The Naked Truth, and Nothing but the Naked truth.

The Naked truth of Paradise Health Resort in Ontario.

In the days before there was a synagogue in the Inland Valley, a very special place on south Euclid Avenue in Ontario was the focus of many Jewish activities including some that were rather scandalous if they were leaked to the outside world.  Truth be known, it wasn't a Jewish Synagogue. It was merely owned by a Jewish family who, had absconded the day to day running of the Health resort to another group of people, who had a far more modern outlook on life.

The Paradise Health Resort, as the name implies, was no religious institution.. It attracted visitors who enjoyed the weather and rural experience and came to regain their health. It also was where Jews were welcomed to visit if they wished in an era where many Jews were not as welcomed as was the case else where.. Considering WWII, and the Jewish atrocities which ensued in the labor camps, it is a well known dark little dirty secret of many in the US, and especially the Inland Empire, that Jews were not welcomed in many areas of southern California, even after the war.

Most of the Jewish activities that were held there were for the most part, weddings and fundraising for City of Hope or the United Jewish Appeal or the Jewish hospitals in L.A. Jewish families and friends came to the Paradise Health Resort expecting these planned events were for the most part completley obvlious to its other functions.

From 1922 until about 1954, the resort attracted Jews as well as others to enjoy the swimming, evening entertainment, card-playing and nude sunbathing, massages and Nude Volleyball tournaments and even bowling.. Did I write Nude? Yes I did. The Paradise Health Resort was a Nudist resort disguised as a Jewish Center.

The Paradise had been described in its brochures as similar to resorts in the Catskills where New Yorkers went to rest and enjoy nature hikes, dancing and other activities during the summer months. It was founded by chiropractor Isadore Langsner, who started the place in a small farm house and expanded it as word about its benefits spread to Los Angeles and beyond.  It was even billed as a place where women came to lose weight. Langser would put them on a liquid diet and hope that they lost weight. If they lost enough they were invited to the pool area, where a large sundeck had been built above it. It was for Nature lovers who loved to bare it all and take in as much sun as they could. He would parade his weight losers around in the buff to hundreds of others in the buff and hold contest for the best Nude weight loser, best male, best female best anything.

Residents back then, said there were two types of Jews who lived in the Inland Valley in the 1920s and 1930s. The first were mostly farmers, much like the rest of the population during those times. The others were a small group of intellectuals who were more than a little bit Bohemian in their outlook and often frequented the Paradise. Our first Hippies, who had moved out from LA, were already Nudists, slightly atheists in there thinking and strict vegetarians.

And other than the occasional Jewish wedding or other Jewish activity, it slowly died away as the other clandestine activities became more mainstream at the Paradise Health Resort. There were even one or two communists who liked to come out from LA and espouse there views while shedding there clothing in there bedrooms.  As one local old resident who remembers the place recently stated, they were all free thinkers, barefoot and naked.

Residents also said that the resort also attracted many from Los Angeles' garment district and even a few Hollywood types. No stars were ever seen, but their kids and other family members sometimes showed up at some of the most unusual times.

It was also a very reasonable place to go to. For $10 a week you could get a private room and 3 meals a day. Every Sunday, there was a huge chicken dinner with all of the Jewish side dishes could be had for an additional $1.50 per person. Such a deal! You didn't even have to wear your Sunday best at this place. A pair of sneakers was all you needed.

The resort had sleeping accommodations for 125 and could serve up to 300 for dining. In addition to the pool, there were tennis courts and a playground.

In Sept, 1943, it was announced that the Paradise was sold to a Maurice Lasky and Samuel Shanks of Los Angeles. Shanks was a restaurateur while Lasky had stayed at the Paradise a few years earlier after serving as trainer for his brother, former heavyweight boxer Art Lasky. About 1953 or 1954, Maurice Lasky sold the Paradise to Mal Kravitz and Maurice H. Spiegleman, but the place's future was then at best cloudy.

But the Paradise was running into completion from another source.....It was speculated that the Paradise simply couldn't compete with the growth of Las Vegas as an entertainment destination. Las Vegas was a competitor because there was lots of card-playing at the Paradise, and people just starting going there instead. People who were nudist were staying away and the regular poker players weren't interested in a place like this. For whatever reason, the Paradise's doors were shut during the late 1950s.

The day before Easter 1960, the South Euclid Baptist Church, just across the street from the now-closed Paradise, was gutted by a fire. The caretaker at the Paradise permitted church members to use the building as a temporary facility.....They cleaned up the place and held services. Later the church purchased the property outright and has used it ever since, though with some changes, including removal of the swimming pool, the sundeck, tennis courts and other reminders of the Paradise.

But there is still one little item at the church to remind church goers who know the history of the site, of its past as a supposed Jewish Synagogue. Underneath the carpet in the main church sanctuary, carved in the wooden flooring, is the Star of David.

Comments

I read this article with much interest since I attended the South Euclid Baptist Church as a child. I remember the fire and my daddy coming home black with soot when they were cleaning up the mess. I also remember going to the resort when they decided to use it as a church. I saw the Star of David on the floor but didn't realize it's significance at the time. We remember the little out buildings too. I had no idea of the real history of the resort so I really appreciate reading this article. thanks. Ann Kash. Alpena, Ar.

`I remember spending 2-week long vacations with my parents at the Paradise, in the late 40s and early 50s. Every morning a man's voice announced from a loudspeaker, "Everybody up for exercise. Everybody up for exercise." Then my father and I would join dozens of people gathering on the lawn, where we engaged in supervised exercises.

The meals were scrumptious and huge. My favorite dish was the chicken fricasee...my father claimed that it was made from the fricasee bird. (I've since become a vegan.) Some of my first crushes were on the young waiters who served us.

My passions were playing ping-pong and carousing in the round swimming pool. I swam twice a day. Chaim, the Israeli life guard, taught me the Australian Crawl.

Once I opened the gate of a fenced-in area. I was amazed to see women sunbathing in the nude. I never saw nudity anywhere else at the resort. I joined the sunbathing, albeit in my swimsuit. I acquired a brilliant red sunburn, later followed by massive peeling. In those days, no one worried about the possibility of future skin cancer.

I do recall seeing card-playing. And I remember observing people lounging on the grounds listening to Mickey Katz singing "Joe un Paul" on Jewish radio. The Paradise Resort represents a happy time in my life. Esther Schaeffer Kisich

My father Samuel D.Shanks owned the resort along with a Mr. Laskey in the early 1940s. Although young I remember it well. They decided to part company around 1944 or 45. I loved being there with my dad, mom and sister. Lovely place and time.