Monday, June 23, 2008

Dunes 'til Dawn - By Lynda Van Devanter

Dunes ‘til Dawn – By Lynda Van Devanter (Chapter 4 of Home Before Morning The Story of an Army Nurse in Vietnam (University of Massachusetts Press, Amherst, 1983, p. 51 to 61).

….Everyone who met J.J. – Jonathan James Smith – agreed that he was exceptionally handsome. My mother called him a "pretty boy," and at the beach, I would notice my friends stealing glances at him when they thought I wasn’t looking. With his short dirty blond hair and a face that looked boyish and yet rugged at the same time, J.J. bore a certain resemblance to Troy Donahue if you looked at him from a distance. Up close, he was even more attractive. He had these cute little laugh lines around the edges of his mouth and a cleft in his chin.

The thing that made J.J. most exceptional, however, was that he wanted to marry me, a girl who wore Clearasil to be every night and who still could live up to the nickname my sisters had given me when I was ten. They called me Crisco. It was sort for "fat in the can."

He said he loved me that night in August when he gave me the ring, a third-of-a-carat oval-shaped diamond. We had been lying on the beach, looking up at the stars, and holding hands. It had been the first time a boy spoke to me of love. I thought I was dreaming. But it wasn’t a dream. He wanted to marry me. And I said yes. Now, I was wearing that diamond.

J.J. and I had met two weeks after my graduation from nursing school, when he came up to me at Bayshores, a nightclub in Somers Point, New Jersey, and asked me to dance. He was one of the two best dancers I knew. The other was Barbara. Maybe it was fortunate for me that she wasn’t there that night.

I had gone to Ocean City with five other girls who also graduated from Mercy. Together, we got a house near the beach and jobs at a local hospital in Somers Point, where I worked the seven-to-three shift in the emergency room. Our plan was to spend all our free time during June helping each other to study for the Maryland state boards, which would be given at the end of the month. When the exams were finished, we would spend the remainder of our summer celebrating and waiting for the exam results. It was a good plan.

Each day, as soon as we were through at the hospital, we would grab our bathing suits and books and head down to the beach where we worked on our tans and our nursing fundamentals, quizzing each other on everything that had been covered in the previous three years.

Although Barbara came up to visit on weekends, she spent the summer with her father, who had orders transferring him from the Pentagon to the Presidio of San Francisco in September.

Gina was in Philadelphia, where she and her fiancé were making final plans for their wedding, which was to take place in July. "I’ll give him about one year of fun," she said. "Then we’re gonna start making a whole bunch of babies. None of this birth control crap. I’m going back to being a good Catholic girl."

That first night with J.J., we danced until we were both ready to drop. Then we danced some more. When the band played the slow songs and he gently eased my head onto his shoulder, I had new and unfamiliar stirrings inside. I could small a musky scent from his sweat and I felt both protected and afraid when his strong arms encircled me.

His parents had a house nearby in Tuckahoe, but he was only visiting. J.J. was a soldier, a buck sergeant, who had returned that week from a year as an infantryman in Vietnam.

"What was it like?" I asked.

"It sucked."

During the next few weeks, I saw him every day. He would join us for our study sessions at the beach and he sometimes served as our quizmaster, firing questions at us as quickly as his machine gun must have fired rounds at the Vietcong.

"What did you do in Vietnam?"

"I sweated all the time, took a lot of crap from people, and dreamed about the kind of car I would buy when I got back to the world."

"No, really. What was your job like?"

"I humped the boonies and got shot at too many times."

"But what was it like?"

"I told you; it sucked."

We went out to dinner together, walked the beach in our bare feet, and laughed at all the silliest things. On weekends, we would party with my friends and their newly acquired boyfriends. We’d start out at the Anchorage, a neighborhood bar that offered seven beers for a dollar, and leave there about ten o’clock to go dancing at Bayshores. When Bayshores closed around two, we’d head for a place called the Dunes, on the peninsula in Somers Point. It was open until six and the theme was "Dunes ‘til Dawn." Those words were on the black T-shirts J.J. and I were given the night we won the dance contest.

"Isn’t your father proud that his son fought in the war?" I asked.

"I don’t know."

"As soon as I finish my training, I’m going to ask them to send me to Vietnam."

"Don’t do it."

"Why not?"

"Because it sucks."

He had a way of dancing that was wild and flamboyant, yet somehow controlled. He seemed to be not just moving to the music, but a part of it, his body another instrument being played by the band. He would laugh in the middle of a song, get a faraway look in his eyes and then release an energy that would automatically draw everyone’s attention. Curiously, I found myself keeping up with him. It was fun. And exciting.

"What are you laughing at, J.J.?"

"Myself. I never knew I could feel this way about a girl."

"Which way?"

"You ask too many questions."

We made out on the dining room floor while my girlfriends slept in their beds. We used to kiss until it felt like my lips might fall off. I wanted to crawl up into his arms and spend my whole life there. My heart would beat so fast that I thought it was going to pound its way right out of my chest.

"I can’t breathe."

"I don’t care."

"But I’m afraid."

"Don’t be."

