The following is an excerpt from
'The North Shore Beach & Yacht Club'
(an article by Ann Japenga - www.annjapenga.com)
THE ARCHITECT: ALBERT FREY
North Shore Yacht Club builders Ray Ryan and Trav Rogers enlisted a then little-known architect, Albert Frey, to design their resort. Frey, remembered today as one of the most famous modernists, went with a nautical theme and added heavy doses of fantasy. He designed the club to look like a great aluminum ship nosing through the surf, complete with catwalks, a flying bridge, masts and lanyards. The ground floor was made of concrete block; the small upper floor, designed like a crow’s nest with porthole windows, housed the lounge called the Compass Room.
For Frey the design was an expression of his sense of play and joy in architecture, according to his biographer Joseph Rosa. Frey also designed a house as a prototype for a planned community at North Shore, as well as plans for the North Shore Beach Estates project. (The plans are in the archives of the UC Santa Barbara Architecture and Design Collection).
THE VISIONARY: TRAV ROGERS
Trav Rogers was an affable businessman who ran the Old Ranch Club in Palm Springs, along with a bar called the Mink and Manure Riding Club (women in mink coats danced with Palm Springs dudes). He greeted people with three hellos: “Hello, Hello, Hello!” A member of the elite cowboy society of Palm Springs, Rogers rode in the Desert Circus and was a member of the Vaqueros del Desierto and Rancheros Visitadores.
He took a liking to the North Shore area, according to Dan Callahan of Indian Wells, and broached the subject of a club to money-man Ray Ryan: Trav says: ‘We could build a yacht club and also do a lot of riding’. Ray Ryan says: ‘That’s fine let’s do it.’
North Shore resident Dick Schall adds: “Trav Rogers was the go-getter; Ray Ryan was the money.”
Rogers’ daughter, Jimmie Emmons, now 82 and living in Rancho Santa Fe, says her father picked the Yacht Club location for its unrivaled scenery. “Daddy took his horse out there and he’d ride the Chocolate Mountains and the aqueduct. He’d go out on the Sea in the little Yahtzee (the family’s pet name for their little aluminum boat). He’d been eyeing the area for quite some time.”
THE MONEY MAN: RAY RYAN
While Trav Rogers had the vision of a tony club rising in the desert, millionaire oilman Ray Ryan was crucial to the plan’s realization. Owner of the El Mirador Hotel in Palm Springs and the Bermuda Dunes Racquet Club, he was a flamboyant gambler and desert booster.
Ryan would later come to a spectacularly bad end, blown up in a parked Lincoln Continental in Evansville, Indiana. Ryan had IRS troubles and had testified against mobsters. His murder was a suspected gangland slaying.
The developers bought the land in 1958, and then had trouble getting water to the site. Gus Eilers, the resort owner who came before, had to ship water in by tank truck. The developers ended up bringing a pipeline all the way from Mecca to serve the planned subdivision of North Shore Estates.
SELLING THE CLUB
The buzz was felt all the way to LA: A big shiny yacht club, the fanciest place in the desert, was about to open at North Shore. Dan Callahan supplemented his income from his real estate business by selling $90 memberships (membership perks included access to the boat ramp and clubhouse), pocketing $12 on each sale. His sales strategy was to drive through Coachella Valley neighborhoods looking for boats parked in driveways. When he located a boat, he’d knock on the front door of the house. “I sold memberships by the ton,” he says.
Marketers made Callahan’s job easier with their North Shore slogans: “The Glamour Capital of the Salton Sea”, “The Salton Riviera”.
North Shore resident Gladys Fei put together a promotional show along with Merlyn Bogue, a comedian and cornet player who went by the name Ish Kabibble. Later, the Beach Boys would entertain at the club; Jerry Lewis and other entertainers came to hang out at the desert sea.
With two miles of shoreline, pennants flapping from the mast and yardarms, and the giant “V” of the Jetty jutting west into the water--it was a heady setting. You could stand on the jetty and look across a beautiful warm ocean to the Santa Rosas in the distance. The Mediterranean came to mind.
In the 1950’s you could stand in 15-feet of water and “see the bottom as clear as could be,” says part-time North Shore resident Jerry Horn. Jerry courted his wife, Diane, at the Sea, skiing across from the West Shore to her family’s place at North Shore, and then skiing home at twilight. The commute took 30-35 minutes. “You’d ski till it was almost dark and you’d hate to come in,” says Horn.