Monday, April 20, 2009

Bay Shores

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Photo: Jerry Cummings

Bay Shores

In Memorial Days gone by....They shook the rafters and drank 10 cent beers.

"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."

By William Kelly
The Sun (Atlantic City, N.J. May 22, 1981

Memorial Day weekend, the traditional 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 burnt out green neon sign. For anyone who has spent a weekend at this part of the shore, that marquee stands as a relic, a memorial to an an era gone by.

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

In the '30s, as the Bay Shores nickelodeon played songs for a buffalo head nickel, they'd dance the boogie-woogie and do the jitterbug. During World War II girls in gowns and soldiers in browns would say to the big band sounds of Tommy Dorsey and Glenn Miller, then break 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 the place would fall into the bay one day."

Until the storm o f'46 took out the deck and the dance floor that extended out over the bay. Only the pilings are still in place today, and they only vibrate with the tides.

At 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 such clubs as Steel's Ship Bar, the Gateway Casino/Under 21 Club and the Anchorage. But Bay Shores was always the flagship until Tony Marts came along.

Vince Rennich started working at Bay Shores in 1952, the years before they remodeled for the last time. The college pennants - West Chester State, Penn State, Villanova, Princeton - still lined the ceiling when the raised the building last year (1980).

Rennich, who worked at Bay Shores until 1957, and is now at Gregory's around the corner, remembers that "before '53 there was a partition across the bar, with music for older people on one side, and rock n' roll on the other side for the 'kids'." At the time, the "kids" were still 21 or older, then the drinking age.

It was the lowering of the drinking age to 18 tat killed the strip, bringing in a younger, sassier crowd that intimidated the older people and sent them across the circle to the Crab Trap and to Shore Road to Mac's.

"In those days," recalled Rennich, "yuou 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 and 60 cents a shot."

In the late '40s and early '50s, Mike Pedicin, Sr. would play sax in his band before he followed the exodus of older people to the Crab Trap, Mac's, DiOrio's and the Jolly Roger.

Pete Carrol played songs like "Sweet Georgia Brown," and Tedo Mombo, a hairy hippie before his time, made the scene at Bay Shores after getting fired by Tony Marotta.

In 1955 Bay Avenue helped conceive rock n' roll when Bill Haley and the Comets, with Dick Boccelli of Ocean City on drums, came in from Wildwood to play Tony Marts. Bay Shores followed suit with Billy Duke and the Dukes and there was a real battle of the bands.

While others sponsored the early rock n' roll that bordered on country and western, with Conway Twitty and Levon and the Hawks at Tony Marts, while Bay Shores brought in the South Philly sounds of Rocco and the Saints, featuring Bobby Rydell and Frankie Avalon.

The Bay Shores leased out their kitchen to "South Philly Bernie," who grilled the burgers and cheesesteaks, and with names like Frankie Day, Paul Anka, Dion and others, it was THE PLACE.

On weekends, the matinee shows, especially when it rained, became a popular post-beach party.

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

When the music stopped in Somers Point at 2am, they'd just be getting underway at the nearby Dunes on Longport Blvd. Both Bay Shores and the Dunes were owned by the same people, so you'd often see patrons on the beach or boardwalk sporting t-shirts that had "Bay Shores" on the front and "Dunes 'till Dawn" on the back.

In the '60s, Buddy Tawell worked the first, front bar of a half-dozen large rectangle bars. Buddy was a character out of the Endless Summer, taking off for Colorado for the winter and Ft. Lauderdale by Easter before returning to Bay Shores for the summer.

The most popular music of the late '60s was by Johnny Caswell and the Crystal Mansion. Caswell perfected the Joe Cocker like inflection and recorded a few songs, some of which can still be found on the juke boxes at the Anchorage and Maloney's in Margate.

Charlie Brown, who worked at Bay Shores for a year before moving down the street to the Anchorage (and later Mother's), last heard from Caswell a year ago (1979). "I got a prayer chain letter from him from California," Charlie says, "I threw it out and my luck's been bad ever since."

