Memories of the “Real” Jersey Shore
by Bob Jandoli
My grandparents bought a small summer home, sometime in the late 1940’s or early 1950’s, on 1st Lane in Midway Beach (Seaside Park). It was really a small place, but somehow cousins and aunts and uncles came together every summer and we managed to fit ourselves into this escape from our north Jersey life. Every summer for a few weeks until I was too old to stay with my family (because I thought I was too cool for them) I would go to the beach, hook up with my summer friends and have a ball. The smell of the ocean and the smells coming from the greatest boardwalk in the world would fill my soul with a feeling I will never forget. I have been to many beaches and I know that the tropical beaches I’ve vacationed at were remote and pretty, but they never had the flavor of the Jersey Shore and the stories I tell to people who never experienced it are wonderful to share.
Island Beach State Park – which is now open to the public – was closed to all but fishermen who had permits to surf fish in the 1950’s. My grandfather was one of them, and just about every morning in the summer, he would take me and my cousins onto the island and teach us his famous technique of how to fish on the beach. I miss him and all those special mornings. One of the most vivid memories I have is when a whale washed ashore. The local newspaper came by and took pictures of us kids playing around the dead carcass of this mammoth beast. It seemed, at the time, as big as a house.
Then came the mosquito truck. Each night throughout the summer a small truck would drive up and down the sandy roads spraying insecticide from the back of the truck. We kids, who, at the time, didn’t know any better, would run directly behind it and let these deadly chemicals spray us. Fortunately, none of us were affected in any way….. but neither were the mosquitoes!
The Casino Pier of the 1950’s was a site to see. The Casino Pool was one of the largest on the east coast at that time, providing families with fun-filled days in the sun for under a dollar. And not to forget the Casino Ballroom. Positioned atop the locker rooms for the swimmers stood a dance hall for teenagers playing the tunes of the 1950’s and early 1960’s. For a dollar you could hear and dance to the greatest selection of doo-wops that was the desired genre of its time. To top it off, just about every Saturday night there was live entertainment for the teens: The Platters, The Drifters, The Dupree’s, and of course Frankie Valli and His Jersey Boys, The Four Seasons. All for a staggering price of $2.50.
I longed for the day that I would be able to move there permanently and eight years ago I bought a house in Toms River (not the beach, but close). I spent many nights during the last eight summers driving to Midway Beach, near the entrance to Island Beach state park, walking late at night, alone, on the very beach I spent most of my youth. Sadly, four years ago, Hurricane Sandy hit and in one horrible day those places that entertained millions of people for so many years were gone. The memories will live on for those who lived it, as well as for those who never did but are intrigued by the stories. That desire is what will give us the strength to re-build, so once again the memories can be relived. Maybe not by me, but for the ones who will come from all over again and experience what I and my family and friends once did.
God Bless the “real” Jersey Shore: Seaside Heights, Long Beach Island, Lavalette, Belmar, Sea Crest Beach, Asbury Park, Atlantic City…and all the coastal beaches along the New Jersey coast from Cape May to Sandy Hook. I CAN SMELL THE CHEESE STEAKS AND SAUSAGE AND PEPPERS NOW!!!