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

New Book Published: BELOW THE WHEEL – Now Available on Amazon!

After publishing Angel with a Broken Wing last Summer, my next thought was… what do I do now? Go to the beach?

After much rumination, I decided to write another book. I wanted to create a hard-boiled detective novel that took place near Philly. Is there a scarier city somewhere across the river? Should I try to make a story inspired by true events?

Maybe…

I also wanted to make it about a couple of guys that were friends who decided to go into business together. Using the classic Hitchcockian premise of the common man getting caught up in extraordinary circumstances. I wanted to explore some of the darker sides of life, but seen through the eyes of lighthearted, unique characters. I also wanted something with a shorter, tighter timeframe than my previous book.

Below the Wheel takes place over two weeks in the lives of the characters in Camden, New Jersey in the Summer of 1998.

Alex Hunter and Scott Appel are two ex-investment brokers turned private investigators. Burned out from the competitive sales environment of buying and selling stock, they open the Watchman Detective Agency in Camden New Jersey. They spend their days investigating disability claims for insurance companies and law firms. Occasionally, they perform surveillance on errant spouses and even solve a crime now and then. But Alex and Scott aren’t taken seriously by local law enforcement. Especially detectives, Lt. Ezra Chambers, and his belligerent assistant, Sgt. Otis Guth.

Alex is the obsessive, suit and tie-wearing overachiever, who drinks too much and lives dangerously. Lately, he’s been trying to tame some of his vices by quitting smoking and seeking advice by attending church, and getting spiritual guidance from a local pastor. His life at the agency is a bit mundane, but Alex dreams of one day solving a really high-profile case.

Five years ago, he invested the inheritance of an attractive local television newswoman, Alyssa Ward. He was immediately smitten with her. But the portfolio tanked, and she lost a small fortune. She blamed Alex for the loss and never spoke to him again. Recently, her younger sister Jennifer disappeared, and Alex has taken it upon himself to find her. Jennifer always had a wild streak, and Alex thinks she may have been recruited to work in an exclusive sex club somewhere in Camden. The only problem is, no one knows where the club is located, or if it even exists.

His partner Scott, is the laid-back one. He enjoys watching cartoons, listening to heavy metal, and smoking weed. He’d be happy to just work the cases they get referred, keep the agency in the black and leave the exciting stuff to the police.

The guys share the office space with an insurance agent named Genevieve Bouchard. She’s an independent, hard-working woman, but is trapped in a toxic relationship with her abusive common-law husband, Bruno Cartiglio. When Bruno’s not involved in some sort of sleazy activity, he’s working construction on one of the nearby bridges. Genevieve hates her life with Bruno but is afraid that if she leaves him, he’ll hurt her. Scott’s attracted to Genevieve, but she’s already involved in some dangerous extracurricular activities.

During an unbearable heatwave, the boys are caught up in a bizarre case. The Camden Strangler, as the media call him, has been murdering prostitutes in the area.

A teenage girl named Luna, whose mother was the latest victim, turns to Alex and Scott for help. Scott’s reluctant to take on a client who obviously can’t pay, but Alex sees it as an opportunity to be a hero and takes the case pro bono.

Alex enlists the help of coroner Ignatious Feeny, who gives him access to the morgue and autopsy information on the victims. Alex also picks the brain of the brilliant but cantankerous Robert Wick. He’s a professor of criminology at Rutgers University. Although he’s bound to a wheelchair, he’s a master of criminal profiling. He tells Alex that the only way to solve the case is to go where the killer goes and see what he sees. Subsequently, Alex is drawn into the dark and sleazy world of the skin trade.

The boys work the case, and it’s full of twists, turns, and red herrings. Will they ever figure out who is doing the killings in Camden? Will Alyssa’s sister ever be found?

You’ll have to read the book to find out.

First and foremost, I want to thank the incredibly talented artist, Kellie Stiles who designed and painted the cover for Below the Wheel. Without her tireless efforts, we’d have… well… a book without a cover!

Special thanks to my wunderkind daughter, Kathryn. You’ve always been my greatest inspiration. A brilliant artist and musician in your own right. I appreciate you listening to me complain endlessly about the process of creating new literature and writing in general!