After Caswell, Malcolm and his band Hereafter came in from Lancaster, Pennsylvania, and got popular doing Rod Stewart numbers, like "Maggie May." The band across the street, led by Ruby Falls, gave some stiff competition, but Malcolm took care of that when he married her and faded away.

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

The bands and the buildings are all gone, and you can't tell if the pilings are shaking from the wind and the surf or some long forgotten jitterbug.

Hey Bill,
I heard about you when I did a Google search on Bayshores Somers Point. Came up with "The Night Beat". My name is Joe "Sonny" Romino. I played with The Bonnevilles, (formerly J.B. and the Bonnevilles when John Borrell was the front man) in 1964 as a drummer, and as a keyboard player, Hammond B3, from June 1968 to October 1969, including two summers at Bayshores and over the July 4th weekends at The Dunes.

We would play 102 straight nights and afternoons on Saturdays and Sundays. A couple of times each summer we would trailer up to Philadelphia to do the Jerry Blavitt Show. We were out of Morgantown, West Virginia and Malcolm Swisher, front man vocals and guitar, Dave Coombs bass player and band leader, drummer Jay Armentrout and myself attended WVU. Other members included Nick Nicholas, lead guitar from Ventnor, NJ and Joe Cerisano, (now a recording artist who sang with the Trans-Siberian Orchestra), guitar and vocals.

We'd come back for Easter weekends each year until the start of the summer contract around Memorial Day. The rest of the time we played around Morgantown and traveled into Pennsylvania, Ohio, New Jersey, Maryland, Delaware, and Kentucky. Dave Coombs became a motorcross enthusiast and sponsored motorcycle races up and down the East Coast and published a nationwide motorcross magazine. Two of his children became attorneys, and his son Davey Coombs is an ESPN anaylist for Motorcross. Dave passed away about 10 years ago.

Malcolm was a New York City Central Park mounted policeman last I heard, and Nick Nicholas was a US Postal Service mail carrier still in the Atlantic City/ Ventnor area. Jay Armentrout had a music store in Richmond Virginia.

When at Somers Point the summer of "69", I didn't have anything to do during the day so I took flying lessons at Southern Jersey Airways at the Ocean City airport. I was drafted in October 1969 and ended up at Fort Bragg, NC. Got out in September 1969. Became a pilot with the Allegheny Airlines Commuter and then an air traffic controller for 22 years. Retired and went back to flying for Atlantic Southeast Airlines, a Delta Connection carrier. I retired at age 60 and am now a test pilot for the same airline living in the Atlanta, Georgia area with my wife of 35 years. We have 4 daughters who live Waconia Minnesota, Jacksonville Florida, Las Vegas Nevada, and Atlanta Georgia. Those two summers at Bayshores were the best.

Between Tony Marts and Bayshores the view from the back stage was just a sea of heads from the front of the stage, across the bars through Bayshores, through the parking lot , and across the street to the front door of Tony Marts from the 4th of July until Labor Day. It was like one happy carnival.

We started playing the first set at 8pm. Forty five minutes on. Forty five minutes off. Then it was 30 on, 30 off, continuous music across the stages. Once the break song started the other band would pick it up, and the first band would stop. We would end at 1 am and Johnny Caswell and the Crystal Mansion at 1:30 am. Then we'd head to the Dunes to have a beer and relax. I always liked to listen to some of the other bands that were playing in the area-Motherloade from Canada at Tony Marts, People of the Night at Anastasia's in Atlantic City.

I rememder Norman the Bay Shores manager, Wayne the young man who was disabled and I believe now works at the Somers Point golf course as a cart man, and so many more. I remember the good times there. They were the best. The sights, the sounds, the smells (especially when the tide was out), the heat and the humidity from the back stage that hung out over the bay. These are memories I will never forget. I will cherish them forever.


