Somers Point Historical Society
Mr. James Foreman and Mrs. Peggy Eckbold
October 20, 2005
Mrs. Eckbold: We would go to the Ocean City Roller Skating Rink. That is where several young women from Somers Point met their future husbands. We would go to the Bowling Alley located on MacArthur Blvd in the 1960s. In the 1950s, we went to the Seaside Movie Theater located along Bay Avenue near the Marrow Beach.
Mr. Foreman: I was born during WWII. I remember my house was heated by coal.Mrs. Eckbold: The coal truck would deliver the coal down a shoot through the window. Dad took care of the coal furnace. Dad was thrilled to get an oil furnace." Mr. Foreman: I still find arrowheads in the basement coal bin. I remember going to Dawes Avenue School when the oil burner had problems. We were often sent home early from school, around 1 pm, because the burner was having problems and put out a bad smell. Home Economics were for girls and Industrial Technology was for the boys.
Mrs. Eckbold: I lived the furthest away from school in an area called Hickory Point. It was named that because it was part of James Somers' farm. This is the area along Rt. 9 just before you cross the bridge. There was no school bus. We would be picked up for school in the police car. Sometimes Police Chief Bill Morrow had as many as 13 children in one car. This was in the 1940s and 1950s.
Mrs. Eckbold: Many high school kids would go muskrat and mud hen hunting (with guns). They would sell the muskrat fur. We got our Christmas tree from the meadows (wetlands). I remember Mom made a wreath from a vine she found. Later she had a bad reaction to it because it was poison oak.
Mr. Foreman: We would go blackberry picking. I remember we would find wild asparagus growing near Cedar Avenue. There was a sailmaker's shop owned by Benny Louis on the corner of Cedar Avenue and Shore Road. I remember seeing the gigantic sewing machines.
Mrs. Eckbold: My grandfather was a bayman who owned a catboat. He would live on the boat. The cabin could be lifted off and put on the dock. In addition to fishing, catboats were used to ferry tourists to Ocean City and Atlantic City. We used the word Shoobies differently back then. It meant tourists who only visited for the day. They packed their lunch and didn't buy anything here. Today Shoobies means any tourist. My grandfather also had a sneakbox. A sneakbox is a one man boat that is about six feet long and is used for duck hunting.
Mr. Foreman; We had summer residents who were people who owned homes and stayed here for the summer. Bay Avenue was a big attraction. Ocean City was a "dry town" where no liquor was sold. We had "the joints" where underage drinking would occur. Anyone caught would have to report to the Court House on Monday to pay a fine of $100. I remember long lines of people at the police station waiting to pay their fine.
Interviewed by Frank Minio, Trevor Swain, Maung Aung, Gia Caiazza, Becky Taylor, Amy Plantarich
Frank: What were the most popular sports? Mrs. Murray: Roller-skating was probably the first. Mrs. Shaffer: We would skate a around the whole block around the OC High School every Friday night. They would rope it off. We had to take the trolley to go there. Mrs. Murray: We used the skating rink on the boardwalk when we were older. We went to the Mays Landing Skating rink. Mrs. Shaffer: That was1933…right in middle of Great Depression. We played Kick the Can and Red Light. We didn't have what you have today. Mrs. Murray: When snow came, we would bellyflop on Maryland Ave. We might have as many as 10 kids on one sled. Mrs. Shaffer: We had a lot of snow. They would barricade New York Avenue. You never knew how many kids would end up on your back. That's were the hospital is. We also sledded on Goll Avenue…that was the steepest one.
Trevor: Where the trolleys any different from today? Mrs. Murray: Quite a bit! We use to go to high school on the trolley. We would go across that old rickety trolley bridge. I use to be afraid that trolley would tip over this way or that way and we would all go into the bay. But it never happened. Mrs. Shaffer:We would have to run to catch the trolley if we were late. The next one was an hour later. Many a day we would have to run to catch it. That was running seven blocks. If you missed it you waited for the next. One Gas and tires were rationed. You couldn't just get into the car and take off. There were two tunnels near the Somers Mansion where the trolley went under Shore Road. The metal walkway is still there.
Gia: Did you have to pay for your school supplies? Mrs. Shaffer: We had New York Avenue School was grade 1-6. When you went to Dawes, you were a big shot because it was 7-9 grades. Not too many had the advantage to go to college. Cooking class for the girls and Manual Training for the boys. We had no cafeteria so we brown bagged it. That weren't too many from our class that had the advantage of going to college. Mrs. Murray: We made our own graduation dresses. I graduated 8th grade in 1934. Mrs. Shaffer in 1933. 3 or 4 girls bought their dresses but most girls made their dresses. Mrs. Middleton was my Kindergarten teacher and Mrs. Smith was 1st grade. Bessy Gath was the 8th grade teacher and than principal. We had an overnight trip to Washington DC in 8th grade.
Maung: What was popular back then? Mrs. Murray: Baseball and basketball. We both played basketball. Mr. Smith owned the lumberyard and owned a team. The old Dawes Avenue School had a low ceiling in the gym. We had a great advantage for home games. When we played for Smith Lumber, we had both boys and girls teams. We played big teams like Campbell Soup, RCA, and New York Shipyard. They were very good basketball players and we played our hearts out.
Mrs. R: Did you have field hockey, street hockey, or ice hockey? Mrs. Murray: No but we did have it in high school. Were there a lot of pickup games? Yes, we had "Workies Up." That's what we called it then (baseball). You played every position. Mrs. Shaffer: I played basketball for 20 years. I played semi-pro with an Atlantic City Team. I played Softball for 30 years. We would watch our son's Little League and then play softball afterward. One time, I got the mothers out to play against the kids. We lost to the 4th, 3rd and 2nd place teams. We beat the 1st place team…the Champs. During WWII, a lot of soldiers were on R&R in Atlantic City. I played basketball on a team that played for them. (Mrs. R. Explains R&R was for wounded soldiers Rest and Recreation)
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Where the clothes very different then? Mrs. Murray: During WWII, my father raised chickens. When he went to get the chicken feed, he got 200 lb bags of feed. He got two of the same pattern. My mother made us dresses from that material. We were very poor during the Depression. We had four in our family. I never had a nickel a coke. I never got an allowance because they couldn't afford it. Most of our friends were in the same situation. Mrs. Shaffer: In the Depression, if you were lucky enough to have money in the bank and the banks failed. You lost everything. My parents were buying a house and lost the house. We then rented. We had an outhouse. We kept a bucket under the bed at night. And the other thing was the spiders. I think that's why I hate spiders even today. Mrs. Murray: My father built his own house. The first house he built, on Johnson Avenue, is still standing. He lost two of the houses he built. When the Depression came along, everybody lost a lot of things. My father was forced to sell. Mrs. Shaffer: My father was a boat builder. One time my mother was backing the car out of the drive and hit the pump handle.