Thanks to the amazing team at Amazon Kindle. Without you, I’d be lost in a sea of technology. I can write the words, but you guys help me turn them into books.

Thanks to everyone at Amazon. I became a member over 25 years ago when you were just a giant bookstore. After crawling on my hands and knees to agents and publishing houses for years, Amazon finally gave me the biggest platform on Earth to bring my literary work to the world.

A special thanks to everyone at WordPress. Without you, I couldn’t publish Phicklephilly every day for the last five years! Now we’re a dot-com and I’ve monetized the site with ads from companies I’ve acquired, and we’ve also added Google AdSense! You gave me a home to bring my work to everyone! Thank you!

Thanks to all the folks over at GoDaddy. You made the transition from just another blogger to a dot-com look easy. Thanks for always being there when I needed you. You’re the best!

And of course, I have to thank my agent, JR for keeping this rocking boat afloat, and getting me steady commercial writing work to put food on the table for me and my daughter!

And last, but certainly not least…

Thank you, dear readers and subscribers, (2300 strong!) for your support over all the last 5 years I’ve been writing this little blog. What started out as a hobby to write about all my crazy dates, relationships, and people in my life has grown exponentially! You all got me to a quarter of a million page views this year! I appreciate you all and try to respond to all of your comments.

Please buy my new book. I assure you, you won’t be disappointed. It’s quite a ride! You can read it on the beach this summer!

You can get it in paperback or kindle here:

We did it again in 2021!

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

Hunt’s Pier – Chapter 5 – The Golden Nugget

Wildwood, New Jersey – 1980

My day in the summer of 1980 would roll like this. I would sleep in until noon unless my dad burst through my door telling me what a glorious day it was and that I was missing it.

“Early bird gets the worm, son!”

“Second mouse gets the cheese, dad.”

Then I would roll over and go back to sleep.

I would get out of bed sometime after that and put my bathing suit on and a t-shirt. I’d have a little lunch with my mom. I would grab my towel, a paperback, and my boom box and head to the beach. I would lie in the sun and tan and read whatever book I currently had going. When the sun became too hot, I would scan the beach nearby for an attractive girl on her own. I would pick up my radio and tune it to a local station that I knew was popular with most people. I’d head over to the girl lying on her blanket. 

“Excuse me, I’m sorry to bother you, but would you mind keeping an eye on my radio while I took a quick dip in the ocean to cool off?”

“Sure!”

I was never turned down. I would head down to the water and dive in. I’d stay in for a while because I wanted her to become accustomed to having a radio playing on her blanket. I’d roll back to her maybe 15 minutes later and run the program.

“I’m Chaz, what’s your name. How long are you down for? Where are you from? Where are you staying?”

Not in that order or that fast, but you get the idea. It worked every time and I always got a date out of that system. I may hang with her there until maybe 3:00 and then walk her back to her motel. I’d get her details and make plans for later that night or that week. Maybe she and her girlfriends or sisters could come up and visit me at the ride and I’d get them on for free. (Louie was always in on the bit and wanted me to succeed with any prospective ladies I came in contact with at all times) I didn’t do this every day, but if I saw a girl I wanted to meet I’d run this program. (Future sales guy!)

Anyway, I’d get home, hop in one of the outdoor showers in the back of the house and head inside and get into character to work at the pier. Crisp white shirt, black tie, and slacks. I’d come down to the kitchen and my mom would feed me dinner. 

I’d head out early to work maybe a bit after 4 pm. I’d stop at Botto’s which was a little arcade and one of our main hangouts in town. I’d put a quarter in the jukebox and play some Aerosmith or whatever song I was into at the time. (Don’t Bring Me Down, by ELO comes to mind) I would go over to my favorite pinball machine, called FLASH, and play a few games. I was really good at that particular machine and had no problem wracking up free games on it. Some of the younger boys who hung out there would all gather around and watch me kick that machine’s butt. When you’re a young boy you always idolize older guys. I did it when I was younger and now I was that guy. I would tell the boys I had to get to work up at the pier and let them have all my free games. They were overjoyed because they didn’t have any money. I’d even leave them a few quarters on top of the machine and bid them farewell.