An employee I work with, brought me the Sandpaper Nightbeat article about the original Bayshores. He knew it would be of interest to me because I had told him about my band playing there from 1962 to 1964 before I went into the Navy. Our four piece group was called the Searchers. We were all local kids that got a chance to play opposite groups like Mike Pedicin, Teto Mambo, Joey "D" and the Starlighters, and Bill Haley and the Comets. Easter weekend was the start of summer for us. We played well enough to hold the early afternoon crowds until the big named bands came on. We did well enough that the management kept us on through the summer as the alternate band. During breaks, we would run across the street to Tony Marts and enter the weekly talent contest until someone caught on.

My summer day job was just as exciting. I worked morning shift at the arcade next-door to Bayshores making breakfast/lunch for the band members like Dwayne Eddy etc. What a thrill!!! Our group also played dinner music at the Sandpiper restaurant next to the Dunes. from 5:00 to 8:00 PM. We would pack up our equipment and rush to Bayshores. Once 2:00 AM rolled around, we packed up again and headed for the Dunes (open 23 hours a day). They closed 1 hour to clean. All the groups would be there and we would jam together (no charge to the patrons) What a routine!

If I had the money, I would re-establish that great time again in the same location. Yes, the crowd would be older, but I bet we could still party like we did.

Michael W. De Wees
Lead Engineer IDS

The Dunes

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The Dunes

Photo: Jerry Cummings

The Dunes 'Til Dawn

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.

Tony Marts

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Tony Marts

Photo: Jerry Cummings

TONY MARTS Yesterday and Today – By William Kelly

Today, 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, 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.

The trip from then to now was a fun one 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 Sunday afternoon at the Somers Point American Legion with live entertainment, dancing, good food and t-shirts, just like the Good Old Days.

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

Even thought its been closed for twenty five years, Tony Marts is still getting good press today. Two recent news stories referred to the legendary nightclub.

In The Post, Fort Dix, N.J. (June 8, 2008) Steve Snyder, Public Affairs Staff wrote about “Live is a beach in New Jersey (at least during the summer), in which he wrote, “But Ocean City is still number one in my book. I started visiting there during college days, appreciating the genial atmosphere so easily purveyed by the residents. A dry town, we used to cross the causeway to Summer’s Point for night life where lyrics from Bunny Siegel’s ‘Let the Good Times Roll’ punctured eardrums along a strip marked by a huge night club (called Tony Marz if memory serves) and two or three serviceable bars with atmosphere appealing to young adults.”

Bill Sokolic, in the June 5, 2008, Courier Post, wrote about a new band with ties to the old club, who are using the place as a recording studio.

“In the back of a former legendary club in Somers Point, Roy Hamilton Jr. and his son Roy Hamilton III make music together in a small recording studio created out of a former refrigerator. The legacy of Roy Hamilton Sr. is never far away. The elder Roy scored a string of hits in the 1950s and 1960s, like ‘Unchained Melody,’ “Don’t Let Go,’ and “You Can Have Her,’ among others….”

“Meanwhile in Detroit, Roy Jr. and his band, The Golden Boys, performed at various venues all over Michigan. He also created ‘The Golden Boy Hour Roy Hamilton Remembered,’ a one hour radio show dedicated to playing Roy Hamilton records. Fans called in to reminisce. The show's producer added John Cafferty's ‘The Dark Side’ as the intro to the show because it reminded him of ‘Eddie & The Cruisers’ and the band's fictional story. (A story which took place in the same legendary club in Somers Point where Roy Jr. and Roy III record, Tony Marts. (In the mid-1960s, the house band at Tony Marts was Levon and the Hawks, who left the Somers Point club to become the backing band for Bob Dylan. They also adapted a new moniker, The Band.).”

Originally built as a hotel for tourists who arrived at the end of the trolley line or ferry, which docked right across the street, it was called Schick’s Hotel, run by a German and famous for it’s Rathskeller bar when the Hurricane of 1944 was the last straw for many Jersey Shore businesses.

