Pick Your Tabanus

Some people harbor fears of sharks, jellyfish, crabs, and other denizens of the deep (and shallow). Others fear the “undertow”, better known as a rip current, or they may even fear being knocked down by a large wave. All of these things help explain the popularity of swimming pools at motels along the Jersey Shore, and at shore resorts in general.

I maintain a healthy respect for sharks, but that respect has never made me go running for the nearest swimming pool. Even the sea snakes in Vietnam failed to keep us from swimming, although a few preliminary concussion grenades helped allay our fears.

Nor do I particularly care for jellyfish, and on more than one occasion have been forced to swim through a virtual wall of them, ending up with something resembling and feeling much like prickly heat, all over my body.

However, the one thing I hate more than anything else at the Jersey Shore is the dreaded greenhead fly, formally known as Tabanus Americanus Forester! The salt marsh horse flies (Tabanus nigrovittatus and Tabanus contenninus) are often mistaken for the greenhead, and they suffer from an identity crisis primarily because their attacks are just as vicious and painful.

It took me only about three years of life to encounter my first greenhead, in my backyard wading pool. It landed on my arm and bit me, drawing blood. My mom swatted it, and it landed upside down on the surface of the water. I reacted by crying, and my reaction is pretty much the same today. Okay, I’m kidding, but not by much.

Greenheads seem to flourish on beaches with dune grass, so for the past few decades they have not been as prevalent along the Wildwood beaches as they once were. Call them what you like, but salt marsh horse flies still abound, of all places, near salt marshes!

No matter which Tabanus one encounters, they all share one trait, namely a blood lust. They need blood to survive, and pretty much any mammal will do, thank you. Humans have the disadvantage of lacking a fur covering, so they become primary targets.

For the sake of convenience, henceforth I’ll refer to all of them as greenheads, and if this offends the nigrovittatus and contenninus species, they can bite me!

It’s easy to find a greenhead, or let’s say a horde of greenheads, especially if you’re not looking for them. They come uninvited, and pretty much stay as long as they please. If you take Route 47 (Delsea Drive) south toward Wildwood and Cape May, I advise following the main road (Route 347), rather than staying on 47. For one thing, it’s almost three miles shorter, but if traffic gets backed up on 47, and it does, the greenheads attempt to carry vehicles off the highway and into the marshes for later feasting. The only people greenheads seem to have no interest in, are the residents of East Creek Manor, who calmly sit outside and watch as the insects dive bomb the cars stuck in the queue.

Most of the villages along Delaware Bay become overrun with greenheads during much of the summer. The residents spend each night praying for strong winds the next day, one of the few things that keeps the carnivorous bugs at bay, no pun intended. On calm days, residents can be seen wearing Kevlar body suits while mowing their lawns and tending their gardens.

Greenheads also roam the rivers and back bays, hanging out on the “No Wake” buoys, waiting for boaters to slow their crafts to a crawl. The onslaught is relentless, resembling a feeding frenzy at a Golden Corral! One of the most difficult aspects of boating in South Jersey is making it through a no-wake zone completely unscathed.

So what is the solution to this annual problem? Well, they make greenhead traps, or you can make your own, but I don’t have one, although I know how to build one. They used to spray for mosquitoes, which also tended to keep the greenhead population in check. Even though research has shown that DDT was not the cause of thin shells on bird eggs, it’s still considered proper to allow a few thousand people to die from malaria and other insect-born diseases, rather than to spray DDT. I suppose that unless we eventually rid the legislative branch of insects, we’ll just have to keep on swatting!

Sandcastles of the Past

During the first twenty or so years of my life, I took a lot for granted, and never really considered the fact that many of the things I liked would eventually disappear. We all know that eventually many of our relatives and friends will pass on, but we generally pay scant attention to the temporary state of so many other things.

At least for now, the house I grew up in still stands within view of Sunset Lake in Wildwood Crest. The house across the street from ours is still across the street, but it’s not the same street, and it no longer sits at water’s edge. A newer house occupies that particular piece of ground.

