A blog about living in Aberdeen, New Jersey.

Monday, June 23, 2014

History: Cat 'n Fiddle, Cliffwood Beach (1927 - 1969)

The Cat 'n Fiddle Restaurant opened on a boardwalk on the Raritan Bay not long after the Cliffwood Beach community was first developed. It provided food, drink and entertainment by the shore for over thirty years. It was destroyed by a hurricane and was never rebuilt. Below are a selection of articles from The Matawan Journal marking its history.

The 1 Jul 1927 edition of The Matawan Journal had two small advertisements for the Cat 'n Fiddle placed throughout the paper, seven in all.  One recommended "When dancing at the Cliffwood Beach Casino, dine at the new seafood restaurant and cafeteria 'The Cat 'n Fiddle,' on the boardwalk. Reasonable prices." Another announced the new place and recommended the shore dinner at $1.50. It also named the music group playing on Sunday evening 3 July as the "famous Marimba Band from Central America, now the talk of New York."

The 28 Jun 1935 edition of The Matawan Journal (pg 1 col 4) included a small ad referring to the Cat 'n Fiddle as "Jersey's smartest rendezvous." The ad invited customers to "dine and dance on the water's edge. Perfect dinners 55 cents. Cocktails 25 cents, served on Cocktail Porch overlooking the sea. Dancing Friday, Saturday and Sunday. The Owens Brothers Orchestra from 7 pm to 1 am." An ad on page 9 announced, "Richard Jennings, manager of the Cat 'n Fiddle, will again supervise the service. Several bridge luncheons have been scheduled for this week. Each Friday, Saturday and Sunday evening a dance orchestra appears."

The 29 Jun 1944 edition of The Matawan Journal (pg 1, col 8) included a small advertisement for the Cat 'n Fiddle, which would reopen under new management on 30 Jun 1944. "Choice liquors and food at reasonable prices. No cover. No minimum. No tax."

The 14 Jun 1951 edition of The Matawan Journal contained a public notice by the following persons, as representatives of the Krieg Corporation, doing business as the Cat 'n Fiddle, who were seeking a liquor license in Matawan Township: William E Webster, Jr, President, 1250 Shore Concourse, Cliffwood Beach, NJ; R Edgerton Webster, Vice President, Jamesburg, NJ; Isabel F Webster, Secretary-Treasurer, 1250 Shore Concourse, Cliffwood Beach, NJ; and Cliffwood Beach Amusements, Inc, Cliffwood Beach, NJ.

The 26 May 1955 edition of The Matawan Journal (pg 1 col 5) ran an article announcing the opening of The Cat 'n Fiddle for the summer season. "Ray and his Jazz Bandits will be featured this summer at The Cat 'n Fiddle, in Cliffwood Beach, which will open this coming Saturday. Frank Cerranty will be at the bar and also will be manager of the establishment. The Cat 'n Fiddle is located on the Raritan Bay beachfront and it has been in operation for 25 years. It is owned by Morrisey and Walker, and is one mile from the Pirate Ship. There is a large parking area and reasonable prices will prevail for snacks and refreshments." The large ad above appeared on page 13.

The 15 Sep 1960 edition of The Matawan Journal (pg 1 col 3) provided the following excerpted reporting on damage caused by Hurricane Donna at Cliffwood Beach on Monday 12 September.

"Bayfront areas of Matawan Township took a battering from Hurricane Donna, especially in sections bordering Matawan Creek and in portions of Cliffwood Beach. During the worst of the hurricane, water was nine to 10 feet deep in the streets of Cliffwood Bench, police reported.

Damage in the beach area was estimated at more than $150,000. Ten families were evacuated from the waterfront area to the Cliffwood Fire House. Flooding in Cliffwood Beach reached all the way back to Greenwood Ave.

The storm lashed bay waters completely covered the roofs of the 180 unit colony of seacots* facing the bay at Cliffwood Beach and crashed through the rear of the Cat 'n Fiddle Restaurant, splitting the building in two. Police were stationed at the restaurant after looting was reported."

* The Seacot Village in Cliffwood Beach in Matawan Township

A seacot was a small summer rental, presumably an abbreviation for "seaside cottage." Helen Henderson shows a photograph of a "cozy seacot" and provides some information on rental prices, etc, on page 87 of her book "Around Matawan and Aberdeen."

An article in the 12 Aug 1948 edition of The Matawan Journal (pg 5) mentions the death of a renter by heart attack at the Cliffwood Beach Seacot Colony.

The 6 May 1965 edition of The Matawan Journal (pg 1) published the rates for seacots to hook up to the Cliffwood water supply for the season. Units with one water tap paid $8.80/season; it was $17.50 for units with three taps; and renters paid $7.30 for an outside shower.


The Cat 'n Fiddle was destroyed by fire in December 1963, according to an article in the 16 Dec 1963 edition of The Red Bank Register.

The 2 Jul 1964 edition of The Matawan Journal reported the opening of the Cat 'n Fiddle for the season on 2 Jul 1964. The restaurant was apparently rebuilt after the December 1963 fire.

The 27 Jan 1966 edition of The Matawan Journal, which reported on a Nor'easter that struck the area on Sunday 23 Jan 1966, mentioned the Cat 'n Fiddle and seacots in a photo caption on the front page. The captionn read, in part:

"Driven by gale force northeasterly winds Sunday, waters of Raritan Bay overflowed the banks of Matawan Creek, flooding marinas and fishing stations along the way. The Cliffwood Beach section of Matawan Township was hard hit as water swept by the Seacot Colony, Cat 'N Fiddle Restaurant, and the Cliffwood Beach Pool. One woman, wife of the caretaker at the pool, had to be rescued by first aid men equipped with a boat. . . ."

The 10 Aug 1967 edition and 24 Aug 1967 edition of The Matawan Journal (pp 2 and 10, resp) contained an advertisement for the Cat 'n Fiddle, which was under new management. Hours were daily noon to 1 am; Saturday 10 am to 1 am. The Harry Thomas Review, featuring Eileen Walsh, was appearing on Fridays and Saturdays.

The 4 Jul 1968 edition of The Matawan Journal (pg 12) contained an ad for the Cat 'n Fiddle, which was promoting dancing and entertainment on weekends. Pat and Joe were the hosts.

The 31 Oct 1968 edition of The Matawan Journal (pg 16) reports on an investigation of fraud against the owners of the Cat 'n Fiddle.

ABC Sets Hearing For Area Tavern

A hearing will be held Nov. 4 in Newark offices of the Division of Alcoholic Beverage Control into charges against the Kreig Corp., owners of the Cat 'N Fiddle in Cliffwood Beach, of giving false information on a liquor license application.

The ABC alleges the stock of the corporation is held by three New York state residents. Corporate
officers insist the stock is in the hands of New Jersey residents as stated on its June 5, 1968 license application.

The 23 Jan 1969 edition of The Matawan Journal (pg 1) announced the state's revocation of the Kreig Corp's liquor license to operate the Cat 'n Fiddle due to the fraud charges.

 Details of the demolition of the bar and seacot colony have yet to be found.
UPDATED to add an image of the Dec 1963 Red Bank Register article, some details about seacots, details from the Jan 1966 Nor'easter article, news of new ownership in Aug 1967, and word of fraud charges in Oct 1968 that led to the revocation of the liquor license in Jan 1969.


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