Lumina: Remembering the Light

LuminaResting on a narrow barrier island outside Wilmington, it packed in people from all over the U.S. Deft dancers twirled to jazz and swing tunes there, while famous bandleaders performed the latest hit songs.  Children crowded the veranda, while happy couples strolled in the moonlight or watched a film flicker across the outdoor movie screen set in the surf.

From the turn of the century to 1973, the Lumina Pavilion, or Lumina as it came to be called, was a bright oasis for those seeking companionship and camaraderie.  Bandleaders Glenn Miller, Kay Kyser and Cab Calloway packed in crowds from Atlanta and Washington, D.C. onto the polished dance floor to jitterbug their blues away.  People kissed their future husbands and wives there, watched Miss North Carolina adjust her new crown, and discovered that the best way to bury a whiskey flask was to make sure to mark the spot.

Lumina was torn down in 1973, but the memories remain alive in the hearts of many.  The UNC-TV production Lumina: Remembering The Light invokes the Southern site ’s glory days once again. Narration, interviews with locals and archival pictures tell the Lumina story.  “Anybody who was anyone came and played there,” says UNC-TV producer Tim Ruffin.  The program includes many rare photographs of Lumina and the people who flocked there summer after summer for fun and frivolity.

Lumina: Remembering The Light concentrates on the bygone eras of the 1920s, 1930s and 1940s.  “Lumina in its heyday was a destination.  Special trains brought people into Wilmington, then they headed straight to Lumina on beach trolleys,” says Ruffin.  According to Ruffin, the only way to reach Lumina was by boat or by trolley until the 1930s, when a new bridge enabled access by car.  Now, three gray, weathered condominiums stand where Lumina once shined.  “This is about people enjoying a grand place,” says Ruffin.