Mrs. R: Did you realize how poor you were? Mrs. Murray: I think we all accepted it. My mother could make a meal out of nothing. I could never take my lunch to school because we were too poor. When I went home for lunch, guess what we had? A bowl of rice. There was a nickel under the bowel. We were allowed to buy something with that nickel on the way back to school. We bought 3 large jelly donuts for a nickel. My mother was a wonderful person and taught me a lot of good things. Good manners. I am very thankful for her.
Mrs. R: Where many kids unable to finish high school? Mrs. Shaffer: My husband had to quit school after 8th grade for a job chopping wood. Mrs. Murray: My husband was a clammer when there was no work at all. Everybody was at our backdoor to buy the clams. My brother and my husband also cut wood during the Depression. This was all forest west of New Road. Mrs. Murray: I left high school to work at Murphy's in Ocean City. In October, they laid me off. I was too embarrassed to go back. It was very difficult to get a job and we didn't get paid much. I made $9.90 a week. It took $2.50 to ride the trolley to get to work. My mother saved my money for me. She gave me the money back for me to buy some new clothes. Mrs. Shaffer: We would get the little red wagon and buy several cases of food and get change out of a five-dollar bill. We shared the food with a family out of work. I worked 48 hours a week for $10.00. In the 1930s, they had CCC. My brother went in when he was 16. He went to different states to work. They would build mosquito ditches in the meadows.
Do you know men from Somers Point died during World War II? Mrs. Murray: Yes, Ed Isman. His father had a hardware store. Paul Clark, he was in the navy. Most of the Gold Star Mothers had something displayed in their window because they lost someone in the war. I hope the war today will end soon because already there have been a lot of boys lost.
Gia: What were the prices of things back then? Mrs. Shaffer: We didn't buy many clothes then. Mostly everything was homemade. Girls didn't wear jeans then. You didn't see too many slacks either. Mostly skirts with a poodle dog on it. Bread was 5 cents a loaf and coffee as around 25 cents a pound. Butter was in a big tub and you dipped in to measure out a pound. It was like 35 cents.
What was rationing during WWII? Mrs. Shaffer: You had to go to City Hall to get a rationing book. It was full of stamps. You were allowed maybe 5 lbs of sugar of month depending on how many people were in the family. Gas was rationed. You could have 5 gallons for a month if you were a worker. Also, tires. When I say rationing, that mean you had to have the stamp to get it. But you still had to have the money to pay for it besides. Sugar and butter…you didn't get much!
Amy: In school, did you have a dress code? Not really! Girls never wore pants to school. There were no rules; you just didn't have any. They weren't in style. Becky: Where did you hang out? We hung out in the Soda Pop Café. We had so much fun there. You didn't hear any bad words said. We use to jitterbug and just stand around and talk. They had hamburgers and sodas. I think half the Somers Point kids learned to dance there in the Soda Pop. It was very small. I would say not as big as this room.
Gia: What was it like when the men went to WWII? Mrs. Murray: My husband was in the war although I wasn't married to him then. I didn't know him then. He went to Germany and Japan. When he fought in Germany, he had a bomb explode right next to him. He became deaf in one ear and his buddy got killed right alongside of him. He could never hear right out of that ear again. Mrs. Shaffer: My husband…we were married and we had a child who was just 15 months old. He worked in a boatyard in Atlantic City; a shipyard. He would never have had to go to the service. Every day when he went to the post office with the mail from the company he saw this big poster, "Uncle Sam Wants You." So what did he do? He signed up? Left me home with my 15-month-old girl and went to war. He saw D-Day. He was in Normandy. Then he went to the islands. He was in both theatres of war. He was on the USS Missouri when the peace treaty was signed. So he saw every bit of it. All because he volunteered.
Trevor: What kinds of stores were there? Mrs. Murray: There was a dry goods store run by a lady named Mrs. Dix. Everyone went there to buy their material and sewing thread. There was Farris's where all the kids went to buy cokes. Mrs. Shaffer: There was Collin's Candy Store. Everything was within one block between New Jersey and Gibbs Avenues. There were no malls. We had a baker, a church, and a meat market on the corner, a Chevrolet car dealership. When we were girl scouts, we had our bake sale there.
Maung: Other than going outside, what did you do for fun? We played games like Monopoly. Table games. Tittalewinks! Dominoes, checkers, pinochle. Mrs. Rydzewski: Thank you very much for visiting us. Both of you are a wealth of information. Mrs. Murray: I have 15 grandchildren, 13 great-grandchildren, and one great-great grandchild. Mrs. Shaffer: I have two grandchildren and 4 great-granddaughters.
Mrs. Lois Broomell and Mrs. Ruth Newsome
October 26, 2005
Interviewed by Kristina Korievo, Eric Seckinger, Nick Filauro, Nick DiLuzio Courtney Walls, and Terria Pettus.
Mrs. Broomell and Mrs. Newsome are sisters. Their maiden name was Mulford. They lived at 508 New Jersey Avenue, Somers Point. Mrs. Broomell was born February 28, 1940 and Mrs. Newsome was born January 20, 1935.
Kristina: Was the Somers Point beach bigger when you were younger? Mrs. Newsome: The beach was smaller but there was more water and the water was also deeper. Mrs. Rydzewski: What happened at the beach? Did you go to the beach a lot? Mrs. Newsome: Yes, we went to the beach a lot and the water was so deep. There was a diving board at the end of the pier. There were two rafts at the beach. Mrs. Brommell: I don't remember a lifeguard stand. Where the play area is now, there were tennis courts. There were no bathrooms at the beach, though. We had to walk all the way to city hall. At very high tide, the boys would dive off the pavilion roof. The water was deep enough that you wouldn't get hurt.
Eric: Was there any air conditioning? Mrs. Newsome: No I don't remember any air conditioning Eric: How did you cool down in the summer? Mrs. Newsome: We would open the windows. There were fans. Eric: Was it really hot in the buildings? Mrs. Broomell: When you were younger, you don't feel the heat like you do now. If you went into a store during the summer, it wasn't air-conditioned. I think I would really feel the heat now opposed to when I was younger. But the schools weren't air-conditioned. Open the windows! We never got out of school early because of the heat. Mrs. R.: Was there ever an early dismissal? Mrs.Broomell: No, I don't remember any.