Like many other homes and businesses at the time, it was a buyer’s market, with everything for sale at cut rate prices, so enterprising businessmen and families bought into what would become Gregory’s, Charlie’s, DiOrio’s, the Anchorage, the Point Pub, Bay Shores and Schick’s Hotel, all of which changed ownership around the same time.

Schick’s Hotel would be purchased by Anthony Marotta and become Tony Marts. Born in Naso, in the province of Mesina in northern Sicily, Marotta came to America and lived the American dream, settling in Atlantic City’s Ducktown neighborhood with relatives and friends from the old country. Working with his new wife Mary Basile at a hot dog stand at Columbia Avenue and the boardwalk, they saved enough to make a down payment on the Schick Hotel. While the Marotta’s moved to Somers Point, Mary’s family went on to establish the White House Sub Shop, now an Atlantic City institution.

At the Point, Tony Marts Café stayed small at first, and was different from the old rathskeller for its entertainment. Rather than just a piano player, Tony Marts featured different acts, but one stood out with a New Orleans marti grau act that set the tone for many of the thousands of bands that would grace the Tony Marts’ stage over the next half-century.


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 that also included Steel’s Ship Bar, Bay Shores, Orsatti’s Gateway Casino, which became the Under 21 Club and the Anchorage.

Now, there’s only an historic marker to memoralize they were even there.

The band that made Tony Marts popular was Len Carey and his Krackerjacks, who would whip the crowds into a frenzy, and establish Tony Marts as one of the most popular nightclubs on the East Coast. A protégé of Spike Jones, Carey had that “Jazzmania Smile,” and was the first of a series of hot house bands that kept Tony Marts rocking all summer while traveling headline acts and popular recording stars passed through on weekends.

Booking bands through Colonel Kutlets, a Canadian agent, Tony brought in bands from all over the country.

Besides Carey and his Krackerjacks, other Tony Marts house bands included The Fall Guys and Levon and the Hawks, who became famous as The Band, Bob Dylan’s back up group.

Headliners included Duane Eddie, The Skyliners (“Pennies from Heaven”), Johnny Mastrangelo (aka Johny Maestro) and the Crests, and later the Brooklyn Bridge (“Sixteen Candles” “The Worst that Could Happen”), who is playing in Atlantic City this month, Joey D’ and the Starlighters (“Pepperment Twist”), Bill Haley & the Comets (“Rock Around the Clock”), Del Shannon (“Runaway” “Sea of Love”) and Conway Twitty.

Conway Twitty was playing rock & roll at Tony Marts in 1965, and first base on the Tony Marts All Star soft ball team, when he told Tony he wanted to play country music, and Tony told him to follow his heart and Conway left Somers Point for Nashville.

Twitty was the headliner when Levon & the Hawks were the house band that Colonel Kutlets had sent down from Canada to play three sets a night, seven nights for eight weeks. Dressed in the jackets and ties that club bands wore in those days, Levon & the Hawks were glad to settle down in one place after playing three years on the road with Rockabilly Ronnie Hawkins.

Tony wanted his house bands to play in the Spike Lee/Len Carey Jazzmania Smile tradition, and the Hawks fit the bill, but every once in awhile they’d sneak in a song that wasn’t on the pop charts and Tony had to complain. “The musicians are playing for themselves,” he would say in his deep gravely voice, while puffing on a cigar. He wanted the bands to play to the crowd, keep them dancing and from leaving to go across the street to Bay Shores, where they also had two stages and constant music.

The legal capacity for Tony Marts, according to the sign next to the door, was 1300 at any one time, but there were three and sometimes on rainy afternoons and Sundays, four shows a day, and people came and went so on any given night thousands of people were entertained. Above the door was a sign: “Through these doors walk the most beautiful girls in the world.”

