The History of Ocean View | Station Museum

In this episode of Discover OV, we talk with the director of the Ocean View Station Museum, Charlies Fleetwood.  


Charlies shares some amazing stories from the history of this local community.


Plan your visit to the Ocean View Station Museum located at the Petlow Library by visiting the museum website here.

From their website:
The Ocean View Station Museum, tucked away in Norfolk’s quaint beachfront neighborhood of Ocean View, welcomes the public to explore the history of this neighborhood and the City of Norfolk.  Throughout its past and into its future, Ocean View (or OV as it is called by locals) continues to pride itself on heritage and community.   The OVSM enshrines that spirit.  Thank you for visiting our website and we hope you will visit us soon. 
Full Transcription

Eric 0:02
Well, you have a tuned in and found us here for our inaugural episode. Episode 1 of our podcast and myself and all the other business leaders that are a part of the ocean view Business Association, have been really excited about bringing this podcast to life and bringing it to you. So you can discover all that we know about ocean view and all of the things that we love about living, working and playing in this amazing, unique community. Now we’re kicking things off by actually taking a pause and looking to the past, if you will, in case you’re not aware at the Pretlow Library is the Station Museum. And this is really the Historical Museum for Ocean View. If you’ve never been there before, you need to get in and check it out. I was completely surprised by the pictures, the artifacts, the story, the way they capture have captured the story and told it from all the years of ocean view here.

Eric 1:44
And in this inaugural episode, I have sat down and interviewed and talked with Charlie Fleetwood. Charlie is the director of the museum and him and I what you’re about to listen in on is a conversation that Charlie and I had sitting at a table inside the museum. So there’ll be some background noise and and things going on. And at some point in time, I think somebody even walks by and we talked to them, but just yeah, we just were having a conversation. And so thank you for listening to this inaugural episode. And I’ll be back at the end to give you some more information. But for right now, would you please just relax and listen, as Charlie and I have a conversation about the history of Ocean View?

Charlie 2:34
Charlie, thank you for sitting down and talking to me today about the about Ocean View. So why don’t you if you would do me a favor and explain to everybody listening where you and I sitting at right now?

Charlie 2:49
Well, the museum has been here a little bit over 20 years. I just started about four or five years ago. And and now I’m the director, and we depend on all volunteer staff. I married an Ocean View girl a very long time ago. And I’ve been living we have been living in Ocean View. Since 1963. Wow. Okay, a long time. But I’ve always held a special interest in Ocean View and the people here. And one of the things that I’ve learned I’ve really enjoyed being here at the museum, because I’ve learned more about Ocean View from the people that come in here than anything else. And they all have a story to tell. And I’m a good listener. And I listen. And I’ve heard about little boys growing up on a beach and a little girls down the candy store and Florence’s drugstore and on and on and on. I took my wife to Rosie’s Rosalie theater, on our first date, okay, that was early, mid 50s, late 50s. But everybody has their own story to tell and all the people that live here, love ocean view. And they love to come back. They move a lot of them they have moved away. And now they’re a lot of the older folks are coming back. And they can’t wait to come in here and look around and say I remember that and I remember that. And it’s so great. So

Eric 4:51
You were saying that as people come in, you hear all these stories? What’s been, you know, one or two of your favorite stories that you’ve heard people share from ocean view.

Charlie 5:00
A gentleman came in. He lives in Tucson, Arizona now. And he’s probably in his late 60s, early 70s. And he had to tell he was back visiting friends or relatives or somebody. And he was telling me all about when he grew up in the amusement park and and he worked on as a mate on one of the party boats during the summer and all this and that. And then he looked over here at the clown. And he said, and do you know who the clown is? Not exactly. He said, that’s my father. My father was candy the clown who retired Norfolk police officer who worked as a clown over the amusement park and he had these great big pockets. That’s one of his original costumes. Okay, he had all these pockets of big pockets filled with candy and he just walked around giving everybody candy any Candy the Clown.

Eric 6:18
Candy the Clown.

Charlie 6:19
Yeah, yeah. I met Candy’s little boy.

Eric 6:23
There you go. There you go. So and so now you have a you have one of his original clown costumes.

Charlie 6:30
Yeah, that’s it.

Eric 6:31
All right. That’s got him sitting and one that now is that an a replica? Oh, car from the roller coaster? Or is that one of the…

Charlie 6:40
That’s one of the originals.

Eric 6:41
That’s one of the original cars from the roller coaster?

Charlie 6:44
We found that in my 2008.

Eric 6:49
Okay, okay. Okay.

Charlie 6:51
It was next to an old building on Cali Avenue. And one of our folks went over, knocked on the door and said, introduced himself and said, What do you folks gonna do with this? You know, and he said, that piece of junk if you want it, you can have it. So we took it and refurbished it and got it all fixed up and brought it in here and it’s been here since might 2008.

Eric 7:18
Alright, so for those that don’t know, when did the amusement park close?

Charlie 7:24
When did the this museum?

Eric 7:25
When did the amusement park close?

