They never realized they were making history, just hot dogs and burgers!
Sisters Barbara, Dottie and Kathy fondly recall their days working at the Beach Grill. Dottie remembers being 10 years old when she started working there, continuing every summer until the year after she was married. Kathy and Barbara were around 11 years old when they started working there. There were two beach grills and their mother, Dorothy Scully Douglass Holscher managed the Schellenger Ave. Beach Grill in the 1950’s, 60’s and 70’s. By Dottie’s recollection, their family operated the hamburger and hot dog stand located on Wildwood’s beach from sometime in the late 1930s until 1974. Their grandmother and uncle Paul (Scully, Jr.) worked at Scully’s Beach Grill at the Fun Pier location. Their mom, Dottie, Kathy and Barbara, in addition to other family members, worked at the Schellenger Ave. location under Marine Pier (now Mariners Landing). At one point, the family ran both beach grills simultaneously. After the grill closed at around 5 or 6 o’clock, when the lifeguards went off duty and the National Anthem had played, everyone would meet at their grandmother’s house on 121 E. Garfield Ave to count the day’s proceeds (with Dottie recalling the Fun Pier making more money, but most of her memories are of the years spent at the Schellenger Ave. location).
Dottie and Kathy’s parents divorced in 1958. In the summer of 1960, at the beach grill, their mom met a widower with two children of his own. Soon, their families blended and their new “Pop,” along with their step brother Arnie helped out at the family business, with their sister Barbara being born in 1962. Their step sister Judy and her husband would often visit. By the late 1960’s, Dottie was in high school and her boyfriend (now husband) Frank, who worked at Atlantic Tobacco Company in Wildwood, would help on his days off. One of Barbara’s best childhood memories, according to Kathy, was when Barbara and their Pop would play the game wheels on the boardwalk, more often than not coming home with a prize.
Kathy remembers their summers being planned out for them, often complaining that they had to work every day when their friends were at the beach having fun. They knew, however, if they didn’t work, they didn’t make any money! They got the occasional day off and, looking back now, realize it was a great way to make money. They didn’t realize at the time how lucky they were to be a part of a family business.
While their grandmother continued to live in her house on Garfield Ave., their family lived in Cape May Court House. When their grandmother Dot stopped working, Kathy, and then Barbara, spent their summers with her until they were old enough to work. The sisters learned early on the importance of family helping family and what it took to make a business work.
Happily, it wasn’t all work. Their mom loved the beach and the ocean. They would bring their bathing suits to work, then head to the beach after hours, which they discovered was a nice time to be by the sea.
During slow business days, they would head to the pier and play mini golf.
Many nights they had dinner at the beach grill, which sold hamburgers, hot dogs, french fries, chips, pretzels, Abbott’s ice cream, candy, cigarettes and sodas (called soft drinks back then). Their mom always had a pot of coffee brewing. Kathy says to this day she’s never tasted a hot dog as good as the ones they served at the grill. Many familiar faces visited the beach grill including lifeguards, their helpers and the Fudgy Wudgy men. Their mom would remind them how lucky they were not to have to sell their food on the beach like those men, all veterans and hard workers.
Dottie recalls they did ‘pretty much everything’ at the grill. Their mom was the main cook but everyone learned how to cook as well as every other job imaginable, from lifting the windows and attaching them with chains to hold them up every morning, to waiting on customers, cleaning the juice machines, refilling the coke syrup and of course, sweeping the sand off the steps, along with restocking, refilling, and cleaning the fryer. They did it all.
Back in the 60’s and 70’s, once Labor Day came, they closed up the grill during the week. After all, they had school. The day after Labor Day, the day before school started, was our only day to school shop on Pacific Avenue.
Sometimes if they had plenty of stock, they might open on weekends into September but it was rare. The old saying back then was they rolled up the sidewalk after Labor Day in the Wildwoods, and it was true. They had school and activities, leaving their Mom with nobody to help her.
Arn remembered when they had so many bags of potato chips and pretzels left at the end of the summer they gave them out to the kids for Halloween!
By 1974 the cost to lease the beach grill had risen to the point where very little profit was made. By then, their family had embarked on a new family business in Cape May, a custard stand called Holscher Farms (currently Drydock). Dottie had finished college, married and started her teaching career. Their family was beginning a new chapter.
Kathy remembers it was hard work, but their Mom and Pop made it fun. It was a wonderful time for their family and a wonderful time in the Wildwoods.
The sisters are retired now but have their grandparents and parents, now long ago passed away, to thank for all their fun summer beach grill memories.