When Barbara came up two weeks after I’d met J.J., I couldn’t wait to let her in on the good news. She listened with amusement and then grabbed my wrist. "Three hundred and twenty-eight," she said. "Fastest pulse I’ve ever seen. Let’s see if I have all the symptoms right: heart palpitations, rapid pulse, chills and sweats, clammy palms, loss of appetite, and an overwhelming desire to jump someone’s bones."

"I didn’t say anything about wanting to jump someone’s bones,"

"But you do. Don’t you?"


"Ah, ha,’ she said, "what is it?"

"Well, nurse," I said, "what is it?"

She furrowed her brow and paced the floor with her hands behind her back. "In my professional opinion, after three years at the best medical facility in the world, studying under the sharpest minds God ever created, I would unequivocably diagnose this rare affliction as a case of love."

"Oh, no," I said in mock horror. "Do you think it’s curable?"

"Curable? No," she said. "In your case it’s probably chronic. However, there is one possible way to keep it under control."

"Please, nurse, please tell me."

"You must jump his bones."

I was genuinely horrified. "What?"

"I can see that the patient doesn’t quite accept my professional recommendation."

I was too shocked to respond.

"There is also another possible way to help this case," she offered. "Perhaps a method that would be more acceptable."

"What is it?"

"Having him jump your bones," she said, "and make him think it’s all his idea. Of course, this is the more effective method, because it will call you to have a strong resolve while he spends some time whining, wheedling, and cajoling. Those elements are absolutely required so that he’s convinced it’s his idea and you’re only going along with it to please him."

"But I’m a virgin," I said.

"Ah, yea, that rare species: American Catholic Virginus. Probably of the type that believes in saving oneself for marriage."

"That’s right," I answered firmly.

Although I may have been sexually naïve that summer, I had the misforture to become known as "the penis expert" at the hospital. The unofficial title didn’t have anything to do with my virtue, or lack of it. I just happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. It seemed that whenever I worked the ER, I always ended up with the males who had problems with their genitalia. One day I got his guy whose wife had put a wedding ring on his penis. He became hard and the ring wouldn’t come off. With the blood supply blocked, the penis wouldn’t go down, either. Although it may sound funny, any man who has been through anything like it probably doesn’t think of it as a laughing matter.

We tried a couple of different methods to remove the ring, including soap and grease. None of them worked. There was only one solution. I called the hospital’s engineering department. When we walked into the guy’s cubicle a few minutes later with a long-handled tool that looked like oversized cutting pliers, he looked like he would have a heart attack. "What are you going to do with that?" he asked.

"We’re going to cut it off," the doctor answered.

The guy put his hands in front of his private area. "No!"

"Not the penis, dummy. The ring."

Another time, I took care of a kid who had been surfing when he got hit in the groin area after falling off his board. The injury had stimulated his artery to shoot blood into his penis, which had become engorged. The bruise from hematoma had blocked the blood from returning through the vein, so he was in a state of pripism. "Jesus, Van Devanter," the doctor said. "If that’s the way you affect all men, spare me."

….The people who were making the jokes may have thought they were funny, but I began to feel that the real joke was on me. Here I was, a twenty-one-year-old girl who had probably seen hundreds of penises in nursing school and the emergency room, and I hadn’t yet seen a single one being used for its intended purpose. I began to feel like my virginity was an albatross. I had to get rid of it.

However, there was the problem of finding the right situation. When it happened the first time, I didn’t want it to be on the dining room floor while my girlfriends were asleep. On the other hand, I was afraid that if I waited for the perfect circumstances, I would end up being a fifty-year-old virgin, still anticipating "the night." Even at that, I still had to convince myself that the person I was going to make love with for the first time was the person I would marry.

J.J. came to Ocean City every weekend and some weeknights after he started working at Indiantown Gap. I began to notice how different he was from the boyfriends the other girls had. Once, when he fell asleep on the dining room floor, he woke up in the middle of the night screaming. When I mentioned it in the morning, he shrugged it off. Another time, he yelled something about "slopes" and "gooks" in his sleep. When I touched him to wake him out of the nightmare, he was covered in sweat. As soon as he felt my hand, he jumped on top of me, put one hand on my throat and drew back the other hand to smash my face. Then he woke up.

I was terrified. "Is something wrong?" I asked.

"Don’t touch me right now."

"Okay, but what’s the matter?"

"Just a bad dream," he said. "Go back to sleep." He rolled to his side away from me and I thought I heard him crying softly.

He had periods when he was moody and they could come at any time. He’d go into depressions for a few hours and wouldn’t talk to anyone. Maybe I should have questioned these things more than I did, but I figured him for the strong silent type. In a sense, his dark moods made him more intriguing.

Once, when a gas station attendant didn’t have any hi-test for J. J.’s Barracuda, J. J. to this wild look in his eyes and acted like he was going to kill the guy. He screamed obscenities, smacked his hand against the dashboard, and then floored the accelerator, leaving a patch of burning rubber and a perplexed pump jockey. He would sometimes come out of his depressions with a bang and immediately begin partying like there was no tomorrow. He could be a wild bronco – unruly, loud and full of fire.

