Sunday, February 17, 2008

Bayshores Flashback They shook the rafters...

And drank 10 cent beers - In Memorial Days gone by...... By William Kelly (Originally published in the Atlantic City Sun - Friday, May 22, 1981).

"Places make us - first genes, then places - after that it's everyman for himself. God help us, and good luck to one and all." - William Saroyan - "Places Where I've Done Time."


Memorial Day weekend, the traditioanl beginning of summer has arrived, and with it thousands of kids just out of school. Their cars stream around the Somers Point Circle, hell bent on hitting the beach, towards a summer that's finally here.

Across the Ocean City causeway they pass the Bay Shores Cafe marquee - a dull burnout green neon sign on an empty lot. For anyone who has spent a weekend at this part of the Jersey Shore, that marquee stands as a relic, a memorial to an era gone by.

For now there's only a dusty vacant lot along the bay. Since it's prime development property there'sa blueprint lying in a drawer somewhere that illustrates what could be or will be. But for many people that quadrant of the univerise still rings with memories.

In the 20's and 30's, as the Bay Shores nicelodeon played songs for a bullalo head, they'd dance the boogie-woogie and do the jitterbug. During World War II girls in gowns and soldiers in brown would sway to the big band sounds of Tommy Dorsey, Benny Goodman and Glenn Miller, then break out into the Lindy Hop, with hands and feet flying.

"We'd shake the rafters," one former patron remembered, "and we'd laugh and say how one day the dance floor would fall into the bay."

Until the storm of '44 took out the deck the dance floor extended out over the bay. Only the pilings are still in place today, and now only vibrate with the tides.

After the storm, near the end of the war, Tony Marotta opened Tony Marts across the street, but the competition only brought in more people, making Bay Avenue a popular entertainment strip, with other clubs like Steel's Ship Bar, the Under 21 Club and the Anchorage. But Bay Shores was always the flagship on the water.

Vince Rennich started working there in 1952, just out of the Army, the year before they remodeled it for the last time.

"My mother introduced me to a neighbor up in Philadelphia, John McCann, one of the owners, and he offered me a job for the summer," recalled Rennich. Starting out as a bar back, washing glasses and stocking ice, Vince eventually became a bartender, and lived in a room above the club with a window overlooking the bay. "It was a dump with a million dollar view," he would later say.

Opening the weekend before Memorial Day and closing the weekend after Labor Day, many of Bay Shores employees - the bartenders, waiteresses, bouncers and musicians would go to Florida and work there for the season, returing to Somers Point in the spring. "We would open the doors in the spring and the beer bottles and glasses would still be on the bar from the night they closed," said Vince.

When they razed the building last year (to make way for the Waterfront), college penants - West Chester States, Penn State, Villanova, Princeton - still lined the ceilings.

Rennich worked at Bay Shores for five years, until 1957, when he got married, was starting a family, and needed a full time, year 'round job, so he took a shift at Gregory's on Shore Road and remained there every since.

"Before 1953 there was a partition across the bar," Rennich said, "with piano music for older people on one side and rock & roll on the other side for the kids."

At the time, all the "kids" were over 21, the drinking age before the 1970s, when they lowered it to 18, because that was the age they were drafting boys to fight in Vietnam. It was the lowering of the drinking age to 18 that killed the Bay Avenue Strip as it was, bringing in a younger, sassier, immature crowd that intimated the mature, serious set.

"In those days," Rennich recalls, "you could come down here with $10, have a good time, and go home with $9. You made less, but had more. You could do anything you wanted because the price was right. It was 10 cents for a glass of Gretz beer, and later it was 50 cents a bottle of beer and 60 cents a shot."

In the late 40s and early 50s and into the 70s, Mike Pedicin, Sr. played sax and led the band on the Bay Shores stage, his young son Mike Pedicin, Jr. playing a toy sax at his knees. Then he moved over to Steel's Ship Bar, the Jolly Roger and DiOrio's, taking his crowd and popular song, "Shake A Hand," with him.

Pete Carrol was another Bay Shores staple, playing songs like "Sweet Georgia Brown," and Tido Mombo, a hairy hippie, was before his time, dressing like Jesus Christ and trying to walk on water.

