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July 10, 2019 / philosophermouseofthehedge

Bejeweled girls and the boys of summer

Shamrock swimming pool at night. (tsdhof.org)

Right out of a Hollywood set. But it was real – and ours.(tsdhof.org)

Palm trees and cabanas. Movie stars lounging around a 15 acre tropical resort. That’s summer.

“You could go there and pretend you were on the French Riviera, complete with dashing pilots and beautiful stewardesses staying over between flights connecting Houston to Europe.” (Guy Hagstette)

We always whispered wondering who was behind those Foster Grants in front of the private poolside cabanas. (“Was that Marilyn? Dorothy Lamour, Ginger Rogers, Lana Turner? “JFK and Jackie stayed in the penthouse last night – Did you see them leave?” )

Bathing beauties at Shamrock pool summer opening (c. 1950's) (Houston Post/ houston public lib./Houston Metropolitan Research Center)

Season’s opening day.1950’s.(Hou.Public Lib)

Built by oilman “Diamond Glenn” McCarthy (the man James Dean’s movie character in Giant was based on), the Shamrock was the largest hotel built in the United States in the post-war era between 1946 and 1949.

Called the “Houston Riviera” it cost some $21 million to build, the 18-story, 1,100-room hotel and was pretty over the top with its’ own parking garage of 1,000 spaces. (The only part still there and in use.)

ABC even broadcast a radio program, “Saturday at the Shamrock”, from the hotel between 1949 – 1953..

Those that wished to be seen, and the one others wished to see, swarmed the elegant clubs: The Emerald Room and the Cork Club (at the top where mixed drinks could be served). If you to there at there tight time, you could spot celebrities getting out of their limousines. To be able to tell you friends at school that your parents attended some event over the weekend at the Shamrock – that was something.

Shamrock pool with water skier demonstration with motor boat. (tsdhof.org)

Yep, found a photo to prove it. Sometimes one of the girls balanced on the shoulders of the other two. If that’s not Hollywood, what is?(tsdhof.org)

Summer’s place to be was the pool: “the world’s largest hotel swimming pool”

The world famous Shamrock Hilton pool was 50 meters (55 yards) long and almost as wide.

Motorboats would pull water skiers who precision water skiing exhibitions rivaled those of Florida’s Cypress Gardens.

As big as the ocean, but no salt and gritty sand in the suit.

You begged to have your birthday party there – if you were lucky enough to be a member or know one.

Boy diving into pool. Shamrock Hotel dive team member (tsdhof.org)

And this performance is for…. (“Please meet me for a Coke, later. Of course, I can get my you into this pool anytime. Fan club privileges.”) (tsdhof.org)

If that wasn’t enough, in the deep end were two one-meter diving boards, two three-meter boards and a stacked five- and 10-meter platforms for Olympic diving.

Those concrete platforms were really high and scary…I never made it to the top one, but could manage a back flip off the bottom two levels. Nothing compared to my older cousin who was a competitive diver for the Shamrock Swim team.

Corkettes, synchrionized swim tream based at the Shamrock Hotel (c.1950. Pub. image)

Corkettes, synchronized swim team based at the Shamrock. They performed around the nation and world, traveled with the USO, and were instrumental in getting synchronized swimming into the Olympics.(c.1950. Publicity photo)

The Shamrock Hotel's Synchronized swim team, the Corkettes prepariing for a benefit performance for a 9yr old girl from Hong Kong here for heart surgery (Hou.Chron/tsdhof.org)

The Shamrock Hotel’s Corkettes prepariing for a benefit performance (1960’s.Hou.Chron/tsdhof.org)

Astronauts, celebrities, and vacationers casually relaxed around the pool and provided an audience for practice sessions featuring the Shamrock Hotel’s swim team with their award winning high divers, and the Corkettes, the Shamrock’s synchronized swim group who also served as hostess for many events at the hotel. The name came from the club at the top of the hotel.

Decorating the sidelines – far from splashing distance – were the aloof, posh girls in rhinestone embellished, glittery bathing suits that never touched the water. The ones the boys all watched and wanted to impress.

Our own little Hollywood.

The elegance. The glamour.

Lolling amid shimmering summer days brings that all back.

