Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Jersey Shore Memories

This is an excerpt from the second of  my beach stories. The working title is New Jersey Beaches, Part II, High School.   It is much longer in its entirety and actually is a true adventure story.  I have chosen only a few paragraphs to post.  Names have been changed to protect the innocent. The boardwalk in Seaside Heights is now just a memory.  How sad, that Sandy left such devastation.

.............. When school ended we headed to the Jersey Shore, Seaside Park to be precise.  My mother and sisters and I would head for our trailer with the nifty bunk beds and the minuscule kitchen. They didn’t call them mobile homes then and the one we had couldn’t have moved if we had wanted it to.   Dad came on the weekends.  We were a short run down a sandy lane past the real beach houses to one of the most beautiful beaches I have seen in all my travels.   There, life took on a whole new dimension for me.

Our cousins,  who were sisters, were our neighbors at the shore.  They came from the wrong side of a big town and went to a tough school. Their high school had a lower set of standards and tolerated behaviors different from those at Chatham High School.  They were a little wild and very street-smart and they talked funny.  One would ask “Why we goin’ home so early – it ain’t even 10:00?” and her sister would respond “Don’t make no difference to me.”
 They were so different from my Chatham friends that I loved hanging out with them. Time flew by and our skin darkened and our hair lightened as we enjoyed the beach with our families all day. Sandy bologna sandwiches from earlier years were still a lunch staple, but the wax cartons of birch beer had been replaced by bottles of soda that we would religiously gather up at the end of the day to return for the two cent deposits. We’d spend it later playing ski-ball at the boardwalk.
  After the sun went down we headed for Seaside Heights and “the boards.” I can still imagine and crave the taste of Jersey Shore pizza. A piece was huge with an airy crust full of bubbles and the most delicious toppings of sausage and peppers.  We washed it down with milkshakes and ended the night walking around with French fries in a newspaper cone sprinkled with malt vinegar and lots of salt. 
 In "The Heights", without my mother and little sisters, it was easy for me to step into the rebel without a cause mode and hang out with the wrong crowd which, of course, included my big city cousins.
Our routines rarely varied and, except for weather glitches, life was literally a day  at the beach. At the shore my cousins were the top dogs of the boardwalk scene. The boardwalk crowd consisted of the townies who worked in the restaurants or helped run the carousel or the Ferris wheel on the boardwalk. Add to that, the summer people who weren’t rich and were shunned by the popular crowd on the beach who hung out with the lifeguards in their Jantzens.  Had I lived in a real beach house and not in the trailer, I might have been part of that crowd.
Because I liked my cousins and they didn’t mind me tagging along, I followed them to their turf. I was clearly a minnow among sharks – a position that was unnatural for me.  I ratcheted up my makeup and shortened my shorts and wore my hair up to fit in.  I learned to swear, and to flirt with the greasers who hung out on the boardwalk just looking for someone to take to that night’s beach party. Beach parties consisted of a big bonfire, a lot of beer and no responsible adult in attendance - everything our Chatham mothers warned us about. It made summer a lot more exciting and naughty and just a little dangerous.
To be continued................
Someday I'll publish the whole series of beach stories, starting from childhood to today.  (As soon as I finish cleaning out that one last closet.)