The old neighborhood now looks like the new neighborhood, and whether or not newer is better depends on a person’s point of view. Our street had considerable character with the older, more diverse, homes on a street lined with sycamores for shade. The street now looks hot and greedy, where condos have nudged out many of the “real” homes.

I don’t remember my last root beer milkshake made by Jimmy Batts, but I would have paid more attention had I known it would be my last. The same goes for whenever I bought my last vanilla malt at Teitelman’s long-gone custard stand. I’ll always remember both gentleman’s friendly manners toward their customers.

Seacrest Bakery made incredible cheese pies with various fillings – “ my favorites were pineapple and blueberry – “ but nothing beat entering through the screen door in the alley at midnight and buying some glazed doughnuts while still hot and dripping! How the times have changed! We used to watch one of the bakers making lemon-filled buns, applying the filling with a cone fashioned from newspaper.

The best subs in the world (these are all my own opinions, of course), came from J&H Cold Cuts. I happened to be standing in there on one Sunday in November 1963, waiting for a cheese steak and watching the black and white TV up in the corner when Lee Harvey Oswald was shot. It’s a given that because I was buying a cheese steak at J&H, Luigi’s was obviously closed for the winter. We never knew when or if Luigi’s would close for the season, or how the interior would be arranged the next time we went in.

I think I actually remember my last pizza steak from Grasso’s Four G’s in Rio Grande, only because I remember my last visit. I’ve eaten many pizza steaks from many places since, but none has ever come close to the ones from the Four G’s.

For quite a few years, I considered Joe Mauti’s pizza the best in the world. He had a place on the boards across from the old, old Convention Hall, and he advertised it as the place where the wrestler’s ate. “Professional” wrestling used to be big at Convention Hall back then. A permanent sign on the wall inside the store also advertised “Free Spaghetti Tomorrow.” I’m not sure whether or not the place actually sold spaghetti.

After Joe Mauti closed up in 1964, a Dutchman from Boyertown, Pennsylvania took over the place. Apparently, Ralph Mutter’s experience with pizza consisted of selling soft pretzels out of a truck in Boyertown. When he opened on the boards in ’65, I rated his pizza as possibly the worst I had ever eaten, but he definitely knew his pretzels! Funny things happen, though, and sometime in early July of that year, a guy we used to call Father Anthony came strolling down the walk looking for a job. He had Joe Mauti’s recipe in his head, and the rest is history. I think I bought my last slice sometime around ’80 or ’81.

Gone for about 36 years now, Shaffer’s was the place where most Wildwoodians bought their hot dogs. Each dog was split and grilled beneath an iron press, as were the buns. After new owners took over, they tossed away years of memories and great food for a game stand. Most places on the boards sold Burk’s frankfurters. When did they disappear?

And who could forget the Taylor Pork Roll store on the boards? Nothing like a sandwich featuring a flame-kissed pork roll!

Ice cream waffles used to be hot (and cold) at the stand by the old “Mystery Castle,” a long-gone walk-through funhouse. Crowds stood four or five deep along the length of the stand waiting for a slice of ice cream sandwiched between two freshly-baked waffles, topped with powdered sugar. Messy? Yes, but well worth the effort! The waffles usually won the battle with the ice cream, so it was wise to lean forward while eating one.

Yeah, yeah, yeah – “ the Jackrabbit, the old merry-go-rounds with the music machines, Hunt’s Pier and Hunt’s theaters are long gone, along with the Casino Arcade. The potato chips warmed by a light bulb disappeared from in front of the bumper cars decades ago, as did the bumper cars themselves. At least all of those things survived much longer than the Scooter Boats, and if you remember them, you’re really dating yourself!

And now the motels of the “Doo-Wop” era are disappearing as quickly as 78-RPM records departed the scene. This started shortly after it was discovered that more doo-wop era structures were situated in the Wildwoods than anyplace else in the world, and were subsequently classified as “historic” buildings. Go figure.