I’d get to the pier and run up the ramp to join the rest of the team at 5 pm. We’d figure out who was working where and just make that ride sing for the rest of the night. We did that night after night. Each night was similar but there were always different people and different girls to meet. It was an amazing place to be. It was the very best place to be at the shore for the summer. Everybody was happy and having fun. Can you imagine a job like that? You work all night, time flies by, and it is nonstop joy. The tourists are happy because they’re at the best amusement park in the world. (Their world) After work when we closed the pier we’d go out. 

Back when I worked at the Dolphin Restaurant as a busboy, my curfew was 11 pm, but once I started working at Hunt’s my mom lifted the curfew completely. So our nights in Wildwood started working at the circus that was Hunt’s Pier and then would continue on through the night on the boardwalk at another pier or down on Pacific avenue checking out the rock bands in the clubs. It was beautiful. And the amazing thing was, you knew you could wake up tomorrow and do it all over again. Again and again. Non-stop mayhem!

We had a good group of guys working on the Golden Nugget. This big blonde guy named Art was the manager, and he used to call me Peaches. I don’t know when that started but he was the only one who called me that.  There was another guy who’s name was actually, Danny Thomas. He was a short ginger guy, with a sweet disposition. Danny came to work one night and told me that he had just taken half a quaalude (714. The good ones from the ’70s) He said he ground it up in a beer because he couldn’t swallow pills. I knew from middle school what ludes were and told him to work in the back just opening doors. (The simplest and safest job on the ride for the night) There was another guy named Bill from Absecon, who was nice but a little full of himself. He was a good-looking guy, who was 5’10 with blonde hair and blue eyes. I made friends with him so I could borrow his ID to get into the nightclubs to see Witness at the London Ale House, that new wave band The Gang at the Club CasbaPegasus and Prowler at the Rainbow, or my favorite bar band of all time…  The Dead End Kids.  

Back then the drinking age in New Jersey was 18 and I wouldn’t turn until August 9th. The old Jersey licenses looked nothing like the modern laminated ones of today. It was just basically a piece of paper, no photo, and just your stats on it. So if anybody checked my ID going into a club, I fit his description and I never had a problem. I’m very grateful to Bill for lending me that for the month of July until my birthday.

We had so much fun working there. There usually was just Art and maybe another guy working during the day. The pier was always dead during the day, but you still got a few kids coming through so all of the rides were open. Completely different from what that place looked like at night.

The Nugget had five employees on deck at all times at night. One guy ran the brakes and watched the board to see where the cars were on the ride at any time. This was an important job. If you don’t get the mine cars stopped when they roll into the station, there’ll be a jarring accident. If the incoming car full of people crashes into the awaiting car to go out, it could send it up into the ride, with people half in it, doors unlocked, and could be a disaster. So that guy had to be on point.

The next station was the guy who threw the switch to send the car full of people up into the ride. That’s the job I liked best. I was great at it, and that was always my spot when I worked. It also allowed me to chat and flirt with the girls while they were waiting to go on the ride. If Louie saw one that I took a shine to, he would hand me the flashlight and tell me to take a ride up to “check on the ride.” This gave me a chance to possibly find out where the girls were staying, how long they were down for, and get a phone number. Every night was a new opportunity to meet new tourists. It was glorious. It got to a point, that if I hadn’t met a girl to go to the beach with and take on a date by Tuesday night, I thought I was slipping in my game. I kid you not.

The next spot was the guy across from me on the front platform. His job was to lock and secure the doors after the passengers boarded the ride. Very important gig.

On the back platform, there was another employee. When the ride was finished and the car would roll into the station, the doors would automatically unlock. He would hit each door and open them so the people could exit the ride. The last guy was up front at the top of the ramp that led to the ride. He collected tickets. I believe it was five tickets to ride the Nugget. He stood next to a locked three-foot-tall wooden box with a slot cut in the top. Inside was a canvas bag. As the people approached, he would take their tickets and drop them in the box.

That was the whole team. Louie was always there at night just to oversee the operation. But for the most part, Art and I had everything well under control. Louie would just chill in the background, puffing on his cigar. But it was good to know he was there… just in case.

Ahh… This song.

Wildwood in the Summer!

That song sounds like the theme of my teenage life in Wildwood, NJ in the summer of 1980.

