A Trip to the Shore

This is a compilation of a 4-part series I just ran on my blog this week to share with my friends on Facebook as a one-shot. It just makes it easier to read. Enjoy!

Philadelphia, PA – July 2021

Thursday

My old friend Wolfie texted me that he was going down to Wildwood to attend a family event. He asked me if I wanted a ride down there. He said He’d swing by Philly and pick me up and then we’d head down. He wasn’t coming back home to where he lives until Tuesday so I figured that could work. I texted my sister who was already down there at her house to check with her.

She said the upstairs was free from other guests and that I was welcome. I figured I hadn’t been on vacation in years so I told her I’d be down for a few days. I had been writing my butt off for two months straight on commercial gigs and needed a break.

Wolfie said he’d be down late Thursday after he visited with his daughter who was leaving to join the Navy. So I figured I had time to pack that afternoon. But he texted me around 2 pm that he was done seeing her and that he was headed to me. I leaped up from my desk and grabbed a bag. I stuffed it with as many items as I could think of for a 4-day vacation. I hadn’t been away in a long time and kept a checklist on my phone just in case, but it suddenly became crunch time.

He showed up in no time and within less than 20 minutes he was in front of my house. I tossed my stuff on the backseat of his car and off we went. I was stupid happy to see my friend and former bandmate of 40 years.

It was a sunny warm day and lately, it’s been a pretty hot summer so far. We decided once we got over the bridge we were going to take the back way to the shore. Most people take the Atlantic City Expressway to the Garden State Parkway to get down there. I prefer the back way. It’s a more scenic route and you can stop off anytime you like to do whatever.

The first stop was to grab some lunch. We pulled off the road to a little roadside burger joint called the Purple Penguin. I love places like this because it reminds me of my times back in the early 80s when I’d take road trips in my old van. And of course on the road to California back in ’82. I love the road. Just that endless black ribbon under that massive blue sky. There’s something liberating about being in a car on a warm day and traveling to places unknown.

Wolfie tells me that he’s been on a healthy diet so he goes with a wrap and of course, I go with a big ol’ cheeseburger and fries.

It’s a hot day and the only place to escape the July sun is at a picnic table under an umbrella, which is just fine. After about 20 minutes we’re back on the road again. I wanted to do something for my sister as a little thank you for letting me come down and hang out for a few days at the shore, so I ask Wolfie if we can stop again if we see a roadside nursery.

We do in a short while and he grinds the car into the dirt lot out front. There’s an array of plants and flowers everywhere, and I’m sure I’ll find something to bring my sister. I figured a plant was better than flowers because flowers die. But Wold pointed out that maybe it’s good that flowers die because it’s a nice gesture, but then they die. A plant sort of forces the recipient with a new responsibility to care for the living thing you just gifted them. Point taken, but I’m sticking with the plant for now as a present.

I found this lovely plant with pink flowers. I’m sure she’ll like it. We hop back in the car and make our way towards Wildwood.

We did get a little turned around for a moment but I told him, if we just keep heading south we can’t get lost. Because New Jersey just keeps getting slimmer the further south you go. No matter what happens, if we head south we’ll hit the shore!

We end up on route 9, and we’re right on track. It doesn’t take us to get to the shore after that. It was a great moment for me to be riding in a car with one of my oldest friends as we drove over the bridge and onto the island. It was like… we’re back!

We get to the house and pull up on the carport. My sister comes out to greet us and I’m really happy to see her. I whip out the flowery plant, but then notice she has not one, but two of the exact type of plants hanging from the porch. (You can see those beauties in the photo at the top of this post!) They are so much bigger and more beautiful than my little “Charlie Brown Christmas Tree” plant! We get a good laugh about it and she likes the plant anyway.

Wolfie comes into the house and is amazed at how my sister has remodeled the old shore house. She took what was once lovely in the ’70s to a clean, white modern version of what a shore house should look like. Truly elegant! She did an amazing job bringing the property into the21st century.

They chat a bit and I stay quiet because I’ve been chatting with Wolfie for the last two and half hours. My sister hasn’t seen him since our parent’s funeral and I wanted to give them a chance to catch up.

Wolfie always liked my dad. Everybody did. He was a cool guy to all of my friends. They all thought he was an amazing dude.

After a bit, Wolf had to get to where he needed to go. The reason for his trip to the shore was to meet up with his family for a social event. Someone was having a baby and there was to be a shower. He wouldn’t be attending that in particular but there would be many relatives there so he wanted to see them all. We hoped we could meet up over the weekend and hang out a bit if possible.

Wildwood, New Jersey – July 2021

Friday

The next morning I woke up upstairs in the apartment on the second floor of the shore house. This used to be where my father lived. This may be the bed he slept in for all I know. The apartment still has the 70s vibe and the walls are covered in wood paneling. I kind of like that it reminds me of a time in the past when life was simpler.

I looked at my phone at it was 5:30 am. Early. I looked at the weather app and it said sunrise was at 5:45. I knew I had 15 minutes to walk the block and a half to the beach to see the sunrise. I hadn’t seen a sunrise in I don’t know how long. It may have been the late 70s or early 80s but it was probably after I’d stayed out all night with some woman.

It’s always cooler at the shore. The heat was unbearable in Philly in July, but even when it’s blazing outside, there’s always a breeze at the shore. I threw on some clothes and quietly headed out. My sister’s husband had already left because he was going out on a fishing boat for the day with his brother or a friend.

I walked down the street towards the beach. Some of the properties have remained the same. The old-time, small clapboard shore houses. But many of the properties on the island have been torn down and transformed into massive condo complexes. It’s kind of sad because the architecture is part of the essence of a town. Being all built up like this sort of ruins the aesthetic of the community.

What was once a landscape dotted with little shore homes has now been mostly replaced by buildings that take up the entire property. Case in point: next door to the shore house was once a little one-story home. It was cute and perfect for the block like the other homes. But it’s been torn down and a massive three-story building is going up on that property. This completely blocks the air and the view of the sea from my sister’s place. So that’s another thing ruined. When you look out any window in the house now on that side all you’ll see is someone else’s gigantic house right in your face.

Where there were once motels all designed in the classic doo-wop design, are now massive properties and condos. Gone are all of the tourists that would stay at those motels each summer. The sound of people coming and going, and kids laughing and splashing around in the pools and music playing… all gone. It’s very quiet down there now. It looks nice and clean, but a huge part of the look and feel of the place is long gone.

I get to the beach and there are a few people around ready to see what I’m about to witness. I live in Philly. There are no sunrises to see. I’m surrounded by huge towers of steel and glass. It’s a city. They all look the same. It’s the neighborhoods and local businesses that make a city. They give it a personality. Wildwood has lost a lot of its personality.

The beach has retained its natural beauty. That timeless place for millions of years has done the same thing. The moon’s gravitational pull makes the waves lap the beach turning rock into sand over time.

I approach the lifeguard chair here on the 8th street beach. The chair is a timeless symbol of the seashore. The guards sit in the summer sun and go from tan to brown through the season. The protectors who sit and watch that no one drowns on their watch.  The lifeguard persona is like a fireman. A protector, and yet, fit and admired by the women and girls who would flock to the beach each summer.

As I get closer to the chair, I notice a little plaque on the back of one of the horizontal stabilizing beams on this one. I take a closer look to read the inscription.

I don’t have any idea who John Steiger is, but the plaque on the right is a memorial to my father.

My dad loved the beach and being at the seashore. He’d been coming here during his childhood and then in the 60s with mom and the kids, and then bought the house in the 70s. He was never a lifeguard but always made friends with the guards and liked swimming in the sea. He was a social guy and I suppose he enjoyed the whole vibe of the beach scene. If they gave him a plaque I’m assuming he was an annual contributor to the Wildwood Beach Patrol over the years.

Whatever happened, it was nice to be standing here at almost 60 years old on the beach that held so many fond memories from my youth. I hadn’t stood on this beach in many decades. At least this was unchanged. You can’t move or build on the Atlantic Ocean, so it remains the same. That’s comforting. It made me smile to see my father’s name on that chair. It put him there with me for a few moments.

There’s an orange glow in the sky and upon the sea where the Earth will turn towards its nearest star to welcome a new day.

I’m happy to be here today to witness this daily event that we all take for granted. Life is good right now. I’m at the shore. There’s no stress in my life, I have my health and I really can’t complain about anything right now.