So, whether your passion leans toward Curly’s Fries, Laura’s Fudge, Sam’s Pizza, or some other source of food or entertainment, enjoy them while you can! Not a single one of them is likely to last forever, but at least they’ll hang around longer than your average sandcastle.

Staying Alive

During every summer season I read about people who drown, and in many cases, the drownings were senseless, meaning they could have been prevented. It always amazed me that some individuals spend time in, on, or around bodies of water, and while they may consider themselves “swimmers,” many know little or nothing about “water survival.”

I’ve spent a lot of time in and on the water, and even before entering the Navy, I both knew and practiced water survival techniques, although I was never actually in an emergency situation. I used them routinely while swimming, and we frequently swam back and forth across the bay, dodging passing boats.

Distances in water can be very deceiving, and this factor alone causes inexperienced swimmers to panic and eventually go under. Sometimes the person swims until tiring, and thinks that the only solution is to give up. The important thing to remember when in the water is that it’s possible to stay afloat even when exhausted, and it’s important to not panic when realizing that you still have quite a ways to go! Yes, for the inexperienced swimmer, the absence of solid ground beneath the feet can be frightening when land is still a good distance away.

The normal method of treading water can be tiring, although it’s considerably less tiring than actually swimming. A person who treads water to the point of exhaustion will eventually give up. This is both tragic and pointless, and can be avoided in almost all cases.

One of the easiest methods of floating for some people is to float on the back. It’s not my preference, but it’s simple when done properly. Simply lie back, legs spread, and arms extended. The head should be leaned back as far as possible, and the arms should be moved back and forth to help maintain flotation. Breathing through the nose is recommended, because water will sometimes splash across the face.

An easier, and less tiring method of floating is what’s known as “survival floating,” and for some unexplained reason, seems to be a closely guarded secret, although it shouldn’t be. To start this technique, take a fairly deep breath, then lean forward, knees toward the chest, in what some call the “fetal” position. Your face will be under water during this phase. When ready to breathe, extend your legs and move your arms back and forth to bring your head out of the water. Stay in this position until you regain your breath, usually a minute or a few minutes, then take a breath and return to the fetal position. By using this technique, it’s possible to stay afloat for very long periods of time, and periods of more than a day or two in the water have been reported!

If you find yourself in the water fully clothed, your clothing can add some buoyancy. Even better, for some materials, such as denim, the clothing can actually be used as a flotation device. Long pants are the most effective, but even a shirt can be used. For pants, tie knots at the bottom of the legs and leave the front zipper open. It’s important that the material be already fully soaked. Hold the pants by the waist above your head, then slam them down on the water. The legs will inflate with air. While holding the waist beneath the water, thrust your body across the crotch, and the pants will act as a flotation device. Eventually, the air will leak out and the method must be repeated, but it’s a lot easier than attempting to float on your own.

If you’re wearing shoes when you enter the water, keep them on! They offer protection, and it’s just as easy to swim while wearing shoes as it is without them.

The methods described here pertain primarily to recreational and emergency swimming during warm weather. Although hyperthermia is always a factor when in the water, cold water survival employs some methods not covered here. It’s advisable to learn those techniques also.

Finally, some important considerations if you’re on a boat that is swamped, or if, for some reason, you decide to abandon the boat:

Stay with the boat, if possible, assuming there’s no danger in doing so.

If the vessel has capsized and can’t be righted, climb atop the hull.

If you can’t get in or on the boat, hang onto it and use it to keep yourself afloat.

If you decide to swim, don’t be a hero! Grab a PFD (personal flotation device), which all boats are required to carry, and put it on!

If you happen to have swim fins on board, put them on. These make it much easier both to stay afloat and to travel through the water.

And remember – “ Never Panic!

