My dad grew up in New Jersey, the middle child in a family of eleven children. While all of his siblings married and remained on the East Coast my dad married and moved to Hawaii. Gone, but not forgotten. Each summer my parents would take me (and my three brothers) back East to visit family… and much of that time was spent at the Jersey Shore. (Specifically, Seaside Heights and Point Pleasant, New Jersey.)
Seaside Heights, New Jersey is a popular shore community of 3,100 year-round residents, but in the summer the population swells to more than 30,000. Its close proximity (about an hour away) from the Atlantic City, Philadelphia and New York metropolitan areas makes it an easy get-away. Seaside Heights is a compact town (about a mile long and a third of a mile wide), which puts just about everything within walking distance. The town is loaded with motels and restaurants, but we always rented a house. It became “Shore Central” as each week another one of my dad’s siblings and their families would come down to visit. The house could easily sleep 12-14 people, but the families would rotate so that we weren’t all there at the same time. Renting a home was also beneficial in that we saved money by cooking “at home” rather than going out to a restaurant. In addition, whenever a family member drove in from the city he/she would bring enough food to feed an army.
My favorite memories of the shore were the nights we spent on the boardwalk. Every other night we would head over to the Funtown Pier. I remember vividly the smells of salt-water taffy and popcorn, the gentle sea breezes cooling our cheeks, still red and warm from an afternoon spent in the sun and watching the sunset streak the sky with hues of red, yellow and violet. Actually, watching the sunset was part of my parent’s agenda. My brothers and I were more concerned with stuffing ourselves with ice-cream and cotton candy then heading over to the “Scrambler,” the “Tilt-a-Whirl,” and the Giant Ferris Wheel. Later we would race over to the Giant Slide where we would crawl into burlap bags and scream our heads off as we plummeted three stories down and into a sea of other kids who needed our bags so they could take their turn. We would always end the night squeezing into those tiny photo booths where we would see who could come up with the craziest facial expression. Once it was captured on film, my mom would always say, “I spent good money on this?”
Just 9 miles to the north is Point Pleasant Beach. Similar to Seaside Heights’ boardwalk, Point Pleasant’s boardwalk has arcades, food, rides and gift shops. On the north end of the attractions area is Jenkinson’s Aquarium, a fun house and an area where arts and crafts shows are held. Each Thursday night there is a fireworks show and throughout the summer the boardwalk hosts events including car shows, bicycle parades, and eating contests.
We all have wonderful memories of our summers spent at the Jersey Shore. The sights, the sounds, the smells… they all contributed to the good times shared with family and friends during our summer vacations. To this day, my brothers and I still joke that it is not everyone that can say that they spent their summers swimming in the Atlantic Ocean and their winters swimming in the Pacific.