Mrs. R.: Were there ever any early dismissals for hurricanes? Mrs.Broomell: I wasn't in school for the hurricane of '40. I was to young to go to the one in '44. I don't remember any. Mrs. R.: What do you remember about the hurricane of '44? Mrs. Broomell: I was only 4. The only thing I remember was that we had a great big flag pole on the front of the property and that fell down. Mrs. Newsome: The only thing I remember about the hurricane of '44, other then the storm, was my grandfather Harry Elwell, he was a janitor at New York Avenue School, and he had gone down to open the school up because people were coming over from Ocean City. Mrs. R.: People were evacuating from Ocean City. Now for those of you that don't realize the hurricane of 44 was a really big event. It was a terrible storm. One of the biggest on record Eric: Wasn't that when Longport lost some of its land? Mrs.Broomell: Yeah, it lost a lot of it. Eric: Yeah, cause it starts at only 11th Ave. Mrs. Newsome: It all came over to where the gardens are on the sand. Mrs. R.: Now we know! You've probably wondered why it ends at 11th street. I guess there are some property owners still waiting to get their land back. Mrs. Broomell: Probably! Back then we didn't have all the news coverage you have today.
Going down Laurel Drive toward Route 9, there was a stable for horses. People would come to rent horses. When it was sold, it was strictly for boarding horses. There were race horses there. It wasn't real big….only 6-8 stalls. We didn't have uniforms. The girls weren't allowed to wear slacks or jeans. You just knew it wasn't acceptable for girls to wear pants. Our legs froze because we walked to school. There were no busses. When you were younger, you had what was called leggings. Once you got to school, you took them off and you were in a dress. Eric: Do you remember what kind of horses were in the stable? The race horses were called standard bred horses. They didn't race around here. They were hooked up to a sulky. They were taken out on Laurel Drive, that was a dirt road, for practice. Most of the town had dirt roads.
Did you graduated? What grade did you stop? High School. We graduated from Dawes Avenue in 9th grade and then went to Ocean City High School. Why did Somers Point Schools go to 9th grade? Mainland Regional did not exist. We went to school on a bus just for high school students. The trolley stopped by 1948.
Eric: Were Ocean City and Longport connected before the Hurricane of '44. No, there was an inlet between them.
Mrs. R: What do you remember about boating in Somers Point? I just remember the docks where the rental boats are. It's pretty much the same. I can remember walking from school down Shore Road near Cedar Avenue, there was Benny Louis's Sale Loft. He was a sailmaker.
Nick: Did they have sports back then? There was the Boy's Club; they had basketball. Did the girl's have as many sports as the boys? We had basketball but not baseball. We didn't have soccer or the football league for the younger guys. If we wanted to play softball, we just rounded up a group. We just went to the recreation field. Someone had a bat and someone had a ball. We just got out there. Down where the Pit is…we called it the Pit too! It will always be the Pit!! It was actually a dump It was a big hole with old cars and stuff. The Pit was a junkyard. It was called Brownies. We would home from school through the Pit. I guess it was originally a sandpit.
Eric: Was Route 9 here and was it a dirt road? Yes. There weren't many cars. We called tourists Shoobies. Did they bring lunches in shoeboxes? I don't remember but supposedly that's how they got the name. They would come down for the day by train. We used to walk along the railroad tracks. When we heard the whistle, we got off the tracks. I don't remember it being a passenger train. It came to Smith's Lumberyard and the coal yard. Nick: Was there an airfield? The airfield in Atlantic City was called Bader Field. It was one of the first airfields in the country.
How were homes heated by coal? Trucks would come from Pleasantville. They would put a shoot through the basement window and the coal fell down into the coal bin. Someone had to shovel the coal into the furnace everyday. When I went to school at New York Avenue, it was heated by coal. Shoveling coal was pretty dirty. Not only that, your house always had a film inside it. It was very dusty. We didn't have heat in every room. There was a grate in the living room and the heat came up from the basement. When we were young, we room out from the bedroom to the dining room. The clothes were out on the dining room chair and that's where you got dressed because the bedrooms were too cold. When we came home, we would sometimes shovel the coal with small shovels.
What is you memory of the biggest event in Somers Point? I remember the Memorial Day Parades. It was a small town and if something was going on everyone turned out.
Eric: How was healthcare different? There were a lot of home remedies. I had a lot of earaches. My grandfather would puff on his cigar and blow smoke in my ear and then put cotton in the ear. The warm air would make it feel better. There were no heating pads so you had a hot water bottle. It wasn't really a bottle…it was made of rubber. You filled it with hot water. During WWII, we didn't have a water heater. You had to heat all your water on the stove. You heated buckets, carried it from the kitchen to the bathroom for a bath. Our grandmother had very bad asthma. She would put hot water in a bowel in hold her head over it with a towel over her head. There was no medicine for asthma. When you burnt yourself, you put butter on it. The doctors would come to your house if you were sick. They made house calls. There was a doctor's office but it wasn't unusual to call the doctor to your house. He would come with his black bag and give you medicine.
Was Kennedy Park there? What was it called? It was called High Banks. It was just woods. There was a road. There were no bathrooms or boat ramp. The golf course where all the houses are was all woods too.
What kinds of jobs did work? Babysitting and working at Murphy's (the 5 and 20) in Ocean City. There were fewer stores. There was a time there wasn't even a bank in Somers Point. There were no traffic lights. We weren't taught about traffic lights and I really didn't know how to cross. The first one was at Maryland Avenue. Mrs. Rydzewski: Thank you very much for coming to share your experiences with us.
Mrs. Baum, Mrs. Miller and Mrs. Risley
November 4, 2005
Interviewed by Grant Pfund, Nick Radico, Eric Seckinger, Jon Scott, Kristen Somers
Mrs. Doris Baum's maiden name is Ford. She was born on December 6, 1918. She lived at 115 E. Pierson Avenue, Somers Point. · Mrs. Sophie Miller's maiden name is Heim. She was born on December 26, 1925 . She lived at Third Street and Dobbs Avenue, Somers Point. · Mrs. Jeanne Risley's maiden name is Balliet. She was born on July 19, 1920. She lived at 16 Kappella Avenue, Somers Point.
Mrs. Rydzewski: Why was Bass Harbor in Somers Point called Lousy Harbor? Mrs. Risley: When the British were there it was a deep, deep water Harbor. There were ships that came from England and they didn't have fresh fruit and vegetables. They had no way to bath and so the men had lice. They had lice all over them. Of course, that was way before any of us lived there. But they always called it Lousy Harbor because of that. It was probably in the 1950s when they changed it to Bass Harbor.
Eric: Where did you go to school? Mrs. Risley: I went to school at New York Avenue School. When the Dawes Avenue School was built in 1931, we started there in probably 6th grade. Mrs. Baum: I started the same way. I had to walk to New York Avenue from Pierson Avenue and I was only 6 years old. Mrs. Miller: I started at New York Avenue School. I went to Dawes Avenue School for 7th and 8th Grade. The Junior High was in the upstairs at Dawes Avenue School.