Like a shiny new penny, the sun begins to rise from the sea. It’s really beautiful. I see a couple off in the distance by the shoreline. They are but silhouettes and embrace each other as the golden disc rises before them. I smile and think back to when I fell in love every week back in the 70s in Wildwood.

Wildwood, New Jersey – 2021

Saturday

After witnessing the sunrise, which was glorious and elegant in its simplicity, I went to Russo’s market for breakfast. The business has been there since 1972. Having a little market/deli/sundries shop a block from our shore house was great. It’s one of the few things left in this town that still looks and feels like it did 50 years ago.

I walked to the back to the deli section and ordered my usual, (bacon egg and cheese on a bagel) from one of the girls working there and waited for my order.  I decided to wander around the store to see if it still held the seashore magic it once did. I soon realized that it did.

All kinds of goodies.

A whole aisle for flip-flops.

Monogrammed hats and shirts!

A palm tree full of cool sunglasses.

Little toys and stuff for kids!

Postcards! Classic!

Paperback books and magazines to read at the beach? I’m in heaven!

Balls!

More fun beach toys!

I don’t know if the owners are still present much anymore, but whatever deal they made with whoever runs it now must have included that the store had to look a certain way and carry certain products. My nostalgia meter is going off the charts standing in this store right now!

For the first time since I’ve arrived here, I felt like I was back in the old Wildwood. I’m so glad this store still exists. Sadly, at this point, it’s nearly one of a kind. Just beautiful. This store has always been a class act and a treasure to this island.

I walk back to the deli to wait for my sandwich. I was looking at some of the stuff hanging on the walls back there. One of the photos caught my eye.

This giant memory collage of photos of many of the past employees. But two of the photos caught my eye…

That’s my older sister with her friend Susan from back in the 1970s! She worked there for years and was one of their most beloved employees.

Just below their photo is an old picture of Michelle and Rich Russo, the original owners!

Good times!

I got my sandwich and headed outside. Next to the building, they have a little area where you can sit and eat at a few tables in the shade. I enjoyed my breakfast and although I was surprised at how quiet it was, I contemplated my next move.

I decided to walk up the boardwalk and see what was going on up there. It was still early, so it wasn’t blazing hot out yet. Even if we’re dying from the heat up in Philly, it’s always cooler at the seashore.

I headed up there and there were lots of people around. Many of them were on bikes. I assumed you could ride your bike on the boardwalk until noon. I stuck to the right near the shops and began my journey south on the boardwalk.

It’s still got the original 5 piers full of amusement rides, but they’re all now owned by the Morey family. They used to only own one pier back in the 70s but always invested their earnings back into the pier and later acquired Marine pier which became Mariner’s Landing and then they grabbed the rest of them over the years.

It’s expensive to go on the rides now. Gone are the days when you could buy 5 tickets for a buck and take a ride. Now it’s all about day passes and wristbands and amusement ride/water park passes. I guess they followed the Disney model. I don’t know. Now if a family goes to the boardwalk and wants to play on the amusements they’re going to drop at least $200 before the night is out. I’m not thrilled by this premise, but I’ve never been a huge fan anyway. It’s now just a massive money generator.

I got down as far as the old Fun Pier which used to be trash in the 70s but is now built up and has a classic wooden rollercoaster called The Great White. I kind of wanted to ride that this weekend, but couldn’t figure out how much it would cost for one ride, or when the pier opened.

Now that it’s mid-day, the heat is killing me. July has been brutal this year, even at the shore.  So I turn around and head back.

Living in a city you become accustomed to seeing people dress a certain way all year round. But it’s always a little shocking to see women walking around in bikinis in broad daylight. I know it’s the shore and I’ve seen this every summer back in the day, but it just seems odd to see it now. Someone walking around in the equivalent of underwear in public. But I’m sure if I lived down here, I’d become accustomed to it. As jaded as I am, it still feels a little weird to me from living so long in a city. (Put a shirt on, Miss!)

The heat is killing me and my sister had said if I got tired she’d get in the car and come get me, but I want to press on and get my exercise today. I come upon Sam’s Pizza and I’m instantly pulled in by their tractor beam. (Star Wars reference) I’ve been walking for 3 hours and it’s time to consume some nostalgic slices.

Although Sam’s had legendary pizza back in the day, when I get my order, it seems hollow. I don’t care what anyone says, it’s just not the same. I don’t want to sound like a bitter old man who wants everything exactly like it was back in 1978, but it’s not the same. It doesn’t look or taste the same as it did back in the 70s. I don’t know what they did, but it’s changed. It was also really expensive. New York has the God pies and Philly has a few spots that make slamming pizza that I love. Sadly, Sam’s has become a disappointment as well. I want to love it, but I’m more in love with the memory of what it was and the fun we had there than the taste at this point. I’m trying to find the Wildwood I once loved but most of it’s gone.

At some point, I went to a place that’s up at 8th and New Jersey Aves for food. It was some sort of dog-themed burger joint. It was a little crowded and they only had outdoor seating. At least I was in the shade so I didn’t mind too much. But here’s the thing… I ordered a bacon cheeseburger, fries, and a drink. The burger and the fries were served in dog dishes. Yea… what? The burger was blah and the bacon was bacon bits spread on it. It was awful.

I finally trudged out to Anglesea to the Wawa to buy Juul pods. It was the only place I could find that had them. At least they were cheap, $15 for a pack of 4. Better than Philly even with my local hook-up.

But overall it just doesn’t feel like Wildwood by the Sea anymore.

There are tiny pockets of Wildwood left on this island and don’t get me wrong, it’s nice down here, but it’s changed so much I feel like it’s more like Avalon and Stone Harbor now.

I’m going to continue my quest to see what’s left of my beloved seashore resort.

Wildwood, New Jersey, 2021

Sunday

I went to Russo’s again for my breakfast and then came back home to chill. My sister and I decided to walk down to JFK blvd down by the beach. We followed it down to 2nd street and then followed it out along the walkway that heads west along the shoreline.

We followed it out to the historic lighthouse and decided to take a look around.

There were a couple of benches donated by my family to the lighthouse. One has our family name on it and the other is a memorial bench to my grandmother and her husband.

It was nice to hang out with my sister and chat and look at all of the historic stuff. Especially since it was on my late father’s birthday. I think he’d be 90 years old now had he lived!

We later returned to the house and hopped in the car and went to Douglass Fudge. It’s a famous landmark candy store on the boardwalk. I think the best part was when I started chatting with this 92-year-old woman who worked at the counter. She was part of the original Douglass family and formerly worked in this very store when she was 9 years old. I thought this was amazing. Good for her, still working in this sweet-smelling store.

After that, we thought we’d go check out the Wildwood Historic Society on Pacific Avenue. What was once the strip that was lined with bars and clubs that made up the whole Wildwood summer nightlife scene has now been reduced to a handful of sorry-looking stores.

Another grinding disappointment.

The Historic society is a refurbished store space that is a disorganized gallimaufry of old bits of history and artifacts from Wildwood’s once glorious past. They have tons of volumes of books with all sorts of memorabilia inside them. Of course, I went straight for the nightlife ones from the 70s. To put it simply, there was almost nothing from the rock n roll glory days of the 70s in any of these books, so that was sad.

But it was another great day to hang with my sister so I didn’t mind any of it. It was all good to see. My phone rang at some point and it was my buddy, Wolfie. I hadn’t heard from him in 3 days so I wondered what was up.

He said he was riding bikes on the boardwalk and asked where I was. I told him and asked if he wanted to stop down. He stated he wasn’t sure where that was and that there was no lock on the bike so that was a no-go. I know he was staying down until Tuesday and I was going home Monday, so any chance of us hanging was another bust.

None of it made any sense to me.

Early that evening my sister and I walked out to the northern part of the island and wanted to check out a rock band we had heard about. But they played at 4 pm so we missed them. There was some nostalgic band playing at an open-air bar. I was non-plussed. They’ve blocked off a few streets out there and it’s a bunch of open-air bars and some live music. To me, it was just a bunch of people drinking and eating and I can see that anywhere but care not to.

I suppose the best part of coming down the shore was to hang out with my sister and see my other sisters as well. Family is always the best part of anything. It makes everything better. I also loved that my sister and her husband cooked me dinner every night I was there. The food was delicious and I was just happy to be with them in their lovely home.

My sister was nice enough to drive me home the next day, and on the way, we stopped to see my little sister at her house and my middle sister joined as well. So that was a fun riot.

I was happy to be back in Philly in my own space after a busy few days, but overall it was a nice few days at the shore.

