Wildwood by-the-Sea, NJ – A Special Place

By Megan Meehan
patty family sunset
After years spent living all over the country and travelling the world, Patty Dodge has returned to Wildwood to give her family a taste of her childhood.
“I wanted my kids and my husband to know what it was like to grow up here,” says the businesswoman and mother of four. “I don’t know how they would know what this was like without experiencing it. Having the opportunity to come back here and share these memories is really important to me.”
Growing up in nearby Town Bank, Patty Dodge, then Patty Goldsmith, worked, played, and went to school on the island for most of her young life. She attended Wildwood Catholic High School, and Wildwood High School, where she graduated in ‘79. She worked in Wildwood throughout her summers, at a whole host of locations around the island.
“I worked the night shift at a diner,” she said, recalling how she had to get special permission to do so, since she was only 16 at the time. She worked on the ferry as well, and as a waitress at Larkin’s. But she always found time to enjoy the beach and the boardwalk. “After getting off my shift at the diner, I’d go right to the beach and would go to sleep there.”
After graduating from high school, Patty attended Stockton College, moving to Florida shortly afterward. She then went on to live in New England and then California, where she met her husband, Jim.
Both Patty and Jim are well travelled, but Wildwood holds a special place in their hearts.
“What’s interesting is that Jim & I have travelled all over the world, and of all the places that we have vacationed at, Wildwood has been our favorite vacation spot”, and “once you’re here you get sucked in,” adds Jim.
The couple says the boardwalk is a unique feature, as is Wildwood’s signature old-fashioned tackiness. “The t-shirt shops, the rides, the games, the novelties, the hermit crabs… And I’ve not been to any other place that has Skee-ball!” Patty declares.
And has Wildwood changed? Not much, says Patty.
“There are some obvious differences, the new beautiful town homes and condos, none of that was here. And the rides have changed a lot. I remember riding a lot of different rides. But the overall feel is the same. Even the tram car is still here.”
What’s really important to Patty is being able to share all this with her family. “We chose to come here not because it’s the fanciest or the most exotic, but because I really wanted my family to understand and have a sense of what it was like for me as a kid. I’m so glad that I’ve been able to share so much of my childhood with them.”
Looking back, she says, “I don’t think I realized what a special place this was growing up. I couldn’t wait to leave and get out of my small town. I’ve travelled the world and don’t think I’ll find anywhere else that has this special place in my heart. If there’s anything I’d like The Sun’s readers to know, it’s to cherish the Wildwoods. It really is a unique place.”

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