Thursday, August 19, 2010

Wildwood Memories

We recently took a drive down to Wildwood, New Jersey.  We spent the day walking up and down the boardwalk and did some of the things you have to do when you visit Wildwood – like having pizza and birch beer for lunch at Mack’s Pizza and a Kohr Bros. swirl ice cream cone for dessert. We also had to make a stop at Douglass Fudge to pick up a box of wrapped mints to take home.  We haven’t been to Wildwood for a number of years but it hasn’t changed too much – although there do seem to be many more cheap t-shirt shops on the boardwalk than there used to be, and the ocean has gotten a lot farther away from the boardwalk than the old days.  Even so, just hearing "Watch the Tram Car Please" again brought back many memories.

The biggest memory it brought back was of our honeymoon.  My wife and I were married in June of 1971. It was after my first year of grad school, we didn’t have a lot of money and we had to move all of our stuff out to Indiana, so we decided to take a short honeymoon in Wildwood and save the “real” honeymoon for later.  We stayed at the Caribbean motel in Wildwood Crest and had a wonderful time.  The weather at the shore can be very iffy in June, but that week was perfect.  I included two pictures of the Caribbean – one taken last month and one taken in 1971 on our honeymoon.  The motel looks like it’s in very good shape since it was recently renovated - after it was declared an historic Doo Wop landmark in 2004.  Whenever someone asks me where we went on our honeymoon I just say we went to the Caribbean.  Maybe for our 40th anniversary next year we’ll go to the Caribbean – I’m not sure which one yet.  By the way… we did go on a “real” honeymoon two years later to Disneyworld and Miami Beach.

When I was growing up in the 1950’s in the Kensington section of Philadelphia, there was one thing I always looked forward to in the summer and that was going down the shore for a week with my grandparents or my Aunt Elsie.  Two of my great aunts and uncles owned places in Wildwood.  My Aunt Anna Belle and Uncle Fred owned The Frederick Hotel on Oak Avenue near New Jersey Avenue, and my Aunt Ruth and Uncle George owned the Maple Court Motel on Maple Avenue near Atlantic Avenue.  We usually stayed on Oak Avenue.  Both places are long gone.

Spending the week down the shore with my cousins was a lot of fun.  There were three things I wanted to do every day… play golf in the morning with my grandfather at our favorite miniature golf course on the boardwalk, go to the beach in the afternoon to play in the sand and water, and walk the boardwalk and go on as many rides as possible at night.  We didn’t do it very often, but my favorite thing of all was getting up early in the morning, renting bikes, and riding up and down the boardwalk.  To me that was the ultimate.  When I got a little older I also loved hitting balls with my father at the “Automatic Base Ball” pitching machine on the boardwalk to see how many homers I could hit.

One of my favorite places on the boardwalk was the Casino Arcade at Oak Avenue.  Like everyone else, my favorite boardwalk game was skee-ball.  I would play every day to see how many coupons I could accumulate by the end of the week.  I usually had enough to maybe get a little plastic dinosaur.  I have many memories of the arcade, some a little fuzzier than others.  I remember the carousel, the Glass House Mirror Maze, and the Mars ride, which tragically burned in 1964, killing three children.  I also remember a ball toss game where if you hit the target, a cage door would open and a little pig would run out, slide down a sliding board into the hay, and then run back up a ramp and go back into the cage.  I’m not sure if that was real or just a recurring dream I was having at the time.  I also remember the indoor pavilion along the ramp we walked up from Oak Avenue that housed a boat ride in the early days with boats you piloted yourself.  The boats were eventually replaced by an indoor miniature golf course.

Going back to Wildwood also brought back some not so good memories.  In the late 1960’s I used to go to Wildwood with my best friend Art Green.  We both enjoyed going on all the wild rides.  He’s shown in the picture with me when I finally managed to hit the bull’s eye at the Photo Shoot booth in the arcade. Sadly, Artie passed away not too many years later.  He was the best pal a guy could ever hope to have.  By the way… I’m not really a left-handed shot, for some reason they always seemed to print the photos backwards.

Being in Wildwood again also brought back memories of the late 1980’s and early 1990’s when we used to go down the shore with our kids, Kim and Bryan.  We always stayed in Wildwood Crest at various motels or rented apartments.  Like most people we spent most of the day on the beach building sand castles and burying each other in the sand.  The late 1980’s was when boogie boarding started to get big, so we did a lot of boogie boarding and body surfing in the waves.  We managed to be in Wildwood Crest a few times during the Hobie Cat Regatta, which is a very colorful experience. 

One day on each visit we would get up early and ride rented bikes up and down the boardwalk in the morning – I wonder why?  The kids had their favorite rides on the boardwalk. Kim’s favorite was the Giant Slide on Hunt’s Pier, and Bryan loved riding the Dune Buggy.  Anyone who went to Wildwood in the 1980’s has to have memories of the Super-Cade on the boardwalk with the horse race game and the strains of “Bip Bop Bippity Boo, We’re Pumping Out the Prizes!” over the loudspeaker all night.  

I hope you weren’t bored with all of my family Wildwood memories, but I think any family who spent time in Wildwood over the years would have very similar memories.  My only regret is that I didn’t take more pictures.

If you have a chance, please check out my ImageKind Galleries and Flickr Collections.  I also have two new shops - Zazzle Gifts and Zazzle Prints & Posters.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Reading Terminal Market - Philadelphia, PA

The Reading Terminal Market, established in 1892 at 12th and Arch Streets in downtown Philadelphia (or center city, if you’re from the area), is the nation’s oldest continuously operating farmers’ market. Through its long and interesting history, it has seen times both good and bad, but has emerged in the 21st century as one of the greatest public markets in the country.  The Reading Terminal Market occupies the ground floor and basement levels of the Reading Terminal's former train shed, now part of the Pennsylvania Convention Center.  Long after the demise of the Reading Railroad and the transformation of the old train shed into a majestic hall as part of the Convention Center, the Reading Terminal Market is more popular and prosperous than ever. 

 The Reading Terminal Market is a must-see attraction for both tourists and locals.  Over 80 merchants offer fresh produce, meats, fish, groceries, ice cream, flowers, baked goods, crafts, books, clothing, and specialty and ethnic foods. Every space in the market is rented out; three of the vendors are descendants of original market merchants.  When I worked in center city for two years, the market was my favorite place for lunch.  The market currently houses 32 restaurants of every type imaginable – for example, various Deli’s, Thai cuisine, Pennsylvania Dutch, BBQ, Middle East, Vegetarian, Greek, Chinese, Seafood, and of course Philly cheesesteaks and hoagies.   The only problems were deciding what to eat and finding a place to sit since it was a very popular place at lunch time.  My favorite stands for sandwiches now are DiNic's Roast Pork and Beef, and The Original Turkey for delicious roast turkey sandwiches.

Along with the many eating establishments, there are also five produce markets, six butchers, five seafood stands, six bakeries, and 13 Pennsylvania Dutch vendors.  If you live in the area, you can also pick up delicious meats, vegetables, and desserts for dinner.  The Market East commuter rail terminal is adjacent to the market so, if the timing is right, you can pick up your groceries and be home in the suburbs in less than an hour.  We can’t visit the market without picking up cannolis at Termini Brothers Bakery to take home on the train.

If you have a chance, please check out my ImageKind Galleries and Flickr Collections.  I also have two new shops - Zazzle Gifts and Zazzle Prints & Posters.