Yesterday marked the last hurrah at the Jersey Shore for our family. The kiddo and I made our way down in the late morning to meet my dad and his wife who had driven in the night before. It ended up being cold and rainy (not the best weather for a shore-bound day), but not even that could put a damper on our family’s generations-old traditions.
Now for those of you not familiar with South Jersey, the residents are generally divided into two types: those that go to Wildwood and those that go to Ocean City. Both beaches have sand, a boardwalk, and ravenous seagulls who will swoop down and steal food right out of your hand, but the similarities stop there. Ocean City is generally quiet, peaceful, and (in my mind anyway) a little bit boring. Wildwood, on the other hand, is a noisy three-ring circus of game barkers, flashing lights and wild rides. Just about every family has a history at one of these two beaches, and, much like migrating Canadian Geese, we return year after year to the one we grew up on.
Me? I’m a third-generation Wildwood kid. My grandparents started vacationing there in the 1950′s — back in the city’s Doo-Wop hey day — and it’s been the “family beach” ever since. As a kid I didn’t even realize other beaches existed, and as an adult it’s still the only one for me. It’s certainly not everyone’s cup of tea (just ask the Ocean City people), but I love every tacky, gaudy, raucus, neon-flashing, Jetson-styled “watch-the-tram-car-please” inch of it.
Yesterday we started our Wildwood afternoon with a quick tour of the rides on Morey’s Pier, followed by lunch inside the hallowed purple walls of Mack’s Pizza at Wildwood Ave. We sat at the counter and scarfed down a couple of slices, and chased it down with Pennsylvania Dutch Birch Beer. And yes, old Mrs. T is still sitting there at the end of the counter keeping an eye on things, just as she has been for the last 35 years.
Next it was back out onto the pier for another round of bumper cars, flying elephants, furiously spinning teacups and other assorted rides before the rain finally chased everyone under cover. We scurried down the boardwalk to Douglass Fudge, which is strangely where our family always ends up in Wildwood when it rains. Stopping in there is a must, rain or shine, becuase a trip to Wildwood just isn’t complete without a pound of fudge to take home. (Although quite frankly a full pound has never made it all the way home with our family in three generations.) After a soggy trip back down the boardwalk with our fudge in tow, we were back in the car and headed home.
Now back to that Wildwood vs. Ocean City thing. As I said, I’m a Wildwood kid, born and raised. My son’s dad is one of those Ocean City people. (Should have known that relationship was doomed from the start!)
For now my son gets to enjoy both beaches with his respective parents, but I’m sure there’s an unofficial rule somewhere that doesn’t allow South Jersey residents to have “dual summership” — to be a proper South Jerseyan at some point he’ll have to choose allegiance to one or the other.
I hope he’ll choose Wildwood. I need a roller coaster buddy and someone to help lug the fudge.