for renovations.
My dearest memory is teaching a summer-camp writing workshop there about 10 years ago. I remember feeling a real sense of pride that my life had come full circle. Thirty years ago I had gone to the All Wars Memorial Building site to play basketball and learn tennis as a part of Atlantic City's day-camp program. My neighbor, the late Remer Quince, was the lead instructor (and a local tennis legend). After a 15-minute lesson you couldn't tell me that I wasn't going to be the next Jimmy Connors.
When I first walked in as a writing instructor with my bag of materials and notebooks for the class, it hit me how special this place really is for the city. On the last day of summer camp the kids I worked with performed some spoken word, were able to talk about what they learned, and gave me some of my proudest moments as an educator.
I don't know how many writing workshops were conducted at the site. I do know that many people have spent time and marked their own career full-circles at the All Wars Memorial Building. Some have gone from summer campers to day-camp staff. Others may have gone from attending parties there with their parents, to partying there as teenagers to promoting shows or performing at the venue as entertainment. Still, others like me have gone from taking tennis or dance classes in the building to teaching another generation about art or sports there. And, of course, the landmark will always be here as tribute to Atlantic City war veterans.
Making way for the new is fine, but neither memories nor history are as disposable as they've been treated here in recent years. This time, Atlantic City got it right.
Raymond Tyler hosts Let's Talk About It on Fridays from 7-8pm on WOND 1400AM and Alternative Soul Fridays from 2-4pm on WLFR 91.7FM.