A new adventure coming up in two weeks. Stay tuned.
In the meantime…….a snippet of a great vacation……….. and now back to reality.
Let's Have Another Piece of Pie
Sometimes life cries out for a nice break from the daily routine …… a pie break, so to speak. A time to sit, to listen, to reflect. To taste the sweetness of life.
South Jersey, as it is known, has a strange geographical “thing” going on. Doesn’t that sound professional? I don’t know what to call it and I really do not care what it is suppose to be termed. It is a pine forest mostly made up of some kind of pygmy pines and white sand mixed in with dirt and rivers and streams all made of Root Beer Water.
Yes, I said Root Beer Water! The water is the color of root beer or sassafras tea. I think the color is from cedar trees – but whatever. Like I said above, I really am not interested in the science behind it. This post is MY memories of the shore. And as through the eyes of a young child – it’s root beer water. Of course, I do believe my Uncle Runny supported my imagination on that and he probably was the source of that belief. He even told me that if I drank the water from the faucet of their tiny summer cottage – the water that stained your sinks brown and smelled and tasted of metal – my hair would curl. I drank a lot to no avail. I still had straight hair. Very disappointed.
The days my mom told us to pack our swim suits and towels because we were going to Lanoka Harbor, well, they were some of the best memories. My Aunt and Uncle and cousin Paul had a lovely little cottage set among tall skinny trees where the ground was spattered with dirt and fine white sand. It smelled delicious.
We all crammed into this cottage and slept – who knows where. We ate on the screened in porch. We waved to the neighbors. My Aunt would hand us bowls and tell us to go across the street to pick wild blueberries so she could make a pie. I hated blueberries then. But I loved the idea of picking them ourselves so she can make a pie that I never ate. Love them now and can’t get enough of them.
Later we would hop on bikes (me on the handle bars of cousin Paul’s) and rode fast down to the bay beach. There was a giant metal swing set in the sand. Other days – or sometimes in the same day – we took off on bikes in the other direction and swam in the creek. The creek was the finest and coolest root beer water. You could see your feet in the sand and schools of little black minnow – type fish swam around you, tickling. My older brother and Paul swam out to the bridge that ran over the creek and climbed up and jumped in. They were my heroes.
Uncle Runny liked to go to the boat docks. I have no idea why, other than to look at the boats and talk to people. Maybe he had a boat….. Maybe we went out on it…… I do not remember that.
Uncle Runny was a very kind man. He was a very quiet man. I rarely remember him having long conversations, especially with me. He had three sons. I think a little girl was a curious thing to him. But he was so kind to me. I remember watching him in the water. He loved to swim. He would get out there, even in the ocean, and just swim back and forth. When he was ready for company, I went out with him and he just smiled and watched me jump over waves and encouraged me to just float over the waves. Good times.
When I got my driving permit and I drove my mom and younger brother to visit the family at their cottage (thought my mom would have a heart attack when I passed someone) my Uncle Runny had just gotten a new giant cadillac and said to get in and drive him to the boat docks. It was like driving on air.
I have no pictures of those days. No pictures of Uncle Runny. A couple of Aunt Marion (his wife and my mom’s sister) after he passed and she was quite older. But the images never leave my mind. Very special times.
So, back to Root Beer Water. Some days we loaded into the car and went to Root Beer Lake. There are three lakes in the nearby town of Forked River (For-ked River). I believe they use to be (at least one or two of them) cranberry bogs. The one we frequented had a sandy beach and a concession stand with colorful awnings. It was great to swim in root beet water – so cool and refreshing. This lake had a road under the surface that was higher than the lake bottom where we swam. It went across the lake and my brother and cousin walked across every time. Still my heroes. I tried to go once and had a fear I would fall off the road into deep, deep water.
Those were such good, sweet memories. I do hope we have made sweet memories for our children. And now we are making memories with our grandchildren. Life goes on.
Here are some pics from the web I found of the Pine Barrens of South NJ. Check out the Root Beer Water!
Thank you for joining me in my memories of childhood at The Jersey Shore! Take time to make new memories for yourself and your children and grandchildren. They last forever!