But as I’ve been saying lately…

Everything that I love about Wildwood is long gone.

 

Thank you for reading my blog. Please read, like, comment, and most of all follow Phicklephilly.

You can check out my books here: https://www.amazon.com/s?k=charles+wiedenmann&ref=nb_sb_noss_1

A Trip to the Shore – Part 4

Wildwood, New Jersey, 2021

Sunday

I went to Russo’s again for my breakfast and then came back home to chill. My sister and I decided to walk down to JFK blvd down by the beach. We followed it down to 2nd street and then followed it out along the walkway that heads west along the shoreline.

We followed it out to the historic lighthouse and decided to take a look around.

There were a couple of benches donated by my family to the lighthouse. One has our family name on it and the other is a memorial bench to my grandmother and her husband.

It was nice to hang out with my sister and chat and look at all of the historic stuff. Especially since it was on my late father’s birthday. I think he’d be 90 years old now had he lived!

We later returned to the house and hopped in the car and went to Douglass Fudge. It’s a famous landmark candy store on the boardwalk. I think the best part was when I started chatting with this 92-year-old woman who worked at the counter. She was part of the original Douglass family and formerly worked in this very store when she was 9 years old. I thought this was amazing. Good for her, still working in this sweet-smelling store.

After that, we thought we’d go check out the Wildwood Historic Society on Pacific Avenue. What was once the strip that was lined with bars and clubs that made up the whole Wildwood summer nightlife scene has now been reduced to a handful of sorry-looking stores.

Another grinding disappointment.

The Historic society is a refurbished store space that is a disorganized gallimaufry of old bits of history and artifacts from Wildwood’s once glorious past. They have tons of volumes of books with all sorts of memorabilia inside them. Of course, I went straight for the nightlife ones from the 70s. To put it simply, there was almost nothing from the rock n roll glory days of the 70s in any of these books, so that was sad.

But it was another great day to hang with my sister so I didn’t mind any of it. It was all good to see. My phone rang at some point and it was my buddy, Wolfie. I hadn’t heard from him in 3 days so I wondered what was up.

He said he was riding bikes on the boardwalk and asked where I was. I told him and asked if he wanted to stop down. He stated he wasn’t sure where that was and that there was no lock on the bike so that was a no-go. I know he was staying down until Tuesday and I was going home Monday, so any chance of us hanging was another bust.

None of it made any sense to me.

Early that evening my sister and I walked out to the northern part of the island and wanted to check out a rock band we had heard about. But they played at 4 pm so we missed them. There was some nostalgic band playing at an open-air bar. I was non-plussed. They’ve blocked off a few streets out there and it’s a bunch of open-air bars and some live music. To me, it was just a bunch of people drinking and eating and I can see that anywhere but care not to.

I suppose the best part of coming down the shore was to hang out with my sister and see my other sisters as well. Family is always the best part of anything. It makes everything better. I also loved that my sister and her husband cooked me dinner every night I was there. The food was delicious and I was just happy to be with them in their lovely home.

My sister was nice enough to drive me home the next day, and on the way, we stopped to see my little sister at her house and my middle sister joined as well. So that was a fun riot.

I was happy to be back in Philly in my own space after a busy few days, but overall it was a nice few days at the shore.

But as I’ve been saying lately…

Everything that I love about Wildwood is long gone.

 

Thank you for reading my blog. Please read, like, comment, and most of all follow Phicklephilly.

You can check out my books here: https://www.amazon.com/s?k=charles+wiedenmann&ref=nb_sb_noss_1

A Trip to the Shore – Part 3

Wildwood, New Jersey – 2021

Saturday

After witnessing the sunrise, which was glorious and elegant in its simplicity, I went to Russo’s market for breakfast. The business has been there since 1972. Having a little market/deli/sundries shop a block from our shore house was great. It’s one of the few things left in this town that still looks and feels like it did 50 years ago.

I walked to the back to the deli section and ordered my usual, (bacon egg and cheese on a bagel) from one of the girls working there and waited for my order.  I decided to wander around the store to see if it still held the seashore magic it once did. I soon realized that it did.

All kinds of goodies.

A whole aisle for flip-flops.

Monogrammed hats and shirts!

A palm tree full of cool sunglasses.

Little toys and stuff for kids!

Postcards! Classic!

Paperback books and magazines to read at the beach? I’m in heaven!

Balls!

More fun beach toys!

I don’t know if the owners are still present much anymore, but whatever deal they made with whoever runs it now must have included that the store had to look a certain way and carry certain products. My nostalgia meter is going off the charts standing in this store right now!

For the first time since I’ve arrived here, I felt like I was back in the old Wildwood. I’m so glad this store still exists. Sadly, at this point, it’s nearly one of a kind. Just beautiful. This store has always been a class act and a treasure to this island.

I walk back to the deli to wait for my sandwich. I was looking at some of the stuff hanging on the walls back there. One of the photos caught my eye.

This giant memory collage of photos of many of the past employees. But two of the photos caught my eye…

That’s my older sister with her friend Susan from back in the 1970s! She worked there for years and was one of their most beloved employees.

Just below their photo is an old picture of Michelle and Rich Russo, the original owners!

Good times!

I got my sandwich and headed outside. Next to the building, they have a little area where you can sit and eat at a few tables in the shade. I enjoyed my breakfast and although I was surprised at how quiet it was, I contemplated my next move.

I decided to walk up the boardwalk and see what was going on up there. It was still early, so it wasn’t blazing hot out yet. Even if we’re dying from the heat up in Philly, it’s always cooler at the seashore.

I headed up there and there were lots of people around. Many of them were on bikes. I assumed you could ride your bike on the boardwalk until noon. I stuck to the right near the shops and began my journey south on the boardwalk.

It’s still got the original 5 piers full of amusement rides, but they’re all now owned by the Morey family. They used to only own one pier back in the 70s but always invested their earnings back into the pier and later acquired Marine pier which became Mariner’s Landing and then they grabbed the rest of them over the years.

It’s expensive to go on the rides now. Gone are the days when you could buy 5 tickets for a buck and take a ride. Now it’s all about day passes and wristbands and amusement ride/water park passes. I guess they followed the Disney model. I don’t know. Now if a family goes to the boardwalk and wants to play on the amusements they’re going to drop at least $200 before the night is out. I’m not thrilled by this premise, but I’ve never been a huge fan anyway. It’s now just a massive money generator.

I got down as far as the old Fun Pier which used to be trash in the 70s but is now built up and has a classic wooden rollercoaster called The Great White. I kind of wanted to ride that this weekend, but couldn’t figure out how much it would cost for one ride, or when the pier opened.

Now that it’s mid-day, the heat is killing me. July has been brutal this year, even at the shore.  So I turn around and head back.

Living in a city you become accustomed to seeing people dress a certain way all year round. But it’s always a little shocking to see women walking around in bikinis in broad daylight. I know it’s the shore and I’ve seen this every summer back in the day, but it just seems odd to see it now. Someone walking around in the equivalent of underwear in public. But I’m sure if I lived down here, I’d become accustomed to it. As jaded as I am, it still feels a little weird to me from living so long in a city. (Put a shirt on, Miss!)

The heat is killing me and my sister had said if I got tired she’d get in the car and come get me, but I want to press on and get my exercise today. I come upon Sam’s Pizza and I’m instantly pulled in by their tractor beam. (Star Wars reference) I’ve been walking for 3 hours and it’s time to consume some nostalgic slices.

Although Sam’s had legendary pizza back in the day, when I get my order, it seems hollow. I don’t care what anyone says, it’s just not the same. I don’t want to sound like a bitter old man who wants everything exactly like it was back in 1978, but it’s not the same. It doesn’t look or taste the same as it did back in the 70s. I don’t know what they did, but it’s changed. It was also really expensive. New York has the God pies and Philly has a few spots that make slamming pizza that I love. Sadly, Sam’s has become a disappointment as well. I want to love it, but I’m more in love with the memory of what it was and the fun we had there than the taste at this point. I’m trying to find the Wildwood I once loved but most of it’s gone.

At some point, I went to a place that’s up at 8th and New Jersey Aves for food. It was some sort of dog-themed burger joint. It was a little crowded and they only had outdoor seating. At least I was in the shade so I didn’t mind too much. But here’s the thing… I ordered a bacon cheeseburger, fries, and a drink. The burger and the fries were served in dog dishes. Yea… what? The burger was blah and the bacon was bacon bits spread on it. It was awful.