But he was always gentle with me. I was sure I loved him, which was why, a few weeks after I got the engagement ring, I told him that I was ready to make love with him.

It was Labor Day weekend.

As soon as J.J. got over the shock, we began to search for a nice place. Unfortunately, trying to find an open room at the Jersey shore on Labor Day weekend is about as difficult as locating the Holy Grail. We started in Ocean City at seven o’clock. Next was Somers Point. Then Longport., then Margate, then Ventnor City and all the way past Atlantic City to Brigantine. It was all the same – NO VACANCY. We drove out to the parkway and headed south. By midnight, we had tried motels all the way down to North Wildwood and the only thing we had to show for it was frustration.

"Lynda," please, let’s go back to your house."

"I want more privacy."

"All right, then I know a great spot where we can park and …."

"No! Not in the car."

"Well, I guess we’re out of luck."

"I guess so."

We headed back to the Anchorage to drown our frustrations at seven beers for a dollar. J.J. had such a sad expression on his face that he looked like a little boy who had just seen his puppy run over by a train. We sat in silence, both of us staring into our beers until around two in the morning. Suddenly, J.J. snapped out of his mood. He grabbed my arm, swung me around on the stool, kissed me, and laughed., "How could I have been so stupid!" he asked. "We’ve got a place we can use right under our noses, or should I say right under our heads."

"What are you talking about?"

"This place," he said. "There’s an old room upstairs. They used to rent it out. What do you say?"


He took that for a yea, because he was off the stool in a flash. A few seconds later I saw him standing in a corner, talking to the owner and nodding his head. He came back to his seat with a key in his hand and a broad grin on his face. "Shall we?"

"Are you positive it’s all right?" I asked.

"Come on, Lynda."

We walked up the back steps to what must have been one of the all-time sleaziest rooms in the world. It had boxes piled all around, a dirty mattress without any sheets, and a single exposed bulb hanging directly over the bed. Outside the window was a neon sign that kept blinking on and off. "It’s not much," J.J. said.

"You can say that again."

"At least it’s private, Lynda."

"Does it have bugs?"

"Bugs?" J.J. repeated. "Don’t be ridiculous. Let’s get comfortable."

I’ve waited twenty-one years for this, I thought only moments before I felt the quick sharp pain that marked the end of my virginity. I think it happened when the neon sign was off. Or maybe it was on. It was hard to tell because the damned thing flashed so quickly. I guess I must have been in love…..

BK Note: Andrew Carnaglia, the owner of the Anchorage at the time, doesn't recall the incident, but said it rings true, and that Lynda sent him a copy of the book when it was published. I was at the Reagan Airport cafe waiting for a plane to Dallas when I was saddened to read the following:

OBITUARIES Thursday, November 21, 2002

Nurse Lynda Van Devanter Buckley Dies

By Graeme Zielinski

Washington Post Staff Writer

Lynda Van Devanter Buckley, 55, an advocate for women veterans whose influential 1983 memoir of her time as a surgical nurse near the Cambodian border, "Home Before Morning," painted a stark picture of the horrors of the Vietnam War and its psychological aftermath, died Nov. 15 at her home in Herndon.

Mrs. Buckley had systemic collagen vascular disease, which she attributed to her exposure in Vietnam to a combination of chemical agents and pesticides.

She was an Arlington native and a 1965 graduate of Yorktown High School. She served in Vietnam in 1969 and 1970 in a surgical hospital in Pleiku.

She described herself as an idealistic Catholic girl before she went over who thought, "IF our boys were being blown apart, then somebody better be over there putting them back together again. I started to think that maybe that somebody should be me."

Her illusions were shattered by the ugly realities of war, which she described graphically not just in her memoir, but in several other venues.

One of her letters home was included in a 1988 HBO documentary. In it, she described a Christmas Eve of amputations and death for wounded GI’s.

"This is now the seventh month of death, destruction and misery. I’m tired of going to sleep listening to outgoing and incoming rockets, mortars and artillery. I’m sick of facing, every day, a new bunch of children ripped to pieces," she wrote.

She wrote that she and other nurses and doctors turned to drink and drugs and sexual liaisons to find distraction.

Her book, written with Christopher Morgan, was the first widely published account of the war by a women veteran and among the first to deal with the incidence of post-traumatic stress disorder, from which she suffered.

By her account, she developed a drinking problem and failed at marriage and nursing jobs n California as she struggled with flashbacks and anxiety. One recurring image was the nightmare of a teenage soldier whose face had been blown off. Returning to the Washington area in the late 1970s, she finally found a counselor who diagnosed her with post-traumatic stress disorder and she began to heal, in part by writing the memoir.

It was a commercial success and still is used as a teaching tool about Vietnam, but it initially attracted fierce criticism from some veterans, including nurses she served with, who claimed Mrs. Buckley was embroidering the experience for profit and to burnish her antiwar stance.

"Lynda’s exaggeration and the negativism of her book distress me terribly," retired Army Col. Edith Knox said in a 1983 interview with the Washington Post. "This book makes us look like a bunch of bed-hopping, foul mouthed tramps."

