Wildwood Daze – Betty Ann – Part 3 – Lipstick on your Collar

Spring, 1984

I called Betty and assured her I was on my way. I had the necessary videos on the front seat of my car.

Betty lived in a nice house in a lovely neighborhood in Absecon. As I pulled into the development, it was as if they had simply poured asphalt into the shape of a road through the woods and dropped a few elegant houses in there.

I parked away from the property and approached her house. (What if something crazy happens and I have to make a quick getaway?)

Betty Knight. The prettiest lady that came in our video store. How was this different from California? Those days in the early 80s were full of debauchery and recklessness. I was back. But I lived with my parents for god’s sake. I failed out there in L.A. My career or, my imagined career in music was already over. Why? How did that happen? All I ever wanted was to be a rockstar and now here I am.

I sang in a band in Philly, played guitar in a band in Wildwood, and played more rock in L.A., and none of it amounted to anything. My favorite thing in the world wasn’t going to happen to me. What was to be my fate now? Was I just a leaf cast upon the winds of my whims and dreams only to be cast asunder in some grinding domestic life from now on?

But all of the magic things happened in the summer of 1977, 1980, and 1983. I was on a 3-year success cycle there. What happened? It’s 1984, and I thought my luck had run out. My transformation was over. I’ve had my laughs and had my fun with all the girls, I need to buckle down and fly right.

But here I am. Walking up the pathway to this lady’s house. This stranger. This beautiful woman that looks like a Mayan queen and smells like the first day of spring. No matter what I do I always end up here. Walking up to the next adventure. The next extraordinary affair in my life. Why do I keep doing this? Maybe it’s not me, and it’s the forces trying to get me back on track as to where I’m supposed to be.

(This is her front porch. What’s behind the Green Door?)

I was nothing in the ’70s. Then I rose up. But there were those who seemed superior to me. Undoubtedly these things had been allotted to the beautiful, the athletic, and those with clear skin. This stuff was for them. Not a loser like me.

But here she is. I’m at her house. Not a girl. Not some teenager hanging at my side by the pinball machine. This was a woman. 10 years my senior. For some reason, she’s chosen me. It can’t really be happening.

Is my co-worker Tyrone some sort of cupid or even a wizard in matters of love?

I didn’t know what love was back then. Any love I ever felt for anyone came at a price. Whether it was scorn or the sweetest touch of a hand in mine.

I knocked on the door. There’s the moment. You’ve made a sound. Has it been received? There is nothing in the world right now but you and your waiting.

Do you knock again?

No.

Wait.

Knock again. Use the brass knocker on the door this time, buster.

I can’t believe I’m standing here right now. In this neighborhood, knocking on this customer’s door. I look down at the two plastic tape cases in my hand. Rod Stewart and Eddie and the Cruisers on Beta.

The door opens.

Betty is dressed in casual clothes. Light blue button-down blouse and jeans with white Keds. Those dark eyes and raven mane though…

Nothing alarming here. Gotta stay cool. She welcomes me into her home.

She’s lovely and relaxed. I on the other hand am a cluster of nerves and anxiety. I almost can’t describe the feeling. It’s as if I’ve been the miraculous winner of some exotic lottery.

We exchange pleasantries and I set the vids on the table. Her house is how one would picture the home of what appears to be a wealthy person. I know she drives a light blue BMW 5 series, but I don’t know what Betty does for a living.

She takes me on a tour of her house. It’s clean, neat, and nicely appointed, but nothing that points to extravagance. But it’s a really nice house in a very nice neighborhood. We go down a flight of stairs that lead to the basement. Now don’t get me wrong, I don’t mean the basement in some John Carpenter film, it’s a finished basement. As we head down the steps I see some framed photos that appear to have been taken at the Grand Prix. This part of the house is giving me a strong male vibe here.  We walk through a finished playroom area complete with a bar and pool table. Spider sense is tingling like mad now.

“Well, I guess you know I’m married.”

“Umm… No, I didn’t. I hadn’t thought of that, Betty.”

To be honest, if a lady is renting little mermaid videos she obviously has a little daughter. If she has a little daughter, she might be married. But in my blind desire for her back at the store, I can honestly say I didn’t think about any of that. I know I should have, but at that age, I only saw what was before me and what I liked and wanted. I think that’s simply a trait of youth. You act before you think of the repercussions of your decisions. I know I did that well into my 40’s! You want what you want when you want it, and nothing is going to stop you from getting it. You only see the end goal and not all the hazards along the way to your destination.

“My husband, Dick works at the Showboat Casino.”

“Is he in the mob?”

“Oh gosh, no. I wish everybody would stop assuming that just because someone works at the executive level in a casino they’re associated with the mafia.”

“Sorry. I didn’t mean…”

“It’s fine. It doesn’t matter. Follow me.”

Betty then takes me into the laundry room. (Is this where I get murdered and no one ever hears from me again?) I doubt it. Betty is 5’3″ and 100 lbs. She reaches into the dryer and pulls out a man’s dress shirt. She holds out the collar to me.

“Look at this.”

“Okay… Hmm…”

“What does that look like to you?”

“That looks like lipstick, Betty.”

“Yea. The lipstick on your collar always tells the tale on you.”

“I suppose so… I wouldn’t…”

“And look at this.” She reaches behind a cup on the shelf above the washer and produces what appears to be a woman’s earring.

“I found that in his car.”

Things don’t look good for Dick at this point. Who named Richard goes by the name Dick anyway? I would love to know the question’s when, how, and why.

“Wow.”

“Yea, what does all of that make you think of?”

“Well if that’s not your earring and that smear on the collar of his shirt is clearly not your color, I’d say your husband is probably cheating you, Betty.”

“Yep. That son of a bitch.”

Clearly, she’s pissed.

Why is she showing me all of this so early in our first meeting? It’s as if a message and a motive need to be sent. As nervous as I am at this moment, I kind of like the rush and intrigue of my current situation. I don’t know why, but I’ve always been like this. The nice innocent guy who is somehow drawn into the darker aspects of existence. This is a precarious position I’m in and the bigger question is… where is Dick right now? Cheater or not, I’m in the basement of the guy’s house with his wife right now. I don’t know where the escape routes or heavy sharp objects are in the house. But I’m getting ahead of myself.

“Where is he right now?”

“He’s in Chicago on business until Tuesday.”

(Sigh of relief.) Oh… okay. Well, I’m sorry this is happening to you, Betty. You seem like a really nice lady.”

“I am, but I should have expected something like this to eventually happen. Let’s go back upstairs. Would you like a beer?”

“That would be awesome.” (Alcohol would be the perfect remedy for my nerves right now.)

We get up to the brightly lit kitchen. “When you said you should have expected this, what did you mean?”

She takes a bottle of Heineken from the fridge and pops the cap. Pouring it slowly into a pilsner glass I notice how dainty her hands are and how lovely her vermillion nails are. “Well, that’s how I met Dick. A leopard doesn’t change his spots.”

“Go on…”

“I was his secretary. He was married before. I worked for him in my early twenties and he started having an affair with me.”

“He left his wife and married you?”

“Yep. So I suppose I should have seen this coming. Maybe he’s tired of me now that I’m 32. I wonder who he’s fooling around with this time.”

Her sadness mixed with betrayal and scorn flashed before me. She’s so beautiful and perfect that I can’t imagine a man wanting anything but her. But I was young. I’m jaded from being in bands and living in L.A. for a couple of years, but youth is still a place I can’t escape. I take a deep swig from the ice-cold beer for solace.

“I’m sorry, Betty. I’m glad you feel comfortable enough with me to tell me how you’re feeling.” (I’m navigating new waters at this point.)

“Yea… Hey, come look at my cul-de-sac. I love my cul-de-sac.”

Okay, at this point I have no idea what a cul-de-sac is. Is it french for some sort of sexual thing? No. Can’t be. Is it something in the house? I’m lost here. I had heard the word but never knew what it meant or what it was.

She walks me over to the kitchen sink. I look down. Okay… drain, spigot, dish sprayer thing. What am I supposed to be looking at?

She points out the window over the sink. “Look. Isn’t that a lovely cul-de-sac?”

All I see out there is the end of a street surrounded by other nice houses in a circle with no apparent exit. It’s just a street that ends with no passage. I’m confused but I have to play along. I look intently out the window at the view. “Well, I must say, Betty… that’s about the best-looking cul-de-sac I’ve ever seen in my life.”

