I guess you have to be really old to remember this place, Pop’s Pavilion. It was really the only place in Surf City, back in the day, that offered weekly dances and family friendly entertainment. But I think back then, in the good old days, most places were “family friendly,” especially when compared with the way things are today.
Pop’s was located right where the Welcome Center is now-right at the center of the island and next to Buddy’s. Buddy’s building has been all kinds of places, but mostly it was known in the past as the Sand Piper. I guess there was a sort of rivalry between the two places, but patrons usually went back and forth between the two businesses. Between Pop’s and the Sand Piper, many a fight has been fought, many a girl has been won and lost, and many a good time has been had.
In the 50s and 60s Pops was the hang out for all the kids and tourists. It’s where you went if you wanted to socialize and where you were certain of a good time. I remember when the bath houses were down stairs under the building. One could wash off the salt water after being in the ocean, and then change their bathing suits and clothes. I also remember trying to peek between the slats to catch a peek of the bathers. Shame on me. But then I was somewhere between the ages of eight and twelve. (got my tail tanned for that one)
Pop’s Pavilion was owned by Pop Jones, who had previously run a bar in Holly Ridge at Camp Davis during World War II. In fact, the building is a World War II building. Jones came to Wilmington in the 1940s on a Standard Oil Tanker where he worked as a cook. Obviously, he liked the area so much, he decided to stay. After the military left the island in the late 40s, Pop opened the first and only bathhouse and dance hall in the area. Every weekend folks danced to live bands who played at the pavilion. Every Saturday night he put on a big square dance and people from all over came, even from as far away as Wilson and Jacksonville.
During the beach season Pop rented rafts, beach toys, soda pop and snacks for beach goers. He did not allow alcohol on the premises, his business was family oriented. He hung out with locals like Roland Batts and often he walked over to my daddy’s (Frank Ross)Texaco station to chew the fat.
Pop was known for his kindness and easy going demeanor. Even hurricanes didn’t worry him too much. When hurricanes came through he’d sit in front of his stove at the pavilion and cook a pot of stew while playing the record, This Old House. I guess he’d seen enough of the world to know that such things as storms were just part of it. I guess you just have to make up your mind to not sweat the small stuff. Thanks Pop for Pop’s and for the good times.