Growing up at The Jersey Shore and being able to swim is a must. My mother did not swim and she had a fear of the water. So, she made sure that us kids could swim.
Well, I have memories of early June mornings, cloudy and cold, dressed in our bathing suits with towels and flip flops and getting into the car to go to………for me……… the dreaded swimming lessons. I loved to be near water. I wanted to learn to swim. But it seemed to take me several summers before I actually got the hang of it. For one thing, I was tall. I remember going with my beginning swim group into the water and lining up to do a dead-man’s float -in what was almost knee deep to me, the tallest in the class. I couldn’t do it. I was cold. I was self-conscious. I was embarrassed. I was told I was stupid after each class that I failed to learn.
Like most things in my life, when the time came to perform a certain task, I did it. Always under pressure. But I did it. For example, I took many swimming lessons but rarely swam in the water. Therefore, people thought I couldn’t swim. I was painfully shy and never defended myself. When I had to prove to a Girl Scout Leader that I could swim the width of the pool in order to go across the rope to the deeper end, I did it. Even after several girls said I couldn’t swim.
When I had to dive headfirst into a pool at summer camp in order to pass my Red Cross Intermediate Course – I did it. I didn’t even know I could dive. I haven’t made a dive headfirst into the water since.
After I got over the self consciousness of swimming, or really performing for and in front of others, I became a mermaid. At least I think so.
Days that we weren’t found on the shores of the Atlantic Ocean you could find us on a small sandy beach tucked among shade trees by a small lake (or large pond) complete with lifeguards, roped swimming areas, wooden dock out far in the water for jumping and diving off. Kepwel Park.
Kepwel Park – a drive down a dirt road behind the Eatontown Mall (at least that is how I remember it). I loved that place. It was fresh spring water to swim and play in all day with shade for us Celtic freckled – skinned people.
I just love to swim. Waves do not scare me too much. Depth doesn’t scare me unless I stop to think about it. One summer on the beach, with my then eight year old grandson, I was sunning myself and felt him hovering over my head. He gently took the hair clip out of my hair and smoothed my hair down my back, and asked, “Uma?”
Me: “Yes Avery?”
Avery: “Are you a Mermaid?”
I smile every time I think of that. Yes, in some ways I am. The small, tall child that was so shy and afraid of other’s opinions and afraid of failing is now a Mermaid. It is so hard to get me out of the water.
I don’t have pictures of the times at Kepwel Park. The brightly colored umbrellas and blankets and awnings come to mind. I have great visual memories in my head. Here is about all I could find online – the old Springhouse.
In about two weeks I will be at The Jersey Shore once again. Visiting the grandsons and son and wife and yes, the beach!
We had moved to The Jersey Shore in the mid-1950’s. Our neighborhood was simple ranch houses and barely any trees. The land use to be an apple orchard – from what I remember. We had two tiny crab apple trees in the backyard- maybe they were leftovers??
The neighbor across the street and about 3 houses down had a very large apple tree in their front yard. They would hand out baskets of apples each year to the neighbors. They were the kindest people. In the winter the father would attach the snow plow to his truck and do our driveway.
I remember my older brother laying in the living room window with a flashlight and sending morse code to their son. It just excited me to no end.
One of the fun things that would happen on our street in the summer were the vendors. We had the year round milk man and the bread man deliveries. I remember my mom staying up to watch Johnny Carson and grabbing the milk at about one in the morning from the milk box at the back door to prevent it from freezing.
I have early memories of two unique vending trucks. One was a produce man who drove around the neighborhood with awnings on the back of his truck and a variety of fruit and vegetables to choose from. This image isn’t the exact truck – but you get the idea. I think this one is older.
The next guy was quite unique. We would hear a loud bell ringing and run and tell mom that the knife sharpener was coming! That was a fascination to me. I could use one of them now.
The best and the one that lasted the longest was the Ice Cream Man. We had two brands that came around. Carnival and Good Humor. We loved the Good Humor truck the best and was disappointed when only the Carnival truck was seen that day.
