Hunt’s Pier – Epilogue

Philadelphia, PA – 2021

The reason I’ve struggled with writing this story is that it can’t really be written. It has to be felt. To be lived.  It was just a summer job on the boardwalk in wildwood. But it was something else. We did the same job over and over every night. It was us on the ride, and the people lined up and boarded the ride and we sent them up. That’s it. Over and over again. A sea of faces. Thousands of happy smiling faces night after night. Non-stop. We keep loading them in and they keep coming back for more. They’re on vacation. We’re there to serve them entertainment. Welcome to the show, I’m Chaz and I’ll be your host. It’s a circus. A carnival. A place where the freaks run the rides and you enjoy the show.

But it’s more than that. We sell happiness. Joy. Excitement. Thrills. Anticipation. The list goes on and on. What job have you ever had in your life where you can deliver that to your clients every single day? That’s the only product we make and our customers can’t live without it.

I’ve never ever had a job like that again. I can name every job I’ve ever had and none of them will be any of the things I just mentioned. That’s why many of the people who work there never leave.

There are worse vocations in this world.

It’s as if we worked in a place that existed in another world. A sea of joy and happy faces. Of children giggling and laughing and having the time of their lives. we’re the hosts bringing them fond memories. The type of memories they carry with them forever. The old memories. The ancient senses developed in our species millions of years ago. 

The excitement in the air crackles around you with your every move along that boardwalk. The music that fills the air whether it’s something on the radio or the crashing symphony of the calliope from the merry-go-round. That merry-go-round that you only get to ride once in this world.

One time around. Maybe you catch the brass ring, maybe you don’t. Maybe you rode all the way home on that mighty steed or maybe you didn’t. Maybe you fell off the horse a few times but you had a good time doing it. You get one ride in this life and we all have to make it. Make yours count. Maybe not for yourself but for someone else in this life.

 

Can you smell it? Is that Curly fries, or is it the sweet fragrance of a fresh funnel cake? When you bite that soft pretzel and the mustard drips on your polo shirt, and your wife pulls out a tissue to clean you up. She and the kids are so happy you’ve got a job where they can take a vacation for a week at the seashore. To play with the kids on the beach and swim in the sea, and see things you never imagined come to life. The stroll on that boardwalk, where you stuff your head with delicious pizza from Sam’s or Mack’s. 

I’m here to help. I will facilitate your joy, sir. We all will. And we’ll deliver you a show you won’t soon forget every night. That game you played. That teddy bear you won. We’re here to deliver.

But all the while we’re loving our very existence. Really living. The sun shines above our young heads. Our skin browns in the sun and our hair turns a lovely flaxen color. We feel it too. You’re here for a week or two. But we’re here every day. We get to live this life for two months every summer.

And when the shadows grow long in the autumn twilight, you’ll remember us. Because we’ll always be with you in your memories. A place that can’t be seen or touched, but you can feel it. You can smell and taste the memory. That first bite from your favorite burger spot. That first kiss of that person you just met on the beach today or this very boardwalk. The possibilities that can happen. It’s all yours. But only for a week. I get to do this every day.

It’s my life.

For now.

But one day I will join you in your world. But, we’ll all be able to look inward and feel that bit of magic in our hearts that came to life when we were young. That place that you loved that you can never revisit. 

Only in your dreams and memories.

Other people have written about Wildwood. I’ve read what they’ve written and it’s been simple documentation of what the place was like. But not how it felt. That’s what I’ve tried to describe here.

You don’t know it if you didn’t really live it. My sisters and I really lived it.

Every summer in Wildwood was different. The weather was the same and some of the things stayed the same but that was the beautiful constant.

It was always Summer there. Eternal. I only felt its dark side when I spent my first winter there. That was when the spell was broken. But only for a while. Every summer we spent there we changed. Because we were growing up. It’s not like now when another year goes by and you’re feeling the same as last year. We were growing. We were growing up. From little children to teenagers to adults. You spent your winters in Philly and went to school in the cold and waited for the bus. But in the summer you returned to a magical paradise with days filled with sunshine and joy. Only joy. You can never get that back. Those formative years are fleeting, and once they’re gone… they’re gone forever. 