In its heyday, people paid a few dollars to park, but got tickets to get in and for drinks, which were fifty cents for a beer and seventy cents for a mixed drink, which went up over time, but was never really expensive. Seven draft beers were a dollar, a gimmick Tony started that was picked up and made famous by the Anchorage down the street.

The drinking age was 21, but if you acted mature, worked in the business or knew the doorman or a bartender, you could get in as a teenager. In the early 60s there were professional Go Go dancers, and a different dance each night of the week – Monday was Mashed Potato night, Tuesday was the Twist, Wednesday was Amateur night and Thursday was Limbo night. Sundays, or any day of the week that rained, featured a matinee performance that was really outrageous, and people flocked in off the beach in the afternoons.

The beginning of the end was the lowering of the drinking age from 21 to 18, which was done during the Vietnam War era, when draftees could fight but not drink or vote. The influx of a new generation drove out the older crowd, and eventually ended the good times when drunk driving fatalities led to raising the drinking age back to 21.

Eventually, as Tony got old and retired and his sons Tony, Jr. and Carmen tried to keep the place going, they got an offer they couldn’t refuse.

During the last summer of 1982 however, they filmed the movie “Eddie & the Cruisers” at Tony Marts, capturing the feel of the club for posterity on celluloid. The Beaver Brown Band, who returned to Somers Point to play the Good Old Days picnic a few years ago, did the soundtrack for the movie and got three hit songs, “Wild Summer Nights,” “On the Darkside” and “Tender Years.”


At the end, they threw a party on Tony Marts’ last night, September 14, 1982. They brought back some of the old bands and celebrity bar tenders, had a grand time, and then stripped the walls of astrology signs, college pennants and memorabilia that some people still treasure for their memories.

Harris Berman, a Camden County attorney, with the proceeds of the sale of a Florida hotel, bought Tony Marts, as he had Bay Shores across the street a year earlier, and tore them down to build a new restaurant he called the Waterfront and a disco named Egos.

With an expensive sound system for records, a big dance floor, and a wrap around balcony, the Egos complimented the Waterfront, originally designed as a mountain ski lodge. Real estate guru Jay Lamont bought the Waterfront and maintained it as a popular establishment for a decade, and then Egos, changing the name to Crazy Jane’s. Crazy Jane’s was sold to the Brownie’s chain from Philly, but after five years as Brownies By the Bay, it went through a succession of failed businesses and one season bust out joints – including Key West and finally Club Ice.

Dr. Ira Trocki, the local cosmetic surgeon (and Mike Tyson’s cut man), is known for buying distressed properties, and he bought Club Ice and Mayer’s Inn, the old Corletto’s Marina that John Mayer had fixed up as a quaint Bed & Breakfast.

After one year of running Club Ice, Trocki moved what was the Tony Mart’s liquor license down the street to the Inn, which became Tucker’s (and is now under new ownership).

Club Ice sat empty for a few years until recently, when it was leased as an under 21 club for young people, but only lasted a few weeks. The property is for sale for a reported $10 million, and is ripe for development, but the failure of the city’s redevelopment process and the current economic situation does not indicate there will be any changes anytime soon. The site is in a redevelopment zone and eventually will be developed.

The Marotta home on Bay Avenue was sold by the family last year and is now on the market as well.

In a scene that was filmed but cut out of the Eddie & the Cruisers movie, Tom Berringer, the Wordman, keyboard player in the band who became a school teacher, returns to Tony Marts only to find it closed, boarded up and for sale.

Where did everybody go?

Former Tony Mart bartender Sonny McCullough is now mayor of EHT; The late Harry Goldenberg became a trial lawyer in Atlantic City; Tony, Jr. moved to Arizona; Carmen Marotta was a Somers Point city councilman and head of the local Republican Party; Dooby the bartender moved to Hawaii; Ruby Falls married Malcolm from the band that played across the street at Bayshores; Malcom became a New York city mounted policeman; Levon & the Hawks became The Band and went on to the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame.