Phil, the Philosopher Mouse of the Hedge.

Related post about the Shamrock’s history and destruction “Shamrocks and Wildcatters”

Shamrock Hotel lobby illustration. Dec.1948 (Houston Public Library)

Shamrock Hotel lobby illustration, Dec.1948. Won’t tell you what Frank Lloyd Wright said upon seeing it, but you can guess as excess wasn’t exactly his style. (Houston Pub.Lib.)

On the illustration’s back: “This is the lobby of The Shamrock Hotel, largest since the Waldorf…Typifying the ‘International Modern” design created for the 24 million dollar project, are a blend of regency, Empire, Chinese and Grecian. Honduras mahogany paneling in the lobby – all 22,000 sq.ft. off it is from a single tree. Draperies matching the panels in tone, are hand painted in Chinese tree design. The ceiling fixtures are lucite and resemble masses of floating clouds. The floor covered in Vinyl, a rubber plastic material by Goodyear, has rugs woven especially for the Shamrock by Bigelow in shades of green in a pattern created by the designer, Mr. Harrell.”

Pool at Shamrock Hotel with high dives.(Houston Public Library/Hou.Phtotgraphic Collection)

The hotel’s decor was elegant, but this is where all the drama happened. Life Guards were always having to rescue kids from the high dive platforms after they froze. The “dare ya’s” flowed like the cocktails. (Houston Pub.Lib.)

Boy doing jack knife dive into the Shamrock Hotel pool (tsdhof.org)

Anything he can do, I can do better. Watch! Not even a glance by the girls full of studied ennui. (tsdhof.org)

Postcard of Shamrock Hotel/McCarthy Center. cost of 21 million daollars with 1,100 rooms, garage holds 1,000 cars, and the world's largest swimming pool (USPD. Seawall postcard, pub.date, artist life/Commons.wikimedia.org)

Shamrock Hotel/McCarthy Center postcard. That’s the parking garage on right. (USPD/Commons.wikimedia.org)

 

18 Comments

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  1. Kate Crimmins / Jul 10 2019 7:23 am

    You would never get me to climb up that high dive!

    Liked by 1 person

    • philosophermouseofthehedge / Jul 10 2019 7:39 am

      It was at least 14 stories high – I know it was from standing at the bottom of it so many times. The lifeguard frequently “closed” the platforms – they got tired of inching little kids down.
      Locally all the girls wanted to have 3 bathing suits: one for the salt water gulf (which faded and ruined the fabrics then), one for the local swimming pool ( which faded by end of July…maybe you could wart your mom for a new one…they are on sale!) and the older teen girls craved one just for parading around at pool parties. Mom never bought into any of that ( Of course we rarely went to the Shamrock pool and there were few pool parities in our neighborhood)
      Thanks for drifting along

      Liked by 1 person

      • Kate Crimmins / Jul 10 2019 8:52 am

        Yes, I had one each season too! Even when I got older I never had more than two but then again, we didn’t have access to a swimming pool.

        Like

        • philosophermouseofthehedge / Jul 10 2019 10:47 am

          Most moms rolled eyes at additional suit requests saying “Just use last years – it’s not that faded” (but it was, Mom! really. Everyone else…) and there’s always their buzz kill “Why? School will start soon.”
          The whole concept of buying a bathing suit that never got wet – well, not in Mom’s vocabulary HaHa

          Liked by 1 person

          • Kate Crimmins / Jul 10 2019 11:54 am

            Yes. I need therapy for this cruel treatment! 🙂

            Like

  2. sustainabilitea / Jul 10 2019 8:28 am

    No high (or other) dives for me, but right now the pool looks SO inviting. I don’t really do much swimming, either, but I’d be happy to stand in a pool, hopefully somewhere in the shade. 🙂 When our older daughter took me to Costa Rica for five lovely days some years ago, we had quite a nice time hanging about in the pool with a cool drink. That counts, right? 😉

    janet

    Liked by 1 person

    • philosophermouseofthehedge / Jul 10 2019 8:46 am

      Especially if it’s a swim up bar actually in the pool. Been noticing that more and more people are putting in small pools just to dip into…and often including bar. Be sure to put on those life jackets everyone? Safety first haha
      Thanks for floating a comment this way