But still others supported the account. One, a former Army nurse, Lynn Calmes Kohl, told The Post that, "actually, what Lynda wrote was mild."

The book was inspiration for the television drama series, China Beach," which ran from 1988 to 1991.

Mrs. Buckley became the first executive director of the Vietnam Veterans of America Women’s Project in 1979 and retired in 1984. She continued to write articles, edit volumes of poetry, conduct seminars and give speeches after she retired.

Survivors include her husband, Tom Buckley, and their daughter Molly, both of Herndon; a stepdaughter, Brigid Buckley of Raleigh, N.C.; her mother, Helen Van Devanter of Sterling; and four sisters.

I am going to add Lynda Van Devanter to my Kelly’s Heroes Blog, reserved for Combat Heroes. – BK

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Tony Marts Reunion 2008

TONY MARTS Yesterday and Today – By William Kelly

For over forty years Tony Mart’s giant neon arrow on the roof guided you from the Somers Point circle to Bay Avenue, where Tony Marts was the centerpiece of a small strip of nightclubs where early rock & roll history was made. Now, there’s only an historic marker to memorialize they were even there.

Today, the building at the site of the legendary Tony Marts nightclub sits barren, empty, boarded up and overgrown with weeds, with no real development plans on the horizon.

But at one time, for decades (from 1944 to 1982) it was one of the hottest nightclubs on the East Coast featuring major recording stars and rock & roll bands on two stages, six bars, two dance floors and a line to get in.

It’s been a quarter of a century now since they filmed the movie "Eddie & the Cruisers," held a Last Hurrah party, and then demolished the place, but people just won’t let the good times go.

The trip from then to now was fun for most of those who were there, and the uncertainty of the present situation doesn’t detract from the history of all the good times, which will be celebrated at a Tony Marts Reunion this Sunday afternoon (from 4pm) at the Somers Point American Legion with live entertainment, dancing, good food and t-shirts.

There have been other Tony Mart reunions every few years, the first in June 1986 at Egos, the club that replaced Tony Marts, which featured The Band, who played at Tony Marts in the summer of 1965 as Levon & the Hawks. A ten year reunion was held at Omar’s in Margate, and last September they celebrated the Twenty fifth anniversary of the filming of "Eddie & the Cruisers" at Stumpo’s. "I knew we were going to have a reunion, but I just realized it was 25 years," Tony’s son Carmen Marotta said at the party.

In the last few summers at Tony Mart’s, Carmen would often set up a barbeque pit in the parking lot in the afternoon and share ribs and pork sandwiches with friends and passersby. That’s what this reunion will be like, with locally renowned chef Richard Spurlock, whose father ran the Bay Avenue barber shop, cooking up the grubs.

Although the music will be provided by bands that never played Tony Marts, Billy Walton, Jacque Major, Bobby Fingers and the Mainland Horns certainly exemplify the type of music that they featured at Tony Marts for over forty years.

Billy Walton is one of the hottest young guitarists playing today, and recently opened for Jacque Major at the Stone Pony in Asbury Park. Bobby Fingers is the best sing-a-long piano player in these parts, and the Mainline Horns will certainly round out the proceedings.

"Tony Mart’s is remembered and is famous for "rock & roll," said Carmen, "but actually a broad spectrum of music was played there – big band swing, Dixieland jazz, rhythm and blues, and rock & roll."

For Carmen, who grew up at Tony Mart’s, his earliest memories, "are running around there as a child, playing with the bouncers and musicians, eating cherries, drinking cokes and just being there. I can recall things from 1961 or 1962, when I was about five or six years old. I remember the Fall Guys playing ‘Alabama Jubilee’ and ‘Tiger Rag,’ and doing the Sunday night Showtime, when they would do a Dixieland Southern type of show, dance on the bar and play ‘When the Saints Come Marching In,’ in sort of a mummers kind of way."

While the memories of Tony Marts are still strong, and all of the old nightclubs are gone, the music remains. Carmen, as a member of the city’s cultural commission, helps book the acts for the Friday night beach concerts and Good Old Days picnic, which continue the popular Tony Marts musical traditions.

Tony Mart’s Reunion. Sunday, June 22, 4-8pm, American Legion Post #352, First and Pennsylvania, Avenue, Somers Point, N.J. $12 For tickets or more information call: 609 653-6069

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Somers Point: Where Music Was King


For years, summer crowds flocked to the Shore’s hottest clubs to hear Bobby Rydell, Frankie Avalon, Bill Haley, and a host of other comers. Times changed, and so did the music. Today, only the memories remain.

By Geoffrey Douglas

Teddie O’Keef is still a good looking women. Better looking by today’s standards than when she and Harry Reiser were an item in Somers Point 26 years ago. She’s traded her teenage pudginess and ‘50s hairdo for some lines and creases. But she still turns heads when she wants to, can still dance all night, and still drinks vodka tonics.

Teddie last saw Harry in the spring of ’84. They had dinner together, an awkward 90 minutes of filling in gaps. Before that, it had been 22 years. Harry’s weathered well too, she says. "More dignified, a little heavier, and he wears glasses now. But still (has) that kid face and the same movements. He still looks like Bobby Rydell."

