Camp Martin Travels

These entries will be a combination of historical day trips, graduate level travel courses, and just little stops along the way. I have been teaching 8th grade American History for over 25 years. I am also a Civil War Reenactor and have traveled to Germany and Austria with several groups of exchange students and written about our adventures. Please check all my posts by using the monthly Blog Archive tabs shown below. I have posted over 150 Blog Episodes since 2009... Please explore them all!

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Ocean City Memories / Part # 1

Vacation at the Beach
Ocean City, New Jersey
Part # 1

 Surf's Up
When I was a kid, the highlight of the summer was a four day family vacation to the Jersey Shore.  No reality television Snookie or The Situation here, just good wholesome family memories.  And no commentary to bleep out, with the exception of when we got lost on the road every year in Philly, somewhere around Spring Garden Street... Just ask my Dad, I'm sure he will be happy to tell you all about it!  Sorry Dad!  It was an exciting week leading up to the big event, with all the packing, planning, and recalling past memories.  Pulling out of the driveway without forgetting anything was quite an accomplishment!  The drive was long by kid standards in the mid 1970's, especially without all the electronic devices kids have today to entertain themselves for extended periods of time, while confined in the prison of the back seat.  My brother and I played games trying to count certain types of cars and reading new comic books purchased especially for the trip.   It was exciting to pass through the big city of Philadelphia and cross the Ben Franklin Bridge, giving us a bird's-eye view of the busy river filled with ships far below. 

Biking on the Boardwalk
To increase our travel efficiency on the road, my mother always packed a cooler with sandwiches to eat and Orange Crush soda to drink along the way.  Good stuff!  We knew we were getting close when we began to see small waterways filled with tall reeds and really cool privately owned boats.  Soon the bay came into view and we crossed the Stainton Memorial Bridge that could open up at the high point to let tall boats pass safely through below.  The signal to open the bridge put drivers in an impatient mood but my brother and I thought it was pretty cool to see the two halves of the bridge rise up to let a large boat through the gap.  In the early years we usually stayed at a home in town with a family who rented out rooms to seasonal visitors.  We often shared a common bathroom with other guests on the second floor.  This was a common practice back in the day and much cheaper than staying in a hotel.  When my mother was little, she remembered staying on the second floor of a car repair garage outside of town year after year.  Later, we upgraded a level up to the Impala Motel.  That was a lot more fun because they had a private swimming pool! 

The Famous Music Pier
The Impala was a first class experience as far as my brother and I were concerned because we often stayed in a room on the second floor with a balcony overlooking the beautiful pool below, which was especially cool lit up at night.  Another plus was air-conditioning, something my brother and I grew up without back home.  The hum of the commercial window unit produced a soothing hum that eased you off to sleep.  Today central air systems don't have that soothing humming noise, so I run a fan for white noise to help me drift into a deep sleep every night.  Zzzzzzzz.... The first official morning of vacation on the Jersey Shore we would head up to the boardwalk to take in the view of the vast Atlantic Ocean.  I am still in awe, when standing on the beach and looking out over the ocean, imaging that there is land somewhere beyond the distant horizon.  You can't help but feel small in the scope of nature, just another mere speck of life on the face of the world. 

Shriver's Salt Water Taffy
One of the must do morning activities on the boardwalk of Ocean City, New Jersey is renting a bicycle to ride the length of the boardwalk.  The practice continues to the present day, where the boardwalk is transformed into one of the most congested bike paths in the state for a few hours every morning.  It was a fun activity because you could take in the sights and check out places that you wanted to come back to visit later on foot.  You also had a great view of the ocean as the sun was just making its way above the horizon.  Sometimes the view was too much of a distraction, as you lost focus of what was right in front of you.  One memorable year as I was absorbing the abounding scenery, I rode straight into a concrete anchored metal sign that read Please Bike Safely!  Major crash with minor injuries with the exception of my pride.  My father thought me running into a sign promoting safe bike riding was hilarious and still brings it up at my expense at every possible opportunity... about once a month!   It was one of many stupid things you do as a kid that your parents just never let you forget. 

Ocean City Beach Patrol
Looking back, why would you make a warning sign out of metal and concrete and place it in the middle of the boardwalk.  Really... In my defense, isn't that counter productive to your message?  I noticed they are now made of soft foam or plastic and are colored bright orange.  The change in sign construction materials was probably made through legal litigation verdicts over the years...  I think I still have a winnable case in civil court against the committee in charge of promoting bike safety in Ocean City!  On second thought... Hey Dad, stop laughing already!  One morning of our stay was always set aside for breakfast at Bob's Grill, where my brother and I were introduced to Taylor Pork Roll, which is still a family favorite!  On other mornings. my brother and I would venture across the street from the Impala to the motel restaurant and order breakfast on our own.  It was such a grown up thing to do all by yourself!  Did we leave enough of a tip?