Jon: What things were you involved in? Mrs. Risley: We didn't have sports in school. We came home from school and went across the street to play. We played our own games. We didn't have organized sports. When we were in high school, Smith Lumber Company had a basketball team. But that wasn't through school. In school we just played volleyball and kickball. Pop Smith owned a lumber mill. The first one burned down and he built another one between Groveland Avenue and Johnson Avenue. The upstairs of the lumber mill was a gym. Almost as big as the one in this school. They had men's and women's basketball teams. He sponsored sports of all kinds including baseball…Little League. He gave a lot of money for traveling teams. His grandson taught at Mainland Regional H.S. and continued the tradition of coaching basketball.
Nick: What was your first job? Mrs. Baum: The 5 & 10 Store in Ocean City. The 2nd year I was there, the first day of work Social Security started. I paid in to Social Security then. It was just a job during school vacation. That would have been in the beginning of 1936 or 1937. The Depression was really bad then. I made $8.00 a week. You were not allowed to sit down. Mrs. Rydzewski to students: As a teacher I think it is important to mention that in the beginning of the Great Depression there was no help. There was no unemployment insurance, food stamps, no breakfast or lunch programs at school. The elderly people had no Social Security. If you couldn't work and you were disabled… Mrs. Baum: Your family took care of you. When I started my job, they just started taking out money for Social Security. It was when Roosevelt started the Social Security Program which was intended to be a supplement to peoples' retirement not to actually live on. People didn't have pensions and, if they didn't save when they were young, they had nothing when they got old.
Mrs. Rydzewski: Can you share any memories of people losing their homes or any other memories during the Depression? Mrs. Risley: I remember along Bay Avenue there was a farm run by the WPA. Men who had no jobs could go there and that whole area from Bay Avenue to Sunny Avenue was a big farm and they raised all kinds of vegetables. They use to tease because it was hard work and the men were not use to that kind of work. They would stand on their shovels and people always would say it was a WPA project if they saw people bumming. It was not a push job. It was something they did and they could take the food home and whatever was left was sold very, very reasonably. It was 5 cents a pound for potatoes or something like that. It was very, very cheap. This was later in the Depression after Roosevelt got in. People just had not money and no jobs. People took care of each other. In other words, if you had extra you shared with your family and neighbors.
Mrs. Miller: My family had go leave Somers Point. We went to Florida to live with my Aunt. My family had to leave because we lost everything in the Depression. My father had a bake shop and made buns… (Mrs. Baum: They were delicious. Didn't he go around and deliver them door to door? Yes!) Then, of course, when the Depression came along, we lost it all. All the money was in the bank and the banks closed. Mrs. Risley: The banks closed. Anyone who had money in the bank lost it. The banks closed their doors. All your money was gone. People had a hard time and lost their homes. They couldn't pay their taxes. The city was so poor that, instead of paying you with money, they paid you with paper that was script. A promissory note that they would pay it. You couldn't spend it because no one would take it. If you had a ten dollar script, they would give you $9.00 because it wasn't real money. You would give it to your father or someone to pay their taxes because it was worth $10.00 towards the taxes. Real estate people would take it. They paid me for many years at the library in script. I gave it to my father and he turned it in for the taxes. Mrs. Baum: Teachers were paid in script. City employees too. Mrs. Risley: The City had no money. Their money had been in the bank. Anyone with money in the bank never got it back. So business lost a lot. That was in 1929. In 1930 to 1933, things were very bad. People had no money. In 1933, I would have been about 13 years old. Grant: Did you use those scripts to buy food? Mrs. Risley: If the store would take it! A large store wouldn't take it. A small store, like Conover's Market, would take it for $9.00 on $10.00 script. They paid taxes and could use it to pay the taxes. But most places wouldn't take it. It wasn't useful except in the city of Somers Point. It was issued by the City.
Mrs. Miller: My father made us go to Florida where his sister lived. It was the first cold winter in Florida. I never went back to Florida again because it was so cold! They had to close the schools because they didn't have heat. They only had fireplace then. I never went back to Florida until 40 years later. Finally, I did go back. My father stayed here. He thought it would be better for us there. We drove there. Mrs. Baum: We had a fireplace and my father would chop wood to burn in the furnace. Every scrap of wood was used.
Eric: What was the price of gasoline? In those days, 1936, you could get 5 gallons for one dollar. We sent to Benner's Gas Station on Shore Road. The WPA built MacArthur Blvd near High Banks. This was all woods where the school is now.
Mrs. Baum: My older brother had to go to high school by trolley to Atlantic City. When I got to high school, they decided it would be better to go to Ocean City. We went on the trolley and the trolley went over a bridge and it would wobble all over. You kept thinking it was going to fall into the bay. It took us about 20 minutes to cross the bay and then we would walk from the trolley to school. The trolley tracks were where the bike path is now. Mrs. Risley: The trolley went to George Street comes to First Street, near Somers Mansion. There was a bridge that went across the meadows and across the water part there was a single track. On windy days, that trolley rocked back and forth. It was a wild ride!! The kids would do all things. The conductor ran the trolley. In the wintertime, the seats were like velvet. In summer, they were made of wicker or something. The children were mischievous. You paid 15 cents to ride. Kids were only a dime. Sometimes the kids would lock him in the doors. He would go out to talk to the motorman and they would lock the doors and leave him out there. Finally, they let him back in. The boys would shake the trolley. Mrs. Baum: There were two schoolteachers that rode the trolley. The kids teased them unmercifully. It was a fun ride. The trolley never fell into the water; we thought it might though the way it wobbled.
Kristen: What did you do in your spare time when you were out of school? Mrs. Baum: Played in the woods. Went to the beach. There was an ice cream pallor on Shore Road. I want to mention the Soda Pop Café. I honestly think Ray Hyde opened it for someplace for young people to go not for the money. We would dance there. It was a nice, well-kept place. It had a fireplace. In our teenage years, we really enjoyed that. It was right on the beach. We went to school plays. Mrs. Miller: The first of May was May Day. They had poles and they would twist streamers and walk around. There were games and so forth. Mrs. Risley: We had a prom in high school. I went to Ocean City H.S. The prom was held on the Music Pier.