Bill Haley & the Comets, Conway Twitty and Levon & the Hawks played Tony Marts across the street, Bay Shores followed suit and countered with Rocco & the Saints, Billy Duke & the Dukes, Tido Mombo and Pete Carrol.

Rocco & the Saints featured two teenage sidemen, Frankie Avalon and Bobby Rydel, who would go on to make waves on their own.

Bay Shores leased out their kitchen to "South Philly Bernie," who would grill up hot dogs, burgers and cheesteaks, and the $2 ticket voucher you got to park your car or as cover at the door was good for drinks or food.

Bay Shores was THE PLACE to go to hear great music, party and dance for decades. On weekends the matinee shows became a popular post beach party, and if it ever rained, the bands and bartenders checked in for a spontaneous jam, with everybody dancing dressed in their bathing suits.

"You couldn't get in the door there were so many people," Rennich recalls. "We'd have to close the place at 7 pm for an hour to clean up and get ready for the second shift, which lasted until 2 am."

When the music stopped in Somers Point they'd just be getting underway at the nearby Dunes on Longport Boulvard, an after-hours joint across the bay bridge in Egg Harbor Township (EHT). Both Bay Shores and the Dunes were owned by the same guys - John McCann, a bootlegger and beer barron and Dick McLain, a builder who also owned the historic General Wayne Inn..

They printed popular t-shirts that read Bay Shores on the front and Dunes Til' Dawn on the back, with a rising sun.

In the late 1960s, Buddy Tweal worked the first front bar of a half-dozen or so bars that surrounded the stage and dance floor. Tweal was a character out of the Endless Summer, taking off for Colorado in the winter and making it to Fort Lauderdale by Easter and Bay Shores for Memorial Day.

One of the most popular Bay Shores bands of the late '60s was Johnny Caswell and the Chrystal Mansion. Caswell perfected a Joe Cocker-like inflecion and recorded a few songs, some of which can still be found on the juke box at the Anchorage and Maloney's in Margate.

Charlie Brown, who worked at Bay Shores for awhile before moving down the street to the Anchorage, said he last heard from Caswell a year or so ago. "I got a prayer chain letter from him in California," Charlie Brown says, "I threw it out and my luck's been bad ever since."

After Caswell, Malcom and his band "Hereafter" came in from near Lancaster, Pa., and were popular for doing cover songs like Rod Stewart's "Maggie Mae," which I remember distinctly.

The band across the street at Tony Marts, led by Ruby Falls, gave Malcolm and Hereafter at Bay Shores some stiff competition, and they would time their sets so people could hear one band and then go across the street to hear the other. Then at the end of one summer Malcolm and Ruby got married and disapeared.

It's Memorial Day weekend, and we're left with photos and prints of the old boarded up rock house, sitting there like a derelict ghost ship that's slipping into the bay.

The bands and building are gone, and you can't gell if the pilings are shaking from the wind and the surf or some long forgoten jitterbug tune that's still vibrating.

xxx

19 comments:

Ray Sharp said...

Hi Bill,
I was just reading your blog about Somers Point, NJ. I played Bayshores and the Dunes for several summers in the late 60s. The Dunes was 100 days in a row, 30 min on 30 min off two bands. My Name is Ray Sharp and my band was the Soul Set. Malcomb and Ruby live in NYC. They are school teachers. Johnny Caswell is in La. He has a Audio Co and a huge rehearsal facility where you can rehearse and record and video your work. He does the sound for live concerts and TV shows. Paul Lorenzo that was the manager of the Anchorage owns a club in Fort Lauderdale call Cheers. Just thought I would bring you up to date on some of the old crowd. Somers Point has a place in my heart. Great place to spend your summers. Great memories and good times.

Ray Sharp
bata@newwavecomm.net

William Kelly said...

Hey Ray,

Thanks for the update,
and hope to hear from you again.

I'd also like to hear from Malcomb and Ruby, Caswell and Paul Lorenzo, if anybody down at Cheers or the Parrott in Lauderdale are paying attention.

Bill Kelly
billkelly3@gmail.com

cappie said...

