We Sure Have Lots of Shore Memories

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girl on beach near ocean
At the Jersey shore. (Photo by Liz Spikol)

Summer at the Jersey Shore is as much a part of Philadelphia’s fabric as colonial history, the Eagles and hoagies.

Almost everyone has memories of time spent in Atlantic City, Margate, Ocean City, Cape May, Wildwood and the other shore towns, so we asked staffers to provide some of their more memorable moments. Here’s what we got. (Staffers who didn’t grow up in the area provided their own summer beach memories.)

Early Beach Days Marred by Misfortune

Andy Gotlieb, managing editor


The year was 1970; the place was Atlantic City.

A year earlier, man walked on the moon, Charles Manson’s crew committed horrific murders. Sen. Ted Kennedy was involved in Chappaquiddick and Woodstock happened. Atlantic City was rocking, too, with the Atlantic City Pop Festival, which featured a who’s who of musical acts.

By comparison, the summer of 1970 was a bit calmer, and my soon-to-be-4-year-old-self was blissfully unaware — and blissfully unaware that he was believed lost on the beach.
I was collecting shells and building sand castles with my friend Sheryl Haber when I apparently wandered off to find more shells or fill a bucket with water.

“Mrs. Gotlieb, Andy went to get more shells and has been gone for a long time,” Sheryl informed my mother.

That set off the Aquarius Age version of an Amber Alert, as everyone on the beach began searching for me. Things were compounded by the police chasing someone down the boardwalk (it had nothing to do with me, but set off fears that perhaps I was abducted).

Thing is, I wasn’t lost and wandered back to our spot on the beach on my own.

A year later, this time in Wildwood, I was encouraged to go down the slide at our motel’s pool. I did so and, even though I could swim, I immediately began to flail when I hit the water. That prompted my pregnant mother to dive in and save me.

My seaside woes continued in following years.

Once after a long day on the beach, we had dinner at Abe’s Oyster House. My parents said they never saw me eat so much “little pirate’s fish fry.”

But as we got up to leave, the little pirate decided to walk the plank. Right when I got to the front of the restaurant (where a long line of people waited for seating) I threw up.

A year later, we returned to Abe’s and I had some more little pirate’s fish fry. This time, I managed to make it to the Steel Pier before vomiting.

Looking back, maybe this is why I’m not much of a shore person these days.

Family Togetherness Down the Shore

Marissa Stern, staff writer

My thoughts of summers down the shore are less of embarrassing stories and more of family memories.

When I think of the beach, I think of my grandparents’ Ventnor shore house the whole family used to go to during the summers. I think of my uncle’s particular affinity for White House sandwiches and I think of the bowls of juicy watermelon awaiting me and my cousins upon our sweaty returns from afternoons on the beach.

It was a time for togetherness and bonding — normally.

If you consider being chased around with buckets of — thankfully — dead jellyfish (though my cousin was less fortunate once and found one quite alive in the ocean) by your younger sister, then yeah, I had a whole lot of bonding. Sometimes she skipped the bucket and had them in her bare hands like a monster.

“Hahahaha yes, I did that a lot. That was fun,” my sister confirmed in a rude text message. Shouldn’t the older sister be the one doing the tormenting?

Anyway. We also used to sit where the sand met the waves and pick up the wet sand and drizzle it into some kind of castle, adding layers and seeing how high up we could make it before the waves came and washed it away. Or we would turn handfuls of wet sand into “meatballs.” Maybe we were just getting hungry?

A First-Time Trip to the Jersey Shore

Selah Maya Zighelboim, staff writer

Growing up in Louisiana and Texas does not lend itself to summers spent at the Jersey Shore.

And growing up in Central Texas, specifically Austin, where I lived until six months ago, does not really lend itself to summers spent at any shore. Though Central Texas certainly has its fair share of natural springs and a river we like to call a lake, the closest actual beach is too far away for a day trip.

But this recent Memorial Day weekend, I spent a day and two nights in Wildwood.
The evening of May 26, I arrived to the beach house in Wildwood, where a group of about 10 were staying. After a slow morning of drinking coffee, I headed to the beach, where I did yoga and meditation. I also walked along the boardwalk and got pizza and ice cream.

Late that afternoon, we returned to the beach house, where we showered and noshed on chips and salsa and lots of different fruit. We also had a barbecue that night and, as a significant contingent of the crew appeared to be made up of vegetarians and vegans, we ate grilled veggie burgers, eggplant, Brussels sprouts, sweet potatoes and corn and drank margaritas.

That night and the next morning, it started to rain, so we headed back to Philadelphia, concluding my first trip to the shore, a quintessential experience crossed off the bucket list.

Now, I just need to recover from my sunburn — that’s not me pictured above— which I can only assume makes my shore experience all the more authentic.

Repurposed T-shirt Allows for Free Beach Time

Joshua Needelman, staff writer

Those silly green T-shirts were our tickets in.

When I finally quit my job as a ticket taker on the boardwalk in Long Beach, N.Y., to, you know, start 11th grade, I thought I’d never touch my green employee T-shirt again.

And why would I?

It elicited nothing more than memories of long, plodding days spent clipping tickets and scrolling mindlessly through Facebook. If I had cared to listen to my parents’ persistent pleas to clean my room, I would’ve perhaps used the shirt as a rag.

Alas, as the next year of high school came and went, giving way to soaring temperatures once more, I stumbled upon a realization:

Those silly green T-shirts were our tickets to the beach.

Two of my friends worked that summer job with me, so we had three shirts to pass around among our group of six or seven friends. And they always worked. The employee shirts, you see, got us past the strict ticket takers guarding the gate to the sand.

“We work here,” we’d say, strolling ahead with cocksure confidence.  

Sure, it might not have been the most honest approach, but heck, when you’re 16, and it costs $12 to go to the beach, and you have days and days of summer to kill, what other option do you have?

Lucy Saves the Day

Marni Folkman, summer intern

When I was 6, I got lost on the Ventnor beach. My parents and I went to the shore every summer; staying in the pink and white house my grandparents bought years before my birth was an adventure I looked forward to all year long.

After carefully selecting the most germane spot on the beach and securing it with our towels, chairs and umbrella, my parents granted me the one thing I wanted most: the freedom to run to the ocean.

Feeling the glacial waves of the sea wash over my feet was euphoric and, like many jovial children, I began to spin. I spun and swam for what felt like days, and when I had exhausted myself looked up only to realize that my parents’ familiar faces were nowhere in sight.

I started walking, panicked, in the hopes that I would stumble upon my parents’ location. As I stared at the environment around me, I noticed a large effigy of an elephant in the distance and it became clear that I was not, à la Dorothy, in Ventnor anymore.

Prepared by my parents for situations such as this, I made my way to Lucy the Elephant and asked an adult to use a phone. Within 15 minutes, I was reunited with my parents and all was well.

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