Southampton-Card-667-Bathing-corporation
By Amy Phillips Penn

“I wouldn’t want to belong to a club that would have me as a member,” quipped Groucho Marx.

The Bathing Corporation, yes “corporation,” of Southampton, known to “people like us,” as “the Beach Club,” divides its members, members-to be, and “as if’s, with the clink of a Southsider: lime juice, mint, soda water… oh yes, and gin.

Money can’t always buy in, but what can?

Originally a small club with a few hundred members, the Beach Club, a kiss-kiss and “do tell” cousin to Southampton’s Meadow Club (tennis anyone-who’s-anyone?) with a slight variation on membership themes, make a chiseled nose-in-the-air-pair.

No one near the nose bleed section of society need apply.

The Beach Club originated with an intime group of families who formed a club with two cafeterias; mediocre food at best; a beach that is diminishing in dimensions, while roped in from commoners, who have a great view of the club members and vice versa; privacy at its finest.

Then, there’s the salt water swimming pool and lockers, and that’s it.

As the Waspier members accepted those outside their swarm (legend has it that the McDonnell/Ford/Murray clan made its way in because of an invention they patented that was a necessity for the club’s pool)“inclusion” redefined it’s very inclusive self.

Etiquette and breeding are essential.

The same goes for East Hampton’s clubby clone, the Maidstone Club.

A friend of mine invited me to Maidstone, years ago.

I declined, because I was happy at home poolside, babysitting my younger sister. My friend insisted that we go to Maidstone, so off we went, my sister wearing a Lilly bikini bottom, and a bulging baby stomach. On the way to the club, my friend’s mother interrogated us, minus humor or charm, or even a semblance of good cop/ bad cop foreplay.

Who did we know who were members, had we been there before??? Easy lady, we didn’t even want to club it.

To prove the point, my sister squatted in front of the ocean, wriggled out of her itsy bitsy teenie weenie Lilly, and did what nature called for, a trick that her new best friend had taught her.

We did not apply for membership.

Years ago, the Bathing Corporation’s membership was loosely defined as family members, their spouses, and children.

The Beach Club is not without humour. When Lilly Pulitzer made her debut, her friends and family supported her by wearing her signature hot pink and green, froggy, bunnied, flowery, Mini’s and Lilly’s.

Even the men wore Lilly jeans, not the most so macho designs, alternated with green, red and even pink trousers and a navy blue blazer.

What’s a fun club without gossip?

The wife of a former Bathing Club President met religiously once a week at the Beach Club with a chosen few to Cuisinart and dissect others, well coiffed and in impeccable diction.

Friends gossiping about friends was always “a special” on the menu.

The Bathing Corporation may have tweaked its membership, a soupçon.

A guest visiting recently said it was more relaxed, younger, even more fun.

Now all they need is a bigger beach; perhaps that way all members can bring their spouses. You just never know.

Featured image courtesy of AAQ

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