I was the keyboard player, (Hammond organ), with Ruby Falls and the Rock City Band. The first summer, we were booked at Tony Marts. After the first night he fired us because he said that he didn't like Barbara, (Ruby) jumping up and down like a rabbit. Mcann let us play for him at Dunes and we got the house band gig for that summer. The next Summer, he hired us for Bayshores and we played on the back stage over the water while Malcolm and Hereafter played on the side stage. Ruby was married to our guitar player and the band folded when she and Malcolm got together. Yep, 7 nights a week with a jam on Sunday. What a trip!

Anonymous said...

Amazing. I was sitting here watching tv with my laptop and I typed in bayshore cafe somers point nj and got this blog. My name is Joe Cerisano and I sang with JB and the Bonnevilles. We were from Morgantown WV but every summer we'd come to Bayshores and play the whole summer. In 1968 it was me, Malcom, Dave Coombs, Jay Amentrout and I forget the guitarist's name. I was 17 at the time. Dave and Rita Coombs had to be my legal guardian so I could sing in the club. Caswell was on the front stage and we were on the back stage. Casewell was one of my main infulences. I talk to him once in a while. I also remember going out to the Dunes every night to see Ray Sharp. I could write a book about that summer being 17, hanging out with all the older guys. To say the least I learned a lot. I remember going over to Tony Marts on breaks to see the other groups. I went on to do pretty well in the music biz. Here's my website. www.cerisano.com you might get a kick seein' what it all led too. Anyway, to anyone who was there back then and remembers the Bonneviles there are a couple of neat photos of the band on my website.

Unknown said...

My name is James Monk who, in 1967, was a waiter at Russo's Gingham Club at Ottens Harbor in Wildwood. My roomates were fellow students at WVU in Morgantown, WV. One of my roomates in WV was Harry "the squirrel" Fuller....drummer for JB and the Bonnevilles. He had made enough money working somers point and the dunes that he bought a BRG Austin Healey 3000 mit cash. I recollect with great precision the memories of summer 1967, the only summer I spent in Jersey, listening to the Bonnevilles and the Monkey Men. I was a scant 3 months from my 21st B-day but the fake ID sufficed. The dead cat hanging on a coathanger from the Monkey Mens bassist Fender neck is burned sharply into my brain. Johnny Burrell, who as I recollect was a glass blower near Morgantown was a handsome man with a very good voice. I lived in Aspen , Co. for the next ten years and have been in Chicago for ensueing 3 decades.......I have not heard such awesome energetic music since I left New jersey.

Anonymous said...

Hey Monk,
Joe cerisano here. I remember Harry real well. He was a great drummer and a really good guy. The one thing that stuck in my mind the first time I said him play was the painting on his bass drum head. It was a Hot Rod with the Bonnevilles written on it. He was the drummer when I first started singing with the group when they came back to Morgantown that fall of 67. I wasn't officially in the group until that following April but Dave Coombs the leader said I could come down from Fairmont and sing with the band on Friday afternoons whenever I wanted. It's funny how I found out that JB was leaving. Come to find out he was my 3 third cousin and my grandmother told me about him. So I just picked up the phone and called Dave Coombs. When told him I could sing. When he asked me how old I was. When I said 16 I could hear him laugh a little but said he still wanted to hear me sing. So the following Weds I went down to the Haunted House where they were playing with my mom and sang "Hold On I'm Comin". When they took a break Dave brought us to the band room. He had a big smile on his face and said "You can sing!". that's when he invited me to come down and sing anytime I wanted. One thing lead to another and I was asked to join the group in April 68. I has just turned 17. As I said, Harry was leaving so he sold me all his three piece suits which I had to have altered. I'm sure you remember that The Bonneviles had suits for every night of the week.
I remember hearing about Sam Allen and the Monkey Men! I never saw them but they were a legend the summer of 68 at Bayshores. We play opposite Johnny Caswell and the Secrets which became the Crystal Mansion.
Because of The Bonnevilles I took the long road and ended up in Central NJ by way of LA then NYC. Sill singing and did ok.. At least I'm still alive and kickin'. www.cerisano.com

Anonymous said...