 

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

Hunt’s Pier – Chapter 4 – Carny Life

Wildwood, New Jersey – 1980

Carny, also spelled carnie, is an informal term used in North America for a traveling carnival employee, and the language they use, particularly when the employee operates a game (“joint”), food stand (“grab” or “popper”), or ride at a carnival.

I had been working as a busboy at the Dolphin Restaurant for the 1978 and 1979 summer seasons. I was tired of being a busboy. It wasn’t a bad job. I liked the owners and my coworkers. But I longed for something a bit more fun. Something where I had more exposure on the island. I wanted to work on the boardwalk where all the action was happening.

Hunt’s banked with First Fidelity, and that’s where my father worked as a regional manager. He knew the two guys who ran Hunt’s Pier. Vince Kostek and Merle Paul. Vince was the main guy on the Pier and it’s operations, and Merle managed all of the theater properties Hunt’s owned at the time.

Vince Kostek

It was late spring of my senior year at Wildwood High. My father came home one day and told me that if I wanted to work on Hunt’s Pier this summer they had a job for me. I was overjoyed because it sounded like an awesome place to work.

I went up to the pier and asked for Vince. We chatted and I filled out an application and that was it. I was in. Vince told me that normally you had to be 18 to work there, but since I’d be turning 18 in August, he said it would be fine. Vince had a daughter named June who worked in the office and helped out where needed around the pier. She was maybe a year or so older than me and I always liked her. She was cute and really tan and had an unapproachable vibe about her. There was something forbidden about liking the boss’s daughter. I like when people tell me I can’t have something. It always makes me want it more. (Took her on a few dates in 1984!)

Hunt’s was the classy family pier. Of course, Morey’s Pier next door was the cool, hip, pier, but Hunt’s held their own with the classic rides they had running for so many years. The employees wore black slacks, white dress shirts, and black ties. All of the ride operators on every other pier looked like a bunch of carny slobs, and we looked like professional dudes. People respond to a uniform and we looked really great as a team.

So when I graduated in June I started working on the Golden Nugget Mine Ride. I went up on a Saturday and met the man who ran the ride and had run it every season for many years. His name was Louis Vendittelli.

Lou was born in Lyon, France to the late Giovanna Cistrone and Pietro Vendittelli. Lou proudly fought for France in the Algerian war prior to his arrival in America. Known as “French Louie”, he was a local personality in the Wildwoods for decades of work as the operator of the Golden Nugget on Hunt’s Pier.

Louie was a real character. People who worked there and really knew him liked and respected him. But of course, there were those who just thought he was a hothead. I never saw that in the man. He and I always got along and really built a great friendship over the two seasons I worked at Hunt’s Pier. I guess he was in his late forties then. He wasn’t a tall man, but he was super fit. He was really strong and wiry. He drove a huge, red convertible Cadillac Deville. Just this little guy in a massive car.

Like this:

1975 Cadillac Eldorado Convertible, Gateway Classic Cars - Nashville #533 - YouTube

On my first day, he took me around the ride, which I thought was so cool, because I had only ridden the ride, and never explored all of the inner workings of the ride itself. Louie had built a tracking system for the ride so you could see on a board where all the cars were at any given time inside the ride. He was a brilliant guy that could build or fix anything, and after working for decades on the Golden Nugget he knew everything about it. He knew everything about every ride on that pier. But the Nugget was his. He showed me how to operate the ride. How the brakes worked to slow and stop the cars as they came into the station. He also showed me how to operate controls to release the cars to send them up the hill to the top of the ride.

He knew I wasn’t just another “Hunt’s Pier Flunky” as he called them. Working on an amusement pier in the summer is like joining a traveling carnival or a circus. There’s a core group of competent people that sort of run things and then there are the flunkies that also end up working there because they don’t fit in anywhere else. Because of Hunt’s rich history, they had some folks who had worked there every summer for many years. So for me it was a very entertaining place to work.

If you were smart, clean, and presentable, you got to work on the premier rides. The Log Flume was the most popular ride on the pier, but the Golden Nugget was a strong second.  Most of the lifers and old guys worked the older more passive rides, and the flunkies ran the low-end stuff.

