This past weekend we made our first trip down to the Jersey shore since Superstorm Sandy. We spent the day visiting one of the hardest hit beach resort areas, Seaside Heights. Before the storm, most Americans knew it as the place where that MTV show “Jersey Shore” took place. After the storm, most Americans knew Seaside by the sights of the Jet Star roller coaster and Ferris wheel sitting in the Atlantic Ocean.
Even though I saw President Obama and NJ Governor Chris Christie on TV last week touting that Seaside was back in business for the 2013 summer season, I wasn’t quite sure what to expect. I was a little apprehensive about visiting and even tried talking The Hubs out of going there.
The kidlets pointing out where their favorite rides once were on the Funtown Pier
Don’t get me wrong, I’m all about #JerseyStrong! It’s just that Seaside Heights and its quieter family-friendly neighbor Seaside Park hold very special places in my heart. See, my family rented the same beach house on O Street from the time I was six until I was 20. That’s a lot of beach, boardwalk, game and amusement ride memories. I was afraid those memories would be tainted by a less than stellar beach and boardwalk.
I’ll never forget the first time I stepped onto the boards of Seaside way back in 1979. Though it would depend on my dad’s work schedule and whatever else we were doing that summer, but we’d usually spend anywhere from one to three weeks there as a family.
The house we rented (from family friends) was a white clapboard with red shutters. It had a great screened in porch perfect for late afternoon naps and a little enclosed shower house out back so you could rinse off and not drag sand into the house. The entire place was surrounded by a two and a half foot high white plaster fence with a huge red gate. The house was only two blocks away from the Seaside Park water tower, which still to this day gets me awestruck.
Everyday during our vacation we’d load up our cart with chairs, umbrellas, towels, toys & sunblock and head out for the beach to stake our own little patch of golden sand from 10 am til 3 pm. My sister and I would play in and along the surf with our sand toys and ride our Hawaiian Punch water rafts in the waves. We’d check out the lifeguards and decide which one would be our summer boyfriend. We’d do all sorts of things to keep ourselves busy — make drip castles, bury each other in the sand, dig for Mole crabs and even scoop up jellyfish (what were we thinking!).
While my dad slathered on 50+ sunblock and mostly hid under his umbrella beach chair, my mom would bask in the sun and by the end of our vacation, she’d look like a bronze statue. On the days my dad wouldn’t come onto the beach with us, he’d walk the one mile length of the boardwalk each way. On his way back to check in on us on the beach, he’d first stop at the Sawmill for a beer and buy us the largest cup of soda (44 oz) that I had ever seen before in my life!
Every night we would go onto the boardwalk, rain or shine. The entire length of the boardwalk was filled with excitement. It had arcades, Kohrs Brothers Frozen Custard, Three Brothers Pizza stands, salt water taffy, “air conditioned” bingo halls, the delicious aroma of sausages and peppers from Midway Steak House, church ladies or men from Sons Of Italy hawking raffle tickets for the latest luxury car and many, many spinning arrow wheel games of chance.
The Funtown Pier had a huge aqua-colored log flume and the Casino Pier featured the more adrenaline pumping rides like the Tilt-a-Whirl and the Enterprise. Fireworks were on Wednesday nights at 9 and I would always get chased away from the bouncer sitting on the stool outside of Chatterbox when I tried to sneak a peek of the band playing inside.
I still have the first-ever stuffed animal I won on the Boardwalk (though now it lives in a box in my parents attic). My father won it for me from Dotty’s stand, probably after playing .25 on either “0” or “Pop,” his two favorite squares to play. It’s a 1979 Dakin Plush Stuffed Koala Bear that’s about 6” in height with a kinda beanbag belly.
I faithfully slept with that doll for years….before I matured and became obsessed with winning Bradley Big Eye Dolls. It took me an entire summer and LOTS of my allowance to win one of those dolls!
Well the Seaside Height beach and boardwalk look great! I’m also happy to report that the little house on O Street is still there and looks good. Kudos to all those who worked hard to help to restore this beach resort community. Though there are no Funtown and Casino piers for rides, both carousels are up and running and I’d say 95% of the stands and stores were up and running.