Hey Monk,
Joe cerisano here. I remember Harry real well. He was a great drummer and a really good guy. The one thing that stuck in my mind the first time I said him play was the painting on his bass drum head. It was a Hot Rod with the Bonnevilles written on it. He was the drummer when I first started singing with the group when they came back to Morgantown that fall of 67. I wasn't officially in the group until that following April but Dave Coombs the leader said I could come down from Fairmont and sing with the band on Friday afternoons whenever I wanted. It's funny how I found out that JB was leaving. Come to find out he was my 3 third cousin and my grandmother told me about him. So I just picked up the phone and called Dave Coombs. When told him I could sing. When he asked me how old I was. When I said 16 I could hear him laugh a little but said he still wanted to hear me sing. So the following Weds I went down to the Haunted House where they were playing with my mom and sang "Hold On I'm Comin". When they took a break Dave brought us to the band room. He had a big smile on his face and said "You can sing!". that's when he invited me to come down and sing anytime I wanted. One thing lead to another and I was asked to join the group in April 68. I has just turned 17. As I said, Harry was leaving so he sold me all his three piece suits which I had to have altered. I'm sure you remember that The Bonneviles had suits for every night of the week.
I remember hearing about Sam Allen and the Monkey Men! I never saw them but they were a legend the summer of 68 at Bayshores. We play opposite Johnny Caswell and the Secrets which became the Crystal Mansion.
Because of The Bonnevilles I took the long road and ended up in Central NJ by way of LA then NYC. Sill singing and did ok.. At least I'm still alive and kickin'. www.cerisano.com

Anonymous said...

Hey Monk,
Joe cerisano here. I remember Harry real well. He was a great drummer and a really good guy. The one thing that stuck in my mind the first time I said him play was the painting on his bass drum head. It was a Hot Rod with the Bonnevilles written on it. He was the drummer when I first started singing with the group when they came back to Morgantown that fall of 67. I wasn't officially in the group until that following April but Dave Coombs the leader said I could come down from Fairmont and sing with the band on Friday afternoons whenever I wanted. It's funny how I found out that JB was leaving. Come to find out he was my 3 third cousin and my grandmother told me about him. So I just picked up the phone and called Dave Coombs. When told him I could sing. When he asked me how old I was. When I said 16 I could hear him laugh a little but said he still wanted to hear me sing. So the following Weds I went down to the Haunted House where they were playing with my mom and sang "Hold On I'm Comin". When they took a break Dave brought us to the band room. He had a big smile on his face and said "You can sing!". that's when he invited me to come down and sing anytime I wanted. One thing lead to another and I was asked to join the group in April 68. I has just turned 17. As I said, Harry was leaving so he sold me all his three piece suits which I had to have altered. I'm sure you remember that The Bonneviles had suits for every night of the week.
I remember hearing about Sam Allen and the Monkey Men! I never saw them but they were a legend the summer of 68 at Bayshores. We play opposite Johnny Caswell and the Secrets which became the Crystal Mansion.
Because of The Bonnevilles I took the long road and ended up in Central NJ by way of LA then NYC. Sill singing and did ok.. At least I'm still alive and kickin'. www.cerisano.com

Barbara said...

I was just reading the blog about BayShores in Somers Point. In 1967 or so, I was the girlfriend of Jerry Antonelli who was the bassist for Hereafter. I lived in Harrisburg, PA and would make that long trip from Hbg to Somers Point every weekend of the summer. At that time the band consisted of Jerry Antonelli, Malcolm, later Barbara (Ruby), Jay Armentrout (percussion), Jimmie somebody who was an awesome guitar player on Fender Stratocaster, Michael Abramson (vocals), Bob (Robert) Martin (organ), who later went to California to pursue his illustrious music career and was in Frank Zappa's group. I forget who the other band members were, excuse me, but age and events took a lot of memories out of my head. LOL.. Fat Rabbit, played at the Dunes, circa 1967-68, was an earlier group with some of the Hereafter members. John Opatkowitz was the drummer. Bob Martin (organ, sax, you name it), Jerry Antonelli on bass, etc.
I know we had so much fun, and I don't know how I managed to get back to Harrisburg in time for Monday at 8am for work, but I did. Youth allows us to do that!!
I lived through it.. OH I remember 10 for a buck at the Anchorage... Sunday jam sessions in Margate... Circle Diner where I watched in amazement when a guy fell into his mashed potatoes after a night of drinking. Lots of laughs!!
Barbara Eberly, Florida

Unknown said...