I finally trudged out to Anglesea to the Wawa to buy Juul pods. It was the only place I could find that had them. At least they were cheap, $15 for a pack of 4. Better than Philly even with my local hook-up.

But overall it just doesn’t feel like Wildwood by the Sea anymore.

There are tiny pockets of Wildwood left on this island and don’t get me wrong, it’s nice down here, but it’s changed so much I feel like it’s more like Avalon and Stone Harbor now.

I’m going to continue my quest to see what’s left of my beloved seashore resort.

More tomorrow!

 

Thank you for reading my blog. Please read, like, comment, and most of all follow Phicklephilly. 

You can check out my books here: https://www.amazon.com/s?k=charles+wiedenmann&ref=nb_sb_noss_1

A Trip To The Shore – Part 2

Wildwood, New Jersey – July 2021

Friday

The next morning I woke up upstairs in the apartment on the second floor of the shore house. This used to be where my father lived. This may be the bed he slept in for all I know. The apartment still has the 70s vibe and the walls are covered in wood paneling. I kind of like that it reminds me of a time in the past when life was simpler.

I looked at my phone at it was 5:30 am. Early. I looked at the weather app and it said sunrise was at 5:45. I knew I had 15 minutes to walk the block and a half to the beach to see the sunrise. I hadn’t seen a sunrise in I don’t know how long. It may have been the late 70s or early 80s but it was probably after I’d stayed out all night with some woman.

It’s always cooler at the shore. The heat was unbearable in Philly in July, but even when it’s blazing outside, there’s always a breeze at the shore. I threw on some clothes and quietly headed out. My sister’s husband had already left because he was going out on a fishing boat for the day with his brother or a friend.

I walked down the street towards the beach. Some of the properties have remained the same. The old-time, small clapboard shore houses. But many of the properties on the island have been torn down and transformed into massive condo complexes. It’s kind of sad because the architecture is part of the essence of a town. Being all built up like this sort of ruins the aesthetic of the community.

What was once a landscape dotted with little shore homes has now been mostly replaced by buildings that take up the entire property. Case in point: next door to the shore house was once a little one-story home. It was cute and perfect for the block like the other homes. But it’s been torn down and a massive three-story building is going up on that property. This completely blocks the air and the view of the sea from my sister’s place. So that’s another thing ruined. When you look out any window in the house now on that side all you’ll see is someone else’s gigantic house right in your face.

Where there were once motels all designed in the classic doo-wop design, are now massive properties and condos. Gone are all of the tourists that would stay at those motels each summer. The sound of people coming and going, and kids laughing and splashing around in the pools and music playing… all gone. It’s very quiet down there now. It looks nice and clean, but a huge part of the look and feel of the place is long gone.

I get to the beach and there are a few people around ready to see what I’m about to witness. I live in Philly. There are no sunrises to see. I’m surrounded by huge towers of steel and glass. It’s a city. They all look the same. It’s the neighborhoods and local businesses that make a city. They give it a personality. Wildwood has lost a lot of its personality.

The beach has retained its natural beauty. That timeless place for millions of years has done the same thing. The moon’s gravitational pull makes the waves lap the beach turning rock into sand over time.

I approach the lifeguard chair here on the 8th street beach. The chair is a timeless symbol of the seashore. The guards sit in the summer sun and go from tan to brown through the season. The protectors who sit and watch that no one drowns on their watch.  The lifeguard persona is like a fireman. A protector, and yet, fit and admired by the women and girls who would flock to the beach each summer.

As I get closer to the chair, I notice a little plaque on the back of one of the horizontal stabilizing beams on this one. I take a closer look to read the inscription.

I don’t have any idea who John Steiger is, but the plaque on the right is a memorial to my father.

My dad loved the beach and being at the seashore. He’d been coming here during his childhood and then in the 60s with mom and the kids, and then bought the house in the 70s. He was never a lifeguard but always made friends with the guards and liked swimming in the sea. He was a social guy and I suppose he enjoyed the whole vibe of the beach scene. If they gave him a plaque I’m assuming he was an annual contributor to the Wildwood Beach Patrol over the years.

Whatever happened, it was nice to be standing here at almost 60 years old on the beach that held so many fond memories from my youth. I hadn’t stood on this beach in many decades. At least this was unchanged. You can’t move or build on the Atlantic Ocean, so it remains the same. That’s comforting. It made me smile to see my father’s name on that chair. It put him there with me for a few moments.

There’s an orange glow in the sky and upon the sea where the Earth will turn towards its nearest star to welcome a new day.

I’m happy to be here today to witness this daily event that we all take for granted. Life is good right now. I’m at the shore. There’s no stress in my life, I have my health and I really can’t complain about anything right now.

Like a shiny new penny, the sun begins to rise from the sea. It’s really beautiful. I see a couple off in the distance by the shoreline. They are but silhouettes and embrace each other as the golden disc rises before them. I smile and think back to when I fell in love every week back in the 70s in Wildwood.

More tomorrow!

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Hunt’s Pier – Epilogue

Philadelphia, PA – 2021

The reason I’ve struggled with writing this story is that it can’t really be written. It has to be felt. To be lived.  It was just a summer job on the boardwalk in wildwood. But it was something else. We did the same job over and over every night. It was us on the ride, and the people lined up and boarded the ride and we sent them up. That’s it. Over and over again. A sea of faces. Thousands of happy smiling faces night after night. Non-stop. We keep loading them in and they keep coming back for more. They’re on vacation. We’re there to serve them entertainment. Welcome to the show, I’m Chaz and I’ll be your host. It’s a circus. A carnival. A place where the freaks run the rides and you enjoy the show.

But it’s more than that. We sell happiness. Joy. Excitement. Thrills. Anticipation. The list goes on and on. What job have you ever had in your life where you can deliver that to your clients every single day? That’s the only product we make and our customers can’t live without it.

I’ve never ever had a job like that again. I can name every job I’ve ever had and none of them will be any of the things I just mentioned. That’s why many of the people who work there never leave.

There are worse vocations in this world.

It’s as if we worked in a place that existed in another world. A sea of joy and happy faces. Of children giggling and laughing and having the time of their lives. we’re the hosts bringing them fond memories. The type of memories they carry with them forever. The old memories. The ancient senses developed in our species millions of years ago. 

The excitement in the air crackles around you with your every move along that boardwalk. The music that fills the air whether it’s something on the radio or the crashing symphony of the calliope from the merry-go-round. That merry-go-round that you only get to ride once in this world.

One time around. Maybe you catch the brass ring, maybe you don’t. Maybe you rode all the way home on that mighty steed or maybe you didn’t. Maybe you fell off the horse a few times but you had a good time doing it. You get one ride in this life and we all have to make it. Make yours count. Maybe not for yourself but for someone else in this life.

 

Can you smell it? Is that Curly fries, or is it the sweet fragrance of a fresh funnel cake? When you bite that soft pretzel and the mustard drips on your polo shirt, and your wife pulls out a tissue to clean you up. She and the kids are so happy you’ve got a job where they can take a vacation for a week at the seashore. To play with the kids on the beach and swim in the sea, and see things you never imagined come to life. The stroll on that boardwalk, where you stuff your head with delicious pizza from Sam’s or Mack’s. 

I’m here to help. I will facilitate your joy, sir. We all will. And we’ll deliver you a show you won’t soon forget every night. That game you played. That teddy bear you won. We’re here to deliver.

But all the while we’re loving our very existence. Really living. The sun shines above our young heads. Our skin browns in the sun and our hair turns a lovely flaxen color. We feel it too. You’re here for a week or two. But we’re here every day. We get to live this life for two months every summer.

And when the shadows grow long in the autumn twilight, you’ll remember us. Because we’ll always be with you in your memories. A place that can’t be seen or touched, but you can feel it. You can smell and taste the memory. That first bite from your favorite burger spot. That first kiss of that person you just met on the beach today or this very boardwalk. The possibilities that can happen. It’s all yours. But only for a week. I get to do this every day.

It’s my life.

For now.

But one day I will join you in your world. But, we’ll all be able to look inward and feel that bit of magic in our hearts that came to life when we were young. That place that you loved that you can never revisit. 

Only in your dreams and memories.

Other people have written about Wildwood. I’ve read what they’ve written and it’s been simple documentation of what the place was like. But not how it felt. That’s what I’ve tried to describe here.

You don’t know it if you didn’t really live it. My sisters and I really lived it.

Every summer in Wildwood was different. The weather was the same and some of the things stayed the same but that was the beautiful constant.