Some helpful links:

http://www.ehow.com/how_6582_survival-float.htmlhttp://oh.essortment.com/swimmingsafety_rkth.htm

http://www.boatingbasicsonline.com/course/boating/8_3.php http://www.ilsf.org/about/drowning_statistics.htm

Makes No Cents

This may be a tad political, but I feel that a few comments are necessary. New Jersey shut down the government, so to speak. Isn’t that what a lot of people wanted?

Anyway, the problem seems to be that the governor wants a sales tax increase, and the legislators want to increase taxes some other way. Of course, this makes sense, since NJ is one of the worst states to live in for those of us opposed to burdensome taxes. Throughout history, every society which has attempted to tax itself into prosperity has either gone down in flames or has eventually come to grips with reality.

But I digress. The thing that puzzles me is that the state decided to lay off all of its non-essential employees while keeping essential employees, such as state police officers, on the payroll.

It certainly makes a lot of sense, if the state has no money to pay employees, to keep the ones who produce no revenue and lay off the ones who produce revenue. For example, the casino industry is a win-win situation for the state. Those in positions of gambling oversight are paid far less than the revenues generated by the casinos for the state. The same with the Lottery, which produces significant revenue, yet the Lottery was shut down almost immediately.

This is something like an owner of a restaurant running a little short on funds, and determining that the solution is to lay off the cook and keep the cashiers and wait staff. It’s hard to say how they would generate any revenue with no food to serve, but if the government ran the place, that would apparently be its solution.

What we really have here is what’s commonly known as a hissy fit. We don’t get our way, so instead of keeping the revenue coming in, we shut down all services that are operating in the black.

Does anyone really believe that punishing vacationers who have saved up money for a long-awaited vacation will increase tourism, along with the state’s already somewhat tarnished image?

I certainly don’t see it that way, but I know that any increase in sales tax will encourage me to do even more of my tax-free shopping in Delaware. Does getting elected to office cause instant stupidity, or is that simply a necessary pre-qualification?

But all was not lost. New Jersey finally came up with a new state slogan that works – “Leaving for Las Vegas!”

Another Slipless Night

Our boat should have been in its slip near Cape May long ago, but a phenomena not unlike that which beset the Mary Deare has made its presence known.

Our slip rental runs from April 15 through October 16, and I was a wee bit disappointed that we actually had to wait until the middle of April before launching. It sat on the blocks in a marina about 15 miles away, and we figured it would take but a few days to perform routine maintenance.

The steering had frozen up before we took the boat out last fall, but I was pretty sure that I would be able to free it up, even though I know very little about boat steering. Okay, so I was wrong, but undeterred, I supervised my cousin and his friend in sanding and painting the bottom of the hull. We picked a nice, spring day of about 88 degrees or so, and I tired very easily watching them perform the task. Upon completion of the job, they resembled Smurfs, and I haven’t heard from my cousin since. I remember him saying something about leaving the country, but didn’t think he was serious.

I found a boat mechanic, and pleaded my case to get the steering repaired as soon as possible. He obliged, and we were ready for launch!

Everything went smoothly until the boat actually touched the water. The starboard engine started right up. The port engine followed suit, then died. It started once or twice more, and ran about as long as it takes to fill a glass of water with a firehose.

I took the spark arrestor off the carburetor and cranked the engine as it spewed gasoline all over. Okay, so we have a float problem, and it can be resolved with a little carb cleaner, right? Nope – I had to call in Mr. Boat Mechanic, who informed me that I needed a new carburetor, and that it would take a few days to get it. This made me a bit anxious, because the days of the season were beginning to run like sand through an hourglass, but I persevered.

Mr. BM finally installed the carburetor and we made preparations for our voyage south. The port engine started right up, then died. And died and died and died. It wouldn’t run below 2,000 rpm’s, and I just couldn’t feature trying to back the boat into the slip at that speed…

So Mr. BM returns to adjust the carburetor, but informs me that he thinks I need a new fuel pump. Well, he does this stuff for a living, so I took him at his word. The only problem, he tells me, is that he can’t do it until the following Tuesday, or maybe even Wednesday. Now indignant, I tell him that I’ll do it myself. I’ve replaced fuel pumps before, in fact it became a hobby on my old ’56 Plymouth. So what if it was back in ’65 or so; like how much can a person forget?