I spent years at all the Summer Point clubs in the late 60s and early 70s. They are memories that will never leave me. Pure fun. As much hell raisin we believed we made it was innocent compared to the insane America we now live in. Does anyone have any pictures to post of the clubs and the bands? Interior shots. I did have some pictures because I had friends who played in bands in both Bayshores and Tony Marts and I had shots of Ruby Fall and the Rock City Band when Malcolm was on stage and they where doing tunes together. After a few moves over the many years I have lost the pictures. Yes I woke up in the Dunes parking lot more then once and can’t remember how I made it across the 9th. street bridge.
Kurt

Unknown said...

I tended bar at Bay Shores, Tony Mart and the Dunes...also Maloney's Pub in Margate...good times. :D

Pete Brunner said...

Pete Brunner here: I worked at the under twenty one club and lived there for one summer. Johnny Caswell and the group called the Dartenals (?) were the house groups. I believe they also played out of the Erie Club in Philly. Johnny wore shark skin suits and took baths in Canoe cologne. He had the biggest bottle of it I've ever seen. Back then he sang Ray Charles music, jazz, soul, blues. Years went by and a saw him with the Crystal Mansion all wired up. I told him about the under twenty one club and he paused a moment all spaced out and mumbled "man that was forever ago man". He looked so much different than the greaser in the shark skins that I once new. No more slicked back black hair that you still see in the old pictures of him.
The two things I remember the most about the Under Twenty One Club was the night Chubby Checker cut an album which was called "live at the under twenty one club". I'm on the cover of it and never bought it till I became a grandfather and my grandchildren wanted to see it. I spent thirty five dollars to have it found. No one bought the album so it's rare. The other big memory was when Joey Dee and the Starliters on their break from Bay Shores came over and joined Gary U. S. bonds who we had and together they sang Shout. We only had four house microphones and by the end of the song only one still worked. Wish that was recorded, it was one hell of a jam.
I forgot to add, the Under Twenty One Club was owned by Hi Lit and a partner who's last name was Sutter I think. During the day I could look into Tony Marts and Bay Shore's and the mess left over from the night before wanting to know how great it was. The day I turned twenty one I drove down and fully expected to get carded at the door. (I didn't look twenty one) Much to my disappointment, I wasn't carded. Goes without saying that I'd already been to the Dunes many times before I was twenty one, didn't everyone?
A few year later I rented an apartment in Margate for three or four years but that’s another story. One I couldn’t write about here 

Boscovs said...

I worked at Tony Marts as a cocktail waitress in 1970, I think. I dated a bartender there who was 6'10 and was from Cherry Hill. Never saw him again and cannot find him. I was friends with a band that played at Bay Shores, lead singers name was Gregory, I think. I am looking for a fan, Sara who lived in Summerville and the italian wife of the guitar player who lived in Upper Darby. Cindy cindysworld14@aol.com

Unknown said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Unknown said...

Geri Mingori/Atlantis
Bayshores was one of the first clubs and best clubs I"ve played. The Audience was awesome we played everything rock funk and jazz. I played the last week that it was opened. I had a band Atlantis, shared stages with Sam the Band, HereAfter,Leon, Fire,Southern Cross, Hit and Run, The club had a fire one year with our equiptment on stage. Great memories, bands bartenders managers and people..Had great summers there.

Anonymous said...

Hey Geri, just sayin' "Hey". It's funny 'cause it's seems sooner or later we're all gonna make it here to this page! Looking back they really were amazing times and man so much talent!!

Unknown said...

Yes Joe, I'm sorry we didn't get the chance to hang out more and write!
Hope to see you again soon..maybe a reunion!

Unknown said...

On a whim I did a search on the Monkey Men to see what might come up and found this thread. My group the Luvd Ones did a couple of gigs at Bayshores in 1966. We were based in a fleabag motel across the circle in Somers Point. From there we also did gigs in Long Beach Island, Stone Harbor, Avalon and Wildwood. Offstimes did a lot of bar times at Bayshores, Marts and the Dunes. Nice to see people keeping the flame alive.

Mr. Kimball said...

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