It helped to look like Bobby Rydell in Somers Point in the summer of 1960. Rydell was a big star then, though it had been only a couple of summers since he’d been a baby faced drummer playing backup at Bayshores on the Somers Point traffic circle alongside a trumpeter named Frankie Avalon in a band called Rocko and the Saints. The Saints were gone by the summer of ’60 – Avalon was making movies and Rydell was making hits – but there were a hundred kids in Somers Point, playing a dozen instruments in a half a dozen bars, clawing to reach those heights.

Harry was one of them. He played the trombone with a group called the New Yorkers at a bar known as the Dunes, an after hours club on Longport Boulevard, half a mile from where Rydell and Avalon – and Bill Haley, Dion, Fabian, Conway Twitty, and Duane Eddie – played on their way to the top.

Harry never made it there. You’ve never heard of him, unless you hung out at the Dunes in the summer of ’60, as Teddie O’Keefe did. But, then, Avalon and Rydell haven’t been big for a while, either. They do reunions now and then and manage real estate. Harry is an orthodontist in Philadelphia, though he still plays his trombone on weekends; Teddie is advertising director and part owner of a newspaper at the Shore.

The club that gave Bill Haley his start was knocked down in ’81 to make way for a disco.

Bayshores – where Frankie Avalon laid down his trumpet in the summer of ’57 often enough to break hearts with his crooning – is now a restaurant known for its munchies menu.

The Dunes, where Harry played that summer, was left to rot a decade ago and has now reopened, attempting a comeback as a disco and package store.

But none of this takes away from the summer of ’60, or from the summers just before or just after, when Bay Avenue in Somers Point, and the Boulevard that runs off it, pounded out a beat that was, per square block and per decibel, the equal of anything America witnessed before or since.

The music began in Somers Point a long time before Teddy and Harry’s day. It began, by most accounts, in a small speakeasy on the north side of the Somers Point traffic circle in the early ‘30s. No one remembers the name of the place, only that it had a hot nickelodeon and a foul mouthed barkeep. By the mid ‘30s, Bayshores was adding to the music wit its wood plank dance floor mounted on pilings that stretched out into the bay. The dance floor washed out to sea in the hurricane of ’44, but through the ‘30s and the early ‘40s the Bayshores nickelodeon was the music center of the Shore. Girls in gowns and soldiers in khaki slipped coins in and danced in the aisles to the boogie woogie and the Lindy Hop.

"Those were magical years," recalls a former patron. "We’d shake the rafters, and laugh, and say how the place would fall down someday."

Then when World War II ended, the music went live. It began with Guy Lombardo at Orsatti’s Gateway Casino in the summers of ’46 and ’47. Vaughn Monroe followed, and then came the Ink Spots, Jimmy Dorsey, Count Basie, the Mills Brothers, and a local band called the Three Sons that was the rage of the Shore in the late ‘40s.

"Arnold Orsatti put Somers Point on the map," says Vince Rennich, who has tended bar in a dozen different clubs at the Shore since the summer of ’52. "He was the first one to bring the bands in live. He began it all. For a while, he was the only one."

Orsatti’s Gateway was a club of its era, but that era was ending. By the early ‘50s, the Big Band sounds – the sounds of swing that had peaked in the war years under leaders like Glenn Miller and Jimmy Dorsey – would be displaced by another kind of music. Rock n’ roll was arriving, and Bay Avenue in Somers Point would never be the same.

Tony Marrotta was the first to pick up the new beat. Marotta had arrived in Somers Point from Atlantic City in 1944, parlaying the profits from a Boardwalk hotdog stand into a one room saloon just off the circle on Bay Avenue. He called it Tony Mart’s.

Tony Mart’s did a brisk business through the late ‘40s, its jukebox bringing in the overflow from the Gateway and other, smaller clubs on the circle. After Orsatti sold out in the early ‘50s, Marrotta made the move that must have seemed inevitable. The jukebox went off, the live bands came in, and the result was the birth of rock ‘n roll at the Jersey Shore.

"We started it right here, we changed the world," says Don Dunleavy, who came to the shore from Philadelphia in the late ‘50s as a bartender. Since then, he has owned as many bars as he has tended.

Dunleavy knows the music business better than most. He has booked groups into clubs from New Jersey to Florida, and he has never seen it thrive, he says, as it did in Somers Point in through the late ‘50s and ‘60s.

"It was the only place in the world, I swear, where you could go from one in the afternoon till six in the morning with cookin’ rock ‘n roll- all live bands, all different, nonstop. Never been anything like it, before or since."

Tony Mart’s began with no name, low budget bands in the early ‘50s, bands with a beat but without a following. Still, the kid came in droves. They were college kids mostly, and their banners lined the walls and ceilings of Tony Marts’s still the night it closed four years ago. By the mid ‘50s, with Elvis topping the charts and rock ‘n roll here to stay, you couldn’t squeeze a lemon through the door on a Sunday night in July. The waters had been tested and found sweet, competition was sure to follow.

