In anticipation of a new book documenting the LBGTQ history of Rehoboth Beach, the Rehoboth Beach Museum hosted a discussion on the subject recently.
Fay Jacobs and Dr. James Sears led the Nov. 5 discussion. Jacobs is a well-known local author, while Sears is a former college professor who has authored a number of books on the LBGTQ community.
Sears’ new book is going to be called “Beyond the Boardwalk: Queering the History of Rehoboth Beach.” He said he began writing the book because the queer history of Rehoboth is as interesting and important as the queer history of bigger cities with a large gay population.
Jacobs said she’s seen a lot of growth in the community over the past three decades and is excited to see the creation of the book. It’s as much about the growth of Rehoboth as it is about the queering of Rehoboth, she said.
“I’m thrilled to get it down on paper,” said Jacobs, who was described as one of the modern-day icons of gay Rehoboth at one point.
The discussion bounced all over the place. There was talk about how the gay community helped gentrify Rehoboth, turning it from a sleepy southern town to one with a diverse community. There was talk of the good times at gay-friendly bars from bygone eras - The Renegade, Strand, Nomad, Boathouse and Pink Pony. There was discussion about concerns over losing the city’s history because they don’t see a group of 18- to 40-year-olds who are going to replace the generation of gays and lesbians who grew up in the ‘70s, ‘80s and ‘90s.
Pretty much everyone on the Zoom call agreed the founding of CAMP Rehoboth in 1991 by Steve Elkins and Murray Archibald cemented the community’s existence in Rehoboth Beach.
Jacobs said Rehoboth had been queer since the 1920s and 1930s. She was also quick to point out Rehoboth residents, the late Anyda Marchant and Muriel Crawford, who co-founded Naiad Press, one of the first publishing companies dedicated to lesbian literature, in the early 1970s.
There was discussion about how gay men and lesbians didn’t always hang out together. Jacobs said this changed when the AIDS crisis struck the men. The women pitched in and helped the guys, she said.
It became a gay community, not the lesbians and the gay boys, said Jacobs.
Rehoboth resident Frank Cooper said he would like to see a historical marker placed at Poodle Beach. “For most of us, it was the only place where a person could be gay on the beach,” he said.
Jacobs said she would be happy to help get that marker. There were 4,000 men on the beach in the ‘70s and ‘80s, and it was amazing, she said.
According to the museum’s website, Sears is looking to have his new book published in the fall of next year. During the meeting, Sears said he is still interviewing people for his book, and he encouraged people to reach out to him if they want to be included. To contact Sears, email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.