Wildwood Bye to the Sea

Many people seem worried about the ocean rising until it obliterates much of the shore area and covers Manhattan. I’m more concerned about all of the extra sand the sea dumps on Wildwood year after year. During my childhood, the then old-timers used to tell me that the old Crest Pier used to be on the beach, sometimes at water’s edge. Old photos have verified this

I spent a lot of time at the Crest Pier (the one before the latest reincarnation at the same location), both during the summers and winters. I learned to bowl (sort of) on the long-gone six lanes at the Pier. I say sort of, because I learned to bowl somewhat more properly when the Rio Lanes opened, complete with automatic pin setters and bowling balls all the same size! The lanes at the pier sported regular-sized balls, larger cork balls that barely fit through the stop ring, and duck pin balls. The pin boys usually returned the latter by rolling them down the gutters. Sometimes this resulted in a frantic chase through the folding chairs for a runaway ball. Instead of hand dryers, a volcano-shaped mound of chalk (or maybe it was resin) sat ready at each lane. I also played the many pinball machines and arcade games during the summer, but the winters brought me to the south side of the Pier, where a basketball court with asphalt tile surface and a too-low ceiling was squeezed in between the stage and the west wall. Many of us developed a fairly flat shot back in those days. Old, canvas gymnastic mats sat on the north side, and barbells were on the south side. The stage contained ping pong tables, a shuffleboard, a boxing bag, and a dartboard. Rudy Kita, the Recreation Director, sat at a small table near the front of the stage, his vigilant eye ensuring that we never got too carried away with anything.

We also messed around occasionally beneath the Pier during the summers, playing hide and seek, and cops and robbers. So the pier sat on pilings, maybe four or five feet above street level. But why was it on pilings? It seemed silly, located between Atlantic and Ocean Avenues, on pilings!

So now to my present concern. I spent 20 or so years in the south, without so much as seeing the Wildwood beach during that time, since most of our visits were during the winter months. But then I see this photo on the internet of one of Morey’s latest piers, the one with The Great White roller coaster. My first reaction was that my eyes were deceiving me. That happens to be the former Fun Pier, where I worked, and the old Sky Tower is still standing, but it’s in the middle of the pier instead of at the end. Yes, the pier is much larger now, but that wasn’t what caught my attention. The end of the pier wasn’t even in the water! I could make out the approximate high tide line, and it was nowhere near the Sky Tower location! In 1966, my last year working on the pier, I ran the Tilt-a-Whirl, which sat right next to the tower, and during high tide, waves crashed beneath me!

I find it alarming that Wildwood may someday lose its status as a seashore resort! Will streets eventually crop up on the ocean side of the boardwalk? Don’t laugh, I remember when much of Ocean Avenue was sand dunes, and JFK Boulevard in North Wildwood wasn’t even a thought!

West Wildwood has existed for years, although most of us considered it a bit weird back then. The kids there showed up late for school when flood tides occurred during the right morning hours. But East Wildwood? Imagine the city of East Wildwood, with its beach and boardwalk, and the old city of Wildwood with its boardwalk running through the center of town! The boards could go the way of Pacific Avenue if the city doesn’t soon start a beach removal program.

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