It came first from Bayshores, which abandoned the swing bands of the ‘40s and early ‘50s in favor of South Philly groups that could be booked overnight on a meager budge. Rocko and the Saints was one of the better ones, with Frankie Avalon on trumpet and Bobby Rydell on drums. Others included Billy Duke and the Dukes, Jimmy Cavello, and an offbeat group headed by a long haired, sandaled sax player who did Jesus imitations and called himself Tito Mambo.

Mambo, the rumor goes, was the "original hippie," nearly a decade ahead of his time. No one can say what became of him, though there are no lack of theories. One of them has him in the Federal Witness Protection Program, living under an alias in Latin America; other sources swear he’s Frank Zappa.

The challenge from Bayshores – and Tony Marrotta’s acceptance of it – made Somers Point what it would be through the next decade. "Tony was a businessman," says Joe Sudder, who managed the bar in the early ‘70s. "He didn’t appreciate musicians. He wanted what the people wanted, not what the musicians wanted; not what the critics wanted, but what was popular with the people. He made me fire a lot of musicians. If the room wasn’t moving, there had to be another band that would get it to move."

There was only one kind of music that moved rooms by the mid ‘50s. And Marrotta, the businessman, having brought rock ‘n roll to the Shore and profited from its success, could now afford the best it had to offer. By 1956 Tony Mart’s had grown to include a bandstand (it would later have two), three bars, wide isles for dancing, and a polished Art Deco ambience.

The best band in the summer of ’56 was Bill Haley and the Comets. Tony Marts booked them, and the crescendo ad been reached. It would last, almost without let up, for a full decade of summers at the Point.

"The Battle of the Bands," Bill Kelly calls it. Kelly, a Shore writer and music nostalgia buff, explains it in terms of competition. "Tony Mart’s brought in the big names. Bayshores followed with Billy Duke and the Dukes, Rocko and the Saints, then Franke Day, Paul Anka and Dion. But Tony never liked it when people walked out of his place during a band’s break. They’d walk to Bayshores or some other club and never come back. Tony hated that. So he began booking two bands at once. Two bands for continuous music. So Bayshores came back with the same thing. It was nonstop, continuous music. You could hear it all over the Point. The Battle of the Bands."

"It was crazy, absolutely nuts," remember Vince Rennich. "Everything Tony would do, other places would copy. Tony Mart’s introduced something called Seven for One – seven beers for a buck. So Bayshores picked it up, the same thing. And Bayshores was the wildest place in town. You’d have kids buying beers as fast as we could pour them. Sometimes they’d drink ‘em, sometimes they’d throw ‘em at the fan, spray beer all over everybody. And al the while, there was this incredible, nonstop music. It was crazy, absolutely nuts. Wonderful, though. Really wonderful."

By the summer of ’58, the music had reached its zenith. Bayshores and Tony Mart’s were joined by a third contender, Steele’s Ship Bar. Despite a more upscale image and a slightly older crowd, it was laying claim to serious rock ‘n roll and was drawing the crowds.

Mike Pedicin, a band leader whose hit single "Shake A Hand" was the theme song of the Shore through the summers of the late ‘50s, left Bayshores for Steele’s in ’58. It was Pedicin’s music probably more than anything else, that put Steele’s among the heavies on the Somers Point circuit.

"The Two groups I remember best," says Teddie, "are Mike Pedicin and Jimmy Cavello. ‘Shake A Hand’ was the biggest song on Bay Avenue in those days. You’d hear it being sung all day at the beach; it was the kind of song you could start a party with. And Cavello – he was incredible. He’d do ‘What I Day’ [a Ray Charles hit] and people would pour out of all the other bars just to get to Bayshores before the last note sounded. I still remember that…you could hear it across the bay in Ocean City."

Teddie worked in Ocean City during the summer of ’60, the summer that she met Harry. She was nineteen at the time and between her freshman and sophomore years at Penn State.

"I was a waitress – four in the afternoon till nine at night – at the Great Steak House on Ninth Street; it’s not there anymore. There were thirteen of us working there that summer – all girls, all waitresses, all from Penn State. What a terrific job. You’d come off the beach around 3:30, change into your little waitress uniform, wait tables till nine, change into your madras shorts and holey sneakers, and thumb across the bridge to the Point just about the time the music was getting hot. You wouldn’t get back sometimes till dawn, so you’d pass out on the beach, wake up to take a swim, change, go to work and begin it all again. Talk about the perfect summer."

Harry, of course, was part of the perfection. Teddie met him in early July. The Dunes had just opened out on the Boulevard to try to capture some of the after hours crowd when they spilled out of the bars on the circle at closing time. The New Yorkers were the first band the Dunes booked; Harry was nineteen, out of high school a year, and a full time trombonist with a dozen gigs behind him. And he looked like Bobby Rydell. Teddie was swept away from the moment Harry showed interest. She fell in love, she says, with his smile, his easy manner, his musicians ways, and later with his music. "Anytime I’d walk into the room, he’d play ‘Satin Doll.’"

