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:

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?