It was always Summer there. Eternal. I only felt its dark side when I spent my first winter there. That was when the spell was broken. But only for a while. Every summer we spent there we changed. Because we were growing up. It’s not like now when another year goes by and you’re feeling the same as last year. We were growing. We were growing up. From little children to teenagers to adults. You spent your winters in Philly and went to school in the cold and waited for the bus. But in the summer you returned to a magical paradise with days filled with sunshine and joy. Only joy. You can never get that back. Those formative years are fleeting, and once they’re gone… they’re gone forever. 

I finished writing this series after a long time. I covered everything but I knew something was missing. I scheduled it and put the finishing touches on my work because it was done. I would only return to it in a month to do final edits.

But one night I was sitting in my room watching my show, and it kept gnawing at me. Something was missing from the long series. That’s when I stopped watching TV and opened a new doc and started pounding out these words. This may not even be enough. But maybe it’ll be enough for now.

The carnival. The amusement park. The sweet sea air as it blows in warm from the beach onto the crowd as they laugh and sing through the night.

The more I wrote the more I realized it’s almost something that can’t be written about. It can’t be documented. It’s a feeling. You can write what you saw and what you did, but it’s not the same.

You have to remember the feeling. 

A dear friend once told me, “It’s not what you said or what you did. It’s how you made them feel.” 

Thanks to everyone that follows my blog and also to everybody who dug it from Facebook and Instagram. I reconnected with some old friends from these posts, so it was totally worth it.

A book about my youth in Wildwood entitled, Down the Shore will publish in 2023.

Thank you for reading my blog. Please read, like, comment, and most of all follow Phicklephilly. I publish every day.

You can check out my books here: https://www.amazon.com/s?k=charles+wiedenmann&ref=nb_sb_noss_1

Hunt’s Pier – Chapter 8 – Living The Dream

“Nobody ever says, “Remember that Spring?”

But people do say… “Remember that Summer?”Chaz

Wildwood, New Jersey – 1980

One night we were all working. It was early, maybe 6 pm. Each shift was from 5 pm until 11 pm when the pier closed. As one of the cars came in full of people and they exited the ride, someone left a camera on the ride. Danny brought it to me, and I remembered the guy and his family. I was like, “Wait…there he is over there with his wife and kids. I’ll run over and give him back his camera.” But then an idea came to mind. I went over to Louie and told him what was up and handed him the camera. He gathered the whole staff together on the platform and took a photo of all of us guys with the man’s lost camera. He handed it back to me and I ran down the ramp and tapped the man on the shoulder. “You left this on the ride, sir.” The gentleman was very grateful and relieved.

It was one of those jokes you do where you’ll never see the outcome, but you know when he gets home from vacation and gets his photos developed, he’ll find a mysterious photo of the whole Golden Nugget team among his pictures! Great idea, right?

When the pier closed at 11 pm, they always put up a big wooden fence to close off the area. There were guards and dogs always present at night to protect their assets. But the fence was in large sections and each piece was really heavy. After working all night on our feet and taking care of thousands of tourists, the last thing we wanted to do was carry big sections of fence and set it all up each night. So all the flunkies (as Louie called them) who worked all the rides up at the front of the pier were the first ones called upon to help put up the fence. We at the Nugget and the Log Flume would take our good old time closing our rides and walking up to the front of the pier to help. I can honestly say I have maybe only helped with one small section of fence on only three occasions. We were the elite weasels on that pier.

One of the amazing benefits of working for the Hunt’s Corporation was that they also owned every movie theater on the island. So as a perk for being an employee, each Saturday night at midnight, they would have a private screening of one of the latest movies playing in the theaters.

It was awesome. You’d finish your shift at 11 pm, and then had an hour to get something to eat, hit the liquor store to buy some beer, and then head over to one of the theaters and watch a movie with your coworkers. It was glorious. The cool thing was, you could bring a guest. So I could bring my buddy Wolfie with me and we could check out a cool new movie for free. (And drink beer!) But most of the time if one of the guys and I had met some girls that night on the ride, we’d take them to the movies with us. That was fantastic. Free movie with a new girl. Unless it was something we didn’t want to see, we would go every week all summer long. (Even back then, 40 years ago I was providing the hookup to the ladies in my life!)

Seeing The Empire Strikes Back in an empty theater with just my buddies with me was an unforgettable experience. The film as we all know was a long-awaited blockbuster and seeing it for free for the first time was amazing. I remember taking my buddy Wolfie with me to see the film, Airplane! And at the time it was the funniest film I had ever seen. It’s still in my top five of the funniest most creative and madcap movies I’ve ever seen. The Cannonball Run also comes to mind as one of the more memorable films we saw that summer. Just great times!

I even got my friend Pitchy a job up on Hunt’s working at the Log Flume. He was my summertime best friend who lived around the corner from my house. He and I had been friends since the early ’70s and had a rich history of summers together. He had worked as a stock boy at a local grocery store at 9th and Ocean avenue and was looking to do something different for the summer. I got him a job on the pier. He liked working on the flume and got along with all of the guys over there. One night he started chatting up a really cute little Italian girl from South Philly and later made a date with her. A few years later they kept in touch and he eventually married her and they have three great grown kids now. Met his wife on the Log Flume!

I remember it was the 4th of July weekend which is an enormous time at the shore. The island is packed with tourists and the boardwalk is mobbed every night. I went on my break and walked over to the snack bar across from our ride and got a soft pretzel and a fountain coke. I went back to the Nugget and went in the back and up the fire escape to the top floor of the ride. The ride was obviously going non-stop so you had to be careful up there navigating the tracks so you didn’t get run over and killed by the ride. On the roof, (you’ll see in some of the attached videos) had several dead man’s gulch attractions on it. Tombstones, skeletons, prospectors, etc. There actually was a replica of a gallows up there. I climbed the rickety wooden ladder up to the top of it and had a seat at the hangman’s pole.

There it is. Three stories above the boardwalk. 100 feet up from the beach.

The mine cars full of tourists would actually pass under it. So, I parked myself up there and munched my pretzel, and sipped my soda. The view was incredible and I suddenly felt an incredible level of exhilaration sitting up there. Here I was on the roof of a three-story dark ride I once rode terrified with my father and sisters. I lit a cigarette and looked out at the entire sea of people below me. The pier was packed with people, and that flowed out onto the boardwalk that was in full swing. Amusement rides going, people screaming, laughing, and filled with joy. Happy to be at the seashore and away from the heat of the city and work. They were all on vacation and having the times of their lives here in Wildwood.

The smell of french fries, caramel popcorn, funnel cake, cotton candy, and pizza filled the air. The sights and sounds of summer. I sat under the stars and watched as fireworks exploded in the sky in the distance.

I knew in this perfect moment that I was in the most pristine place in my life. I sat atop my castle as the self-proclaimed King of Wildwood. Finished with high school, tan, fit, clear skin, healthy, and immaculate. My painful past barely visible now. I had game and could talk to girls and they liked me enough to date and kiss me. I was in a rock and roll band, and didn’t have to be anywhere I didn’t want to be.  The island and this ride were mine.

But I could feel as I finished my cigarette I wouldn’t come up here again.

This moment would vanish and never return.

Like a child’s balloon that had escaped their grasp. You watch as it rises higher and higher into the night sky. But you’ll never get it back.

All you can do is make a wish…

The sax solo in this song (4:00 minute mark) by the late, great, Clarence Clemmons, and Bruce’s howl at the end of the song is about as close as I can get to what my heart felt like on any given summer night in Wildwood.

But, even as I write these words, I feel I just can’t do justice to those summers at the seashore.

You had to be there.

Hunt's Pier At Night | "Watch the tram car please!" 1970s Po… | Brian | Flickr

I’ve lived and worked in many places throughout my life.  But I still say to this day, working at Hunt’s Pier on the Golden Nugget Mine Ride was The Greatest Job I Ever Had.

 

This is sort of what it sounded like to be on the boardwalk in Wildwood.

Here are a link and some videos I found to give you an idea of what the Golden Nugget Mine Ride was like:

http://www.funchase.com/Images/GoldenNugget/GoldenNugget.htm

This series is not over yet. There’s more to come every Thursday through July.

Thank you for reading my blog. Please read, like, comment, and most of all follow Phicklephilly. I publish every day.