The T-Shirt Shack
The boardwalk was one of the best things about vacationing at the Jersey Shore!  It's kind of like a long wooden strip mall with incredible ocean views!  You won't find more different kinds of themed t-shirts for sale anywhere else in the world.  We always picked up a few, with at least one sporting the must-have Ocean City, New Jersey logo.  The most recognizable structure in easy view is the famous Music Pier, which is the only major building that exists on the ocean-side of the boardwalk.  The Spanish style building was first built in 1828 and has been the home to the Ocean City Pops Orchestra ever since.  The stage within the pier is also used for live theater productions and even the Miss New Jersey beauty pageant... sorry I missed that as a kid!  The Music Pier is a throwback to the classic golden days of a bygone era, still thriving in the rich history of the Jersey Shore.  

Surf Pounds the Pier
Back in the day, my brother and I would rent inflatable rectangular rafts right on the beach, while my parents picked up a colorful umbrella to escape the constant rays of the sun.  We rode the waves all day, while my parents relaxed on the beach reading a choice paperback novel purchased on the boardwalk from one of the busy bookstores.  We always joked that we couldn't go home until my mother got her hair wet, which usually happened at the end of our final day on the beach.  It was always fun to go hunting for exotic critters in the wet sand and pools of water around the protective rock jetties that projected out to sea.  It was a lot different than catching minnows and crayfish in the creek behind our house back home.  It was like we were on a National Geographic expedition in a far away land with marine biologist Jacque Cousteau.   My seventh grade science teacher Mr. Wanner would be so proud!  On one memorable quest, I was trying to corner a crab in a deep pool by a jetty when he got my big toe in his claw.  The pain was incredible and he wouldn't let go despite me howling in pain and hopping on one foot across the beach!  Mommmmmm!  After that incident, biology and science just weren't my thing!
Rock Jetty Barrier on the Beach
One of the fun things to do on the beach was to watch the constant parade of airplanes pulling their long banner advertisements high above the beach.  What a great way to get your message out because you couldn't help but read them.  One year we were watching a bright yellow bi-plane pull a banner high above the beach, when the plane began to sputter and backfire loudly.  Suddenly the banner separated from the plane, cut by the pilot, and fell from the sky.  Several quick seconds later the engine quit all-together and the pilot was seen jumping from the plane without a parachute into the ocean far below.  The plane went into a steep  dive and crashed into the far end of one of the rock jetties about a hundred yards from the beach, nose first.  The bi-plane appeared to plant itself into the rocks with its body and tail sticking straight up in the air.  The lifeguards of the Beach Patrol were already in the water, frantically rowing the rescue boat out to pull the ejected pilot to safety.   Spectators on the beach seemed stunned... did we just really see that happen?  The pilot was rescued and was rowed back to the beach, where he was received by hundreds of onlookers.  I remember he somehow appeared unharmed but was taken by ambulance to be checked out by a doctor.   Wow... what a memorable event!   Over the past several years, drastic changes have taken place on the beach as the rock jetties have been removed and replaced with natural sand dunes and accompanying habitat.     

Umbrellas Standing Sentinel
As the sun began to sink in the sky, it was time to pack up and head back to the motel with several hours of browsing the boardwalk scheduled on the evening agenda.  One of our favorite stops every night was a small toy store called Glenn's Toys.  They had a lot of miniature metal cars and trucks for sale, one of which was sure to go home with us, purchased from our saved allowance money.  My dad's first name is Glenn and my brother and I thought it would be so cool to have your dad own a toy store at the beach.  It seemed like a dream occupation!  We would hit one beach themed souvenir store after another, play miniature golf at Jungle Adventure, and hit as many arcades as long as our stash of quarters held out.  Then there was the food!  One night of our stay was affectionately called Junk Food Night where we could eat anything we wanted.  Mack and Manco Pizza was a top priority followed by a slice from Preps Pizzeria after a short digestion break.  It was a night of eating that was more like grazing from one end of the boardwalk to the other!   

Sand Dune Protection Barrier
After heading back to the Impala we still had time for a quick dip in the pool that was thankfully void of angry crabs.  It was really a treat to go swimming at night with a good chance you had the whole pool to yourself.  We would always set aside an evening go eat at the Point Diner, an essential tradition on our vacation itinerary.  This is where I was introduced to snapper soup, which I still try to order every chance I get.  My meal of choice was always turkey, filling, mashed potatoes, and french fries.  Hey, potatoes are vegetables and there is nothing wrong with a little Thanksgiving in the middle of the summer!  Our four days seemed to fly by far too quickly and on the morning of our departure we would always head down to the beach to look out over the ocean one last time to say goodbye.  We were sad to go but all good things must come to an end.  On the way home we recalled details from our stay, discussed what we liked most, and planned our agenda for next year. 

My Brother Scott and I on the Beach
Tune in next time for more Ocean City memories...
Where I attempt to create some with my own family.

Come on Mom, when are you gonna get your hair wet?

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