Did teachers ever hit? When we were in grammar school, the principal use to paddle kids. The principal would pick someone who was bad. He looked to us to be 9 feet tall. He had a German accent and was very strict. The children would go in there and you would hear hollering. They said afterwards that he hit a chair to make noise and told the kids to holler so everyone thought they were being killed. I don't know…I never had to go there. Mrs. Miller: I was never sent to the Principal's office. Our parents would have killed us. Mrs. Baum: I had an older brother. He couldn't get out of line, ever! Mrs. Risley: In those days you got a grade for deportment. And you better have an A in deportment. That's was your behavior. Or you would be grounded until the next report card. Mothers were home all the time. So grounded meant you went directly home from school and you stayed in all day. You didn't get to go to Girl Scouts or Boy Scouts. If you were grounded, you were grounded because your mother was home. She had no car to go anywhere.
Jon: Do you remember blackouts during WWII? Mrs. Baum: They painted the lights black toward the ocean. We had heavy curtains because they thought there were submarines out there in the ocean.The lights were painted half way so they wouldn't shine out in the ocean. The car had half of the headlights painted black. Did you ever hear about submarines (U-Boats) being exploded? Mrs. Risley: One of the teachers at the high school went to the Music Pier to watch for ships and planes. She went every afternoon after school until midnight. She said there were problems out there. She often saw a ship or something. Mrs. Miller: During the war, I went to nursing school in Philadelphia. The government paid as long as I promised to go where they wanted me to go. But I didn't have to go because the war was over by the time I finished nursing school. We had uniforms to wear and the government paid us with a check each month. But we didn't have any money. If the war was still on, I would have been in the military. Mrs. Baum: My father was an air warden. He would go out and, if anyone had their lights on, he would tell them to turn them off. We had rationing. You go so many points. If you wanted meat or butter, it was so many points. The same with gasoline. You were rationed and had to prove you needed it to get to work. It was 5 points to get shoes for my daughter. When the money started returning, my husband was overseas, they brought them home based on so many points. (Note from teacher: this reference is not rationing points) They got points for months of service, being overseas. A wife was so many points and a daughter. I had my daughter with me and a soldier said, "Look at those 25 points." With food rationing, even if you had enough money, you still couldn't buy it. You had to give so many points for butter, meat, sugar, shoes, gasoline, any leather product. Anything that was needed overseas.
Mrs. Risley: My husband and both of my brothers went to war. Mrs. Baum: My husband and we had a one-year-old baby. My husband reported on the first of the month and on the 15th he was gone. They use to say on the eye examination, if you put a finger up and they could see past that, then they passed the exam. Mrs. Miller: My family was too old. But I almost went because I was training to be a nurse. Mrs. Risley: There were quite a few who did not come back. Fehrle was the first one. He was killed in the Battle of the Bulge. His father owned property where the ball field is now at Rhode Island Avenue. He donated the property for the recreation field. It's called Fehrle Field. Paul Clark was killed. The ship he was on was sunk. Mrs. Risley: A Gold Star Mother was someone who lost a son in the war. Mrs. Clark was a Gold Star Mother. There were two ladies that lived in Hickory Point and they lost sons in World War I. They would have a gold star in the window. You put a blue star in the window if you had someone in the service. If someone died, you put it a gold star. Mothers of children that were lost were very highly recognized. They had an organization.
Eric: What was D-Day like? Mrs. Risley: It was the day before my son was born. In those days, we didn't know anything until at least a week after it happened. We use to go to the movies to see the news because there was no television. You went to the movies….it was a week or longer before you knew anything. My husband used to write everyday. But what they wrote …you couldn't write anything about where he was. If you happened to mention something….all the letters were censored. Sometimes you got a piece of paper that looked like it was cut out here and there because they cut out what they didn't want sent. If anything was mentioned, they cut it out. My husband was in Seabees which was construction of airports for the planes in the South Pacific. The Admiralties and Guadalcanal,!. If they happened to mention a ship or different kind of plane, it all got cut out. Mrs. Baum: Mayor Chapman wrote to every serviceman. I kept the list for him and sent the newsletters. A funny story: One of the young men's commander said, "Do you have a problem at home? We see letters keep coming on a regular basis from your police department." Mayor Chapman was head of the police department and we used his envelopes. The letters were interesting. They were typed on legal size paper on both sides. He would write the letters to the men and they would write back. The men got to know where each other were. If they were close, they could get together and many of them did. How long were your husbands away? Mrs. Risley: My son was 18 months old by the time his father came home the first time. Then he went back and he was back overseas for a year. Mrs. Baum: My husband went for his physical December 15, I didn't see him until Spring, and he was sent overseas in September. He missed four of my daughter's birthdays. He came back on a Victory Ship, small ships they built during the war, and there was a storm and they couldn't land. They were bopping up and down. After he got off that ship, he never set foot on one again. Mrs. Risley: The casinos in Atlantic City are built over hotels. Those hotels were taken over by the army and were known as England General Hospital. The troops did there training there and would march up and down the boardwalk. There feet on those boards sounded like elephants. Sometimes they marched on the sidestreets. They brought the wounded soldiers there for the sunshine, salt air and so forth.
Mrs. Rydzewski and students: Thank you very much for visiting us and sharing your memories.
On November 17, 2005, Mrs. Hyatt was Interviewed by Jordan Road School Venture students: Leah Seyfert, Maria Kordomenos, Kevin McDonough and Nick Rutkowski
Mr. Hyatt was born on December 9, 1919. His early residence in Somers Point was at Hickory Point, an area near the Great Egg Harbor Bay and Route 9. He and his wife, Ellen, operated Hyatt's Store located on Shore Road. He was a coach and served many years on city council. He is currently employed at the Board of Elections.
Leah: What was it like during World War II? Mr. Hyatt: I think it was a great experience, frankly. Nowhere can you meet hundreds of thousands of people and work with them. As far as the problems of combat, I was in the Coast Guard. I had sea duty and ended up in Greenland for a year. Greenland was a base ceded out to us by the Danish government. The area was used as a transfer station for planes that went to Europe eventually. It was also the center for weather information. The Germans had weather people who parachuted on the icecap there. We fought back the Germans once. It was important to Europe because of D-Day; naturally they had to have all the weather information they could, constantly. Kevin: Was it really cold there? Mr. Hyatt: It was cold and very windy. There were times you had to wear cleats on your shoes because of the ice and everything. The biggest problem for the Coast Guard was keeping the fjords clear of ice for the supplies, oil and food supplies, for the base there. The Coast Guard cutters had to break the ice on a daily basis, it was constant. Mrs. Rydzewski: I can't imagine being out on a ship in the wintertime with all that ice. Mr. Hyatt: We had to keep breaking the ice. It had to be done to keep the supplies coming in. The Coast Guard patrols with go out into the convoy lines to England. Nick: Was there a lot of snowstorms? Mr. Hyatt: Yes, there were a lot of snowstorms. I did have the opportunity to see the Aurora Borealis because it starts up there. The dazzling lights displayed once in a while. Mrs. Rydzewski: How long were you stationed there? Mr. Hyatt: I was there for a year. I was transferred to the Great Lakes. Mayor Chapman sent a newsletter to the servicemen. Some of those are in the Somers Point Historical Society. That's an organization everyone should get involved in. Maria: During WWII, did any of your relatives fight in it? Mr. Hyatt: My brother was in the army. He passed away last year. He was stationed on the island of Malta and in the invasions of Italy. Mrs. Rydzewski: What was his reaction to that? Mr. Hyatt: He had a sense of humor. There were problems with the landing barges. The government does something ludicrous at times.
