Woman recalls glory days of Archibald Park cabin – Wayne Ayers


Dottie Miller shows the framed American flag that was given to the DAV by Rep. C.W. Bill Young, R-Indian Shores, the day the Snack Shack opened.

MADEIRA BEACH – Recent efforts to “Save our Snack Shack” have drawn public attention to the somewhat incongruous log cabin sitting in the middle of Archibald Park.

The barrage of publicity associated with the campaign has caused many residents to wonder about the structure’s past, while pondering its future.

Dottie Miller of Seminole has been an eyewitness and participant in the cabin’s Snack Shack glory days. She also has first-hand knowledge of the cabin’s roots, which stretch back to the 1930s.

Miller was present for the grand opening of the Snack Shack, a beachside fast food and beverage stand operated by volunteers of the Disabled American Veterans and the DAV Auxiliary.

Miller and her late husband Cal were members of local DAV Chapter 13, which opened the Snack Shack as a fundraising venture to aid local vets. Cal Miller had an office on the cabin’s second floor where he helped veterans file claims for their government benefits.

Opening day for the Snack Shack in 1975 was a big deal, Miller said. Congressman C.W. Bill Young, R-Indian Shores, attended the event and presented the chapter with an American Flag which had flown over the nation’s Capitol. Miller still has the framed flag.

Miller was able to recite the Snack Shack’s menu, consisting of hamburgers, hot dogs, chili dogs, cheese dogs, onion rings, French fries, fish sandwiches and ice cream. Beach balls, floats, sand pails and beach chairs also were available. Business owners and city workers joined beachgoers for lunch at the cabin.

Visitors from nearby Bay Pines Hospital got special treatment.

“At least once a month, 15 to 25 veterans would come over and we’d treat them all to hamburgers, French fries and a cold drink,” Miller said. After lunch, the veterans would hang around, some playing cards, while others just relaxed on the beach or walked the beach.

“Some of them just wanted someone to talk to,” Miller said.

The Snack Shack was open seven days a week, 52 weeks a year, from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. Enough volunteers applied to help so that half-day shifts were possible.

“A lot of people would come down on holidays, before and after their dinner,” Miller said

Community groups also made use of the cabin during its Snack Shack days. The Boy Scouts met upstairs, as did the DAV chapter auxiliary and other local groups.

“It was truly a gathering place for the community,” Miller said.

The log cabin’s history and association with veterans predates the Snack Shack era, Miller said. The structure was originally built as a rehabilitation center for veterans, and opened in 1932, the same year as Bay Pines Hospital.

“There was nothing but trees and bushes (on the site). The VA came and cleared it out and built the cabin,” Miller said. In the early days, veterans came over for therapy and recreation.

The cabin’s rehabilitation center days lasted until the early ’70s. Then it stood vacant for a few years, Miller said. Around 1974, a man tried to open an informal restaurant in the structure. But he had to hire all of his help, and the venture failed, Miller said.

The Disabled American Veterans chapter took over soon after, and the Snack Shack was born, she said.

The cabin exterior’s “natural” wood finish is fairly recent, Miller said. The original cabin color scheme was described by Miller as “burnt red.” In the mid-1980s the city painted it blue, she said.

The scroll work on the ceiling also can be seen at Bay Pines Hospital. “The same man painted them both,” Miller said.

The parking fee was all day for a quarter, which was paid on the way out. “There was a gate which would open when you put in a quarter to let you out,” Miller said.

Meters were installed by the city in the mid-1990s, and the rate was raised to 50 cents an hour, she said. The DAV volunteers opened the coin boxes and took the proceeds to the bank. The DAV was rewarded with a portion of the parking revenue, Miller said.

The Snack Shack closed for good in 1998, ending a long era of service to the community and area veterans. In 2000, the parking meter rate was raised to $1 an hour, and restaurateur Frank Chivas began his long and ultimately unsuccessful effort to transform the Snack Shack into a destination beach restaurant. The city recently paid Chivas more than $500,000 to settle a lawsuit over the matter.

The cabin’s demolition appeared certain until several months back when Kaitlyn Chalke, a student at Madeira Beach Middle School, launched her Save the Snack Shack campaign.

Dottie Miller hopes that effort succeeds … and that a renewed Snack Shack will become a place of rekindled memories and memorable experiences for generations to come


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Published on TBNWeekly.com – June 6, 2007

Woman recalls glory days of Archibald Park cabin

Article published on Wednesday, June 6, 2007

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