Tuesday, July 27, 2010

A trip down Memory Boardwalk

I'm sure that most of you don't know this about me, but before my family moved to Vermont (when I was a baby) we lived in New Jersey. Specifically, we lived in Toms River, NJ, which is just a hop, skip, and a hump from Seaside Heights, where the infamous train wreck known as MTV's The Jersey Shore is taped. They also shoot scenes right there in Toms River, the town where I was born.

Even though I would have gone through school *mumble*mumble* years before these tanorexic gym clowns, I can only imagine how I might have turned out if I had grown up in that environment instead of my idyllic Mayberry-type small town. Since I'm not even a tiny bit Italian I don't imagine I would have fit in with the Guido crew, and since I am as white as a glass of whole milk and can't attain any sort of height from my bangs, I can only imagine that I wouldn't have fit in very well at all.

But I do like pickles.


I'm thanking my lucky stars that I grew up here:

Population: 665. All either hearty New Englanders or ambitious Flatlanders, like my parents.

It really is this pretty.

Every summer my parents sent my sister and me down to the shore to spend a week with my grandmother, who lived in Asbury Park, NJ, just north of Seaside Heights. Fans of Bruce Springsteen will recognize Asbury as being his hometown.

My grandmother lived in a senior living community called Asbury Towers, and it was one of the only high-rises around. She lived way up on the eighty-something-th floor and as a kid it was always very exciting to stay with her there in her tiny but plush apartment. I loved the elevator rides, the view of the ocean from her living room window, her teeny galley kitchen, sleeping on the pull-out sofa, and the fact that she got different (and better!) cartoons in the morning. I have very fond memories of watching The Jetsons while eating cereal in that apartment.

My dad would drive us down, spend the night, and then drive home the next day. As soon as we arrived my grandmother would pull out a bag of stale bread she'd been saving and we'd go down to the lake to feed the ducks, then we'd all head over to the boardwalk where I would get either a candy apple or one of those giant lollypops that always cut the shit out of your tongue.

Hey, it was the early 80's. I'm sure those shorts were the height of fashion!

At this point the boardwalk was already in a steady state of decline. A lot of shops had already closed and were boarded up and the crime was getting bad once evening fell each night. In the late 80's there would be reports of hypodermic needles washing up on shore and muggings in broad daylight. By the time I was 13 or 14 my parents moved my grandmother to Vermont because they feared for her safety living alone in Asbury. She was also losing her marbles, but that's another story for another day.

Still, those handful of summer visits remain some of my most cherished childhood memories. My grandmother was fun and even kind of hip for an old lady. She drove a car that she called Jesse, had lots of friends who loved to come out to eat with us, and took us out to play mini golf, eat salt water taffy, and dine at the Howard Johnson's or Sizzler. Each day she'd consult the sign to tell us when high tide was so that we could avoid the big waves.

Now that I'm an adult I haven't been back to the shore in over twenty years, but I became a fan of Asbury Park on Facebook so each day I am treated to photos and blurbs about what is happening on the boardwalk that day. They have apparently done a lot of refurbishing and reconstructing the boardwalk area, and I'm so glad that it is being returned to its former glory. If there is any good to come of the hot mess known as The Jersey Shore, perhaps it is that attention (and tax dollars) will be returned to these family fun spots that languished for so long.

Here are some photos taken recently, compliments of Facebook:

And look! You never know when you might run into a celebrity down the shore:

Next year I hope to bring my family back to the Jersey shore for a vacation. If I can give them some of the same warm fuzzy memories that I have, I think it would make my grandmother and father, who have both passed on now, very happy. I think it would make me happy, too.

Have a lovely summer day!

ETA: Here are a few beautiful photos taken last weekend on the NJ shore by my very talented old friend (and newish FOOBH!), Bob M. Montgomery.


Stacie's Madness said...

you should go, it looks awesome there!

Rich Girl Red said...

That's a lovely memory Bev! I think your family would thoroughly enjoy a stroll down your memory "shore."

And if you really want your bangs jacked up, you could always use a Bumpit.

CajunMan said...

Things worked out very well for you, obviously!

Have you ever read "Close to Shore," Michael Capuzzo's book about the great white shark attacks up and down the Jersey shore in 1916? Fascinating stuff.

Salt said...

The horror of it all is that even though I live not to far south from there, I've never been to the Jersey shore. And then after watching that fine television show, I wasn't sure if I ever wanted to go to the Jersey shore. But now I'm convinced that it's a good idea again. Thanks, Bev!

Frank Irwin said...

Thanks for the walk down your memory lane, Bev, it was a good 'un!

My best friend lived in Asbury Park in the early '80's, and I visited him once, there. I don't remember any cute girls in pink shorts, though. (Good thing, because I wouldn't need that on my record.)

Susan said...