Kevin: Did the war affect the Great Depression in anyway? Mr. Hyatt: It would have to! I'm not an authority but prior to WWII we were in a Depression. WWII took us out of the Depression, naturally, because money had to be spent. That money transferred from the government down to the individual in the workplace. After that, the changes that occurred in technology and so forth I think were for the good as we have changed since WWII. We have been progressing in so many ways. Yes, the Depression has something to do with it. It is our lifestyle to keep moving ahead anyhow. You wouldn't want to stay back in the Depression. Everyone was poor than. Nobody cared because everyone was poor. There was no difference in anybody.
Mrs. Rydzewski: Could you tell us about the difficulty of getting jobs during the Depression? Mr. Hyatt: It was menial. You were glad to get anything. I worked in a bowling ally and on the roads. We had 6-7 people at home and we had to work. I think it was one of the greatest character builders was to have responsibility and do without. There is nothing wrong with that. In today's world the government provides everything for everybody but then you had to provide for yourself. Mrs. Rydzewski: Your generation was born at the end of WWI, you lived during the Great Depression and then went through WWII and the Cold War. You went through a lot. Mr. Hyatt: You accepted responsibility. You don't look for someone to do it for you.
Nick: How did the Great Depression affect you and your family? Mr. Hyatt: I think we were all in the same boat. I never looked at it affecting anyone individually. We went to school. None of us ended up with a college education, unfortunately. College was a dream at that time because of the money involved. The emphasis was you had to get a job. You had to survive! Going to high school was the end objective. I graduated high school when I was 16. It made it tough to get a job when you graduated early because you had to be 18 because of insurance rules.
Mrs. Rydzewski: Would you talk about the WPA? Mr. Hyatt: I was on that for awhile. It was the only thing. You had to have something. I was in it for about a year and finally got a job in Simm's Restaurant in Ocean City. We would do roadwork in the WPA. We worked at High Banks (JFK Park) taking the trees out and so forth. I don't recall finding any arrowheads. Mrs. Rydzewski: At that time there was no unemployment, welfare or Social Security for elderly. What did they do? Mr. Hyatt: You take a lesson from the Amish and the Dutch Country people. The family takes care of each other. If there was no family, they had the Old Age Home in Pleasantville. So they did take care of things locally as best as they could. It was in the Roosevelt era that started the government intervention and sustenance. It's good in a lot ways but in a lot of ways not so good.
Leah: How has the world improved since the Great Depression? Mr. Hyatt: Rapidly!! There are so many elements come into it. Technology is here and it constantly is competitive with other countries. It is fabulous with technology and we've been able to keep ahead. It does something to your everyday life. You have x-rays for cancer and flights to the moon. It's ongoing. The technology you have with your cell phones and ipods all emanated from the technology of World War II.
Maria: What was your perspective of the Holocaust? Mr.Hyatt: I wasn't directly involved in it but I think it was terrible, there shouldn't have been anything happening like that. Mrs. Rydzewski: Were you aware that it was happening during World War II? Mr.Hyatt: No, no, not where I was at the time. The troops in Germany would be more up on that. I think the New York Times was accused of hiding their articles on Holocaust on page 18. We didn't get the information we should have maybe. I think that was brought out later during Congressional hearings.
Kevin: Did you know FDR was handicapped? Mr. Hyatt: Oh, Yes! We didn't see any photos of him but it came out by world of mouth that he was in a wheelchair most of the time. He went for treatments but that had no affect on his mentality. People did not think less of him. Mrs. Rydzewski: Franklin Roosevelt suffered from polio. Did people in the 1930s and 40s worry about catching polio? Mr. Hyatt: We didn't feel threatened by it or an onslaught of it. entered our mines. There was a treatment using an iron lung back then. I didn't know anyone is school who caught it. Nick: Did you like Franklin D. Roosevelt back then? Mr. Hyatt: I think he was the right man for the right time. Mrs. Rydzewski: Mr. Hyatt is being a very fair man. He worked very hard for the Republican Party for many years. He's comment about FDR is very interesting. Mr. Hyatt: Your country has to have a leader at certain times for certain things. All Presidents are called on during times of strife. Right now you have a President who is being bumped around during a time of trouble. Mrs. Rydzewski: FDR served for 4 terms. Do you think that was a good thing? Mr. Hyatt: I think so. It's good and bad. Again, the times are what create the problems. We are reactive and respond to the problems.
Leah: To change the subject, did you go to the beach much as a kid? Mr. Hyatt: No, I wasn't a beach person. I never had time for it. I was working! My time before WWII, my one interest was football. I played football. We had a coach who had a luncheonette at the beach. During the wintertime, he would arrange for kids to go swimming in Atlantic City at the Claridage Hotel pool. He was Ray Hyde, a great guy. He was a good friend of mine.
Maria: What did you do during the wintertime? Did you go hunting? Mr. Hyatt: We had a few hunters because you could go on the west side of New Road and it was woods mainly for pheasant and some would hunt on the meadows for ducks. But I never cared about hunting and wasn't interested in it. Where we are sitting now was once all woods. The houses from 3rd to 10th street were scattered among the woods. The summer homes were mainly from Shore Road to Bay Avenue. .Some people picked up extra money clamming. It's hard work! I never bothered with it.
Mrs. Rydzewski: Mr. Hyatt had a store on Shore Road called Hyatt's. That was the center for news. You could get a real milk shake or ice cream soda there while people caught up on the news. It had a great comic book rack. He didn't chase the kids away from it….thank you for that! Mr. Hyatt: Yes, I had the store for 35 years. It was the "cracker barrel."
Kevin: Were there Shoobies, tourists, then? Mr. Hyatt: Oh, yes. We relied on the summer tourists for business. Kevin: Did it help you get out of the Depression? Mr. Hyatt: We didn't think too much about the Depression. That's the good part of the American philosophy. You don't dwell on the past that much. You always have to keep moving on. If not, someone will move ahead of you.
