I graduated high school in 1973. We went to football games on Saturday afternoons, and spent many a Friday and Saturday night at the Rec Center.
In the summer, we cruised The Circuit, a continuous loop down Kingsley Avenue, past the Palace with its ferris wheel, carousel, and bumper cars.
We curved around, and traveled north, up Ocean Avenue leaving the Casino with its different carousel behind, and up to Convention Hall, where we seemed to play pinball games all night long.
I worked at the Donut Shop and my friends worked at The Casino Coffee Shop.
We all seemed to have service industry jobs. I do believe, we believed, we were the luckiest people in the world. I moved onto college and law school – D.C. and Manhattan – but my mother continued to live at 615 Blanchard Parkway in Allenhurst, so I always went back “home.”
In 2010, my mother moved to Manhattan, and there went the anchor. But life is funny, or as Bob would write, everything happens for a reason. Years ago, I met Steve, and last year he decided to buy a house in Elberon, in Ocean Township, and I’m falling in love with where I grew up all over again.
I drive by the high school, and I see my girlfriend driving us into the side entrance every morning junior and senior year from the day she got her license as we listened to the 8-track tape deck blast music. I see the cheerleaders on Saturday afternoons screaming “Spartans Spartans, give me an S.” I see us being so impressed with how big the high school was after the petiteness of Dow Avenue.
I drive down Main Street, and look up, and there is the old YMCA building, and there I am, nine years old, jumping into the 1930s pool learning how to swim. The Y is now an adult day care center, tattered and battered, and the pool is gone. But the smell of chlorine lingers, and so does some of the art deco fretwork that decorated the top lintels of the building.
I mourn the Palace, the Casino, the Mayfair and St James and Lyric theaters. Of course, there’s still The Wonder Bar and The Stone Pony, and the ghost of Mrs. Jay’s Beer Garden flits by. The pinball games we once played are enshrined, but working, in a Pinball Museum on the Boardwalk. I am thrilled the tent homes still go up every summer in Ocean Grove.
I see so much of my life through the lens of Ocean Township, and it just highlights in technicolor how fast it has all gone by. Everyone I grew up with has their slew of memories of Ocean Township and Asbury Park. It seems we love to take our trip down memory lane because there is/was something so comforting in our familiarity with each other, and the world we inhabited for that short time between the day we entered elementary school and graduated high school.