Rehoboth Beach holds a special place in Kitty Cole’s heart

98-year-old Olive Avenue resident moved to town as a teenager
April 19, 2022

Story Location:
Boardwalk Plaza Hotel
2 Olive Avenue
Rehoboth Beach, DE 19971
United States

Long before she was the first woman to serve on Sussex County Council in the mid-1980s, lifelong Rehoboth Beach resident Kitty Cole was a young girl and then young woman enjoying life at the beach.

It was those early years of Cole’s life that served as the subject for Rehoboth historian Paul Lovett’s most recent lecture on life in Rehoboth Beach in the early to mid-1900s. The first lecture, held in March, was on the life of Lorenzo Dow Martin, whose farmhouse still stands on the corner of Christian Street and Scarborough Avenue.

In front of a sold-out crowd of about 80 people April 14, Lovett debuted an hour-long interview he conducted with Cole, who is 98 and has lived in her Olive Avenue home for the majority of her life. The video featured family photos from Cole’s childhood and grainy home videos of her young family enjoying the beach town throughout the year – there was a video of people ice skating on Silver Lake. 

Cole spent the earliest part of her life in Harrington, her father a brakeman on the railroad line, before moving as a teenager to a house on Rehoboth Avenue, located where the M&T Bank is currently. In those pre-Rehoboth days, Cole said, she remembers spending time in Oak Orchard. That’s where all the Sussex Countians went, she said.

Cole attended high school on Rehoboth Avenue until the 11th grade. The building was located where the post office is now, and the bricks on the porch of Cole’s Olive Avenue home are from the school.

Cole met her husband Charlie on the Boardwalk in front of Dolle’s.

For a brief period, the Coles lived in Cincinnati while Charlie worked at Remington. She got homesick and traveled back to Sussex County as often as possible.

There was a brief video of the family feeding chickens on their farm in the western part of the county. They had 10,000 chickens, Cole said.

“Everybody was making money, so we had chickens for a couple of years,” she said.

The family may have been making money in Seaford, but Rehoboth was where Cole’s heart was, and she drove back and forth every weekend, all summer.

“Rehoboth is pretty hard to beat,” she said. “From Maine to Florida, nobody has a better beach.”

Prior to the Chesapeake Bay Bridge being built, Cole said, she remembers a lot of the homeowners in Rehoboth were from the surrounding Sussex communities, not from out-of-state cities like today. However, for some reason, she said, there were always some people from Pittsburgh, garnering a laugh from the crowd.

The crowd dispersed fairly quickly at the conclusion of the video, but not before giving Cole, who was in attendance, a hearty round of applause.

Future lectures for the series

Lovett is hosting two more lectures as part of his four-part series on Rehoboth Beach history. On Thursday, May 12, there will be a discussion on Commodore William H. Shock, who had a distinguished naval career before becoming one of the city’s founding fathers. On Thursday, June 9, the presentation will be about the wealthy barons of industry who built cottages on the Boardwalk in the 1880s.

All the lectures begin at 7:15 p.m. and take place in the Kent/Sussex Room of Boardwalk Plaza Hotel, 2 Olive Ave. The cost of each lecture is $25, with money going toward the continued building of Lovett’s diorama of Rehoboth Beach in the early 1920s. The diorama of the railroad era of Rehoboth comprises 70 buildings over five tables. To reserve a seat at one of the lectures, call 302-521-4190.


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