“I know, right?”

But as I turn around and away from the window, Betty is standing right there in front of me. Like, right there. Like six inches in front of me. My heart quickens as I look into her dark eyes. I can feel the familiar searing burst of warm color that explodes in my mind and heart.

This is ignition.

I set my glass on the counter and kiss her lips. It feels like I’ve kissed her before. But it’s brand new. But there’s a friendly familiarity to her kiss. We fit naturally together like I’m exactly where I’m supposed to be in the universe right now. I take her in my arms and we kiss deeply. It’s amazing. I’ve been kissing girls all of my life. but now I’m kissing a woman. A beautiful, exquisite, experienced woman. My god, she’s beautiful. If Dick walks in here right now and shoots me dead, I’ll die willingly knowing the last thing I ever did in this life was to kiss this lovely woman.

The kiss comes to a conclusion and she hugs me tightly. She smells incredible. What is that fragrance? Is that Red Door? I don’t know. I can’t think straight. There’s too much dopamine firing in my brain. I lean back on the counter and look at her. She smiles and her eyes twinkle as she tosses her raven mane to the side. My god… what did I do to deserve this moment?

Instant love.

“You’re cute, Chaz. I like you. Bonus points for being a great kisser.”

I blush like mad and look down. “I always liked you, Betty. Ever since the first time you came into the store. You were my favorite. You’re the prettiest girl that comes in the store. I’m glad Tyrone said something to you now.”

I didn’t know it at the time, but this is probably what she needed to hear from her husband. She was over 30 and had a 5-year-old daughter now. No longer the spring chicken she was when she met her husband. No longer the forbidden fruit that he spent time with at the office every day. Most men never leave their wives for the mistress, but this guy did, and then cheated again.

“I always thought you were cute and nice, Chaz.”   Get your beer. Let’s go into the living room. and watch a movie.”

We watched Eddie and the Cruisers. It is a cool story, with a great soundtrack, but is a cliche-ridden mess. But I didn’t care, I was just happy to be sitting on the couch with this pretty lady. There were more beers drank and more sweet kisses stolen.

We watched some of the Rod Stewart video because she loved him. Most girls from that generation loved Rod Stewart. I never understood it, and neither did my mother. “What do they see in that skinny big nosed Scotsman?” she would say. But what was happening here now was no place for thoughts about my mom.

After some cuddling on the couch and more kisses, it was time to wrap up the day. I smooched her one more time before opening her door and making my departure. We planned on getting together soon, and I didn’t ask any questions. It was her movie and I was merely an actor in this one. A very willing actor.

I think this was an audition for me. Betty wanted to see what I was like outside of the store. She felt comfortable enough to bring me to her home, so at least there was that.  But would I get a lead role in this affair?

Only time would tell.

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

Check out my latest book, LAWNDALE now for sale on Amazon!

Wildwood Daze: At The Drive In

Wildwood, New Jersey – Summer, 1981

First, a little history…

The Wildwood Twin Drive-In owned by Fox theaters of Philadelphia opened on July 28, 1950, as a single-screen drive-in. In 1976 a second screen was added. This drive-in had a capacity of 470 cars.

The Wildwood Twin Drive-In closed after the 1986 season. The original address was Wildwood Boulevard (Route 47) at exit 4A of the Garden State Parkway.

The drive-in theater was the idea of Richard M. Hollingshead who opened the very first drive-in theater in Camden, New Jersey on June 6, 1933. It wouldn’t be until 1950 that Cape May County would have its own drive-in movie theater. Mel Fox, of Fox Theaters from Philadelphia opened the Wildwood Drive-In theater on a 13.5-acre lot on Wildwood Blvd., in Rio Grande. With space for 470 cars, a Simplex X-L projector and a sound system with Simplex in-car speakers, the drive-in was ready for its grand opening, Friday, July 28, 1950, with the showing of “I Wonder Who’s Kissing Her Now.” The box office opened at 7:30 pm with a 60-cent admission per car. Free popcorn was given to everyone on opening night. They ran two shows each night during the week and three shows nightly on weekends. The property was sprayed with DDT every week. Sometimes every night! (Darn mosquitos!)

In the Fall and Winter of 1981, my father taught me how to drive. We would go out each morning and I would practice driving our 1969 Volkswagen minibus. It was a four-speed manual transmission and had a blind spot on the back right quadrant of the vehicle. So it was fun to try to parallel park that sucker. Especially fun was learning how to K-turn the van. Each street had a crown for water drainage in Wildwood, so the vehicle would roll and stall out all the time as I struggled with the gas, clutch, and brake. But in time I figured it out, (with my father’s patience) and soon I could hold the van on a hill and even roll it back and forth on the incline using only the clutch and brake.

I passed my driving test and my dad gave the van to me. You can read all about the history of that family vehicle in the links in the above paragraph.

The Summer came around and I now had possession of the van. One of the first things I wanted to do was take my friends to the drive-in movie out in Rio Grande off the island. I always loved movies and especially horror movies so it was a natural progression for me to want to hang out there.

We’d drive out Rio Grande Avenue which turned into route 47. Delsea Drive as it’s better known. The reason route 47 was called Delsea Drive is that it runs from the Delaware River to the Atlantic Ocean. (Get it? Delaware to the Sea. Del-Sea!) When you passed the bay and the grassy sound and you’d arrive out in Rio Grande on the mainland. There were shops and roadside vendors and even a little mall out there. (It was more like a small enclosed shopping center) There were a few old motels out there and maybe a trailer park or two but what stood out was on the right was a drive-in movie theater.

I had heard of them as a kid and thought it was a cool idea. Just sit in the comfort of your car and watch a movie. You could eat drink and talk and nobody would bother you. When I was a kid I would sometimes see the big screen of a drive in while we passed it at night in the car. I just thought I had to experience that one day. So once I had the van, I was going to make that happen.

We pulled the van off the road and into the entrance through a grove of trees. Sort of like a little tunnel of trees that you had to drive through to get to the box office. The path was littered with broken seashells that crunched under your wheels as you rolled up to buy your tickets. It didn’t cost that much and people were always sneaking their friends inside the trunks of their cars. But we had the van and all they had to do was look inside and see who was in the car. As I said, it was cheap and we didn’t mind paying for whoever was in our crew.

We’d get there at dusk just to get a good spot and hang out a bit. It was cool. the surface of the lot had these humps of dirt built up that you’d pull your vehicle onto just to raise the nose of your car to point the car toward the big screen. You’d pull your car up to one of the speakers that hung on poles that were stuck in the ground all over the lot.

Drive-in Theaters Start Kickstarter Campaigns, Ask for Donations to Pay for Digital Projector Conversions | TIME.com

They were these big metal waterproof portable speakers that you unhooked from the pole and then hooked them on the edge of your driver’s side window. It had a volume control on it and that was it. Many of them didn’t work or were badly oxidized from being outside for years. But for the most part, they did their job. You don’t go to the drive-in for a rich film experience and superb audio quality. You go to the drive-in for the fun of it.

A lot of people back then would bring their kids with them. The parents got a night out and didn’t need a babysitter because most of the time the children would pass out and sleep in the backseat of their car or station wagon by the second feature. But for the most part, it was young people and teenagers like us just looking to do something different on a summer night. (You can only have so many nights on the boardwalk and in the nightclubs before you need a break!)

By the time we arrived at this drive-in, it was already 30 years old and its best days were behind it. The screen was a little banged up and so was the old wooden plank fence around the lot. But here’s the cool thing about that. Once night fell, you could walk over to the fence toward Delsea Drive and slip through a hole in the fence behind whatever stores aligned the fence. So we’d go over there and zip through the fence and no one would see us. Once outside the lot, we’d walk about 30 yards to a roadside liquor store and grab a few 8 packs of Miller ponies. We didn’t drink much back then and those mini beers were enough for us, and they were small enough to stay bubbly and cold on the floor of my van. We’d sneak back under the cloak of darkness and have our beer and snacks for the show. I wonder now why we didn’t just buy the beer in Wildwood, hide it in a cooler in the van and then go to the drive-in. Maybe we thought they would check the car and I know there was a “no alcoholic beverage rule” in place at that theater. So maybe that was it. But it was actually more exciting to pull a caper and sneak through the fence and get our beer.