Nick: Where did you live when growing up in Somers Point? Mr. Hyatt: I live in Hickory Point. I was a butcher and cut meat in Gerety's Store before WWII. I worked for the WPA and then worked at Simm's Restaurant in Ocean City. The meat cutters in the Acme went on strike. Mr. Gerety (the store was located where Charlie's is located now) needed help and I started driving a truck for him. The butcher left one day and I asked him to show me and he said OK. Then I went into service for WWII. When I came back, I worked for him for a few months and then bought my own business.
Leah: What did you do for fun as a kid? Mr. Hyatt: I guess sports mostly. George Gerety helped coach the football and basketball teams. I use to help him because it was a lot for him to handle. I use to referee the basketball games. We would take in a movie occasionally. There wasn't any television so we listened to the radio. The movie theatre was opposite the beach where the Gateway Theatre is now. Basically working was what we did. People held more than one job.
Kevin: Did anything important happen historically? Mr. Hyatt: The big Gateway Casino located near the bridge and circle burned down. Mrs. Rydzewski: Would you tell the students about the marathon dancing there… Mr. Hyatt: They danced endlessly day after day until the last one was standing. They had prizes of a monetary nature. They would go for 3 or 4 days. They had short rest periods. I remember that going on. It was a way to make a buck during the Depression and it attracted people to watch.
Nick: Where you an athletic person or stay at home. Mr. Hyatt: I use to help out with the Bugle and Drum Corp. I had a car so I would take people so I would take them to different places. Mrs. Rydzewski: Thank you for coming to visit us and sharing your memories.
Interviewed by email
Many times I ran the Cricks between Steelman Bay and Scull Bay and also Broad Thorofare and Sod Thorofare, Mostly in the winter cause back them I worked the Bay and when I needed a days pay and it was blowing I could always get out of the wind there. Looking back on it all now, things were tough. I remember one day I had to go out to make enough to have dinner that night. It was so cold that I took wash tubs out and filled them with water so the clams would not freeze, I thought it would be OK. Well it froze from the bottom up and it was a block of ice when I got in. I sold the clams anyway and no one said a word. I remember trying to race cars at Rainbow Channel. It was a pretty good run and we would parallel the bridge and go at it. I never beat one though. I never had a boat that fast. And I have watched the sun come up over Longport Bridge and a lot of other places. When you work the bay, you have to beat the sun and the wind. I've watched the sun come up and down on all our rivers too. That is the place to be. I remember the duck hunters taking their house boats into the Tuckahoe River for the winter, and the clammers' houseboats at Brick Kiln Crick, Ya, I guess I should write a book. We hulled the river in the winter and caught pirch and catfish, and sometimes stripers, and also set a large fike net at Champion place just above English Crick. It was a great life and I loved it, But , I had a growing family and I had to get a job to take care of them, So I went to work for the State and stayed there thirty-five years and I now sneak around all them places with a camera. I remember Chick Conover had a Clam house in the garage behind his house on Third Street and Les had one later at the piers on Bay Ave. Also Lou Talman had a clam house at one time on Shore Rd.
Interview with Joe Albertus
By Kristen Somers
Joe Albertus is in his early 80's and moved
to Somers Point 50 years ago from Ocean City when he got married.
Joe said that there weren't that many people when he was growing up and that everyone knew each other. The beach was also free. On weekends and after school, Joe would go to his uncle's garage from when he was 12 until he was 19 years old. When Joe turned 17, he got his first car which he built. He worked on cars everyday.Most of the time, Joe and his friends would go to the boardwalk, skate rink, arcade, movies at the playhouse on Bay Avenue, the beach, and to church. The skate rink and arcade were in the same building along with a pool house where they played pool, not to go swimming.
When Joe was in elementary school, he said he wasn't bad. There were 30 people in each class. In grade school, one teacher taught every subject. In 7th and 8th grade, they went to different classrooms with different teachers. There was no dress code, but the girls did usually wear dresses and the boys usually wore slacks. In high school, boys wore pants and shirts and the girls wore dresses. Teachers would help after school if they needed help. The teachers would hit the kids for attention and if the kids were talking in class. If they hit them too much, they would keep getting hit but, if they got hit too much, the teachers would move them across the room. Joe said he got hit a couple of times. They would also have study girlfriends or study boyfriends. Unfortunately, Joe didn't have a sweetheart in school.
When Joe turned 19, he was drafted into World War II as a pipe fitter. A pipe fitter is someone who installs and repairs pipes but, in this case, on boats. He had to get a physical before he could be drafted. Also, he never fought in the war.
October 15th, 2005 By Gia Caiazza
Clara Vieth, my Grandmother, was born in 1919. We are talking about her life when she was a kid and her life during the Great Depression.
Gia- " And… during the Great Depression, did your dad have a job?" Clara- "Well, he started building houses… He liked that idea. He drew out the house and said it was for 'My family!' " Gia- "Where was the house?" Clara- "In Somers Point" Clara- Talking about the house again… "And he measured the land and everything. He talked to the man that owned the land and he bought two quarters." Gia- "Do you remember what anything cost during the depression? Like the price of things?" Clara- "Aw no… real cheap. But we thought that food was very good and expensive." Gia- "Did you have a lot of food or a lot of clothes during the depression?" Clara- "No, not a lot….. JUST ENOUGH" Clara- " My mom was a good cook. She used about a quarter of an hour to get a meal together. She would set aside a dollar worth of food that stood next to the piano we had. She cooked nice noodles in red sauce." (Spaghetti and Meat Balls) Gia- " Where was your house in Somers Point?" Clara- "71 Gibbs Avenue." Gia- "Where or what was it near?" Clara- "Close to…. the beach and the bay and the hospital." Gia- "Did your father have a car?" Clara- " Yes… he needed one for his work." Gia- "Because he did what?' Clara- "He was a carpenter." Gia- "Now what did you do…in the summer…on Gibbs Avenue?" Clara- "I played games, played ball, went swimming." Gia- "With the kids on your street?" Clara- "Yes." Gia- "Do you remember their names? Do you remember some of your friends?" Clara- "Ruth and Eleanor Settles. They were sisters."
Interviewed by 8th Grade Venture Students on October 26, 2005
Mr. Henkels lived in Somers Point from 1924 until 1935 when his family moved to Philadelphia. He returned every possible weekend, regardless of the season, until 1941. He is a veteran of World War II. He has a degree in Industrial Engineering and worked in the electronics industry for 28 years. He started writing about 25 years ago. Among his published short stories is "The Cat and Her Lady." He is currently rewriting his novel about love and politics with a few seashore scenes included.