You can check out my books here: https://www.amazon.com/s?k=charles+wiedenmann&ref=nb_sb_noss_1

Wildwood Daze – Overcast Skies

North Wildwood, New Jersey – 1977-1978

Every morning when you woke up in your bed at the seashore, normally the first thing you heard was the distant cry of a seagull. It was a grounding sound that let you know you weren’t in the city anymore.

Back in 1977, I’d get up every morning, 7 days a week, and go to my job at the El Morro Motel where I worked as a pool boy. It was my first job, and as much as I liked having a job and not being grounded, I always hoped for rain.

But to the best of my memory, it only rained a couple of days that summer. Which is great for the local resort community’s economy, but I rarely ever got a day off. I mean, I only worked from 7 am to noon each day due to my age, but a guy needs a day of rest occasionally. But, I didn’t really mind. I had boundless energy back in those days at age 14, and once I finished at the motel, had the rest of the day to play.

When it rained at the shore it always felt a little sad. The island relied on the sunshine to provide the one thing everybody who came to the shore was looking for. Go to the beach, sit by the pool, hit the boardwalk, and go on the rides at night. If it rained the tourists would be pretty much holed up in their motel rooms, watching television, eating, drinking, and playing cards.

Some folks would put on their rain slickers, grab a couple of umbrellas and head to the movies for the afternoon. There were plenty of theaters in town. The Hunt’s Corporation owned them all. The Blaker, The Strand, and The Shore Twin, just to name a few. I would later work for Hunt’s in 1980.

Blaker Theatre in Wildwood, NJ - Cinema Treasures

Others would brave the wind and rain and head up to the boardwalk to play in the arcades because all of the rides were closed. All the shops were open, and people could buy souvenirs or try their hand at a few games of chance.

I will say, after a good thunderstorm, the ocean was usually still a bit angry. The wind and surf could be a bit wild. I’ve experienced some of the best body surfing in the waves after a good rainstorm. The feeling of that powerful, bubbly water washing over you was better than any spa treatment you could get today.

But, I couldn’t go to work because the pool was closed and people couldn’t go to the beach. So what to do on a rainy day?

My friend from next door and I would take a walk along Surf Avenue. We lived on 8th street and would make the trek down to 17th street. The only time I ever saw my neighbor wear shoes was if he was going to the boardwalk at night. Other than that, we all spent the summer barefoot.

The reason we went to 17th street was that there was a big open shop that carried all of the usual things most resort community stores provide. It not only served as a huge newsstand where you could get newspapers, cigarettes, and candy, it pretty much carried everything you’d need for a day at the shore. Sunglasses, beach towels, t-shirts, paperback books, magazines, suntan lotion, beach toys, and all of your other seashore and beach needs. But the only reason my neighbor and I would go to this particular shop was that they had not one, but five racks full of comic books!

Back then comic books only cost twenty cents. So, if you had a dollar in your pocket, you could buy five comics! So between the two of us, we’d usually leave that place with ten brand new comics! That was an entire afternoon of reading quality stories together. Our favorites were horror comics!

Mixed horror Comic Books (Lot of 6) Vintage 1972-1974

We’d normally park ourselves on his big porch. We’d sit on the astroturf covered floor and lean on the support posts across from each other. Once you were finished reading one, you’d simply toss it over to your friend. We’d do this for hours as the rain beat down on the metal awnings around the porch.

Sometimes we’d get together with my sister and her friend Sandy and break out the board games. Our go-to game was Monopoly. That game was amazing. We’ve all played it and it’s based on the streets in Atlantic City where the game found its origin.

We’d pick our little playing pieces and off we’d go. I always liked being the car, and I think my friend was the hat. I don’t remember what pieces the girls picked but, I don’t think either of them really cared.

During one part of the book they play monopoly every night and the games would get very heated and the pieces would g… | Monopoly pieces, Monopoly game, Game pieces

We loved playing monopoly because it was such a fun competitive game. The object is to become a giant property owner and destroy your opponents financially. Pure Americana right there!

But before each game, my friend and fellow comic book and Mad magazine fan would sing a little song. It became a ritual before each game. I loved doing this so much, I never forgot any of the lyrics we sang about the game of Monopoly. The melody of our little song came from the United States Marine Corps Hymn. So, this was a serious moment before each game in an attempt to beat the girls and win all the money.

You can pick this tune up at the 0.40 second mark to hear the melody.

Here’s the lyrics we sang before each game of Monopoly.

From the slums of Baltic Avenue to Boardwalk and Park Place.

We will buy up all the properties. Put hotels on every space.

We will drive our foes to bankruptcy if they fail to pay the price.

But we cannot even start the game, till someone finds the dice!

Then we’d start the game. It was a riot.

We’d play as two teams. This way we could share ideas and strategies. There were times we’d have to take a short break from the game and go in another room and have a conference about what was to be our next move. Should we attempt to acquire all of the railroads? What about the utility companies? Is there any possibility that cheating could become an option to win?

We’d return to the table and carry on. I don’t know if the girls needed these little meetings. I think they were just happy to play and have something to do on a rainy day.

The game takes hours to complete, so we’d have these marathon gaming sessions. The girls were good. Too good. They made wise financial decisions and thoughtful, methodical moves. On the other hand, my friend and I were a bit more reckless with our money. Our only object was to win and destroy our opponents. But the ladies were slow and steady. They were slightly older than we were and patient in their approach. Great development skills for the future I suppose.

We've All Been Playing Monopoly Wrong Our Entire Lives | Vintage board games, Childhood games, Childhood memories

If my friend and I were ahead, we’d gloat and act like idiots. But I suppose that’s just typical teenage boy behavior. We’d have moments of glory and bask in the victory of our decisions. But, slowly the girls would basically take us apart. I don’t mean the occasional win by some lucky roll of the dice. The girls would systematically annihilate us on the board. We’d be mortgaging our properties and facing bankruptcy, as the girls calmly moved forward with their program. Being testosterone-loaded boys we didn’t take kindly to their evil, diabolical schemes against us.

Was this really happening? Were we being faced with the stone-cold reality of being beaten by a couple of girls? Well, you don’t know my sister. While my friend and I were laughing and thinking we could ace the game, she was probably thinking three moves ahead of us. Classic ant and the grasshopper level stuff going on here on the floor of our living room.

Things would begin to look a bit bleak for us financially, as the girls rolled the dice and hopped around the board. The pressure was on. We had to turn this situation around. We had to win. Losing was not an option.

Our financial world was beginning to crumble before our young startled eyes. What to do?

It was time to take one of our many breaks to reassess the situation and our assets. This was serious. The girls would relent and let us go into another room to discuss our future game plan. They’d get up, stretch their legs, grab a soda and a snack. They’d then resume their positions around the board and patiently wait for our return. They knew it was just a matter of time before they would grind our dreams of being land barons into dust.

Knowing the losers would have to clean up and put away the game for next time was too great a punishment. How could we dig our way out of this seemingly hopeless situation?

A bit of time passed, and we weren’t back from our closed-door meeting to discuss our plan. So the girls called out to us to come back and finish the game. When we didn’t respond, they came looking for us. But we were no longer in the other room.

We did what any teenage boys would do with the threat of being defeated.

The girls heard the sound of us outside and saw as we ran past the front porch windows.

They did what any victors would do in this situation. They chased us both all the way down the street until they caught us. We would both sheepishly march back and have to clean up the game like good boys as my mother looked on. Like a warden, she made sure the escaped felons were brought to justice and made sure we cleaned it up properly and not just dumped everything back in the box.

The best part for us was being chased down the street by my sister and her friend. It was all in good fun. We were all laughing hysterically, and it was just another rainy day at the seashore.

Tomorrow the sun would return and we’d all be back on the beach where we belonged.

 

 

Thank you for reading my blog. Please read, like, comment, and most of all follow Phicklephilly. I publish every day.

You can check out my books here: https://www.amazon.com/s?k=charles+wiedenmann&ref=nb_sb_noss_1

Hunt’s Pier – Chapter 1 – History

Before we get into my story with the pier, I thought I’d give you some general history.

Hunt’s Pier was an amusement pier located along the Wildwood, New Jersey, boardwalk from 1957 through 1985. Over its nearly 30 years in operation, Hunt’s was home to many classic dark rides, roller coasters, and other attractions.

Hunt’s Pier dates back to the early 1900s when it was known as Ocean Pier, the first major pier on the boardwalk. Home to ballroom dancing and musical acts, Ocean Pier was purchased by William Hunt in 1935 and converted to an amusement park with rides, including a Ferris wheel, a roller coaster, and a dark ride.