Summer loves in the early ‘60s, most of them anyway, were commonly grounded: hand holding, long looks, and late nights; friendship rings by mid-August; unfastened bra hooks in front seats on darkened roads; and, finally, promises to write. For Teddie and Harry, only the late nights held true to the pattern.

"We didn’t even have time to neck," she says, "Or not very often, anyway. If we did, I don’t remember it. What I remember most is the music, the sense of music. It was absolutely total."

The summer ended, or should have, on Labor Day. And again, it is the music she remembers.

"I was at Bayshores; I think Harry was with me. I don’t know how – he should have been at the Dunes on trombone. Maybe he wasn’t there, maybe it’s just wishful remembering, and maybe I was alone – it doesn’t matter. Anyway, it was closing time, two o’clock. I remember the group playing – Peter Carroll and the Carroll Brothers. They played the last number; we thought it was over, thought the summer was over. A lot of people were crying; I was."

"Then, all of a sudden, the band just walked out of Bayshores, still playing like that was the natural thing to do. So we followed. Then they moved into that Bunny Hop tune and everybody got their hands on everybody else’s shoulders. We hopped down Bay Avenue from Bayshores to Steels, once around the bar picking up more people, then out onto the street again. People were breaking into line, grabbing hold. There must have been a hundred of us. Then we went into Tony Mart’s with more people joining in, then down Bay Avenue again. The line was so long that you couldn’t tell where it began or ended."

"Everybody was singing and crying – singing, ‘cause it was such a high, such a magic moment; crying because it was the end of summer, and it was over for another year. But nobody thought of next year. It was just over."

It wasn’t over for Somers Point. There would be five more good years of what Dunleavy calls "cookin’ rock ‘n roll." Bill Haley, Frankie Avalon, Bobby Rydell had come and gone, but there were other big names and other sad/happy Labor Days to come. Through the summers of the early ‘60s, Bayshores would book Paul Anka and Dion, while Tony Mart’s would go one better with Conway Twitty, Duane Eddie, Mitch Ryder, and Gary U.S. Bonds.

At Steele’s, Mike Pedicin stayed on until ’66, when the bar burned to the ground, leaving a void that would never be filled. "Shake A Hand" continued to pack them in through the summers of the early ‘60s, even against the competition of the big names brought in by the bands next door.

"Those were good years," Pedicin says. "Somers Point was so important – both to the progress of music and to the kids who danced to it. There were so many of them, and they still have the memories. You know I met Jack Kelly [Grace Kelly’s brother, a Philadelphia local] about a month before he died, two years ago. He approached me and asked if I remembered him. Back in the ‘50s, when I was playing Bayshores, he and his sisters, Grace and Lizanne, used to come there. I run into that sort of thing all the time today. A lot of parties and weddings I do today are a result of the kids back at the Point in the ‘50s and ‘60s. When you think about it, Somers Point actually made my life."

As much as the gigs themselves, Pedicin remembers the jam sessions. They went on, most of them anyway, at the after hours clubs on the Boulevard – the Dunes, O’Burns, Jack’s Grove, and Brownies – on weekend nights after the circle had closed down.

It was the jamming more than anything else – perhaps even more than the immense barrage of talent – that made Somers Point what it was in those years. The jam sessions are what Teddie remembers best, partly because they were unique – spontaneous but expected.

"They were incredible. It’d be four or five in the morning, the sun would be coming up over the bay, and you’d have musicians from one or two of the biggest bands in the country mixing it up on stage with the local groups – Jimmy Cavello, Pete Carroll, Billy Duke and the Dukes. And all the kids would be there. We’d follow them from the circle, sometimes we’d go with them. It just went on and on. It never ended.

The end was coming, though, and by the mid ‘60s the music had begun to wind down. One of the last big name bands anyone remembers was a group that called itself Levon and the Hawks. After their last gig at Tony Mart’s in the summer of ’65, Bob Dylan claimed them and they became, simply, The Band. (The Band was planning a reunion at the Shore this summer until Richard Manuel, one of the group’s mainstays, hung himself in March, only two weeks after Tony Marrotta, who was in his eighties, died in Somers Point).

As for Teddie, she dropped out of Penn State after the summer of ’60 to be near Harry. But it didn’t work out. Some of the magi had ended with Labor Day. She found herself alone at the Shore in September. She later got a job with an airline and made several more stabs at her relationship with Harry before finally breaking up with him for the last time at the Somers Point Circle in the fall of ’62.

Teddie was married a year later and moved west to California two years after that. She didn’t see the Shore again until the summer of ’66, when she came east for a visit.

"I went out to the Point one night in June or July. By then, I was a lot older than most of the kids I saw. I went to Tony Mart’s for a while but felt kind of out of place. And it wasn’t just my age…Something had changed. The music was still there, and still good, but something was different. The kids were more serious; there was less dancing, more conversation. The difference was subtle, but it was there and I felt it."

Rennich, who had been tending bar in Somers Point since ’57, felt it too. Some of what brought the difference, he says, was the competition.

