Down the shore, going to the beach. The Philadelphia Inquirer did a story on people’s memories. The article made me smile and think back to the little kid years.
To kick off Memorial Day weekend, our reporters delved into all things Jersey Shore — from favorite beaches to the best spots for food, drinks, and more. But the story of the Shore wouldn’t be complete without the voices of the people who filled their beaches and boardwalks. After we put out the call for readers’ recollections of summers at the Jersey Shore, dozens of tales landed in our inbox. From idyllic childhood scenes to fighting misperceptions of the area, everyone has something that symbolizes this amazing season.
Here’s a sampling of just some of the memories and photos submitted by Inquirer readers. Some have been edited for length and clarity. We plan to publish more this summer.
There are so many memories from the little kid stage. First down in the gardens in Ocean City when my sister and I were really little. Bike parades with patriotic colored streamers in the spokes.
My sister at like 3 making bowls of blueberries for everyone by putting each blueberry one at a time in each bowl. And counting each blueberry.
Getting fake yellow patent leather shoes with white daisies on them on the Ocean City boardwalk and then getting the the worst blisters ever. Getting my first pair of moccasins on the boardwalk for learning to speak softly. Being threatened with wearing “dungarees” if I kept messing up clothes or whatever it was that I was doing that was annoying.
Riding the super cool carousel on the Ocean City boardwalk but not really being big enough to grab a brass ring. The Ferris Wheel that gave you a view of everything and the mingled smells of cotton candy, popcorn, and boardwalk pizza.
Making sandcastles on the beach. Constantly skinning my knees. The day my sister decided to wander away on the beach when she was really little and the scary feeling of not knowing where she was and feeling like it was forever until they found her. And she really wandered a fair distance I remember.
Fireworks as big as the sky. Sparklers on July 4th.
Then there were the Avalon years, of which there were many. Going with my father to the bakery on Dune Drive that was like down from the Princeton on OTHER side of Dune Drive for cinnamon buns and those puffy cream donuts all dusted in powdered sugar. There is just something about the smell of an old school bakery combined with the smells of the beach in the morning.
Swimming with our father out to sandbars and body surfing to shore.
The annual posing for photos in front of the lifeguard boat in matching swimsuits which I hated more than the matching dresses.
The year my mother put peroxide on our hair before we went in the sun and we were strictly instructed to tell daddy she only used lemon juice.
Going to church and liking the little old church better than the new church and it’s ugly auditorium design. Overall wishing we didn’t have to go to church in the summer.
Being bored to tears being dragged to Hassis so my father could go clothes shopping.
The Paper Peddler for books and the occasional Mad Magazine.
Remembering when one of my father’s single or divorced friends came to visit and they wanted to go to The Rocking Chair. My mother stayed with us and the guys went out.
The old Avalon Library on a rainy day. Cool and damp, it smelled like sand and mildew.
Flying kites on the beach. I loved kites!
Going to buy penny candy at the little general store that was around 7th street with a whole dollar each! A friend of my mom’s friends named Weezie handed us each a dollar with one hand, her cigarette in the other hand, and told us to “go blow our minds.”
I also remember the old movie theatre on the pier in Avalon. When the waves and surf got rough enough, I swear you could feel the building sway, only it didn’t freak you out, it was oddly comforting.
Right where the theatre was, there was also an arcade. The arcade had Skee Ball, which I still love. After you would collect all your tickets from playing, you could buy endless kitschy salt and pepper, shakers and bobble heads. I liked the Bobblehead cats and dogs. And I remember things like salt and pepper shakers that look like lightbulbs. It was so much fun!
Summer community theatre. Someone we knew was in Peter Pan and was flown across the stage on wires.
At night then, Avalon was pretty quiet. Dark skies, the sounds of crickets and kids. Brilliant, marvelous starry skies.
And then I have other memories like visiting family friends who owned Woodrow Wilson’s cabin on 13th St. in Avalon. It had a fireplace and was one of my favorite places even in the winter. In the summer, these friends would have cookouts, and the kids would run around and do stuff, and the parents would sit out back on lawn chairs and beach chairs surrounded by planted clumps of bamboo threatening to take over. When dusk and evening would fall, I remember the times we would all trek to the beach and watch the stars. And also do things like climb the lifeguard stands. All of the adults and all of the kids. It was an adventure!
Other memories like playing in the dunes when they were really high dunes. And I also have a magical kid memory of being somewhere around 8th street or 10th street or wherever and watching little hatched sea turtles swish their way down the sand into the sea. I wonder if any sea turtles nest there anymore because Avalon is so over developed at this point.
Then there are other random memories like watching moon landings on a little tiny black-and-white TV at the beach, and watching Nixon get impeached and leaving Washington DC.
Funny memories like going to a pancake house in Avalon with my mother, my sister, father, and their friends and their kids. I don’t think it was Uncle Bill’s, I remember another pancake place. It was Aunt somebody, Aunt Maggie’s maybe? Anyway, we were seated half banquette seating, half chairs with tables all put together. We were on the banquette side. My mother threw her head back to laugh at something, and her hair caught in the plastic plants in the little divider wall that the banquette seating was up against. When she went to move her head and untangle her hair, it created a chain reaction of plastic plants, being lifted out of their containers on top of the banquette. It was hysterical.
When I was little, I loved the beach. But it was a lot different then. We started out in the gardens in Ocean City, but my parents had friends with homes in Avalon and Stone Harbor and there was a lot more space there when we were little, so that’s how we ended up there. As these beach towns have gotten built up, even the spit that Strathmere is, I have stopped wanting to go there. I still love Cape May but that’s basically for the Victorian architecture that so gloriously preserved. I don’t like how built up everything has become.
But when I saw the article in the Inquirer it just made me think. It even made me think of the little kid activities in the evening like catching the little toads that you would see hopping around and putting them in a bucket and then letting them go. And catching fireflies in a jar. Marshmallows on a stick. Hula hoops, flashlight tag. Transistor radios. Being super bummed when we crossed over the Ben Franklin bridge and were back in Philadelphia.
So many fun memories.
Happy Memorial Day weekend.