[Eddie & Crusiers]


Monday, April 13, 2009

Tell Tony Gunther's Bus Is Here

Tell Tony Gunther's Bus Is Here

The inside story:

In the fall of 1967 two bands in the Rochester, New York areas were in the process of breaking up. The Angry Men and the Gallant Men. Some of the members decided to merge and form a new band. Art Foti, Carl Foti and Jerry Cummings from the Gallant Men teamed up with Tom Bittle from the Angry Men, added Joe Dasheneau on bass and began rehearsing top 40 and R&B songs from that era.

They were to be managed by James (Gunther) Kranz, owner and proprietor of Duffy's Hotel in the heart of downtown Rochester. Gunther, a businessman thru and thru who would never make a bad investment, had purchased an old gray school bus for reasons unbeknownst to the band and it remains a mystery to this day. It was during that conversation at a rehearsal that the band got their name.
One night at precisely 9:00PM Gunther pulled up in his old gray bus to the front door of Duffy's Hotel honking the horn madly and out jumped 5 beaming young musicians who proceeded to hop up on the stage and began playing "Even the Bad Times Are Good" by the Tremolos. The band, Gunther's Bus, was very well received. The place was packed and everyone, band and audience had such a great time. They all knew this would be the start of something really great 

"Time to make it big," they go on the road. Their first stop would become their biggest challenge and one that changed them forever, they played Tony Mart’s in Somers Point NJ  If you have seen the 1980s movie Eddie and the Cruisers and you remember the line “tell Tony Eddie and the Cruisers are here," in 1968 GB did exactly the same thing.

Here was this “cocky” band from upstate New York invading this club in little Somers Point about to be taught a lesson in how to become something special at the hands of a wonderful man named Tony Mart.

The first night they played they took the stage and began as if this was just any road club. Long delays between songs with young angry musicians the attitude that your lucky we are playing for you mentality. Jerry Cummings the drummer remembers looking down and seeing a stocky older man glaring up at him. At first he thought it was the professional Wrestling Manager Dr. Lou Albano, but soon dismissed him as if he had wandered in off the street wondering who these gods of music were. They soon found out whom that man was, it was Tony.

After there first set they were ushered into his office by their road manager Peter Salerno for a lesson they all remember to this day.

Tony was sitting behind his desk. He looked up pounded his fit on the desk and said “listen, you are going to play your songs 1,2,3 and stop wasting time or I’m going to throw you bums out and you can go back home, now get out!”

Needless to say we did exactly that and the rest was an incredible three years working and living at the greatest club ever, Tony Mart’s, but most of all a man they will never forget, Tony Mart.  

By the time he got through with them, they came back home with a whole new sound and show. They were a different band. The local fans were blown away.

The band has reunited with all the original members and will play again this coming year.

You can never go back but you can remember and enjoy.

Thank you Tony.

Press Ad for Tony Marts

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Gunther's Bus Collage

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Gunther's Bus at Tony Marts

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Gunther's Bus at Tony Marts


Gunther's Bus at Tony Marts
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Sunday, April 12, 2009

Somers Point Historic Plaques


Dating from the late 1800's, this empire-style building was one of the many tavern-hotels in the historic district. Tourists came for fishing parties, sea bathing, hearty food, healthful salt air, and a view of the bay from the veranda.

Bay and Delaware Avenues
(Marker donated by the Anchorage Tavern and the City of Somers Point).


Gateway Casino, Tony Mart's, Bay Shores, Steel's Ship Bar were all located at this end of Bay Avenue. They made up the musical heart of the bayfront, from the big bands and marathon dances of the 30's and 40's to the rock & roll greats of the 50's and 60's.

Marker located on East side of Bay Avenue across from George Street
(Marker donated by the Crab Trap Restaurant and the City of Somers Point)


Bass Harbor was a busy port for barges and sloops which carried produce, wood and ice to local businesses and residences. From privateering and smuggling, to clamming and fishing, to recreational boating, the bayfront has always played an active part in the economy of Somers Point.