Charlie 7:28
Oh, the amusement parks?

Eric 7:29
mid 70s, wasn’t it?

Charlie 7:31
That was 1979

Eric 7:36
79. Okay. So late 70s,

Charlie 7:37
Close to 79. And that was the owners went out of business.

Eric 7:46

Charlie 7:47
And they had Busch Gardens, Kings Dominion. Virginia Beach was just beginning to blossom as a tourist destination. And people stopped coming to the amusement park. A wandering anyway. So it’s just a question of, you know, business.

Eric 8:06

Charlie 8:07
Business decision.

Eric 8:08

Charlie 8:09
And so, somehow, the city wound up with it. They may have bought it. I’m not sure I can speak to that. But they tore it all down, had it all torn down. And built the built out Park over here.

Eric 8:31
Okay. Okay.

Charlie 8:32
And that that’s the way it’s the way it is now.

Eric 8:37
All right. All right. Charlie, what’s a story that you guys share or tell to visitors that gets the biggest reaction from people when they when they come into the museum?

Charlie 8:50
Well, it’s usually stories about the old amusement park that is I remember the old amusement park and I rode on these things, and, and, of course, people that come in that are my age, they grew up all around the park and whatnot. And we just like to share old stories about the different rides and, you know, the salt and pepper shaker and all of these different things. I had a gentleman come in probably my age. He had his 90 some year old mother with him. And he’s looking and he says, mom, she’s on a walker. He’s Mom, look, there’s the salt and pepper shaker. He said, I’ll never forget riding that thing. And she says, I’ll never forget either the first time you got on when you got off, you threw up. Again, I couldn’t help me get back on again and right here. Don’t do it. Yeah, but there are a lot of stories about it the old tunnel of fun. Some people called it that Tunnel of Love. Boats went down through the end, it was dark. And all of a sudden, you’d be going along in the boat in the water, and all of a sudden everything would light up and it’d be something really funny or scary or something like that. And the boat would continue the lights would go back out. And and it’s just a lot of fun. Yeah, no, people talk about that.

Eric 10:30
Well I, So I moved here in 2016. And I was in Coaster Coffee. And I was confused how it got its name, Coaster. And I and I asked and because their logo was a roller coaster. And, and that’s when I learned, you know, that they’re even what used to be in amusement park, I had no idea. So it’s neat to be able to come here to the museum and see the pictures, you know, and all the stuff. So really cool. Now, there’s a you got a lot of history in here. That’s not that’s, you know, not the the amusement park. That’s just part of OV’s history.

Charlie 11:10
Oh, yeah.

Eric 11:10
Yeah. So what are some of the other stories that you have pictures of in here that you’d like to show?

Charlie 11:15
Tremendous amount of history here…How Willoughby was formed. And that dates back to the late 1700s, early 1800s. From what we know today, it was formed by a series of hurricanes back to back hurricanes and formed Willoughby, there was a gentleman and his family lived down here. And he had obtained a land grant from the King of England for his property. And one day he, they looked out there and there was Willoughby a great big sandbar. And he wrote to the king and the king said, Well, congratulations, you’ve just inherited a sandbar.

Eric 12:11
That’s funny.

Charlie 12:12
But and so that’s that’s how Willoughby came to be the first flight naval aviation was right here in Hampton Roads. The plane took off off of the bow of a Navy cruiser.

Eric 12:29
It was a cruiser. Okay, so they were just testing the idea of

Charlie 12:33

Eric 12:33
Of aircraft carriers,

Charlie 12:34
They built a big platform on the bow. The Navy was curious if a plane could fly off the ship.

Eric 12:44
Okay. Okay.

Charlie 12:45
It never been done before. And the Navy didn’t have any aircraft or anything. There was no such thing as an airplane carrier. There was no Naval Air Station over here. They hired a stunt pilot named Eugene Ely. And they took Ely plane and put it on on the deck of the cruiser. And of course, he was involved with the design how to make this thing and on and on. And they did a lot of planning on this thing. Finally, they got ready to go, the thing took off. And the pilot flew his plane about for loops around the Hampton Roads area. And then all of this planning and never planned on where to land. Any place to land. Or you landed on the beach in Willoughby?

Eric 13:45
Because it would have been no, there was no naval air or airport at that time.

Charlie 13:50
No. The Navy didn’t have any pilots already so the first naval a pilot was a stunt pilot. And he wasn’t even in the Navy

Eric 14:03
Wasn’t in the Navy

Charlie 14:03
He was a civilian.

Eric 14:04

Charlie 14:04
They hired him to see if this would work.

Eric 14:08
And then flew around because no place to land.

Charlie 14:10
Yeah. Well, I think he was just showing off.

Eric 14:13

Charlie 14:13
He did about four loops around and then he was probably started to run out of gas. And so he says, I gotta put this thing down somewhere. So he landed on the beach.

Eric 14:24
That’s great. That’s great. So let me ask you this. Out of all of the other and all of the many things from the history of Ocean View, let’s uh, what’s one thing you wish you could have seen?