I loved the gentle sound of the bells ringing (not like todays annoying “songs” playing over and over). I loved the change thingy on his belt. And I loved the sky blue popsicles and the lime ones!
Seems we never had to go anywhere to get treats. Right to your door.
There were two things we did not like coming to our door or down our street. One was the local farmer’s bull that seemed to get out now and then and pick our street to take a stroll. I remember – not sure it really happened this way – but in my active mind I remember standing at the screen door with my brother and watching the bull coming down the street. My brother was holding a box of Sugar Pops Cereal and began to shake it. The bull turned and started to come toward our door only to be thwarted by our mom who promptly slammed the door shut. Shortly after that the farmer was seen escorting his bull back up the street and home to greener pastures.
The second and most dreaded truck to be heard coming was the Mosquito Killing Truck! No warning. Just a sound of a motor and our mom yelling, “SHUT THE WINDOWS! SHUT THE WINDOWS AND GET IN THE HOUSE!”
I can remember a cousin of mine – when we visited his family’s summer home – riding his bike behind the truck and getting covered with that stuff. He is still alive today, thank goodness. They no long do this type of spraying, I believe. Where we last lived at the shore they would spray the storm drains and that did the trick.
Memories of simpler times and neighbors coming out their houses, saying hello, and catching up with the latest family news or gossip. I have good neighbors now but no one talks to each other. Just a wave and a hello and we all go our separate ways. I do know that if I needed them or they needed me we would help each other. At least that much still exists.
Summer at the Jersey Shore can be a blast. I loved growing up there. And as any well raised child of the north east in the 1950s and 60s you learned what to wear and what not to wear. At least in our household.
My mom cared how she looked when she left the house. NEVER leave the house with curlers in your hair. If we needed something from the store and her hair was still damp and wrapped up in curlers she did tie a kerchief over her head and waited at the far end of the parking lot while one of us ran in to grab the much needed item. These were rare occasions.
Memorial Weekend marked the beginning of summer. Pools opened, beaches opened, ice cream trucks came out in abundance. Along with all these came the summer wardrobe. Sandals and flip-flops (called thongs in our neighborhood), sunsuits, shorts, pedal pushers and clam diggers (cropped pants). AND anything white. No longer brown or black shoes – white or cream colored can now be worn. My mom was serious about this!
And when the last weekend of summer came along, known as Labor Day Weekend, all beaches closed at the end of Monday. Lifeguards went back to college, we all geared up for school. We put away the white sandals and shoes. We bought new brown ones and black ones. Sigh. We wore fall clothes to school in the still 80-90 degree weather.
We could change into shorts when we got home – thank goodness. These were good times…….. but were they practical? To this day I hesitate wearing sandals in the fall. I said hesitate! I do it anyway. As much as certain styles were drilled into my head (like NEVER wear brown and navy blue together) I have broken tradition! My style? Whatever feels comfortable to me. I’m all about comfort in clothes and styles. If I walked through a Mall tomorrow and those fashion hounds saw me – I think I would qualify for their next make over. They would tisk, tisk and shake their heads at my look. Hey, you try having my hair that is so thick that all the thinning and cutting and product in the world would not make it stick up. Been there, and it doesn’t work.
A friend told me of her grand kids being aloud to dress themselves….. and when they came out in mismatched pants and shirts and two different socks on – they were praised and permitted to go about their day that way. Because they were creative and permitted to be themselves. Come on people! Let us find who we are and create our own fashions. More power to those who wear pajamas to Walmart (I won’t).
I have broken tradition and my kids grew up comfortable. I hope. Enjoy the summer months dear readers. And enjoy being yourself. Don’t know yet what you like? You will. I give you permission to break out of tradition and find who you are! Be free!
It’s funny how our lives can be moving along in a nice steady stream and we think we know how things will go and what we will do. Then along comes a twist. One you didn’t see coming. Sometimes they are hard and hurtful but sometimes they are nice and kind and surprising.
