by Dan Smith
My first glimpse of our great beach came by way of a postcard in summer 1958.
My eighth grade girlfriend had left the Louisiana bayou country for a two-week Daytona Beach vacation with her family. The postcard showed rows of cars parked on the wide beach with lots of people having fun at the water's edge. When the family came home I sat with them to marvel at the photos of their station wagon sitting on the sand.
Looking back, I suppose that postcard along with the photos sealed my destiny. When I began to drive I would take my '55 Chevy convertible a hundred miles west to drive on the beach at Galveston, Texas. The drivable beach there was not very long and much more narrow than the photos had shown of Daytona Beach, but I was happy to be driving on the sand.
Skip ahead 10 years to the winter of 1968 and I am spending it in the Tampa Bay area when a couple buddies and I decide to attend the Daytona 500. After the race, I remember driving my 1967 Plymouth down the Main Street ramp and onto the hard-packed sand. As we cruised along we admired the girls in their February bikinis and were thrilled to be on the famous beach. By that time I had learned of some of the racing history that had happened on the beach.
The next year found me back for the 1969 500-mile race and I have never really left since. I had found a great car town with lots of fishing and that fabulous beach. I was home.
Four years later, while living in Harbor Oaks, I met an Ormond Beach girl. Lana and I dated all winter with the beach a big part of our lives. Many evenings were spent on the sand with me teaching her to drive in my 1972 Dodge pick-up. We married in the spring. Now 38 years later we are still together having raised a son and daughter.
During all of that time the beach was our home. We took our kids there to swim, fish and sometimes stayed most of the night. We would often build a big bonfire and boil shrimp or crabs right on the sand.
In 1995, with our children nearing the age to leave the nest, we managed to buy a modest little home in Ormond-by-the-Sea. With the Atlantic Ocean visible from our front yard and only a couple hundred yards east, we bought far enough north so there is nothing built on the dunes. At night we are lulled to sleep by the sound of the surf and sometimes late at night we can hear the hum from the engines of a passing yacht. We can't imagine living anyplace else. Like most of you we have endured some difficult times in our lives but through it all the beach was a soothing presence.
For the past two years I have been working on a book that is an homage to our beach. Finally it is in print. I am not sure how well I did, but it was a work of love. I found out it is not easy to be objective about something that is so dear to your heart.
In "The World's Greatest Beach," I make every effort to chronicle the major events that have affected our shoreline. Wars, storms, shark bites and rogue waves are all included. Also included is my displeasure with the current state of our over-policed beach. In all there are 160 pages and 70 black and white photos. It sells for $14.95.
On Saturday, Dec. 15, from 10 am until 1 pm, I will be at The Book Shelf in Ormond Beach to sign copies of "The World's Greatest Beach." The Book Shelf is at 99 S. Yonge St. (U.S. 1) just a couple blocks south of Granada on the east side of the highway. Stop by and do a little Christmas shopping with us and let's talk history.
If you can't make it to the signing, please call me at (386) 441-7793 for a personalized copy.
Dan Smith is on the board of directors for the Ormond Beach Historical Society and The Motor Racing Heritage Association and is now the author of two books.