Marker located on Bay Avenue at Harbor Cove

(Marker donated by Harbor Cove and the City of Somers Point)


Built in 1906, this Greek Revival building originally housed the police department and the first fire department and its horsedrawn pump wagons. The tower in the rear was used to dry the fire hoses. On special occassions, the mayor addressed the townspeople from the balcony on the second floor. The city hall acted as the hub for city services until 1985. It was saved from demolition and converted into a branch of the Atlantic County Library in 2000.

(Marker donated by Charlie's Bar & Restaurant and the City of Somers Point)


SHore Road, completed in 1731, was the Main arery for transportation and trade connecting Nacote Creek (Port Republic) to Somerset Plantation (Somers Point) and to Cape May County by Job's Ferry. In 1880, connecting Philadelphia to Ocean City, stopping at SOmers Point, the West Jersey Railroad connected Atlantic City to Somers Point. Trolley Cars ran from Atlantic City to Somers Point on Shore Road, and the Shore Fast Line, circa 1906, made its way under the Shore Road Bridge aznd at the waterfront traversed the bay to Ocean City.

(Marker donated by Bay Harbor Reality and the City of Somers Point)


Born at this site on September 15, 1778. Educated in Philadelphia, Somers led the Battle of Tripoli and sacrificed his life on September 4, 1804. He is memoralized by both a monument at the U.S. Naval Academy and a U.S. Navy ship commissioned in his name. He was the son of Col. Richard Somers and Sophia Stillwell who occupied the homestead and tavern at this location. Col. Somers was a patriot and privateer during the Revolutionary War. He inherited the homestead from his father, Richard, builder of Somers Mansion.

Shore Road and Bethel Road
(Marker donated by Primo Pizza and the City of Somers Point)


Due to the deepwater harbor and the availabitly of timber, shipbuilding thrived along the Great Egg Harbor Bay from 1860-1890. Three-masted schooners, the likes of th Emma Cottinghama nd the 21 Friends, as well as sloops and barges dotted the bayfront. Van Sant's at the foot of New Jersey Avenue was the last of the large shipyards. Boats were launched at the ends of Somers Avenue, George Street and Delaware Avenue. Horese pulled boats from Sooy's Boatyard at Pennsylvania and Shore Road down Dalaware Avenue to the bay.

Bay and Higbee Avenue
(Marker donated by Shore Memorial Hospital and the City of Somers Point)

Gunther's Bus at Tony Marts

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Tuesday, April 7, 2009

The Funeral of Big Ben Whopper Striper

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Big Ben was the whopper striper that was caught off LBI in Elmer Gregory's boat in the Sixties, a world record a the time, and only eclipsed by McReynold's big fish, caught off the Atlantic City inlet jetty in the Seventies, and still the world records.

After the funeral, Big Ben was stuffed and mounted above Gregory's Dining Room door, where it stayed until they remodeled the place in the late 70s.

McReynold's fish was weighed in at the marina on the Margate causeway, and is now owned by Corkey of Somers Point, who owns the marina on the Longport Blvd. in Somers Point.

In late summer of 2005 my friend Dick Russell published a book Striper Wars, a really terrific book about striper fishermen, and while he was doing a book tour, he stopped in Somes Point where I arranged for him to give a slide show and sign copies of his books - provided by the girls at Sun Rose Books & Music in Ocean City.

I also called Corkey and got Gregory Gregory to locate Big Ben and both fish were brought to Gregs for Dick's talk and slide show - a Meeting of the Mounts - two world record stripers together.

And they were remarkably different, with McReynold's fish being shorter and fatter, while Big Ben was longer and skinnier. (I'll get their weights).

Mike Shepard, the sports editor for the Press of Atlantic City, and a real class guy, came by, and a writer and photographer for the Press covered the story.

And I wrote about it, but I'll have to dig out both the Press and my stories and will post them with a photo of the fish together.

Pop Gregory in the Kitchen

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