Quite a bit, I discovered, after driving 40 miles with my old fuel pump and returning with a new one. By then it was late in the day, and I decided to wait until the following morning. That just happened to be the day that Noah apparently stopped by South Jersey on a world tour or something. I think Sunday, Monday, Tuesday – okay, so by Wednesday, all systems were go. I was thinking how fortunate I was that I didn’t have to wait until the day before…

Well, it didn’t go in on Wednesday. I couldn’t seem to line up the bolt holes for some reason. Same thing happened on Thursday, so I called for reinforcements on Friday. My nephews (sort of) showed up, and the one who does the mechanical stuff had the same problem I had. He told me I must have the wrong fuel pump.

I made plans to see if I could find the right pump, but meantime, I called Mr. BM, who informed me that he didn’t think I had the wrong pump. He said I (meaning my nephew) had to hold up the little plunger and slip the lever beneath it. He was correct, and the fuel pump was finally installed by late Friday afternoon.

My mechanic had informed me that he would be out of town for the weekend, but I cared little about that, because I had my fuel pump and we would be spending the holiday weekend at our boat at the shore! Except that the engine did the same thing!

So, on Saturday, with resolution, we set out for the boat once more, and I figured maybe I could turn a screw or something on the carburetor and we’d be on our way! Uh – except that you can’t do that any more, because the days of external needle valves went the way of the covered wagon. Like how would I know that, since my last zillion cars had fuel injection?

Fortunately, a fellow boater was working on his boat and responded that yes, he did know something about carburetors. He looked at it, heard it run, then did a few general tests and discovered that there’s a compression leak somewhere.

On Sunday, we found ourselves too tired and too disgusted to drive the 45 miles to the boat. We may make an attempt on Monday, although our Fourth of July weekend is already shot, but ultimately, we await the return of Mr. BM.

Property Rites

To me, lawn care and maintenance means hopping on my riding mower and zipping across the yard, then trimming with a weed whacker and blowing the trimmings onto the lawn with a leaf blower.

Yes, I like our yard to look nice, but I don’t consider it a hobby, like stamp collecting or restoring old cars. If nuances to the art exist, I choose to not learn, or even know, about them. I consider lawn and yard care nothing more than routine maintenance, like caulking windows and touching up the trim.

So why is it, I wonder to myself, that half of the people in our neighborhood have apparently traded in their riding mowers for enormous walk-behind mowers, either of the push type, or self-propelled? I just don’t know.

I see some of my neighbors out there every couple of days, cutting their lawns with mowers that could level a football field in three passes. Yet, despite the size of these grass munchers, I’m usually finished before they are, even when I start a little later.

So, when all is said and done, do these neighbors’ lawns look better than ours? For the most part, yes, but I suppose it all depends on what floats your boat, which I find much more interesting than mowing the lawn. We keep our lawn looking nice, but I don’t recall entering a community lawn care contest.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not really criticizing these yardvarks, and I’m quite happy that they keep their lawns well-manicured, but the Augusta National would do well to woo some of them away from their current jobs. In the past, I have lived near residents who considered lawn and yard care as options to be carried out once or twice a year, and their properties somewhat lowered the appearance of the entire neighborhood. I wouldn’t care to be a card-carrying member of that particular class.

So, is there a point to all of this? Not really. I’m not even complaining, and I’m definitely not envious. If I were that concerned about our yard, I would hire a professional landscaper. I would simply like to know who is selling the bill of goods for these gigantic lawn mowers, and what makes these machines so special?

Star Search

On the surface, Wildwood appears to be improving with age, but something is missing. Will the big stars ever return?

