Hampton Beach Casino Ballroom - Act III: Fred Schaake, Sr.

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1899 - 1999

Rebuilding a Tradition and Looking Ahead

Fred Schaake, Sr. worked at the Casino during the summer, starting at the age of 14, at the soda fountain. He knew the beach when it was a place for entire families to come and spend an entire summer. And he knew the beach was changing when he and a small consortium of businessmen put up $1 million for the aging Casino in the mid-1970s.

Although we know the Casino to be a thriving place today, the old venue was a long way toward inevitable ruin when Schaake took the building over. The beach was no longer a place where families stayed for months. Vacations were short and hectic, and as much was being crammed into one week as possible. The old markets and clothing stores were gone, replaced by souvenir and gift shops and fast food restaurants.

Fred Schaake, Sr.
Fred Schaake, Sr.
president of the Hampton Beach Casino, Inc.

[Photograph by Ralph Morang.]

In 1976, Schaake said he would "do whatever it takes to accommodate tourists. We have to adapt to changes in entertainment trends and still have something to appeal to all age groups and every family member on a rainy day."

Schaake ripped out the old and decaying parts of the building and put in two mini-malls. He replaced the old Ocean House Hotel and put in the first seasonal McDonald's, which is still not open in the winter months. Just over a decade ago ten corporate skyboxes were installed.

But Schaake had another hurdle to overcome as well. He took over the Casino from John Dineen, the son of Massachusetts businessman John J. Dineen, who had purchased the Casino in 1927. The younger Dineen was a former FBI agent who ran a strict place and enforced a dress code (which thwarted at least one broken-hearted fan in the late 1950s, as we shall see), but who also understood the music business as well.

Dineen brought in rock acts in the 1960s such as The Doors and The Who, all of whom played to sold-out rooms. In 1971, however, after a disastrous show by the British band Jethro Tull, rock shows were banned by the town government.

This turned out to be not much of an obstacle, however. It forced one of Schaake's original partners, Jim Goodwin, to seek out a more diversified roster of acts coming to the Ballroom. Goodwin ordered up an eclectic mix of performers. This approach is still used by Fred Schaake, Jr., who today is the general manager of the Casino Ballroom.

As a result, says Fred Sr., "the Casino is once again the heart of Hampton Beach."

Schaake is a smart enough businessman to know that tastes evolve and that Hampton Beach must evolve further still if it is to thrive in the 21st century.

"Right now we're in the midst of change," he said. "When we bought the property in 1976 Hampton was still very much a cottage community. We didn't have the hotels we have now. People are coming for shorter stays. We've had to change right along with that concept."

"We'll obviously remain as an entertainment complex, but there is a definite need for first class hotel rooms at the Casino and perhaps down the road, we'll be open year round," says Schaake. "We're getting ready for a complete rebuilding."

The future of the Hampton Beach Casino Ballroom will indeed be something to see.

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