There was this one guy that had worked on the airships,  named Fuji. He wasn’t Asian, and I don’t know what his nationality was but he was really tan, had black hair that was slicked back, and wore wrap-around sunglasses all the time. He had been there since the sixties. I remembered him because my dad loved the ride he operated. He thought he was a cool guy. But when I started working at Hunt’s and got to know him, he turned out to be just another weird guy that worked at the pier for decades. We later found out that he had a little room above the Jungleland ride where he used to hide his Playboys. Who knows what he did up there. Weird.

There was another guy named Bob that had worked the Keystone Kops ride for many years. The Kops ride was a bunch of old-type cars that you sat in and it basically went into the ride and there were attractions inside and black lights so everything glowed. The cars basically ran on a track so you didn’t really drive them. You just rode through and saw stuff. That, and bashed through doors. It was cute. Kids liked it. Bob was a good guy who had worked on Hunt’s since the early 70s. He managed and operated the Keystone Kops for many years. It was HIS ride. I’m not sure but I think he even had some equity in the pier and some of its rides. (WILKY Group?) He was always nice to me and I respected his tenure with this institution.

There was another character that worked on Hunt’s named Bruce. He had a brother who also worked on the pier named Eddie. Bruce ran the El Scrambler at the front of the pier. He was a filthy person and so was his brother Eddie. I don’t even know where these carny types came from. Bruce was known as a person who rarely bathed and apparently always stunk. Our team on the Nugget and the guys over at the Flume didn’t really associate with anyone else on the pier. We were too busy running the two biggest money makers on the pier every night.

But I remember someone told me that somebody had left bars of soap and bottles of shampoo at Bruce’s ride one day. I thought that was cruel. Having been a victim to bullying and humiliation in middle school I found this really mean. But people can be wicked, especially in low-end jobs like carny life. I remember some of the guys over at the Log Flume one night grabbed Bruce and threw him in the water tank of their ride. It was their idea of sending him a message that he desperately needed a bath. Again… terrible, cruel behavior. My guys at the Nugget never had anything to do with that sort of crap. I always had a soft spot for Bruce. He just seemed like a poor soul. He was a nice person but just lacked options. But the stuff that was done to him was awful. This wasn’t teen boy stuff. He was a grown man, which made it all worse. The Log Flume guys got drilled by management for that infraction and after that, they left Bruce alone.

But on a lighter note, Bruce actually met a girl that summer and fell in love. I would see them together all of the time. I think she worked in the ticket office. Her name was Cathy. This one guy who worked one of the games up at the front of the pier would refer to them as ‘Muskrat Love’ when he saw them. They eventually got married.

Here’s a shocker: Ironically, in 1986 when I went to work as a teller at Midlantic Union Trust Bank, Cathy actually was a teller there too, and trained me. She was in charge of the safe deposit vault. Two years after that in 1988, she worked as a teller in their North Wildwood branch. I suppose she and her husband Bruce were struggling financially, and she actually stole money from the bank.

Back then you could pay your gas and electric bills at your local bank. If a customer came in and paid their bill with cash, she would steal the cash and mark the bill paid. Sadly, it was a horrible plan, because the next month all of these customers came in saying their utility bills were delinquent when they had receipts that they paid. All of the payments were processed by Cathy. I was an assistant manager by then and they sent me down there to sort it out with the manager there. Cathy was crying and they fired her for the infraction. The banks back then didn’t prosecute you, they simply let you go to avoid the embarrassment and community exposure. Crazy man!

The pier was filled with all kinds of characters and I became friends with several of them. I was just getting started in my new job as a ride operator on Hunt’s and was really excited to see what life would be like working every night on the boardwalk!

If anyone has any good “character” stories from Hunt’s I’d love to hear about them in the comments!

 

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

Hunt’s Pier – Chapter 3 – Family Vacation

Wildwood Crest, New Jersey – 1960’s

A few years before my parents owned the summer place in North Wildwood, we stayed at a motel called the Villa Nova in Wildwood Crest. They would take a room each summer for 3 days in June, and 3 more in September. There was a restaurant next door to the motel called The Captain’s Table. To me, that was a cool exotic nautical-themed place. Even though we were only a two-hour drive from our home in Philadelphia, going to the shore was traveling to come exotic locale back then.

