BY AL LOVE
A few years ago I was walking toward the beach in Wildwood Crest. One beautiful warm summer day, on a walkway near the Fishing Pier my family had moved ahead of me and was settling into their spot on the beach. Moving a bit slower I encountered another senior citizen and exchanged pleasantries with him. He was from Canada. His family had discovered the Wildwoods 20 years ago and stated Wildwood Crest was the best beach he has ever visited. We agreed and went our separate ways to join our families.
Setting up my chair and umbrella I then walked down to the water’s edge. The tide was at the lowest and wow there was a lot of beach that day. Remembering what the gentleman said, I turned around and looked closely at our beach. I guess we take it for granted from living here, but we do indeed have the World’s Finest and Safest Beach in the World.
Gazing North and then South the beach was a kaleidoscope of thousands of colored beach um- brellas, chairs, and blankets. A spectrum of colors and designs as far as you can see. Blankets and beach chairs full of smiling people conversing with friends and families. Parents helping their toddlers walk and dip their feet into the ocean. Kids run- ning into the water with tubes, floats, and boogie boards. Lifeguard stands with guards scanning the water and blowing whistles to alert bathers who strayed too far out into the ocean. It is truly a breath taking scene to stop and observe the action taken place. So many thousands of people enjoying the sand and ocean of a beach that we call our own. This is the widest and longest beach I have ever seen in my life time and there is room for everyone. Records have shown the southern end of our beach has grown over thirty feet each year.
Over the years our families, friends, and visitors have gravitated to their special beach on our island. There they continue to meet their friends or unite with family members each summer. Everyone has their favorite. Up north the little cove beach near the sea wall where Moore’s Inlet stood seems to be the favorite of South Phila. residents. There are no guards here and you can fish or ride jet skies. The 2nd & JFK beach in North Wildwood from the rock jetty and south appears to favor large family gatherings. Wildwood beach has the younger crowd. In the Crest most of the tourist staying at the motels seem to be a mix of Canadians, Europeans, and families from the East Coast. In the 1960’s I met a lot of Ukrainians’ visiting the beach near the Fishing Pier in the Crest. Still today there is a large gathering of Ukrainians who have a reunion each year there. I’m sure they are the grand kids of the parents I met so many years ago at this same beach. Proudly displaying their national flag, conversing in their nation’s language, and competing in games, such as volleyball, horse shoes, and wiffel ball. They chose the Wildwoods to come to year after year when there are so many other beaches in this world.
The history of the Wildwoods has changed greatly over the past couple of hundred years. From the early years of the Lenape Indians hunting and fishing here, and wild cattle roaming our beaches. Then developers built hotels and boarding houses, followed by roads and bridges onto the Island and making it into a beach resort. Railroad trains brought down visitors and shoobies for the day. The making of the boardwalk and then amusement rides, movie houses, and our famous tram cars. Memories of the night life of Pacific Avenue when it was known as the Las Vegas of the East Coast. Familiar faces we see each summer such as the beach ice cream vendors, life guards, and police officers, the bartenders, waiters, and waitresses we all remember who seem to have the same summer jobs for many years. Places called Moore’s Inlet, Harry The Hats, Rainbow Room, Hurricane, Zaberers, Lincoln Glass Bar, Terminal Bar. Locals I have met in my lifetime and who have left their mark in our city such as Dutch Hoffman, Scoop Taylor, George Boyer, Chief Anthony Fulginiti, Harry Breslin, and Dave Snyder.
These are all distant memories now and we all will be in due time. Time waits for no man. Only God lives forever. Many buildings will be torn down, the landscape and physical changes will take place in the future of the Wildwoods. But one thing will remain constant. . . the ocean and our Wildwood Beaches will still be here as long as there is Earth. Live the moment. As most of us do, sit on your beach chair and gaze out into the ocean. Reflect on the past when you were just a kid. Remember the fond memories of your parents, relatives and friends who have passed before you. They have left their footprints in the sand as you do now. Wiggle your toes in the fine warm powdery Wildwood sugar sand and wade into the water. Embrace your family, grand kids, and close friends each and every day. Then look around, and enjoy the World’s Finest And Safest Beach. Believe me. It’s right here in Wildwod by-the-Sea, NJ.