As you can see, my kidlets had tons of fun and even came home with a few treasured prizes!
The kidlets were hot-dogging it with some of their new stuffed animals and waiting patiently with dad for some pizza at The Beachcomber
On our way home we took a ride up Route 35 and saw first-hand the devastation of many other beach resort towns, Normandy Beach, Lavalette, Bay Head, Manasquan and Spring Lake to name just a few. These are the towns that don’t get as much attention as Seaside because they don’t have a boardwalk or amusement centers. Tears came to my eyes and there were lots of gasps of disbelief at the destruction – of homes, businesses and parks, both big and small, new and old that were just wiped away with the tide. We could also see that the infrastructure in some areas was also totally destroyed – it’s going to take time, and we can’t forget these hard-hit communities.
Restore the Shore is a legitimate charity and a great organization that’s assisting local residents as they recover from the devastation wrought by Hurricane Sandy. 100% of all proceeds and donations they receive are put to work in coastal New Jersey, in the communities most affected by the storm. You can donate by visiting http://restoretheshore.com/
The Jersey shore will always be special to me because of my childhood summer memories of Seaside Heights and Park. It’s because of those fond memories that I insist on a Jersey shore beach vacation every year with my own little family, though now we ventured a little further down the Parkway to the Wildwoods. This year’s trip is already booked, 83 days and counting!!!
A few of my New Jersey Digital Moms were gracious enough to share with me their favorite Jersey Shore memories, check them out:
Sheila from Pieces of a Mom:
I have fond memories of summer vacations spent in Wildwood as a child. Warm, sunny days spent frolicking on the beach turned into breezy evenings spent strolling the boardwalk in search of the best pizza and salt water taffy. Although those memories are wonderful, they have been replaced by newer, sweeter ones. When my husband and I first married, we rented a bungalow on the beachfront in Manasquan. We woke to amazing sunsets and fell asleep to the sound of the ocean waves softly hitting the shore. We walked our first child up and down the Manasquan beach walk many, many times in an effort to lure her into slumber, delighting in the sounds of children’s laughter, the begging of the seagulls for a peck of a French fry, and the roar of the waves as the surfers rode them to shore.
I can’t imagine spending my summers anywhere BUT at the Jersey shore. Hurricane Sandy or not, this is home or for many a summer home away from home. This year, more than any other, we are counting the days until we take that first barefooted step on to the beach and dip that first toe into the Atlantic Ocean.
Kimberly from Reflections Of Now:
My family vacationed to Ocean City, NJ with my grandparents every summer. It was something that we all looked forward to even months before. We would spend our days on the beach, building sandcastles and jumping the waves. But one of my favorite memories of our time there happened at night. After strolling the crowded boardwalk we would weave our way into the amusement piers. My Pop-Pop and I would anxiously wait our turn in line to board the ferris wheel. We would inevitably get stuck at the top while others boarded below us. From high above the ground we would overlook the ocean. It was then that he would turn to me and tell me that I would grow up to be anything I wanted to be, that my dreams and my potential stretched way past the length of the ocean. Something about that moment, replaying it in my mind with the ocean breeze, the salty sea air, and the peaceful waves lapping against the shore, brings chills to my body. That memory, that moment, feels like home.
Hilary from A Fancy Girl Must:
I have many memories going to the shore over summer break with my family, but the Jersey Shore took on a much more personal meaning when I met my husband. His family–we’re talking generations–grew up spending summers on LBI. His grandfather was a commodore at the Little Egg Harbor Yacht Club and his father STILL sails to this day! My husband’s sister and her family have a house on LBI as does her in laws. My girls get to see their cousins almost every weekend in the summer. LBI is a 2nd home for us. The house we stay in (it’s been in the family since the early 70s) was damaged by Sandy, but, like the rest of the Jersey Shore, we are rebuilding it so it’s ready for us for Summer 2014. This Summer we will explore more of New Jersey and enjoy staycations in Princeton, but LBI will always be calling our names (even if it’s just for a day trip for ice cream at The Skipper Dipper).
My good pal Cristina from Central Jersey Working Moms has a great post she shared with me that you can here.
Now it’s your turn to share. What is your fondest beach memory?
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