The world was a bigger package than our little neighborhood in Lawndale.

Wildwood Mid-Century Modern Motels & Hotels | RoadsideArchitecture.com

Villa Nova Motel, Wildwood Crest, NJ - Booking.com

Wildwood, NJ was an amazing wondrous place. We all loved it. I remember I’d be watching TV as a kid and a commercial would come on for Dorney Park. I’d say to my dad, “That place looks fun, why don’t we ever go there?”

“Because that place is a junkyard, son.” my dad would say. (Back then the place was a dump. Nothing like what it is today.

We’d always go to the beach as a family in the morning. It wasn’t as hot then, and not as crowded. By the time lunchtime rolled around we were back at the motel.

I was never a fan of the beach too much when I was little. Big waves, crabs, and deep water were things I didn’t want any part of.  There is old home movie footage of me as a toddler walking back towards the car because I hated the sand.

I remember once I was working on sandcastles with my dad and the backs of my legs got really sunburned. It really hurt and my mom applied some vaseline to take out the sting and soothe the burn. But the best part was when everybody else went back to the beach or the pool in the afternoon, I got to stay behind in the air-conditioned room to lie on the couch and watch TV. (Which is what I preferred to do anyway.)

I think even back then they had cable TV down there, so there were channels and shows I’d never seen before which I found facinating.

But by the time dusk arrived we were all dressed and ready to go to the boardwalk. It was the mid to late 1960s and we’d actually get dressed up nice to go to the boardwalk. Mom and the sisters in dresses, and dad and I in button-down shirts and slacks. It was a different time, but as a family my parents always dressed us up to go anywhere. “I don’t want you all looking like a bunch of slumgullians,” my mother would say.

Wildwood always had the best boardwalk in New Jersey.

Each summer evening, the American dream was played out along the boardwalk’s more than 70,000 wooden planks. Classic rides and old-fashioned amusements stood toe-to-toe with 20st-century innovation and excitement. Five amusement piers boasted more rides than Disneyland, complete with world-class rollercoasters, beachfront waterparks, family-friendly attractions, and cutting-edge thrill rides. In addition, a seemingly endless array of restaurants and shops offer everything from classic boardwalk fare like funnel cakes and homemade fudge to seafood specials, gourmet pizza, and contemporary casual beach fare.

As I said, back then it was like traveling to an exotic wonderland.

The idea of a boardwalk originated when a railroad conductor, Alexander Boardman, got tired of cleaning beach sand from his trains. He suggested constructing a wooden walkway for seaside strolls. Atlantic City dedicated the first boardwalk in 1870. Thirty years later, the City of Wildwood laid its first boardwalk directly on the sand along Atlantic Avenue, from Oak Avenue to Maple Avenue, just 150 yards long.

The world-famous Wildwood Boardwalk is home to a dazzling display of lights, colors, sounds, and smells that awe the senses and offer an unsurpassed level of excitement and energy. As it has for over 100 years, the boardwalk stands as a living, thriving, pulsating celebration of the American imagination.

Hunt’s Pier was pretty much our go-to stop on the boardwalk. It had the best family-oriented rides, and theme park attractions. I’ve gathered a few pieces here to give you an idea of what they had on that concrete pier back then. They’re at the end of this post. Some great videos!

My dad would go on any ride they had. My sister April was fearless, and my sister Janice would go on any ride my dad was willing to venture upon. My mother and I both don’t like heights, things that can make us dizzy, or move too quickly. But there was something for everyone at Hunt’s Pier. I think that’s what set them apart from the other amusement piers. They had the twirly ‘up in the air rides’, and the like, but also had stuff the kids could go on. (Or the scaredy cats)

They had a little classic wooden rollercoaster, called The Flyer. I remember my mom telling me that the ride only lasted 1 minute long. My father and sister Janice would go on that, and also my dad’s favorite ride, the airships.  They were these cool two-seater little jets that went around and around but then you could go high up in the air as the ride spun. (You can see it in this old ad)

That is a lovely glimpse into the past, right?