Mr. Henkels: I am researching slavery in Atlantic County and the KKK in Atlantic County. I would like to start by telling you a story about Somers Mansion. You may have heard a story about a tunnel. A tunnel would have served two purposes. Back before the Civil War, it was not unusual for bands of brigands, outlaws, to roam the countryside and find these big houses, break into them, kill the occupants, and strip everything they can and burn the house down. Well, the Somers family built a tunnel not as a part of the Underground Railroad but as an escape hatch in case the mansion was attacked by one of these bands of outlaws. As I continue my research of slavery, I found there is a house in Linwood that was suppose to be part of the Underground Railroad. I haven't had a chance yet to run this story down. But, if it is true, then there is a good chance the Somers Mansion tunnel story could be connected to it.
One time there was a hill and a fort situated on it. Later the town leveled the fort down. The British ship came into the Egg Harbor inlet during the War of 1812. The people only had two cannons and four trees painted black. When firing the two real cannons, smoke came out and the captain could only see the shape of the cannons-- thus believing we had six cannons instead of two. Before the British left, part of the crew got into one of the boats and when they started firing they headed for one of the islands near Somers Point. They stayed there and when the captain thought he was under fire he departed the inlet and left the sailors behind. As a result the sailors surrendered to the people of Somers Point. After their surrender, the sailors thought they would be hung or hurt; however, the Somers Point residents were friendly and welcomed them to their town. During the Great Depression, a storm came and changed everything. So a man went over to an island in the Great Egg Harbor Bay and found four gold doubloons (which is 20 dollars in gold). His wife got very sick and died, then one of his sons got killed in a fire, his daughter was hit by a car and paralyzed. This is bad news he thought.He had to get rid of these doubloons. No one would accept them as a donation and now they are in University of Pennsylvania Museum.
Q: When did you start to work? A: 1947, 25 years old Q: Did most of the kids go to college? A: Yes, most of them did go to college. You could get a free college education if you were in the army, the nurses could also get a free education (boys and girls). There was a girl in town by the name Margie of who qualified to be in the Nurses Core. Kids during the Great Depression dropped out of school by the age of 6th grade. If you had a 6th grade education, you were considered educated because of the Depression the kids had to out smart their parents. Mr. Henkels wasn't affected like some kids were because his father had a steady job in Atlantic City. Q: I read the story "Fisherman in a Bottle" and I was wondering where you got the information for the story? A: My father and myself. I saw it first hand. I saw people go on to the beach and find bottles. Q: What happened if you were caught with booze? A: Uhh…if you read the Eighteenth Amendment you'll find out that the law said that you couldn't make it, sell it, drink it, or transport it, but you could possess it. Q: Would the police ever look the other way on Rum Runner? A: In SP you had 1 policemen and one patrol man. During Prohibition, my father was taken to the local hospital and a doctor there, a Dr. White, was the only doctor that could be upright on the project because he could be safe. During the course of recovery, he told my father, if you get a good bottle of whiskey, that will help you. Where would you get a good bottle of whiskey during the Depression? So he mentions Jake Sheik Q: So this is a speakeasy? A: Yes Q: What was the name of the place? A: Jake Sheik Q: Where would that be today? A: That would be on Bay Avenue between George Street and Gull Avenue. Q: So there was a speakeasy there at the bay? A: That was one of them. He told my father, "Of course I don't sell to my friends." You have a whole saloon full of booze. "I'm sorry that's for my customers not my friends." The next day the chief of police, whose name was Cook-- Bill Cook-- arrived in my father's hotel pad during the next day with a bottle of first class liquor. Protective policeman to get to the prohibition. Nobody else could, but he could outside of his saloon. Now Cookie, as we called him, had an unfortunate death. He was directing traffic in front of Jake Sheik's saloon, I just mentioned. He was run down and killed by a hit and run driver. Back in those days, it was a tough town, kids. I mean this was a tough town. Men made their living during the Depression out on the bay-- they fished, they clammed, they caught oysters, and they caught crabs. Not only for their families, but to sell them to make money to get firewood and that's what they would do.They traded, traded off. They had a store, a Market store on the corner of Higbee Avenue and Shore Road. The manager of the store was a real funny sort of guy. If you walked in there with say 2 dozen nice crabs, he'd give you two pounds of lean meat of beef. Then he'd sell the crabs and you'd have the beef. That's the way people lived. During prohibition something else happened that totally ruined the town, President Roosevelt was elected president in 1932 and the first thing he did was close every bank in the country. If you had money in the bank, you lost it, it was gone. My family lost money, could you imagine what that would do to a town? My family lost money-- everybody lost money. To replace money they used something called script. No one would take it, it was worthless , nobody wanted it. But then they realized that it was great paper to start fires. Q: What inspired you? A: A couple things, I didn't want the stories to be lost. Another reason is I love Somers Point and I want people to know about the stories. Q: Have you ever seen any of the boats come in illegally? A: No. I've seen boats after they've come in-- just like the one I refer to in the Smugglers and then I saw one that was faced by the Coast Guard grounded near Ocean City. There was a third I saw over by the Egg Harbor River which grounded itself and eventually fell apart. Q: How were they punished? A: Jail, I don't remember the terms.
Interviewed by Casey Marienski
Mrs. Marienski's maiden name is Somers. She was born in 1934.
What were some myths or stories you were told as a child? That there were tunnels coming from the (Somers) Mansion down to the bay. I also heard lots of stories about the Jersey Devil. Because I was a Somers, the mansion belonged to my ancestors. I believe Capt. Richard Somers lived there. Did you ever hear of bootleggers? Not in Somers Point, but I had a grandfather who was a commercial fisherman. He was a rumrunner during Prohibition days. He ended up going to jail. His family could come to visit him only on the weekends.
What can you remember from WWII? I had an uncle that was in the Seabees--they built airfields on islands. I also had an uncle stationed in Germany. Another relative was wounded and another was on a ship that was blown up but he survived.
What do you remember from blackouts? We had to keep our shades down on the east side of the house, so the German submarines could not see the shore. My father painted the top half of his car lights with black paint to keep things low key. At the beach, there was black waste on the shore. We were told it was tar from ships. No one wanted us to know as kids that it was from the ships that were blown up, all the oil and sludge.
Please tell us about Ration Stamps. We could have only so many stamps for gas or food and things like sugar and shoes. I remember we were not supposed to store extra food, but as a kid I remember in the closet, there was a few pounds of sugar that mother had put there. I thought to myself, why is she hiding the sugar? Bread 8 cents a loaf, but then jumped to 12 cents Was there enough food? Yes, always enough. My grandfather was a fisherman, so we always had fish, lobster and a lot of seafood.
What were war bonds? I also remember that you could buy stamps with any extra money you had and then turn it in for a war bond. It was like a savings bond, but we didn't call it that.