On Christmas Day 1943, Ocean Pier burned down. Hunt built a new, all-concrete pier in its place. On May 30, 1957, Memorial Day, the revamped Hunt’s Pier opened. The amusement park began with only four rides, though it boasted 10 rides by the time of its grand opening on June 21, 1957.

In 1985 Hunt’s Pier was sold and re-emerged in 1989 as The New Hunt’s Pier, retaining many of the rides operated by the original Hunt’s Pier and adding a steel roller coaster called Kamikaze. In 1988, Conklin Shows bought the pier and renamed it Conko’s Party Pier. This latest incarnation of the pier was short-lived, and by the end of 1992, many of the rides had been disassembled and the New Hunt’s Pier had gone bankrupt. The Kamikaze was sold and currently operates under the name Blue Hawk at Six Flags Over Georgia.

The Cantonoso family, owners of Steel Pier in Atlantic City, bought the defunct pier in 1995. By 1996, the pier had been renamed Dinosaur Beach and had added dinosaur motifs to the classic Golden Nugget Mine Ride, a decision derided by fans as not being in good taste. In addition to a water coaster and an amphitheater, Dinosaur Beach included the first spinning wild mouse, which opened in 1997. The only classic rides operating at Dinosaur Beach were the Golden Nugget, Log Flume, and Rapids, with most of the Hunt’s legacy gone. In 1998 Dinosaur Beach closed, and over the next few years, most of the rides disappeared.

Hunt’s Pier featured many unique rides and attractions, including a classic wooden roller coaster called the Flyer, indoor rides such as Keystone Kops and Whacky Shack, and an outdoor boat ride called Jungleland. For many years, The Golden Nugget had the honor of being the oldest ride on the Wildwood Boardwalk still surviving in its original form and location. The Golden Nugget originally opened in July 1960 on the newly constructed oceanside section of Hunt’s Pier. The Golden Nugget was built three stories high with the top floor designed to imitate a mine car ride through the desert. The classic coaster ride was specially constructed for Hunt’s Pier by the Philadelphia Toboggan Company and was engineered by John Allen. It was removed in 2009, and a ceremony commemorating the ride was held in January of that year in anticipation of its removal.

In early 2009, Knoebels’ Amusement Resorts entered into an agreement with Morey’s Piers to acquire the trains, tracks, and ancillary mechanical equipment from the Golden Nugget ride. The equipment was moved to Pennsylvania in early 2009 for a planned reproduction of the Golden Nugget at its Elysburg, Pennsylvania, park. Renamed Black Diamond, it officially opened in October 2011. The original stunts and gags included in the ride were not part of the sale and have been retained by Morey’s Piers for usage elsewhere.

The George Boyer Museum in Wildwood currently houses artifacts from Hunt’s Pier, including Keystone Kops characters and Hunt’s Pier flags. Near Historic Cold Springs Village, Hunt’s abandoned storage and maintenance site still holds signs and parts of former rides, including boats for the Log Flume, trains for the Flyer that is currently under restoration, and letters that were part of the Hunt’s Pier Skyline Golf sign that stood opposite from the pier on top of the Ocean Theater.

The pier is currently owned by Morey’s Piers and is used to house maintenance equipment and the boardwalk tram cars. A grill, beach shop, and Adventure Maze are now on the front of the pier. Morey’s has plans to build a wooden roller coaster that will cross over from the Surfside Pier to the back of Hunt’s Pier.

 

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Wildwood Daze – Kites – Part 2

So I needed another kite. I knew my mom wouldn’t spring for it. So I used what little allowance I had to get another one.

It had to be this:

The Baby Bat! This was a cool kite. Probably the coolest kite Gayla ever made. Black, with flaming eyes, and the lower edges looked like real bat wings. It too was only a dollar.

I loved my new, cool black kite. The eyes were stickers you had to put on yourself, so the spacing had to be perfect upon application. You didn’t want your bat looking cross eyed or weird. It needed to be cool and menacing.

In hindsight, I think the better name for this kite would have been the Manta Ray, because it better resembles a ray than a bat. Just saying…

Our next idea was to buy more twine. Let’s connect two or more spools of twine and make the tether even longer than 200 feet. Let’s go for 400 feet of string. It became less about the simple whimsy of flying a kite as a restful activity, and more about let’s see what these kites can withstand.

But, this is what boys do. Let’s just see how far we can take an idea before something breaks, or we’re injured. As kids we used to engage in activities that endangered our health and welfare on a daily basis.

It was called the 70’s! Nobody wore seat belts in the car, and nobody wore helmets when they rode their bikes. It was like the wild west back then. Look at jaw breakers candies. Perfect choking hazard for any child. But when you’re young all you ever think of is “I”.  I’ll be fine. I’m Indestructible. I’m Immune. I’m Immortal. You never think anything you do will have any consequences, until you start seeing kids wearing casts on their arms and legs for broken bones.

Good times!

So, I tied the string together, and wound the second spool of 200 feet of string to the first one. Now I had 400 feet of tether. My kite will go higher than ever! My kite is going to go so high, a plane or even a helicopter could crash into it. Now that would be a spectacular day of fun for a couple of boys. Nothing like causing a good old-fashioned air disaster to get the blood up.

We head down to the beach with my new Baby Bat kite and a giant spool of string. The wind is up and blowing north. We follow the path through the bushes to the open beach.

Once there, we let it rip. The string is going out like mad and the kite is rising high into the twilight sky. The sea air is invigorating as I watch as my great ebony vessel rises higher and higher. I decide to place both of my index fingers into the ends of the spool and just let that sucker spin. The cylinder of twine is a blur in my hands as the line goes out like mad. It’s as if I have a fish on the line. (That, or a giant bat!)

The bat is going so high, it’s getting smaller and smaller. Soon it’ll be just an inkblot in the sky. I’ll have flown the highest kite ever!

Now, you have to keep tension on the line so that the kite stays up. If that pressure is off the kite could fall. But the wind is carrying my kite higher than I’ve ever seen a kite go. The spool spins on my fingers.

The line… still going out.

Once it reaches the end, it’ll stop, and the kite will soar even higher. 400 feet is just seconds away! My beautiful brand new kite soars like a bird.

But that didn’t happen.

What I failed to realize was that the string on these spools isn’t tied to the spool. It’s simply wrapped around it by a machine when it’s manufactured.

The final feet of the twine go out, and I’m left standing with what would be equal to an empty role of toilet paper in my hand.

The kite is so high it continues to fly. But it’s so far away and we’re on a beach, so I can’t even see the string as it slips away at high speed. I watch as my brand new  Baby Bat flies away on it’s first, and final mission. My friend is laughing hysterically as we watch the kite fly over the channel as it heads out to sea.

It probably crashed somewhere across the channel in Stone Harbor, five miles away.

So, that was the end of that kite.

I owned a few more Baby Bats that summer. I think it was my favorite kite design. Most were destroyed in sky battles or tangled in electrical lines and lost. I remember my mom saying, “You went through a kite a week that summer!”

Ahh, what a grand time we had as children each summer. Living by the sea, in the sunshine, and getting our exercise. Those experiences build strong, healthy minds and bodies. Better than any video game you could imagine.

One night, there was a land breeze from the west and my friend and I were flying the latest kite. It was a red Sky Raider.

Exciting fun for all ages! Boys, girls, and apparently old guys who smoked pipes! (for only one dollar!)

We were sitting up in the lifeguard chair. Which is the coveted spot to sit on the beach at night. You’re probably 7 feet in the air and it definitely feels like a position of power for a couple of kids.

Ogunquit Beach Lifeguard Chair at Sunrise Ogunquit Maine Photograph by Toby McGuire

I got tired of holding  the string of my kite, so I tied it to the chair. The red kite sailed high over the Atlantic Ocean. Normally you don’t stay long on the beach during the day when there’s a land breeze. It brings all of the green  flies from the bay to the beach. They aren’t like the annoying pests you get in your house in the summertime. These suckers are bigger and ‘bite like horses’, as my dad would say. But by nightfall they’re usually gone.

So my buddy and I are just chilling in the lifeguard chair and chatting. We’re watching the red kite as it flies and dips over the sea. But at some point, the wind died down, and the kite vanished below the waves. At that point we didn’t feel like hauling in all of that wet sandy string, so we just broke the string and let it drift away. I remember before it sank it looked like a big red shark’s dorsal fin before it slipped away.

Another dollar and a half well spent. Taken by Neptune.

I wanted to change up my game. I needed a better kite.