During my youth, some of the biggest of the big showed up in Wildwood, usually for shows at some of the various clubs. The Rainbow, The Beachcomber, The Surf Club, The Manor Supper Club, and Lou Booth’s were just a few of the places hosting big names during the summer months.

Bill Haley and the Comets sort of started things off by performing “Rock Around the Clock” at the Hof Brau, and half a decade later, Chubby Checker first performed “The Twist” at The Rainbow Club, according to area nostalgia buffs.

Minors generally were not permitted in night clubs, so my star gazing was very limited. I saw Peggy Lee during a poolside interview at the old Carousel Motel. On our way home from the boards one night, my brother, another friend, and I heard some twangy guitar sounds leaking through the cracks at The Beachcomber, and the bouncer allowed us to peek through the door to see Duane Eddy during his performance.

On another warm summer evening bike ride, I noticed my brother and some of our friends hanging out in the parking lot of The Caribbean motel. They told me that Jimmie Rodgers was in a room on the second floor. Uh-oh! Awhile later, his manager came down to tell us that if we gave him some paper, he would take it up and get autographs. He said that Jimmie would come down and speak with us before leaving for his show. Jimmie did come down and talk with us before he and his wife got in the back seat of a black Lincoln Continental convertible to be chauffeured away for his performance.

Okay, so The Beatles never quite made it south of AC, but The McGuire Sisters, Johnny Mathis, Tony Bennett, and many others, made it to the island. Bobby Rydell spent a considerable amount of time in Wildwood through the years, and his song, “Wildwood Days,” is still remembered rather reverently by some of us old-timers.

My uncle wrote for Variety and Billboard, which gave him an inside advantage, so to speak. Frankie Laine showed up on our front porch one evening, and Bruce Davison (who spent some summers just a few blocks away) , of “Willard” fame, called up one day. In the seventies, I remember when my uncle told us about interviewing The Carpenters and David Cassidy when they performed at the old new Convention Hall.

So where has everyone gone? I guess they’ve gone to the bigger venues, like Philadelphia, Atlantic City, and other cities with huge facilities. Yes, Wildwood has a new Convention Center, but at least for the time being, that venue seems relegated to the stars of yesteryear. Fat chance that any big star not named Chubby would ever show up in a place like the old Rainbow these days.

Bored Walk? Uh-uh.

If you can’t sell it on the boardwalk, then it just can’t be sold. For some reason, when people get on the boards, all sense of reason seems to disappear. Hey, let your hair down!I started noticing the phenomena back in the fifties, when people started walking around wearing those huge, ridiculous sunglasses that everyone thought were so funny, especially the people selling them. The huge combs weren’t far behind, nor were the “big name buttons,” and, yes, I admit, I’ve been around since the food stands were pushing brontosaurus burgers.

During the sixties, the laugh of the party on the boardwalk invariably wore a hat with little beer cans around the brim, pretty much lending authenticity to the wearer’s IQ. And someone cleaned up (not literally) by attaching a dog collar to a stiff leash, instantly creating an invisible dog. At least I think they were dogs. Those clever jokesters who bought those leashes played it to the hilt, “walking” their invisible dogs up and down the boards, sometimes struggling to prevent the animal from performing an unseemly act on someone’s shoe. Ha ha… For lack of further imagination, these “dogs” were all the same size, rather small, and their barks sounded suspiciously human-like.

The stuffed animal has survived as a game stand staple, and lest PETA sound an alarm, we’re not talking taxidermy here. Some stands now have bigger and better prizes, but the stuffed species still proliferates. Now there is nothing really wrong with stuffed animals (and other creatures), especially if you’re a young guy with a pretty woman. Okay, you don’t really have to be young – many an older woman still has a place in her heart for a stuffed animal, especially if it was won for her by her man. What boggles my mind is how much someone will actually spend to “win” one of these prizes. Better to just buy a high quality teddy bear from a vendor on my web site (hint, hint). I can guarantee from personal experience that your woman will love it more than flowers, especially if you have it personalized.