We’d hit the snack bar and try not to get devoured by the hordes of mosquitos that ruled the place at night. I remember keeping a can of OFF behind the seat of the van just for that reason. We’d buy popcorn, nachos, soft pretzels, and whatever other kind of junk food they sold there. We’d load up and head back to the van.

I found this great video of intermission shorts on Youtube. I love how it takes me back to being at that beat-up old drive in theater. The campy voiceover, the crap animation, the photos of the “delicious” food which was terrible and even looks bad in the photos! Such great memories!

Once it was dark, usually just before 8 pm, the first feature would begin. As I said, the place had already been there for 30 years and all they normally showed at that theater during the week was horror movies. Mostly slasher films from the late 70s which were all the rage since the inception of John Carpenter’s Halloween. (I remember one evening we laughed through  Bucket of Blood and Demonoid!)

We loved it. Most of the films were bad but made in earnest by the filmmakers. We didn’t care. We’d watch them and eat, sip cold beer, and smoke cigarettes, and were in our teenage glory.

One night I recognized my friend Joe’s (Best bassist on the island) car a few yards ahead of mine. I thought I’d walk over and say hello. I tried to peek in the window, but they were all steamed up. I tapped on the glass and the back window rolled down. Then I saw my pal Joe with his shirt off and beneath him lying on her back was some pretty girl. I quickly backed away from his vehicle and apologized for interrupting his movie experience. (Which neither of them were watching!) So I realized that the drive-in was a cheap, mobile hotel for amorous couples!

One of my most enduring memories of that place was in 1984 when I took my girlfriend Betty Ann to the drive-in. She had never been to a drive-in movie so it was all new fun to her. We pulled up in her blue BMW 5 series and had a grand old time. We drank beer, smoked pot and saw Footloose and Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom, which was a fantastic night. She loved it and I found out first hand that the windows really do steam up pretty quickly! (I’ll be covering the full Betty Ann saga in a series this fall, so stay tuned!)

Once a group of us went to the drive-in and I pulled the van up on the hill sideways. I opened the sliding door on the right side and the passenger door next to me. I passed around the can of OFF spray and everybody grabbed a beach chair I had brought and sat outside the van. I went over to the two speaker poles that were at each end of the car and left them on their poles and just cranked up the volume on each one. So we had four speakers going. We all camped outside around the van and could hear the show. They played the film Purple Rain and everybody went wild over that. It was a spectacular night of music and laughter. (After that, who didn’t want to cleanse their soul with Appolonia Kotero in the waters of Lake Minnetonka?)

Years later they tore it down and put up a shopping center and if you went out there now you’d never know the place ever existed. The advent of home video rentals killed the drive-in movies.

It now lives only in my memories.

I’d love to hear your comments on what your experiences were at this amazing place!

Check out my new book, LAWNDALE on Amazon. It’s packed with stories from my youth growing up in Northeast Philadelphia!

My next book, DOWN THE SHORE, a collection of stories from my summers in Wildwood in the 70s will be released in May of 2023!

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

Wildwood Daze – The Dolphin Restaurant – Part 1

North Wildwood, New Jersey – Summer, 1978

I was turning 16 years old that summer. I had had great success working as a pool boy the summer before at the El Morro Motel. But I wanted to do something else. So working as a busboy at the Dolphin Restaurant seemed like a good progression. There was a small salary plus tips and free meals so it just made sense.

Now that I think back on my time as a pool boy at the El Morro Motel, I was earning a flat $40 a week. But I worked 7 days a week from 7 am till noon. Then I had to go back every night at 7 pm and bring the cushions in from all of the lounge chairs around the pool. So I roughly worked over 35 plus hours a week there for $40. That’s like a dollar an hour! (As Napoleon Dynamite would say)

It wasn’t a bad job at the Dolphin because I normally worked days and some nights, but the night shift was from around 4 pm until 7 or 8 pm. It would be busy in the morning for breakfast, then quiet down around lunchtime. Everybody would be at the beach so the place was dead from 1 pm until 5 pm.

Then it would pick up again as families and groups came in to grab dinner before heading off to the boardwalk for the evening.

The owners were a nice Greek couple. Bill and Lanie. Bill ran the line in the kitchen and Lanie was the hostess and cashier out front. The Greeks are brilliant people. They start these restaurants, work their butts off and bring their whole family over to work. The Dolphin was also in a great location. Close to the beach and surrounded by motels. So there was always plenty of foot traffic from Memorial Day to Labor Day.

This was the sign on the roof of the restaurant. How cool is that? A life-sized dolphin that rotated on the sign. A creative, retro artifact. That had to be expensive to design and construct. That’s pride, baby.

Here’s the actual feature restored to its original glory. (Photo courtesy of the Wildwood Historical Society)

The job was easy. I liked the people I worked with. The waitresses were all nice and so were the setup girls. Waitresses were normally around 16 or 17, and set up girls and busboys were 14 and 15 years old.

We had a great time working together. We liked and hated all the same things working in a restaurant. Especially when a huge family would roll in and had kids. The dreaded high chairs for babies. We all knew there’d be plenty of food to clean up off the floor! But for the most part it was a fun and lively place to work.

I remember when I turned 16 that summer the girls had a little party for me and got me Supertramp’s latest album, Breakfast in America. Which seemed fitting based on our vocation and the image on the album cover.

Breakfast in America - Wikipedia

I just realized something for the first time. The image is the view from the window of a plane. The waitress represents the Statue of Liberty and the table in the background is New York.

How did I miss this back in 1978? I guess I was too busy listening to my Aerosmith albums!

Anyway, it was nice to have a job where I was surrounded by other people. When I was a pool boy I was an army of one. It was just me working as the entire maintenance crew for the motel.

But now there was a whole cast of characters I worked with every day. There were all the macho Greek guys working as cooks in the steaming hot kitchen, the ladies working in the dining room, and the wait staff.

One afternoon I was walking across the parking lot about to enter through the back door. We all went inside that way. You’d go in, turn right into this little room and find an apron to wear for the night.

Standing outside in the parking lot, leaning against the wall was one of the Greek cooks. I forget his name. Just picture a tan, swarthy-looking, Mediterranean guy with a head full of black curls and a bushy mustache.

He was smoking a really fat joint. He sees me and offers me a toke. He says: “Smoke pot? Here…” and points the joint at me. Not wanting to appear to be the wimp I was, I took it from his fingers and hit it. Just one hit. That was it. I thanked him and went inside. Mission accomplished. I’ve paid the gatekeeper and showed him I’m cool too.

It didn’t hit me until I sat down at the middle table with all of the rest of the wait staff before our shift was to begin. We would all hang there and Lanie would go over any last-minute specials and whatever else we needed to know.

I had this stupid grin on my face and all of the girls instantly picked up on it. They were all laughing at me, and I couldn’t believe that it was instantly apparent I was high. I did my best to hide it from Lanie so she wouldn’t send me home for illegal drug use. During my shift, I confided in one of the other busboys named Grover. He was an older friend of the family but a cool dude. He said he had gotten high once before work and it made him feel like everyone in the restaurant was staring at him.

Since he said that to me, I now thought the very same thing. He had implanted a fresh paranoid thought in my hallucinogenic head. I looked around and everybody WAS staring at me. (They weren’t but I thought they were. They were just glancing over at me because I was part of the staff. But in my stoned brain I thought they were staring and knew I was baked!)

I spent most of the night giggling my way through my shift.

“Why you so silly tonight, Charlie?” Lanie asked in her broken accent.

“I… I don’t know. I just guess… I’m just a silly guy sometimes.”

Totally lame response, but I managed to get through my shift.

Lanie had a sister or a cousin that came to work there for a period of time. She spoke zero English and was sometimes really annoying to be around because no one could understand what she was saying. It was really frustrating. So one night when she was getting on my nerves… anything she would say to me, I would respond with a big smile and say a bunch of nonsense to her. It helped pass the night and I sort of liked that I could say whatever I wanted to her without any repercussions from the owners. I just kept smiling and bussing my tables.