I had heard from one of the other kids that there was a bigger and better kite that was made by Gayla. It looked like the Sky Raider, but it was bigger and had a metal controller you held to maneuver your kite.

Kind of looked like this, but much bigger. It had a six foot wing span. It was called…

The Invader!

Rare 1962 vintage Gayla kite The Invader Kites with box | #1821116875

I had to have it. It cost a whopping six dollars!

I scraped together what little allowance money and change I had to get that kite. It was bigger than any kite on the beach, and it had the cool metal controller included. I scampered over to the store and bought it.

I quickly assembled my great bird and was ready for action. The controller is simply a wire frame shaped like an hourglass that you hold horizontally like an airplane controller. (Don’t get too excited. Think, cheap-ass, coat hanger bent into a metal bow tie.)

Flying Fish Kiting Team: Radcliffe Conversion

You actually needed two spools of twine to operate the kite properly. They were both hooked to the controller and the other ends were attached at two different points on the kite’s brindle. This is so you could steer and maneuver your amazing kite.

I was about to become the Lord of the Skies in Wildwood.

I made sure the string was securely tied to each spool before I hand wound them both back onto each cylinder. I affixed the ends of each cord to the appropriate spots on the kite.

I was ready.

We took my vinyl Phoenix to the beach for it’s maiden voyage to the heavens. The wind was blowing from the south which was perfect. This way, if anything happened it wouldn’t crash in the sea. It would land on the beach north of where we were standing.

I slowly let out the string, and my great winged toy was carried upward. It looked enormous. Some people who were still on the beach at dusk, looked on with pride and amazement at the kid with the amazing kite.

I was so proud as I watched it sail higher and higher. Such an enormous pull on the strings. Huge kite. More wind resistance coupled with great aerial strength and elegance. My beautiful winged beast flying high. It’s glorious six foot wing span, like some great albatross, controlled only by my willing hands. I held the controller and watched as my kite flew higher and higher. We were coming to the end of the string.

This was it.

That moment where the line would become taut and the kite would fly even higher on the tension of the lines. I would proudly steer it along the beach as startled onlookers watched the glory of my passing.

The Sky King.

The Invader!

The anticipation was exhilarating as the end of the spools approached. Within seconds, the strings went taut.

The force was so great it yanked the controller from my tiny hands.

I watched in mute protest as the controller flew from my grasp and bounced down the beach.

My friend and I gave chase. Running as fast as we could in an attempt to catch the bouncing metal frame as it bounded down the beach. It had enough weight to keep the kite aloft, but was light enough to escape from us.

We eventually ran out of energy as the kite flew further and further away.

Another kite had made its escape. It would probably crash like the last on the other side of the channel in Stone Harbor.

My kite…

Snatched from my hands like my fleeting childhood.

 

I’ll always look back on my times at the shore with fond memories. Some of my greatest moments happened on that sandy stage.

 

Here’s a great song that serves as a soundtrack to this story.

 

Here’s one gentleman’s obsession:

http://gaylakitememories.blogspot.com/2012/07/introduction.html

 

Why couldn’t this have happened to us?

Thank you for reading my blog. Please read, like, comment, and most of all follow Phicklephilly. I publish every day.

My new books, Phicklephilly 2 and Sun Stories: Tales from a Tanning Salon are now for sale on Amazon!

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Listen to the Phicklephilly podcast LIVE on Spotify!

 

What Will ‘New Normal’ Look Like For The Jersey Shore?

As we battle COVID-19 all over the world, we all know there will be a new normal for all of us when the dust settles. What will that look like for the Jersey Shore?

Some of the things that will always, or at least for a long time, be with us after this pandemic include frequent hand washing, no handshakes and social distancing. The first two are the easy part.

When you start to picture what a summer will look like at the Jersey Shore if social distancing becomes a long term thing, which some experts believe it will, it’s definitely a different picture than we’re used to.

All you have to do is apply social distancing to boardwalks, beaches and restaurants and you’ll see the different picture. One thin about the Jersey Shore is that we are a resilient bunch and we’ll figure it out.

We will take our new normal, get creative, and make it work. We have to. Our local businesses and the way of life we love depend on it. We have proven time and time again that we can take whatever gets thrown at us and handle it.

We’ve done it before and we’ll do it again. Yes, this may be the biggest challenge we’ve faced in a long time, but one thing social distancing can’t diminish is my belief in the people and the businesses of the Jersey Shore.

We can do this. Stay safe, stay healthy, and stay creative. We’ve never needed each other more than we do now.

Reach out and connect with others

During this time of social isolation, people everywhere are struggling with extreme loneliness. Being cut off from human contact and touch that we rely on daily can be detrimental for one’s mental and physical health. One easy way to give back during this time is to simply reach out to someone around you.

Feed those who are hungry

Whether it’s due to loss of wages or the inability to access school lunches, many are struggling to get proper meals right now. If you are able to, consider donating food or money to your local food bank. If you call, most will tell you what they are most in need of at the time. According to No Kid Hungry, around 22 million children in the United States rely on the free or reduced-price lunch they receive at school. Due to school closures, these children are likely not able to access lunch or other meals that they typically rely on. Consider donating to this organization to get meals to school children. It’s also important to remember that this is not a time to hoard supplies. Doing so could make someone else go without or force an elderly or immune compromised person to have to visit numerous stores, putting them at further risk of exposure.

Check in on your neighbors

One of the beautiful things that typically stems from disaster is a renewed sense of community. Take the time to check in on those who live around you, especially the elderly or those who are health-compromised. You can offer to pick up supplies while you’re out, limiting their exposure, and do a safely-distanced drop-off to a porch or doorway.

Support small businesses

As restaurants and small businesses have been shuttered, their owners and employees have been pushed to their financial limits. Show your support by purchasing takeout (remember you can freeze meals), shopping for merchandise online, or buying gift cards to use at a later time. We do not know when businesses like restaurants and bars will be able to fully reopen, so your support during this time will make a huge difference.

Foster or adopt a pet

Many animal rescue organizations are struggling during this time due to staff shortages and a reduction in donations. Since you’re likely working from home, consider fostering an animal in need. Few things are more calming than snuggling with a fluffy, warm creature during a difficult time, so contact your local animal rescue organization to see how you can help. If you’re unable to foster or adopt, consider a donation instead.

Give blood

Along with all events, blood drives across the country have been cancelled and the Red Cross is experiencing a dramatic drop in blood donations. If you’re able to give, Red Cross assures that they will keep you safe during the process through the highest standards of safety and infection control. You can schedule an appointment now to give at a location near you.

Thank essential workers

While we’re doing our part by staying home, many essential workers are on the frontlines, risking exposure to keep us all safe. Consider how you can show your gratitude to healthcare workers, your local fire and police departments, grocery store workers, postal workers, and delivery people. Small gestures like a meal delivery, handwritten note, a word of thanks, or added gratuity are great ways to express your appreciation. Get your family involved by hanging signs on the outside of your home celebrating these modern day heroes.

Make masks

The CDC now recommends wearing cloth face coverings in public settings like grocery stores and pharmacies. Their website also includes simple instructions for sewing your own mask. If you don’t know how to sew, they’ve got you covered with tutorials on how to make your own mask with a t-shirt or coffee filter, no sewing required. It’s important to remember not to purchase surgical masks or N-95 respirators, as these are critical supplies that are needed by healthcare workers and first responders.

Pay your Employees

If you are financially able to do so, continue to pay service workers, like nannies, house cleaners, or dog walkers, even if you are not able to utilize their services right now. The people who provide you with these services on a regular basis have likely taken a drastic cut in income during the pandemic, so what better way to say thank you to vulnerable workers than to continue to provide steady pay. If you are a home care worker, nanny, or house cleaner who is experiencing financial hardship during this time, you can apply for the Coronavirus Care Fund (CCF) to receive emergency financial assistance.

Stay home

Returning to the scene after a tornado can be traumatic and anxiety can persist for long periods of time. Seek professional help if you are having trouble coping. Natural disasters can be especially disorienting for children. Encourage young members of your family to freely express their feelings and offer them ongoing comfort.

Experiencing a natural disaster can disrupt each and every area of one’s life and cause devastating levels of loss. Reach out to those around you for support and seek out a local shelter if you need a place to stay, along with other essentials such as food or water. Above all else, focus on keeping yourself and those around you safe during this challenging time.

 

 

Thank you for reading my blog. Please read, like, comment, and most of all follow Phicklephilly. I publish every day.

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