      Liked by 2 people

  3. angelswhisper2011 / Jul 10 2019 12:51 pm

    Only looking at the heights give us the shivers, but Granny loves the swimsuit…of the girls of course 😉 Pawkisses for a Happy Wordless Wednesday🐾😽💞

    Like

    • philosophermouseofthehedge / Jul 10 2019 2:45 pm

      Not all cool cats are designed for high attitude climbing – or maybe they just become wiser with age. Thanks for sauntering over to chat

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Ally Bean / Jul 10 2019 12:58 pm

    That hotel lobby is the place where lounge lizards could feel at home. Such a fabulous hotel and history to go with it. The Corkettes? What a fabulous name for a team.

    Like

    • philosophermouseofthehedge / Jul 10 2019 2:51 pm

      It was the Ritz for sure – Sinatra was there a lot. That era of style and elegance gone with the building.
      Thanks for slipping by to float an idea into this pool

      Liked by 1 person

  5. The Coastal Crone / Jul 10 2019 4:19 pm

    Oh, I remember seeing the Shamrock as a child as my family drove through Houston on our way to East Texas in the 1950s. And it was still there when I moved to Houston in the 1960s. As a girl from a small town I knew it represented glamour with a pool fit for Ester Williams. Great old photos! Aw, for the good old days!

    Liked by 1 person

    • philosophermouseofthehedge / Jul 11 2019 7:35 am

      Ester Williams glamour and style – that was it, all right. It was the palace of royalty in the eyes of many children around here. I do remember once being very small, hanging out the car window watching as we passed the Shamrock – Dad pointed and said, “Look it’s”…(some famous movie star) She flowed out of her car with the grace of an antelope in a long, full skirt with tiny belted waist and very high heels – that red lipstick and movie star hair – then swept into the entrance past a line of reporters with cameras.
      Obviously a place of magic.
      And it was real, not in a video game. Hope kids have something as elegant to wish for – and work towards these days.
      Thanks for adding a starry comment

      Like

  6. Anne Mehrling / Jul 10 2019 8:55 pm

    I enjoyed reading about the Shamrock. What a place!

    Liked by 1 person

    • philosophermouseofthehedge / Jul 11 2019 7:26 am

      Maybe the Shamrock is safer in memories – that old world elegance and the staff that dressed and acted like what you thought European hotel staff would be like.
      Eccentric over the top decor but most in that era was. thanks for the splashdown here

      Like

      • Anne Mehrling / Jul 11 2019 8:51 pm

        That is wise advice, that some things are safer in memories.

        Like

  7. shoreacres / Jul 11 2019 5:50 am

    The Shamrock still was alive and kicking when I first got to Houston in 1973. I was living in the Medical Center at the time, in Favrot Hall, so it was a neighborhood landmark as much as anything else.

    I love the photos of the place. There’s an older guy who calls into the Outdoor Show on 610AM almost every week who used to be involved with the boating and skiing that took place there. He lives in Highlands, and his nickname’s ‘Raceboat Ray’ — he doesn’t race any more, but he used to be one of those who’d be on Clear Lake in those big Cigarette-type boats that still are around. It’s great fun to listen to his tales: almost as good as hearing the stories of the bison that used to chase wade fishermen out of the water over on the Anahuac side.

    Liked by 1 person

    • philosophermouseofthehedge / Jul 11 2019 7:23 am

      First the bison, then the gators and flesh eating bacteria – are they jealously guarding the waters or being benevolent and trying to tell us something? As often, humans not getting the message HaHa
      I’ll have to tune into that show. Some of the real characters are still around – more showing up with Apollo’s 50 birthday celebration – looking back this “backwater” town has created (and still does) so many interesting celebs and high profile people. Surprises many.
      Happy you got to see the Shamrock at least. It was the most desirable prom/grad senior party spot for grads – even when the Hyatt, the Warwick/Hotel Zaza (Oh that was another old world elegant one) and the others were built more towards downtown. The Shamrock’s stylish ball room – even in the later years – it did make you feel like Hollywood. What tuxedos and formal gowns were designed for. Thanks for treading through these memories

      Liked by 1 person

Always glad to hear from readers.

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