I finished writing this series after a long time. I covered everything but I knew something was missing. I scheduled it and put the finishing touches on my work because it was done. I would only return to it in a month to do final edits.

But one night I was sitting in my room watching my show, and it kept gnawing at me. Something was missing from the long series. That’s when I stopped watching TV and opened a new doc and started pounding out these words. This may not even be enough. But maybe it’ll be enough for now.

The carnival. The amusement park. The sweet sea air as it blows in warm from the beach onto the crowd as they laugh and sing through the night.

The more I wrote the more I realized it’s almost something that can’t be written about. It can’t be documented. It’s a feeling. You can write what you saw and what you did, but it’s not the same.

You have to remember the feeling. 

A dear friend once told me, “It’s not what you said or what you did. It’s how you made them feel.” 

Thanks to everyone that follows my blog and also to everybody who dug it from Facebook and Instagram. I reconnected with some old friends from these posts, so it was totally worth it.

A book about my youth in Wildwood entitled, Down the Shore will publish in 2023.

Thank you for reading my blog. Please read, like, comment, and most of all follow Phicklephilly. I publish every day.

You can check out my books here: https://www.amazon.com/s?k=charles+wiedenmann&ref=nb_sb_noss_1

Author: phicklephilly

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7 thoughts on “Hunt’s Pier – Epilogue”

  1. Thanks for writing this expose’. I believe you have successfully captured what so many of us felt while growing up and vacationing in the Wildwoods. It is a fleeting moment in our lives that we can no longer touch but will forever feel.

      1. I grew up in Wildwood, only leaving for college. Your insights into the “feel” of summer on the island brought back many memories. My parents had a store directly across the entrance to Hunt’s pier. I grew up on the boardwalk. Spending countless hours on the beach while my parents were working.

        Wildwood was a terrific place to grow up. After Labor Day when the population dwindled to around 20,000, and we went back to one traffic light, life was normal again. School, friends, cruising down Pacific Avenue, movies on Saturday, etc.

        I left for college, returning once or twice. Then after four years in the Air Force there was nothing left to return for. I moved to Fort Lauderdale to be near my parents.
        I understand that I would not recognize the Wildwood I once knew. I know change and progress is inevitable, it’s just a shame the charm I once knew is gone.
        Enough of my rambling.
        I thank you for stirring up memories.

      2. Thank you so much for your story, Norman! It’s so nice to hear from people who get it. Those summers in wildwood were some of our greatest moments acted out on that sandy stage. Wildwood is still a nice peaceful place but what we loved and experienced down there is long gone. Just curious. What was the store your folks ran across from Hunt’s?

  2. Not only did I thoroughly enjoy this Chaz, I’m psyched to meet up with you someday soon and talk about those days in 1980. It was the best summer of my life, hands down. I truly feel fortunate to have had the opportunity to work on Hunt’s pier and experience all that Wildwood had to offer.
    I didn’t get to know you so well back then, being one of those Log Flume guys, but it was great to learn your backstory.
    I still go to Wildwood from time to time. When I tell friends I’m heading there and not Ocean City etc., they look at me with a quizzical face. They don’t get it. They never will.
    Looking forward to the book!
    Let’s keep in touch. I know where you are!

    1. Thank you so much for your words, Mark. Those summers back in the late 70s and early 80s were brilliant. I was down in Wildwood a couple of weeks ago and everything’s changed. Its all built up now and Pacific Avenue has been decimated. But at least we all have our memories. Let’s definitely meet up soon. Hit me up in FB messenger and I’ll give you my digits. Cheers!

  3. I worked security at a private beach in Ipswich, MA, in the early seventies-loving the dunes and the joy on visitors’ faces, while loathing the superficial people who made up most of the staff. I’ve often wondered what it would be like to live in a dream vacation spot, 24/7, especially in the off-season. This series pretty much confirms every thought that has come to mind.

What are your thoughts on this subject?