But back to the boards. We’ve graduated, I guess you can say. Besides all of the standard boardwalk fare available, the Wildwood Boardwalk now offers tattoos, body piercing, henna tattoos; and you can even buy some more hair, if you find yourself a bit lacking. I have to admit, the tattoo and body piercing parlors really enrich the whole family atmosphere that has always been one of the boardwalk’s strong points.

Cynicism aside, the boardwalk remains a strong attraction for young and old, friends, lovers, and family. Many things have changed through the years, but it still pretty much looks like the same old playground.

For Whom the Toll Tolls

I lived in the south for about twenty years, mostly in Georgia, but also in North Carolina and Arkansas. I also briefly lived part-time in a few other southern states.

Initially, I missed some of the things I was used to in the north, but as I gradually became somewhat “southernized,” and the south became somewhat “northernized,” we eventually reached a fairly comfortable level of agreement with each other.

One of the rarities in the south that I didn’t miss all that much from the north was toll roads. Yes, they’re scarce, (but not non-existent) in the south, and that was nice. I remember paying one toll during two decades there, when we took vacation on Jekyll Island. The Atlanta area put in a new toll road, but it has not been well received.

But Maryland brought me back to northern reality rather quickly, with its then $4.00 (now $5.00) toll on I-95. A few miles further up the road and Delaware socks drivers with a $2.00 toll. On the return, the Delaware Memorial Bridge hits people up for $3.00, and another $2.00 is snatched away shortly after Christiana.

I initially lived in Maryland when I moved back north, and I had to ensure that I carried an extra $12.00 in cash (I carry little cash these days), just to visit my relatives in New Jersey. That quickly drove me to join EZ-Pass, and the convenience is certainly worth it, although quite a few drivers seem to think that it’s still necessary to stop (and probably roll down the window, too) before going through. It’s also frustrating during the summer months to find traffic backed up for miles on I-95, with no way of getting to the EZ-Pass lanes. One time I took the “LAST EXIT BEFORE TOLL” near Havre de Grace, started across the bridge and saw signs stating to “Pay Toll Ahead” in the amount of $5.00! So you take the “Last Exit Before Toll” and still have to pay the same toll! I learned from the locals that you can go to the “Pass” lane and pay $5.00 for a sticker that’s good for one year. Huh?

I never bothered to figure out how much I’ve paid in tolls through the years, what with the Garden State Parkway, the New Jersey Turnpike, Benjamin Franklin, Walt Whitman, Delaware Memorial, and other bridges, as well as the various bridges on Ocean Drive, but it must be substantial. I went to Cape May County Vo-Tech for two years, back when it was actually in Cape May, and remember mostly driving out through Rio Grande and taking Route 9, to avoid the then 25-cent toll on the Ocean Drive bridge. Now the bridge is a dollar going toward Cape May, but is free on the return trip to Wildwood Crest. I also commuted for six years to Drexel, in Philadelphia, and paid the Walt Whitman Bridge tolls, although I carpooled for three of those years.

Once upon a time, rumor had it that the Parkway exit tolls would only be in place until the exit was paid for. Some were actually removed after a time, such as the Tilton Road exit in Cardiff. But the toll booths at the Rio Grande exit for traveling to and from Cape May have been hanging around for nearly 40 years.

We traveled up to Maine last year, and every state except New Hampshire (I think they may have since converted) had EZ-Pass.

So my question is this: why are tolls so necessary in the northeast? I thought the state excise taxes on gasoline and tires were supposed to take care of all of that? Sort of like the Lotto, and sales tax, and income tax (none of which existed in NJ before 1965, when they introduced the then 3% sales tax) and the AC casinos were going to take care of everyone’s woes in New Jersey.

But let’s not get into that. Suffice it to say that my property taxes in Woodstown are almost twice what my entire mortgage (including property taxes) was in Georgia. Hey, that makes me sound stupid, doesn’t it?

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.