There was usually a rotating cast of clowns that worked as dishwashers. Most notable was this guy named Eddie. He was the classic loser. The guy who resembled something out of a 1950s teen drama. The stained T-shirt, the slicked-back hair. The punk who always wanted to run with the cool guys and outlaws, but was always caught by the cops because he was too dumb to pull off any kind of heist. He had the worst job in the restaurant and the one that took the least skill and finesse, but he seemed happy enough doing his job. Sadly, he was socially inept and everyone just sort of tolerated his presence.

One day he starts going on about this girl he’s in love with. He describes her as the most beautiful girl on the island, and he’s going to make her his girlfriend. We had no idea who he was talking about. We figured he made her up! Also, in a town like Wildwood in the summer, how could anyone make such an assumption? The island was teeming with beautiful women!

But one day he reveals that she’s the ice cream girl from across the street at a shop called The Corner Store.  So we decide to see what’s up. Turns out she’s the eldest daughter of the owner of the Corner Store. Her mother used to work at the Provident National Bank in Philly back in the 70s with my father. I didn’t know any of this at the time, but Eddie was right. Her daughter Susan was a spectacular beauty. Dark tan, tawny hair like Farrah Fawcett and piercing blue eyes. Drop-dead gorgeous but unassuming. She was probably simply doing her job and was cordial to Eddie and he instantly fell in love with her. But I get it…

I had designs on one of the waitresses that I worked with at the Dolphin. Back then and for many years after that, I put women on a pedestal. Actually, I put certain people on pedestals for no reason other than I thought they were awesome. I think it was tied to my low self-esteem. I was just happy to be in the presence of the cool and the beautiful.

There was this guy who would work there sometimes as a dishwasher at night named Chickie Bradley. He was cute but all the girls knew he was a womanizing devil. He had an older brother named Dave who was super cool though. Dave ran an umbrella stand on the beach at 5th street. Dave was cool because he had his own apartment for the summer and would let me and my friend hang out at his umbrella stand with him. He was probably 18 years old at the time so he was basically a man and light years ahead of me in terms of any sort of masculine powers.

I would stop over his apartment and he would put on The Rolling Stones latest album, Some Girls and that’s what really got me into the Stones. He’d always offer me a cold bottle of Miller and I felt like such a big shot just to be in the same room with Dave. He was just so cool. But a nice guy who would let younger guys like me hang out. I knew I couldn’t go on his nocturnal adventures with him because I was too young, but it was just nice to hang.

He once told me that his landlord was talking about throwing him and his brother Chickie out of the apartment they were staying in for the summer. When I asked him why he said that the neighbors were complaining that it looked like they were running some kind of brothel out of the apartment.

I thought this was amazing. Just knowing a guy that could have so many girls and get them to come over all the time. This was beyond my imagination. I barely had the courage to even talk to most girls to try to get a date. But these guys were apparently lotharios that could just pull in the ladies with their wit and charm.

I remember Dave had some sort of problem with his larynx. It gave him this low hoarse voice. But that made him even cooler. When I would appear before him, he’d always say:

“Hello. my friend.” In that dark voice.

Dave was my idol.

A super cool dude, whose cousin I would later date 7 years later. But that’s another story. (Don’t worry. I’ll get to them all!)

However, there was this one special girl with whom I worked at the Dolphin that I found especially appealing.

To be continued tomorrow…

If you liked this story, you’ll love my next book, Down The Shore, coming to a bookstore near you Memorial Day, 2023!

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

California Dreamin’ – Ashley – 3 Strikes – Part 1

Santa Monica, CA – 1982

When I first got to Los Angeles in 1982, I got a job as a busboy at a local restaurant in Santa Monica called Cafe Casino. It was located in the Wilshire Pallisades building down by the beachfront. Someone had come up with the idea of serving French cuisine in a cafeteria model. People would enter the restaurant, grab a tray and get in line for their meal. They would point to the things they wanted, and there were a couple of girls that would serve them. It was like an expensive high school lunchroom experience. We had a fun crew of people working there and we had a good time.

I had become friends with one of the girls who worked there named Kellie Lawson. She was from Kenosha, Wisconsin. She was one of a million people who had migrated to Los Angeles to become an actor. Most people that you met out there back then all wanted the same thing. Every person in the service industry was waiting for the big break that would never come. Every waitress was either an actress, singer, model, or dancer. Most of the men you met were actors, musicians, or screenwriters. None of them working in the industry, but waiting…

Kelly had got on a greyhound bus to escape the grinding boredom of her hometown in an attempt to make it big in Hollywood. A classic scenario seen a thousand times out there. We had started dating and would frequently fool around at her apartment. We sort of grew out of touch after I left that job to work at Merlin McFly’s down near Venice.

One afternoon, we’re at the restaurant and the guys and I were hanging outside the dining room by the doors. The lunch rush was over and the two glass doors swung open. Who comes rolling in with his squad but Heisman Trophy champion, O.J. Simpson!

I knew him more from the Hertz commercials, but the other guys all cheered when the athlete entered the restaurant. He was a good-looking guy and said hello to us all. When I shook the hand of this man, who could realize that 10 years later he’d be famous for something else.

One of the girls who worked there that I befriended was a charming beauty named Joelle. She was a part-time model and her boyfriend worked at Disney studios.

Here’s her modeling photo card. Beautiful!

A lovely girl. She was not only beautiful but full of sass. She’d laugh at all my jokes and seemed to find me amusing. I liked working with her and having her as a friend back then.

One day, I came to work and she was standing there with another girl. She was 19 years old, cute, and Joelle told me she was her cousin from Philadelphia. I chatted with her and thought she was cool. Since I was originally from Philly we had a small connection.

She was new to California, and I told her we should hang out. She gave me her number and we made plans to do something together.

Eventually, we started dating and things became romantic. I had already been out there for over a year and was pretty jaded. But Ashley was new and was a fun, sweet girl to spend time with. Sometimes we’d just drive around LA in my van and end up down by the beach. We’d make out in the VW minibus and it was a romantic hot time.

We went on several dates. We went to see, ET: The Extraterrestrial, (I cried like a baby) The Dark Crystal, (A bunch of muppets with David Bowie), and Flashdance. (Chick-flick, but the great soundtrack.)

Sometimes we’d just hang out at my apartment, but many times I’d finish work and come visit her at her cousin’s house out in Culver City. It was fun to hang out in her room and watch TV and make out. We were just a couple of teenagers enjoying life and our youth together. We were a couple of kids on the loose in LA. She loved Richard Gere and I loved Farrah Fawcett.

One night I stayed over there late. We stayed up all night as young people do. When I came out to get in my van to go home, I saw that the driver’s side door was standing wide open.

My minibus had been broken into, and the thieves had stolen my entire stereo system. This was heartbreaking to me because I loved my van and listening to my tunes. They even took the boom box that I used to listen to on the beach back in Wildwood, NJ. I felt so violated by that incident, I was reluctant to go back to her neighborhood again. It was a planned professional job. They had hit several cars on the street that night.

The more Ashley and I spent time together the closer we became. She would stay over at my apartment in Mar Vista on the weekends. That eventually turned into our first intimate encounters. I don’t think I realized at the time that I was Ashley’s first.

But after that, it was really fun to be together, and fooling around became part of our relationship. It was a natural progression back then. You can only make out in my van for so long before the bigger things start happening.

One night while we were in my apartment fooling around someone broke into the apartment next door and robbed the place. My neighbor was in Greece at the time with her boyfriend so nobody was home. The thieves ransacked the place and I suppose stole anything valuable.  I later heard from one of my neighbord that they saw some guys listening next to my window to see if anybody was home. But I guess hearing our laughter they moved on to next door and ripped off my neighbor’s place instead of robbing us. Crazy!

My neighbor moved out shortly after that and I moved into her apartment. It was bigger and installed a waterbed I had gotten from a chef I worked with at McFlys who had back problems. That waterbed only cost me $120 and was awesome! It was so cool having a waterbed. I remember one night the thermostat in the unit went off and the whole side of my body was cold when I woke up. I thought I was half dead! I had a lot of wild times on that waterbed.

More tomorrow!

 

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Home for Christmas

I’m going to begin this piece with a few funny bits I remember from a couple of late-night TV hosts.

“I was driving through LA the other day and I saw an adult book store with a sign on the door. The sign read: Open all day, Christmas day.