Wow, trip down memory lane for me too. Actually able to see West Long Branch on that map you posted, place where I was raised for 16 years. As bad as Jersey is depicted, I loved growing up there. I did not fit in well with the guido side either, but I was able to get some height on the bangs, I'll have to dig out a old pic. There was a carousel in AP that we used to drive to on Sundays and ride. I remember being so sad when they were tearing the building down and selling the horses. I so wanted my family to buy the lone green horse we fondly called Shami. The fun house was great too. And then I remember the years of 'drive through AP quickly, it is too dangerous'. Finally, my last years spent in Jersey (my last summers while in college), I fondly remember Asbury for a bar we could all get into underage. And then finally being of age to get into the Stone Pony, they didn't mess around with fake id's. I am so glad it has new life. Maybe one year we can meet up there and walk down memory lane together. And I am living proof that not all people raised in Jersey act like the kids on the MTV series. But I do see so much reality in that show...perhaps why I ran like hell after hs to get out of the place:)

Mala said...

That was a fabulous stroll. Hey look! A bar! Let's get a drink, I'm parched.

And I'm pretty sure I had matching shorts.

Bob M. Montgomery Images said...

Just came back from da Shore last weekend :) Spent the day at Sandy Hook on the beach, enjoying the heat and ocean. My better half grew up in Oceanport/West Long Branch, and we were there for her reunion :D We've been down and stayed on a shore a couple times, last time before this trip in Seabright.

Did the drive down to Asbury Park, as always, saw that building you noted where your grandmother lived, too! They've been working for years to restore the boardwalk and the cool architectural stuff there. I've got some pictures of my trip down here: http://bacn.me/eaer

You should get down, for sure. Highly recommend CJ Montana's for good food in Tinton Falls and Sandy Hook for a beach day.

Frank Irwin said...

Dayum, girl, you're topical!

Bev said...

Stacie - I'm gonna!

RGR - I'm tempted to try the Bumpits. I'm serious! Next time I feel like going for a 60's Audrey Hepburn look I'm totally hitting Rite-Aid for some of those bad boys.

CajunMan - No, I haven't read it! Looks interesting though. I'll check it out. Thanks!

Salt - It's definitely worth going. Glad I convinced you!

Frank - HA! Yeah, it's a good thing. My dad would have ground you into dust. ;)

Susan - Wow, what a great comment! It brought back so many memories for me, too. My dad used to stand on the edge of that carousel and catch the ring so we'd get a free ride! It's sad that it is gone, but hopefully they will bring stuff back now that it's back on the up-swing.

And yes, I'll let you know when we make it down! I love blogger meet & greets. :)

Mala - I hear the Stone Pony is ROCKIN'! Let's go. Plus... we can drive there!

Bob - Sandy Hook! I remember climbing to the top of the light house there! How cool that you were just there. I will go check out your pics right now.

Thanks for the restaurant recs too! I've outgrown Sizzler and I don't think HoJo's even exists anymore, after all.

Bev said...

Frank - WOW! I really do have my finger on the pulse of pop culture, don't I?

Ha! I must be psychic. ;)

PorkStar said...

Such a nice post, Bevs... The beaches in NJ have improved greatly. The living itself in NJ has not gotten much better but the becahes sure have.

Those shorts were the hype for girls and boys and even in South America we wore those, so i'm with you and i'll defend the pride and glory of them shorts from back in the day.

Deb said...

Is it wrong that my eyes completely bypassed the pink shorts and went straight to what is obviously the beginning of a glorious rack??

Oh yeah...I went there.

I remember when that photo was taken - that was some day!

Bev said...

Porky - Thanks so much! I'm glad to know that those shorts were popular world-wide!

Deb - HA!!! I should have known you'd point out my nubs. You were the first one to take me bra shopping, after all.

(For anyone reading who doesn't know, Deb is my sister.)

MtnMama said...

Whew, thanks Deb. I noticed the um... shorts, too! (and the shorts were the height of fashion. nice contrasting seam binding.)

The East coast was/is such a different culture than the West. It's interesting to learn more about it. Love the memories you shared.

tracey said...

I know where Asbury is! My friend Lisa lives in Avon & her husband is a cop in Jersey City. I like the Jersey shore minus the tanorexic gym rats. We vacationed there for a couple of days back in the late 90's & had a really great trip.

I've been off line forever & have a ton of your posts to catch up on. I know you've missed my urbane & witty comments. >: )

Nej said...

Awesome memories!!!!

I don't (and never have) lived anywhere near a shore....but there's a large lake near my hometown that we'd visit on the weekends sometimes. They even had their own little "boardwalk" and amusement park. The place was hit by a tornado just a month or so ago. I nearly cried after reading about the loss of the Tilt-A-Whirl. It's amazing how attached you become to memories from childhood!!!