"It was too much of a good thing. Tony began it when he went to two bands. By the end, he’d gone to three – two bandstands, three bands – and everybody was trying to copy him, trying to draw the kids. But all that talent cost money. And the money they had to pay for the bands drove up the prices. It started with seven beers for a buck, then it went to five, and then three. That’s when it began to die a little."

There were other factors, too, things that had little to do with the price of beers or with rock ‘n roll or with summers at the Shore. President Kennedy had been dead for three years by the time Teddie visited the Point in ’66. Vietnam was creeping into the headlines. Long hair was in; Dylan and the Stones were singing protest and rebellion songs. The times and the music were a changin’.

"Kids were more serious by then," Rennich remembers. "It seemed like they forgot how to have a good time. And they dressed different. It used to be, in the ‘50s, the bands would come onstage in suits and ties, it was real proper. Then, when rock music came in, the musicians all started looking like Tito Mambao with his long hair and his sandals. That was when it really began to slide."

The slide continued. Following her trip East in the summer of ’66, Teddie didn’t see the Point again until her next trip in ’71. In early June, as she remembers it, Teddie drove over to the Point "to try to recapture something, I guess, to try to go home again."

She went first, of course, to the Dunes, where Harry had jammed so many nights till five in the morning with enraptured college kids in madras shorts and torn sneakers dancing to his tunes eleven summers before.

"When I got there, there was a bunch of motorcycles outside, with bikers crawling around everywhere in leather jackets. This bunch of girls they had with them, with dirty hair, were sucking joints in the parking lot. I went inside. Even the band was stoned. There were strobe lights flashing on and off, but nobody was dancing. Everybody was just standing around, all glassy eyed and strung out, like they were holding up the walls or something."

"It was like the whole world had gone crazy. All this time, I’d been romanticizing about the Point, telling people about this wonderful place at the Shore where you could dance till your feet fell off and telling them about Harry. All this time, I’d wanted to go back. Now I was back and there was nowhere to go. It as like the day the music died."

"It was the drugs that really killed it," says Dunleavy, who owned one of those clubs, the Mug, just up the Boulevard from the Dunes, until 1974. "The drugs hurt us all. You couldn’t make it in the business anymore, you just couldn’t cut it. The people would come into your bar, pay their admission, and nod off against the wall. It was the end of an era."

There is one survivor left from those times: the Anchorage, on Bay Avenue. It hasn’t changed with the times. The site of Tony Mart’s and Steele’s is now occupied by a discotheque called Ego’s, a mammoth two level affair with mirrored walls and a bar the size of a Little League ball field. Bayshores is now the Waterfront, "an upscale restaurant," Bill Kelly calls it, "in a California franchise sort of way." Other bars near the circle have remodeled to draw the Yuppies with their dinner menus and sedate background combos.

But the Anchorage lives on. It doesn’t have live music; it never did. It was what Rennich calls "a tune up bar," a place with atmosphere but no live bands, a place you went to after you got off the beach, before the night got started.

"The kids would go to the Anchorage or Gregory’s," says Rennich. "They would have their first four or five beers of the evening, then clear out when the music got going on the circle. Sometimes they’d come back at the end of the night."

Today the Anchorage is "the last of the old time saloons," says Nick Trofa, an Ocean City local in his late thirties who has spent time in the bars in Somers Point. And indeed it is, right down to the old pool table, the magnificent veranda, the serpentine bar, and the bartender behind it, Charlie Carney, who has poured drinks at the Point for close to twenty years. There are few pretensions at the Anchorage. The dogs walk in off the street to find their masters at three o’clock on late spring afternoons, and the men – all of them local – swap stories.

"It’s like Cannery Row, this place," Trofa says. "There are a lot of characters who come in here, and we all have memories. Everybody remembers something about the old days. And we just keep retelling the stories, and then we tell new ones. We never run out."

But even the Anchorage will soon be gone. This summer is slated to be its last. Sometime after Labor Day, unless plans change, the big trucks will come and move the old saloon to its new home on the circle, near where Orsatti’s Gateway once stood. The Anchorage will keep its name, but that will be all. It, too, is scheduled for remodeling. It will be "upscale" with mid range prices and a late night munchies menu. The blackjack dealers and mid level casino executives will come with their dates and families from the condos that speckle Somers Point nowadays, and they will eat and drink and listen to different sort of music form what Teddie remembers.

"It’s progress, it’s what’s got to happen," Teddie laments. "But I’ll be sad to see the place go. I’ll be sad to see that old bar, with all those memories, on top of some truck driving down the road like it was a mobile home or something. But what difference does it make? The Anchorage is only a symbol. The reality went a long time ago. It went for me the day I saw the bikers outside Harry’s bar."

"Sometimes," Teddie continues, "when I drive by the circle on my way to some account, I can still see it the way it was. I can still hear the music and smell the smells. And I can still picture Harry the way he was the summer of ’60. But then I remember that he wears glasses now – and that I do, too – and the fantasy passes."

Geoffrey Douglas, a former contributing editor of New Jersey Monthly, is publisher of The Sun, an Absecon based biweekly newspaper serving South Jersey.

New Jersey Monthly, June 1986.

[Note: The plan to move the Anchorage never materialized. It remains where it always was – BK]