“Does anybody ever wake up Christmas morning and say to themselves, ‘I’d love to look at some filthy magazines today. I wonder if anything’s open?” – Jay Leno

“Remember when you first got your Christmas tree home? Don’t put the screws on the stand into the tree too tight. Put a little sugar in the water, and keep it hydrated. Then… the day after Christmas… “Get that fire trap outta here!” – Jay Leno

Okay, last one.

“What does Christmas look like at my house? I’ll tell ya. I get up really early, I get really drunk, knock the tree over, and start a small electrical fire.” – David Letterman

I love those bits!

 

Philadelphia, PA – 1930s

The Christmas season was always a magical time growing up in our house. When my father was a kid he loved Christmas and this carried on throughout his life. He was the architect of the best Christmases any kid could imagine.

But when he was a kid I suspect his Christmases weren’t all that bright. His father was sort of disconnected from his family. Although an honorable man of principles, he was more interested in his work and hanging at the bar with his buddies. Not a drunk, but enjoyed drinking and adult fun instead of spending time with his wife and two sons.

At Christmas, he would hand his wife money and tell her to get the boys whatever they wanted. Not a lot of money, but enough to get maybe a couple of sets of toy trains and some other various trinkets. he just wasn’t that into family or Christmas.

His son on the other hand who would eventually become a father to me and my three sisters was determined to change all of that.

Philadelphia, PA – 1950s

My parents were married for 5 years before any of the kids appeared in their lives. They made a big deal about Christmas. (There is even a home movie somewhere that he shot of them preparing and celebrating Christmas together. We should probably have those videos converted to digital files so they can live online forever.) I remember in this one home movie he shot it was my mom pulling boxes of decorations and goodies out from under a bed.  He edited it so it looked like she was pulling an endless amount of stuff from under the bed. I liked how he didn’t simply document the Christmas season he made a fun little movie about it with his wife.

Philadelphia, PA – 1960s-Present

One of my earliest memories of Christmas was my sisters and I as little kids standing at the top of the steps in our pajamas. My mom would give the signal and we’d all slowly descend the steps carrying our stockings. What you couldn’t see was my father filming the whole thing in 8mm. He had a rack of really bright lights set up so he could get a quality shot. (All of the cameras and film were low lux back then)

Here we all come down the stairs squinting because the lights were so incredibly light. It was like something out of the film Close Encounters! We’d walk across the living room and try in earnest to get up on our tiptoes to hang our stockings over the fireplace on the mantle. We’d all smile and wave still squinting like mad. My mother would be holding my youngest sister in her arms and hang her little stocking for her.

This went on for years. My dad loved to document all the holidays with his trusty movie camera. I don’t think any of the other kids in the neighborhood have the massive catalog of films that my family has about family events.

(That’s me in 1966)

One of the main components of the Christmas season was putting the toy trains up. My father had a wooden platform in the basement with tracks nailed to it. He would gather some old orange crates out of the garage and set them up in the corner of the living room. The platform would sit upon it and then the Christmas tree would be placed on it in the corner.

Then he’d bring up a couple of his model trains and we’d play with them and run them around the platform. He had little houses, cars, and people to complete the village. It was great because you only got to play with these specific toys the month before Christmas. So it was a cool pre-holiday treat. My sisters and I would run the trains and play for hours with these little people in their town in the days leading up to the big day.

Christmas carols and holiday music would play throughout the house, relatives would visit and usually, my grandmom would come and stay for the week leading up to Christmas. They would give her my room and I’d sleep on a cot in my sister’s room. This was fine because this way the kids were all together as Christmas approached and we could all talk about it. What we had on our lists, stuff we hoped we’d get, and just vibe with the season.

My mother would bake these glorious butter cookies from a recipe she found in a magazine. To this day they are my favorite cookies on earth. Thankfully my middle sister has been able to replicate that recipe and make cookies that look and taste exactly like mom used to make. I love them. each year she gives me a Tupperware container full of them and it takes me three months to slowly consume them all.

I remember as we got a little older we’d help my mom make the cookies. I think my older sister would help my mother mix the batter, my middle sister would roll them out, I would cut them into shapes and my baby sister would decorate them with sprinkles. I know my youngest sister is going to read this but I’m going to say it anyway. Once when she was maybe 2 years old I remember her standing on the chair at the end of the table and decorating the cookies and she suddenly sneezed.

“Good job! You just decorated the cookies!”

“Ewww!”

Poor kid. She was just a baby and didn’t even know what she did! That story still circulates the table at annual holiday gatherings.

As usual, I was a disaster in school. So my dad had taken it upon himself to sort of home school me during the early 70s. I still went to school, but he would give me books and make me read them and then test me on the subjects. It was torture for me back then, but I learned so much about so many aspects of the world that many of my peers don’t know even to this day. He even would assign me poetry to memorize and recite to him after I’d learn it. You’d think verse would be a little easier for me to memorize word for word but try to read, and understand, The Tyger by William Blake!

One Christmas one of his assignments was for me to read and memorize “A Vist from St. Nicholas” by Clement Clarke Moore, and I did it! I memorized the whole thing and recited it word for word for him. Even though this felt like some sort of extended punishment from my everyday life, it wasn’t. He was exposing me to great literary works and building the neurons in my brain for better recall. He knew I had a good mind, he just didn’t want me to waste it.

Anyway, Christmas was always a magical time in our home each year. The anticipation was nearly unbearable. My middle sister and I would conspire to figure out ways to sneak downstairs early Christmas morning with a flashlight and take a look at what Santa had left for us. This was always met with inquiries from my other sister, “Well, what did you see down there?”

My father and sisters and I would trim the tree and my mom would sit in her chair and direct us as to where each ornament should go. My grandmom would be there giggling and sipping eggnog.

When some of us were old enough to realize the truth about Santa Claus we took it upon themselves to do something my father referred to as “rooting”. This was when one of the kids would look under the pool table or in a closet for potential future Christmas presents. My dad quickly caught on to this practice and make sure everything was gift-wrapped immediately upon acquisition of the gift.

Once he even stuck a little postcard between the door of a closet and the molding near the upper hinge of the door. If anyone opened the door, the card would fall and he would know some little elf was “rooting”. So he would simply move the presents to another secret location.

Watching all the great Christmas shows on TV only added to the excitement of the season. Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, The Little Drummer Boy, Frosty the Snowman, and Santa Claus is coming to town were all wonderful, just to name a few!

Christmas morning would finally arrive and we’d all head downstairs to see the bounty of gifts that old St. Nick had dropped off. Each child had a designated area for their presents around the living room. Each kid went to their spot and started to rip into the wrapping paper. My parents would sit back, sip their coffee, and just smile.

You had to take a break after the main presents and stop and eat breakfast before ripping into your stocking. There were more goodies in each one of those! Sometimes something wonderful, like a watch or a piece of jewelry for the girls.

What set my parents apart from many families is, they shopped for Christmas all year round. So they never had to stress about the hustle and bustle associated with any last-minute shopping issues. They were done and wrapped months before Christmas day ever arrived. They were so organized and such great planners.

Thanks to my mom and dad every Christmas was unique and incredible in its own right. There were always some special gifts that you really wanted and some unexpected delights that appeared each year. This family tradition continued on into our twenties down the shore in Wildwood, NJ when we moved there in 1979.

Christmas was bigger and better than ever. He had not one but two completely decorated trees in the house. One downstairs in the dining room and the other one upstairs in the front window of the house. The trees always had to be Fraser firs because they were the bushiest and smelliest trees money could buy. (No dropped needles on the floor!)

My father would have mini lights running along the ceiling down the hallway just to keep the Christmas vibe going throughout the house.

It would be a couple of days before Christmas and he’d suddenly make this statement each year. “You know what today is?”

“What?”

“It’s the eve… of Christmas Eve.”

This became part of our mythology through the years and someone would always say, about a week before Christmas… “You know what today is?”

“What?”

“It’s the eve, of the eve, of the eve, of the eve, of the eve, of the eve of Christmas Eve!”

Yea…we’re a Christmas crazy family.

We would exchange gifts between the kids and my parents on Christmas eve. I don’t remember when this started, but it added to the holiday energy because you got that extra night of opening presents even before the main Christmas day event! We would stack them on a card table in the living room and sometimes one of the kids would be sniffing around them wondering what was in them.