I want to talk about the surprisingly nice kind. We had just moved to a lovely little Borough on the Jersey Shore. We were just a fifteen minute walk to the beach, faster by bike. The public elementary school that our two youngest attended was just around the corner. The town was so small that there were no school busses simply because everyone lived in walking distance. It was such a small school that the teaching staff consisted of a kindergarten teacher, a combined first and second grade teacher, a combined third and fourth grade teacher, and a combined fifth and sixth grade teacher. The class sizes were ideal.
Naturally, in a town of this size and a school of this size, everyone knew who the new mom was. They were all friendly and kind. It was easy to get involved, and I did.
One day, one of the moms approached me outside the school as we waited for the day to end. It was just before the Thanksgiving holiday. She told me I should work at her friend’s Bed & Breakfast for the holiday tours. I just listened and kind of nodded in an uninterestingly way. She pressed on. She told me they need help serving tea and cookies for the tour in their home. I basically stated that it was nice, but I don’t think I can do that. Again, she pressed on. “You don’t understand”, she said. “All you have to do is pour tea and serve cookies and smile and they pay eight dollars an hour.” Something lit up inside me. I know that sounds like little money, but for what she said I would do and that year, eight dollars an hour was great. I committed to calling her friend.
I had an appointment to talk about the job. You must understand, that the next town over and the town we were in, kind of mingled together and held the highest concentration of Victorian era homes in the US. Most of these homes became Bed & Breakfasts or Guest Homes for vacationers to the Jersey Shore.
I met with the wife (husband and wife owners and Innkeepers). We hit it off and I was hired to stand by a cart of tea and cups, and as the tourists came in to see the Inn and hear the history (story told by Innkeeper husband) of their home, all I had to do was smile and ask if they would like a cup of tea, and hand it to them and direct them to the cookies.
Well, the tours go from the day after our Thanksgiving, in November, to the New Year. Weekends mostly and evenings. I loved it. A couple of days before the end of the tours, the Innkeeper (wife) was looking at me and talking to some family members. I got nervous. I thought this was it, no more tours for me. On the contrary, she came up to me after everyone left and offered me a job as Assistant Innkeeper. Their present one was leaving and thought I would be perfect. I told her I do not know a thing about B & B’s or hospitality business. She wasn’t worried.
So began an adventure that I would never have chosen. Ever. I think God knows better than I do. It was so good for me. I learned to clean, cook, make reservations, oversee other staff and then the hardest of all – I learned to “schmooze” with the guests.
You see, I can talk to people and even have you believe I am an extrovert. Not true. It is probably one of the hardest things for me to do. I remember the first day the Innkeepers told me they would be out of town for the day and I would have to stay and check the guests in. SAY WHAT??? I confess, that when the first guests arrived and the doorbell rang, and I came up from the basement laundry, around the corner, and stopped. They weren’t looking in the door, so I quickly backed up and leaned against the wall in a sweat. Heart racing and almost in tears, I quickly said a prayer and pulled myself together, got into character and greeted them as if I was doing it from birth. A major victory in my life that day! Really, you can laugh, I do. For us introverts it can be challenging and traumatic. OK, that’s a bit dramatic. Dramatic! That’s it, I should have gone into acting. Because a lot of this involvement with people is “getting into character“. I’m not pretending, I am very sincere in my conversation and relationship with these people. I really do love talking to people. But it’s also hard. It was a very freeing time for me and has helped me a lot with things I ended up doing in the future. I felt I overcame a huge obstacle that day.
One other quick story. I suck at waitressing. Tried that once and totally failed. So, a Bed & Breakfast serves breakfast. However, everyone gets the same food unless they are on a special diet. Easy. Well, one day, a woman asked for a glass of water. We did not put water out as a habit. I said, “Of course”. Then I ran to the kitchen in a near panic and told the Man, “A woman asked for a glass of water!?!?!?” He looked at me and replied, “Well, give her one.” Duh. (I added the the duh – he thought I was funny)
So, this story is for all you great readers who questions things that may pop up in your life, opportunities that you would never have pursued or said yes to. Before saying no, think it over first. See if it will benefit you (I’m sure it will in some way) or make a way for another greater opportunity.