Charlie 14:40
I would have liked to have seen the Battle of the Monitor on the Merrimack which took place first to iron clad ships right out here in Hampton Roads. And I understand that people sat on a beach it will be in watched.

Eric 14:56
Wow, that would have been during the Civil War.

Charlie 14:58

Eric 14:59

Charlie 14:59
You Civil War.

Eric 15:01
So each with the North and the South each had their first metal clad?

Charlie 15:06
The Monitor was designed by the North. And the Merrimack was designed by the south and they built the Merrimack on a hull of an old sailing ship. They built a sloping sides and all of that. And they fought all day long. right out here in Hampton Roads to a stalemate. They couldn’t hurt each other.

Eric 15:41

Charlie 15:42
I know. Yeah, it’s really unique. I’ve just I’ve always had a soft spot in my heart for the Monitor and the Merrimack.

Eric 15:49
Okay. Yeah, I can see that.

Charlie 15:51
That and to me, I would love to see the Ocean View Station, I would have loved to have seen that again. We have pictures of it was right out here in our parking lot. And it was built as a trolley car station. The trolley cars came from Norfolk to Ocean View.

Eric 16:15
Okay. Okay.

Charlie 16:17
And they branched out from there. They actually to the west, halfway between Ocean View proper is east well, that and East beach halfway in between. There were a cluster of cottages. The trolley line came up. Great, what is Granby Street now? And then went down to those cottages. And that was called the Cottage Line. That whole community now is known as the cottage line. Yeah. All thanks to the trolley car.

Eric 17:02
There’s more to a name than you think. Yeah. Yeah. So that’s Is that why there’s that such wide strips down the middle of Granby? Is that where the trolley used to run?

Charlie 17:13
I don’t remember.

Eric 17:15

Charlie 17:15
About Granby, more, more than likely. So. But I would be afraid to say

Eric 17:21
No, that’s okay. Yeah. Curious. All right. Night. All right. So what? What are the museum hours? Generally?

Charlie 17:32
We shoot for 10 in the morning, till five in the evening. Monday through Saturday.

Eric 17:43

Charlie 17:45
And on Sundays, we’re open from one to five.

Eric 17:53
Okay. Okay. So you have a website? I’ve seen your guys’s website.

Charlie 18:00

Eric 18:00
So we’ll make sure we link to that and let people know what the website is. But I mean, this is a if nobody’s been here, they need to come up to the library, and come in and check things out. Because it’s, it’s fast. And where did you get most of the pictures and displays.

Charlie 18:16
Practically everything that we have over time has been donated, okay. And we’ve got a wonderful collection down here. And we also have a great collection of old high school yearbooks of Granby, Norview. And more people come up and say, I have my yearbook from 1938, or it’s my grandmother’s, would you like to have it, I’d like to donate it to the museum. And so we take things for granted. It’s amazing the number of people that come in, and sit down here at this table, and just sit here for hours looking through the old yearbooks finding themselves, finding other family members, finding their mothers and fathers, you know, yeah.

Eric 19:11
So I see that the museums free, but you’ve got these great t shirts over here. People come by and have and you operate mostly all volunteer base, all volunteer, all volunteer base, and mostly through donations then?

Charlie 19:26
Yeah, we accept donations, and we primarily exist off the sales of the sweatshirts and T shirts and the ball caps.

Eric 19:35
Okay. Okay,

Charlie 19:36
If you see a picture in here that you like, we can reproduce anything and large, make it smaller, black and white color. Oh, I had a lady come in a couple of weeks ago, and she found a picture of an old bait cleaning station was a derelict looking clothes a horrible looking how many people you know would take their get off the fishing boats appears or whatever. And a couple of guys and they were clean the fish. This lady told me when she was a little girl, her and her friends would go over there. And they would the guys working in there would save all the fish heads…

Eric 20:25
Oh Geez

Charlie 20:26
for them to go crabbing with and then spend all day down there crabbing, if she saw the picture of this she said I gotta have that. I thought where in the world is this woman going to put that I didn’t ask any questions.

Eric 20:44
Well, Charlie, thank you very much for spending a little bit of time with us sharing about the museum sharing a little bit about the history of ocean view. And I’m going to recommend and encourage people to get down here and see the museum and see you just as soon as they can.

Charlie 21:00
Why would be wonderful. And thank you. Thank you very much.

Eric 21:05
Again, I want to say thank you to Charlie for spending some time with me that afternoon and talking about OV and helping us learn a little bit more about the history of this amazing place. And it’s helped shaped its its character and it’s wimzie. And it’s just unique atmosphere that we have here in Ocean View. Now I want to encourage you to head on over yourself and check out the Station Museum located inside the Mary Pretlow Library. And while you’re there, I want to hear what you’ve discovered. What What’s your favorite picture, what’s a story you’ve come across and to do that, just take a picture put it on your favorite social media outlet and use the hashtag OV biz #OVBIZ and we will be watching out for that on Instagram Facebook and looking forward to seeing what you discover about ocean view at the station museum.