My mom put up a sign and rested a whiffle ball bat against the table. The sign stated that if you were caught touching the presents on the table you’d get “the bat”. (This was all in fun, but we had that thing there every year)

Even though by then my dad was into his 60s, he’d be sitting on the sofa next to me with his finger under the wrapping paper on one of his gifts. “Is it my turn yet?” he’d exclaim. He loved Christmas so much!

My first sister picked up the torch of the Christmas spirit in the 90s. She still hosts a holiday party every December at her house and it’s wonderful! The food is great and the company is always amazing. I remember going to her house back in the 90s and my parents were still alive and there could be a few uncles and aunts there, and the rest of us. They were the oldest people in the room. The senior members of our tribe. But as time has passed, I looked around the room and saw my daughter and all the nephews and nieces, and now my sisters and I are the old people in the room!

Time slips away so fast.

This is another one of those instances where it’s difficult to put into words what our Christmases were really like. It was more of a feeling.

You just had to be there.

My mother and father have been gone for many years, but Christmas continues to live on in the hearts of my sisters and me. My first sister has continued to have her annual holiday party every year for decades and we are all so grateful for her.

Here we all are now!

Merry Christmas, Everyone!

 

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

California Dreamin’ – A Look Back at California’s Car Cruising Scene In The 70s

STUNNING photos show the ultra-cool cruising scene of Southern California in the early 1970s.

Teens would take their Camaros, Corvettes, Volkswagen vans, and other shiny gems up and down the main drag of Van Nuys Boulevard.

 Teens hang out on a warm night in Southern California in the 1970s

Teens hang out on a warm night in Southern California in the 1970sCredit: Rick McCloskey

 It was quite an era that will likely never be repeated

It was quite an era that will likely never be repeated. Credit: Rick McCloskey

 Cars were the focus of social gatherings five decades ago

Cars were the focus of social gatherings five decades ago. Credit: Rick McCloskey

Gas only cost 33 cents for young motorists in 1972 in the San Fernando Valley.

The art of cruising was displayed all over the country for decades, up until about 1980.

“Every town in America had a strip where kids would take their cars and go hang out whether it was only a block long – big towns, little towns, cities,” said photographer Rick McCloskey.

“It was really a thing for everybody to be involved at some point.”

 Teens congregate and have a good time in the 1970s

Teens congregate and have a good time in the 1970sCredit: Rick McCloskey

 The price of gas shockingly low

The price of gas shockingly low. credit: Rick McCloskey

 The stylistic cars were big and small

The stylistic cars were big and small. Credit: Rick McCloskey

 

 Teens gather between two cars to socialize

Teens gather between two cars to socializeCredit: Rick McCloskey

 Two friends hang out on the side of a car

Two friends hang out on the side of a carCredit: Rick McCloskey

 Much of the cruising took place at night

Much of the cruising took place at night. Credit: Rick McCloskey

 Glitzy Southern California was the scene

Glitzy Southern California was the scene. Credit: Rick McCloskey

 Mall culture took over years later

Mall culture took over years later. Credit: Rick McCloskey

 Teens enjoy the Southern California nightlife

Teens enjoy the Southern California nightlifeCredit: Rick McCloskey

 Cruising did play out all across the country

Cruising did play out all across the country. Credit: Rick McCloskey

 Teens hang out in the back of a pick-up truck

Teens hang out in the back of a pick-up truckCredit: Rick McCloskey

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

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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

Hunt’s Pier – Chapter 7 – Secret Admirer

Wildwood, New Jersey – Summer – 1980

As I walked up the ramp to the boardwalk, to make the short walk in the golden late afternoon sun down to Hunt’s Pier. I thought about how different my life was now. I had come so far from the world I lived in back in Fel’s Junior High.

Can you imagine being equal to the Golem in Lord of the Rings? That’s how I felt in Junior High School. It was a terrible place for me to go every day. Everything was against me. My face, my mind, my body, my parents, my sisters, the faculty, the kids, the bullies at school, and everywhere around me. I was a thing I didn’t understand. I only knew a small part of how I worked. Just basic functions. I was a disaster.

All of the ways I could describe myself back then. Greasy hair, pimples all over my face, chest, and back. No athletic ability. Bad grades. braces. glasses. weird clothes. I should have just put a potato sack over my head and spray painted a target on it because that’s what I was. An easy target for scorn and cruelty. I brought nothing to the table. I felt like an absolute failure in the house of my life, and I had no keys to any of the locks that held the doors to everything I wanted. I wanted it so much, but none of it was for people like me.

Ugly. A failure as a person already. Not even 14 and I hate my life and who I am already. Everything is wrong with me.

I remember this pretty girl in my art class I liked. I didn’t know how to talk to her, or what to say. She was making some lam picture and kept hitting the paper with a crayon. I asked her about her work.

“Why do you have so many dots on that?”

“Why do you have so many zits on your face?”

How could a child be that cruel to another one? I didn’t even know her. I was just a slug, a nothing, scuttling along through the hallways of this prison. This act of cruelty had to have somehow been learned. How could a girl that pretty have such ugly things come out of her mouth?

She was beautiful, but ugly on the inside, already. I was ugly on the outside but I would never hurt anyone like that. But that was back in 1977.

It was now 1980.

I graduated from Wildwood High with second honors after spending my senior year in a strange school in a dark cold town that I was dropped off in by my father. Ripped from Frankford High, a school I liked with teachers and kids I could connect with. I was a singer in a rock band in Philly. But now I was a guitarist in a band here in Wildwood. I was left here to squirm and perish, but I thrived. How about that?

Anxiety? Depression? Stranger in a strange land? Wildwood in the winter? Awful. But we all adjusted and made the best of it. I know I made the best of it. I conquered Wildwood.

I was no longer the 14-year-old mess. But I’ll never forget him. He has his place in my past, but I’m no longer chained to him.

Pictured: Vince Kostek

I remember coming onto the pier one night at the beginning of my shift and Vince the manager handed me an envelope.

“Hey. This came for you today, handsome.”

“What’s this?”

“It’s a letter addressed to you, and based on that lipstick kiss on the back I’m assuming it’s from some young lady.”

“Umm… okay, thanks.”

“Are you having your fan mail sent to the pier now, Sport?”

I later read that letter and made the connection to the postcard that was dropped off at my ride the other day.

What an elegant gesture. Honest and beautiful. I was honored and in awe. So sweet. Fragile. Bold. Heartbreakingly beautiful. Feels like something that only happens in a movie. But it was real. It was real and it was happening to me. In my life.

The lame cub of the litter…

Now a lion.

I had finally arrived.

All of the money in the world can’t buy a minute of time, and it certainly can’t buy what Gail did for me that day.

If anyone reading this recognizes Gail or knows her from PA, give her my contact info on here, I’d love to chat with her and thank her for her sweet letter. If we had met back then, I would have been honored to take her out on a proper date!

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

Footnote: In 1983 when I was in Los Angeles, California I was hanging out in my apartment in Mar Vista one night and I called the number that Gail had written in her letter.

She was surprised and happy to hear from me. But she told me she had heard from a “friend” of mine some years ago and he told her that I was a womanizer and a horrible person in an attempt to destroy her image of me. He was basically describing himself to her which is the ultimate irony.

I had shown the letter to this individual back in 1980 when I originally got it. He had been jealous of me since 1977 and didn’t like the idea of me getting adoration from women. He had peaked in 9th grade and although a bright kid, was a social failure and a pathological liar. Gail told me his name and it really showed me what a truly awful person he was. She told me she never believed a word he said, so his little scheme against me was just another one of his many failures.

I don’t speak to this person anymore and want nothing to do with such a toxic person. But what a sad and mean-spirited thing to do to one of your so-called friends just to make yourself feel better about your own pathetic life. A thief and a liar. That’s what he is.

Even though we hung out a lot back in the 70s, I’ve vowed to never write about him in this blog and will only refer to him as “the neighbor” or “the kid next door” because his existence in my history doesn’t warrant giving him any sort of life in this forum or anywhere else.

The best part is, when I leave this world I’ll leave a rich legacy of wonderful memories with so many great friends, lovers, and family. He, on the other hand, leaves only a trail of bad memories strung together by lies and betrayal.

Like Iago in Othello, he poses as a friend but willfully with premeditation, a clear understanding of their actions, the weight of their consequence, commits injury anyway. 

Just a rotten human being that could have achieved greatness due to his incredible intellect, but instead chose the path of sloth and malice.