As I said, I didn’t like rides like that, but one time my dad kind of forced me to go on it with him. He told me it was a wonderful experience. He loved that ride so much. He knew if I went on it with him I’d love it too. I yielded to his wishes and went on it. “Look at that incredible view of the whole boardwalk” he would say as the ride went higher and higher. I would agree with him how great it was, but my eyes were tightly closed the entire ride, so I couldn’t really describe to you here what it was like at all. I just know I was terrified. There are those of us who are brave enough to venture forth in this life and take risks, and those of us who are hard-wired for self-preservation. The same goes for deep water and food for that matter. I spent most of my days growing up trying not to be nauseous or dizzy.

But I loved the boardwalk and Hunt’s Pier. My favorite was the Pirate Ship. The SKUA was built in 1962 and was amazing. A lot of people didn’t know that it actually was built on a hydraulic system that allowed it to rock back and forth while you were walking through it. It was so cool. You walked through it and there were all of these neat pirate-related things inside of it. Galley, and floor effects that would make skeleton hands pop out of a box in front of you, a mirror maze, and even a tilted room, that was insane. It really felt like you were on a big boat out in the sea. You could even go out on the deck and see the whole pier and boardwalk. Not scary at all. Just a really awesome Disneyland-like experience. Thinking back, my favorite part of that attraction was the dungeon. The song, 15 men on a dead man’s chest, yo ho ho, and a bottle of rum, played on a loop in the background. It was really bizarre. It looked like a torture chamber. All animatronic characters that moved. There was this one character in the corner of the room. It was a blonde woman chained to a wall. The only thing she did was breathe. So when she moved you could see her robotic chest heaving through her ripped dress. Strangely erotic, but I was too young to know why I loved her, but I just did. Even as a child I loved the female form.

If a ride wasn’t too wild I would definitely try it. I liked the Whacky Shack and the Keystone Kops. You rode in little cars through them on a track and banged through doors and they had animatronic attractions inside. Based on amusement rides now, it was all very primitive, but we loved it all just the same. Some kids like the wild rides that go fast and high but don’t like rides that had primal scares in them. I had a high tolerance for visually scary rides and always liked horror movies. We all have different fears as children and they all manifest in unique ways.

The Golden Nugget Mine ride was probably the most awesome ride on the pier back then. It was a dark ride, which is sort of an enclosed rollercoaster with cool animatronic attractions inside. It was amazing. Depending on how I was feeling I might go on it.  I loved the southwestern desert, gold prospector theme, but it was a three-story ride that had two hills in it. I liked it because it had so many neat things in it, which were groundbreaking for the time. But that ride wouldn’t come into play until a decade later in my life.

Overall just lovely memories from our childhood. We would sometimes venture down to Sportland Pier and my dad and the girls would go on the Supersonic rollercoaster. Or up to Marine Pier, (Later called: Mariner’s Landing) to ride the Wild Mouse. They were both new German-built steel coasters that would be predecessors of what was to come for all rollercoasters. But like everything else, I wanted nothing to do with any of that stuff. Too afraid I’d throw up on it. I liked the dark ride called The Monster’s Den. It was a spooky ride without any hills or dips. If I remember correctly, you could ride, or walk through the attraction.

I was just happy to be there among all of that visual and audio excitement. It was like nothing else I’d ever seen before. I think my dad may have thought if I didn’t experience all of the things he knew were awesome, I’d somehow be missing out on something. He wanted to offer us all of the joy he felt. But if you don’t have any interest in doing something, there isn’t a loss. You’ll find fun doing something else. I didn’t want to feel the fearful rush of a thrill ride, I’d rather move through an attraction at my own pace and experience different feelings. Something I could control and manage.

It was really a wonderful time for our family. The classic 1960’s experience of piling the kids into the car and taking them to the seashore for a few days in the summer. Escape the heat and pollution of the city, and breathe that sweet sea air. Days frolicking on the beach and building drippy castles in the sand. Watching as the tide rolled in and the ocean once again reclaiming its property.

These fun times continued each summer through the late ’60s and into the ’70s when my dad bought a house at the shore and we got to stay down there all summer.

Hunt’s Pier already loomed large in our collective legend, but the real fun for me would come many years later. 

Take a stroll down memory lane with me and check out these links:

10 Rides You Miss From Hunt’s Pier

And as always, here’s a little song to close out this chapter.

Special thanks to Joe Doyle for his video work

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