Thursday, August 05, 2010
A peninsula surrounded by water & swamp
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Somers Point NJ is a peninsula surrounded by water & swamp. In 1970 it had a population of about 8,000, up 75% since 1960, fueled mostly, I suspect, by white flight from Atlantic City & Pleasantville. Legalized gambling in A.C. pushed it up past 11,000. Until then, it was a sleepy town 9 months of the year, woke up in the summer to provide liquor & entertainment for dry Ocean City across the bay. It still does that. My family stayed there for week every summer because we could & it was free, packing into my aunt's bungalow (read Angels at the Jersey Shore). That accommodation became unreasonable when my aunt & her daughter & son-in-law moved across the street to a larger house, & my cousin (& godmother) Catherine had babies. So for a few years we rented an apt in Ocean City (see An Ocean City Week). Dad, though always employed, had four kids & did not earn a lot of money, & his ambitions were focused outside his job.
The Somers Point I recall had cornfields. Those are long gone, but certainly the ferocious swarms of twilight time mosquitoes are still there in season.
Staying in Ocean City was a dream come true, walking to beach & boardwalk. As nuch as my parents loved the beach & boardwalk, the week in Somers Point was their vacation, & they didn't mind spending a good part of it sitting in lawn chairs in my Aunt Bella's backyard doing nothing. Every jaunt to Ocean City was a journey, & they didn't like going twice-a-day, in the afternoon & evening. Plus, Dad enjoyed beach strolling late afternoon with our dog, Susie. So we were trapped in Somers Point a good deal of the time, without bicycles. Having a bike would've added a whole other dimension of adventure. There simply wasn't much to do in Somers Point for a kid. You could risk poison ivy & collect punks. You could beg for ice cream money & walk up the street to the corner store. We had many dull, idle hours waiting for a decision from above, when & if we were going across the bay,
My friend, Jeff Jotz, made a similar traditional annual trek to Seaside Park, packed uncomfortably with relatives into his uncle's seasonal rental apartments. But once there, Jeff could get to the beach & boardwalk on his own, or drop a crab trap into the bay, provided he could find some smelly bait.
When I was 18, my girlfriend's extended family rented a house in Seaside for a week. I drove down late one evening for a visit, when we got back from the boardwalk & making out on the beach, I spread a sleeping bag on the back porch, the only vacancy, woke up about 7 am with a little boy sitting on me & about 5 other kids standing around whispering, "That's Karen's boyfriend."