Although forgiven, I will never dignify his existence by ever writing about him.

Cycles of Life

Philadelphia, PA – Late 60s – Early 70’s

The first childhood vehicle I ever had was a little metal pedal car. I don’t remember much about it, but I had heard from my father that I didn’t like it. It was a beautiful little car.  Odd, you’d think I would love something like that but he told me I didn’t have much interest in being inside it.

Pin on A Few of My Favorite Things!

The next was a little kid’s bicycle. It was a red Schwinn Pixie boys bike with training wheels. My father liked Schwinn bicycles. I can’t blame him. Schwinn made bikes that were durable and virtually indestructible. I remember them being heavy bicycles when many were lighter in weight back then. I don’t even think you could put air in the tires of the Pixie. They were solid rubber.

Schwinn Pixie kids bike. | Kids bike, Schwinn, Bike

I loved that little bike. My older sister had a blue Schwinn bike but I can’t remember the name of it. It may have been called a Bantam. The cooler girl’s bike made by Schwinn was the sportier, Lil Chick.

VINTAGE 1977 CHICAGO Built Schwinn Bantam Convertible 20" Girls/Boys Bicycle Org - $125.00 | PicClick

All the while my little sister rode around on a tricycle.

I was happy on my little Pixie bike, but one begins to notice some of the other kids in the neighborhood beginning to ride bikes without training wheels. It was a natural progression for all children to want to grow up and have more freedom. But there’s always the fear factor of trying new things.

My father would be out in front of our house with us teaching us how to ride without training wheels. It became an ongoing story in our family’s history of my dad teaching me how to ride. He knew that once I got it I’d be fine and that it was all a matter of confidence, speed, and balance. But the story was that he’d be running along, holding onto the back of my seat and me being terrified.

“Dad! I’m going to fall!”

“I’m not going to let you fall. I’m your father!”

It’s funny now, but I remember thinking back then, “I get that, dad, but what if you trip and fall? It could happen. Then I’ll careen into the bushes!”

I suppose it was just my early anxiety about doing anything different or new, but he kept at it. Me nearly in tears, pedaling like my life depended upon it, and him holding on and running behind me.

But then one day… off I went. Like magic. I pedaled and kept the bike going, thinking my dad was still holding on to the back of my seat and thinking how is he doing this? But when I hit the brakes and stopped, I turned around and he was thirty feet behind me standing on the sidewalk, hands in the air, smiling ear to ear.

They say, ‘it’s as easy as riding a bike’, and it’s true. It is easy. Once you can do it, you never forget it. You simply feel your center, maintain your balance, and move forward. I think that principle can be applied throughout your life.

Learning to ride a bike is your first step to independent freedom away from your parents.

Mid 70s

Eventually, my older sister got a bigger girl’s bike. It was green. It was a solid conservative ladies’ bicycle. It was classy, just like her.

So my parents gave me her old blue girl’s bike. But at the local bike shop, they bought a bar for it that ran from the seat to the handlebars so that it was now distinguished as a ‘boys bike’. Funny how you had to add something to a bicycle to give it a gender. But it originally was based on design, structure, and stability. The only reason girls’ bikes didn’t have it was because many years ago, women’s bicycles were designed without a bar to accommodate their long dresses.

So with the bar, it was now a boy’s bike. But based on some of the newer designs in bicycles I was seeing around the neighborhood, I wanted to trick out this blue Schwinn Bantam.

My friends and I had become literal whizzes when it came to bicycle mechanics. With a set of tools, we could completely take a bike apart and put it back together again. So I wanted to take this former girl’s bike and ‘Frankenstein’ it into something cool. The first thing I did was spray paint it gloss black.

My mother took me down to Morie’s Cycle Shop on Rising Sun Avenue, just beyond Levick street. I remember the bike shop always had a distinctive smell. It was that fresh vulcanized rubber smell. Our sense of smell is our most primitive sense, and the memories it provides are always extremely vivid. If I walked in that place today it would take me right back to that day.

It may have been my birthday. My mom let me pick out a black banana seat with silver sparkles, a tall sissy bar, big fancy handlebars, and a fat rear tire that was called a slick. I also found an old bike in the trash and sawed off the forks in the front and added them to my bike to create a look that resembled a chopper.

chopper is a type of custom motorcycle that emerged in California in the late 1950s. The chopper is perhaps the most extreme of all custom styles, often using radically modified steering angles and lengthened forks for a stretched-out appearance. They can be built from an original motorcycle that is modified (“chopped”) or built from scratch. Some of the characteristic features of choppers are long front ends with extended forks often coupled with an increased rake angle, hardtail frames (frames without rear suspension), very tall “ape hanger” or very short “drag” handlebars, lengthened or stretched frames, and larger than stock front wheels. The “sissy bar”, a set of tubes that connect the rear fender with the frame, and which are often extended several feet high, is a signature feature on many choppers.

sissy bar also called a “sister bar” or “passenger backrest” is an addition to the rear of a bicycle or motorcycle that allows the rider or passenger to recline against it while riding. Alternatively, it can serve as an anchor point or support for mounting luggage or equipment that’s not part of the bike.

Perhaps the best-known choppers are the two customized Harley-Davidsons, the “Captain America” and “Billy Bike”, seen in the 1969 film Easy Rider.

So, it went from this…

VINTAGE 1977 CHICAGO Built Schwinn Bantam Convertible 20" Girls/Boys Bicycle Org - $125.00 | PicClick

To something like this…

VINTAGE 70'S CHOPPER 20" Muscle Bike Banana Seat Bicycle ! Beautiful Purple! - $175.50 | PicClick

There I am on the actual bike!

Except my sissy bar was tall and rose three feet off the seat, so you could lean back on it and pop wheelies. If you didn’t have a back fender when you rode through a puddle, you got a line of wet mud up the back of your shirt!

So, now the bike was cool. What was better than speeding down the street and then suddenly slamming on the breaks and hearing your back wheel scream as you left a long skid mark on the asphalt?

Another thing we used to do that all boys had done probably since the 50s was to clip a playing card or a baseball card to the back frame with a clothespin. The card protruded into the back spokes of the wheel. This way, when you rode along, the card flicking against the spokes at high speed would create the sound of a motor. It was cool for a while but the clothespins always broke or the card wore out, and it just became a pain to keep putting a new one back on your bike. It sounded too thin anyway and I wasn’t much of a fan. Also, if anybody can do it… it stops being cool.

So we came up with a better idea. If you could get your hands on a balloon, like the kind they gave out at Weiss’s Kiddie Shop, you could make something better.

You blow the balloon up, but only partially. You push the air inside toward the center of the balloon. This way, there’s still plenty of uninflated balloon on each end. You tie each end to the back frame of your bike so that the inflated part of the balloon is facing towards the spokes of your back wheel. You can do this same process with a regular round balloon, but if you can get a long balloon, it’s a little more durable for the beating it’s about to take.

Make Your Bike Roar Like a Motorcycle : 5 Steps - Instructables

It blows away the sound a little baseball card clipped to your frame sounds. A balloon sounds like the real deal. Me pulling up on my chopper bike, with a balloon hitting the back spokes is amazing. It’s about as close as you can get to the sound of a real motorcycle. I kid you not.

Check it out!

How great is that? Totally badass. Even on a little kid’s bike! When we all rode up with balloons in our spokes on our choppers, it was like being Peter Fonda and Dennis Hopper. We went from a group of boys on their bikes to a full-fledged, motorcycle gang.

I’m telling you, back in the 70s life was way more fun out in the real world than sitting around today in your house playing a bunch of video games.

We even formed a little bicycle gang called The Raiders. I think this inspired my sister and her friends to start a girl cycle gang called The Jewel Thieves. (If I’m wrong about this, my sister is free to correct me.)

Another thing we loved doing was going on what we called journeys. We would ride our bikes really far from our homes. Miles and miles away from our neighborhood. It was amazing to have that first taste of absolute freedom from your block and your parents. We were a little group of outlaws traveling to parts unknown.

The euphoria of the sudden drop at the top of Martins Mill Road. That long black ribbon that was the steepest hill in town. Like some dark dragon, you had to conquer. You wanted to feel the excitement and speed as you descended that incredible slope. But the fear rode right along with you, knowing that if you weren’t ready to hit the breaks in a split second, it could end in tragedy. All of this energy coursing through your body as cars sped by alongside you, all the way down.

You knew that if you returned home on this same road, the climb would be nearly insurmountable. It became steeper the higher you climbed. Your young heart pounding, your lungs burning as your legs pushed on. You could see the top. But could you make it?

You couldn’t give up in front of your friends and get off and walk your bike back up the hill. You had to show everyone you were strong enough to make it. A simple right of passage.

We would mostly follow roads that led west into Cheltenham and Burholme Park. I loved going on bicycle journeys. You could go anywhere you wanted back then and your parents had no idea where you were. As long as you appeared again at your home before dinner, you were fine.

No internet. No GPS. No cell phones. Nothing. Just you and the road. No leash. No helmets or pads of any kind were worn by any child in the neighborhood.

Which in hindsight, would probably have been a good idea back then based on the way we rode.

Evel Knievel was a national treasure back in the 70s and we all loved him. He was a guy who would get on his motorcycle and do these crazy jumps over cars. He was a mad daredevil who had broken every bone in his body.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Evel_Knievel

So being a bunch of 12-year-old boys we were compelled to emulate him on our bikes. Not jumping over cars, but we would set up these little ramps with planks of wood and stacked bricks. We would speed up to the ramp and fly off it. Thinking back on it now, it wasn’t that bad, but we were always crashing on our bikes.

70's bike jump ramp inspired by Evel Knievel | Bike, Bmx, Bmx bikes

Not us, but you get the point.

Ramps made out of two stacked pieces of wood...the kid whose Dad was least likely to throw it out was the one who… | Free range parenting, Childhood, Funny pictures

Not wearing any safety gear, there were plenty of injuries. Kids were always crashing their bikes because we were on them all of the time. We would go everywhere on them. You had no money so it was your only means of transportation away from your parents. Plus, if you decide to start trying stunts there are sure to be some banged-up kids.

But we never lost anybody. None of us ever got hit by a car or anything. The only injury I can remember was on a bike I owned in I think 6th or 7th grade. It was a beautiful brand new red ten-speed that was all the rage as we got a little older.

 

I loved that bike and rode it everywhere. One afternoon I was stupidly racing another boy down Rising Sun avenue and my tire got stuck in the trolley track. I went flying face-first to the asphalt and cobblestones. My glasses broke, and the left side of my face was really torn up. I remember getting up off the ground and just feeling the searing pain in my face.

Amazingly, a man stopped in his car, put my bike in his trunk, and drove me home from the accident. It was a miracle of kindness. I can’t remember his face or his car. My mother was shocked at how bad my face looked. She said she never even got the man’s name to thank him. Just a kind-hearted person who did the right thing. (So whoever you are sir… Thank you!)

My left eyebrow had several large X-shaped cuts, and my whole cheek had road rash. I’m surprised my injuries weren’t worse. My left eye was black and blue and swollen shut. It looked like someone had beaten my face really badly. My mom kept me home for a few days, but I recovered. I wish I had a picture of how bad it looked but I don’t think any exist.

But, other than that, we always enjoyed our bikes. I remember even when I was later married in the 90s, we’d be at the shore in Avalon. I’d get up early and rent a bicycle and just ride around town. All the way down to Stone Harbor and back. It was a welcome early morning repose away from my wife and my inlaws.

Even into his 80s, my father always loved riding his bike. He told me he just loved hopping on it and sailing along down the street to run his errands.

There’s something about just jumping on your bike and taking a ride. In a car, it all moves too fast and it’s like watching a movie. It’s as if it’s all happening on TV through the windshield.

But on your bike… you’re always in the movie.

That youthful freedom. The wind in your face as you made your way to your next destination.

A talent once learned as a child that could never be lost.

Unlike our youth.

Always fleeting with each turn of the pedals beneath our feet.

 

Tune in this Thursday for the next installment of, Back The Tracks – Part 5 – Refrigerator Box!

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

The Truth About Dating Significantly Younger Women

(Hey, my sister gave me that scarf for Christmas!)

OPINION: Twenty-eight-year-old Lady Kitty Spencer, Diana, Princess of Wales’s niece, has been seen strolling through the streets of New York with her arm draped around the shoulder of her 60-year-old boyfriend, fashion millionaire Michael Lewis.

It’s the first public acknowledgment that she is indeed with a man twice her age, a man who is even older than her own father, Earl Spencer, 54.

Romantics will say, why shouldn’t they date? After all, age is just a number. To which cynics like me will retort: yeah, a big zero!

For having dated women much younger than me – the biggest gap was 25 years – I hope Mr Lewis won’t mind me offering a little bit of caring and concerned advice: don’t do it!

Lady Kitty Spencer, 28, has just gone public with her romance with her 60-year-old boyfriend.

The pleasures of dating young women like Kitty Spencer are pretty obvious from an older male perspective: youth, beauty, and sexiness. But often, young women are just arm candy; visual Viagra for the older, sagging male ego.

Of course, we older men never admit that preferring to claim that they are “terrific fun” and “terribly bright” – even when they’re thick as two planks.

But what are the pitfalls of dating young women for the older man?

I gave up going out on dates with young women when I turned 50. (I’m 64 now.) There’s something I call the “yuck factor”; that is, the spectacle of an older man trying to woo or seduce a young woman is just a bit… yucky.

Is this pure ageism? Perhaps. My dad was always chasing young women – actually, he was always chasing any woman with a pulse – so I swore I would never be that way.

There are more practical and rational reasons why I gave up dating young women. They’re a bloody nightmare to go out with.

Many years ago I squired a woman 19 years younger than me who worked in PR. She would always turn up late for dinner – saying: “Sorry, I’m such a flake!” – and then spend ages on her phone: “Sorry, I need to get this…” In the middle of my funniest anecdote, she’d tell me: “Sorry, I need to just send this one text.” Eventually, I said: “Sorry, this isn’t working!”

I know men are from Mars, but what planet are young women from?

You send them a beautifully crafted love letter and they send you a text consisting of three Xs and three heart emojis. (And they say romance is dead.)

I had a brief fling with a young woman who was an aspiring novelist and 20 years younger than me. I would bring her flowers and champagne; she would bring me her best gay friend and her dog.

Princess Diana’s niece Lady Kitty Spencer, 28, and 60-year-old $100m fashion tycoon go public with their romance. One of the biggest gaps between older men and younger women is not just age, but culture. They don’t get your references. Classic lines from Casablanca are greeted with silence or puzzlement; when a young woman asked me if Gone with the Wind was a rom-com, I knew we were in trouble.

Unlike Michael Lewis and other men of his kind, I never felt comfortable indulging in public displays of affection with a young woman. I tried it once and got age-shamed. We’d had a few cocktails in Soho and out on the street I was staring into my date’s eyes, getting ready for that first kiss, when a voice cried out: “Go on, Grandad, give ‘er one for me!”

Funny how little helpful comments like that can kill the moment.

That sad little story raises the biggest obstacle of all: sex. You can be a rich, powerful, successful older man that beautiful young women adore – but naked, you’re just another old bloke with chin wobble, belly spread, and buttocks that hang like drooping breasts.

There was a hilarious episode of Sex and the City when Samantha was dating a very rich 70-year-old man who plied her with diamond jewelry. She claimed that it was just as easy to have sex with an older man as a young man – if the lights were out. Everything was going fine for Samantha until her lover went to the loo and she spotted his backside… and she took instant flight.

I was told by the author Dolly Alderton that a man should always “carry his naked body” – no matter how old or fat – “with confidence”, because, she claimed, it was “so terribly sexy!”

I tried that once. My young companion took one look at the naked me and suggested we watch telly instead.

There are young women who actually prefer older men. Kitty Spencer’s last boyfriend, another rich chap, was older than her, too.

Catherine Zeta-Jones and Michael Douglas have clearly found a way to make it work.

When I went out with younger women, I always wondered: are they really into me, or do they just have daddy issues? By that I mean they want from older men the love and admiration they never got from their fathers.

I’m not saying the age gap can’t be overcome. Harrison Ford was 38 years older than Calista Flockhart when they first dated, and Michael Douglas was 56 when he hooked up with 31-year-old Catherine Zeta-Jones – and both couples are still going strong.

So, good luck to Kitty and Michael – they’re going to need it. Me, I’m just glad my days of dating much younger women are over.

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

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