Saturday, July 30, 2011
Nick & Cathy and Dury Dude at the old and now defunct and not even there Bubba Mac Shack.
Nick & Cathy were two of the primary movers behind the "300 Years at the Point" book, and run an art gallery on Bay Avenue. Nick is the primary mover and shaker behind the Somers Point Jazz Socity and all of the great bands that come into town.
Besides coordinating the Jazz Society programs in Somers Point and now extending to the educational concerts at the Ocean City Public Library, Nick also advises on the selection of bands for the Friday night beach concerts and Good Old Days Picnic on the weekend after Labor Day.
The late John Conway was a longtime Somers Point resident who had lived an exciting life with the Immigration and Naturalization Service and Border Patrol. For awhile John was assigned as an undercover agent to the Joint Organized Crime Task Force.
He was also stationed on the Mexican border for a long time and went to Cuba before Castro.
A popular regular at Gregory's Bar, after he died his wife came in and bought a round for all the guys he drank with, saying he had made that a part of his will.
So John got to buy the last round.
Wednesday, July 27, 2011
Women at Work, a self-portrait (left) and a photo of Madeline Vautrinot from a school yearbook.
Better known locally as the wife and widow of James "Sonny" Fraser, Madeline Vautrinot was an artist who won her first prize with a painting of the view from her Egg Harbor City bedroom window. Educated at Carnegie Tech in Pittsburgh her profile in Whos Who in American Art reads:
VAUTRINOT, Madoline (P) Egg Harbor, NJ b. 7 Je 1913, Egg Harbor, NJ. Studied: CI; Country Schl, PAFA. Member Pittsburgh AA. Exhibited: Pittsburgh AA, 1935 (prize). Work: murals, Republic Oil Co., Pittsburgh; Seaview Golf C., Seaview, N.J.; Atlantic City publ schs.; Coll., 100 Friends of Art, Pittsburgh (40).
She married James "Sonny" Fraser, a popular amateur golfer, New Jersey state legislator and secretary to "Hap" Farley the political boss of Atlantic County who built the Atlantic City Race Track and introduced the first legal gambling in South Jersey.
Sonny and Madoline lived in the historic house on the hill at English Creek where Sonny remodeled the old Grist Mill as a studio, opening windows and putting in a skylight in the ceiling. The studio was a popular place during Fraser's frequent parties that included Sonny's friends from the golf course and the race track, including Bob Hope, Bing Crosby, Dean Martin, Doris Day, Olympic champion Jack Kelly, and his daughter Grace Kelly.
A prolific golfer known for his long drives, Sonny contracted Hodgkins disease and died in 1950 at the age of 34.
Madoline continued to paint however, and according to her profile, was known for painting murals, though I don't know of any public murals in these parts.
Madoline's studio recently made the news as the Grist Mill, built in 1710, was the only thing left standing from that era when Egg Harbor Township celebrated its 300th anniversary in 2010. See blog entry: The Old Mill At English Creek.
More recently there was a story in the Press of Atlantic City about the mill getting a new water wheel.
Here are some more samples of her art, thanks to Maureen Keillor, her cousin who is compiling a biography of Madeline and her work.
Saturday, July 23, 2011
GREAT BAY GOLF CLUB
The Greate Bay Golf Club has been a social center of Somers Point and Ocean City NJ for over 80 years. First known as the Ocean City Golf Club, the original course was designed in 1922 by legendary Scotsman Willie Park, Jr., and opened in the spring of 1923.
One of the most influential of all the Scotsmen who brought the game to America, Willie Parks, Jr. was a two-time winner of the British Open and the son of the winner of the first British Open in 1860. “The name of Willie Park, Jr. is one of the most respected in the history of golf,” noted local golf writer Charlie Price.
“He was a multifaceted personality, a talented and prolific golf architect, one of the greatest golfers of his day, an entrepreneur and businessman, club maker, inventor and author,” said Price.
According to an October 19, 1922 Ocean City Sentential Ledger newspaper report, Park stayed at the historic Plymouth Inn in Ocean City while he designed the new course, shortly after he revamped the Atlantic City Country Club’s Northfield Links.
“The assurance that the Ocean City links will be perfectly constructed as humanly possible to have them is the fact that Willie Park has a world wide reputation to maintain. His latest effort must be superior to any previously attempted.”
While the golf club was originally built to lure tourists to Ocean City, it became popular with local businessmen and a major focal center of the area’s social life.
Unlike many golf courses of that era, it survived the depression with the assistance of Harvey Lake, who built the original clubhouse, a large, blue and white wood frame colonial that sat on a hill where the new clubhouse stands today. Harvey Lake, who was related to the Lake family, took on two partners, “Doc” Whittaker and Charles Zimmerman, who renamed it the Ocean City – Somers Point Golf Club.
Born in Petersburg in Upper Township on October 24, 1874, Harvey Young Lake attended school in Trenton before becoming business manager of the Ocean City Association, which controlled public utilities at the time. Lake dabbled in real estate, developed the Ocean City Bayou project (creating lagoons between 16th and 18th Sts), and served on the Ocean City Board of Education. He was an accomplished musician and an avid tennis player, but his main passion was golf.
Willie Park laid out the course on the high ground adjacent to the Somers Family cemetery, which overlooks Great Egg Bay over Kennedy Park at High banks, and on the hill Harvey Lake built his house that would become the clubhouse.
Lake also had some regulation tennis courts put in and to maintain the club he took on two partners, “Doc” Whittaker and Charlie Zimmerman. Doc Whittaker owned Holgates restaurant on the bay at 9th Street in Ocean City, while Zimmerman owned a hardware store in Philadelphia. Whittaker and Zimmerman reportedly paid $60,000 for their interest, took the course public and renamed it The Ocean City – Somers Point Golf Club.
Local bayman Buck Lashly recalls working as a caddy there when the green fees were $3. “We used to get $1.10 a round, $2.20 for a double, a bag on each arm, twice a day,” said Lashly, “and if you were nice, a buck tip.”
There were two lakes on the course, one by the pump house and the other, which was called Lake Whittaker, but was later filled in. “You could get a quarter a ball for swimming in and retrieving one for somebody,” said Lashly, who remembers the old caddy shack on the first tee by the 18th hold near the clubhouse. Walt Johnson, the groundskeeper before Butch Shurman, used a horse drawn tractor to mow the lawn.
Charles Nespy, who was a club member for 45 years, recalled the old, quaint clubhouse that was run by Ida and Maria. “They were there when I came and there when I left,” said McNespy. “They lived at the club and if they were up, the club was open. Maria tended bar and Ida cooked the best creamed chip beef, tomato and milk gravy. Everything was home cooked. “ Local bartender Vince Rennich, often recalled visiting the clubhouse after hours, playing cards, darts and pool.
Eddie O’Donnell, for whom an annual golf tournament is named, lived nearby, next to Joe DiOrio, another prolific amateur golfer. O’Donnell served as the pro from 1948 to 1960, and named his street Par Drive when the city finally got around to paving the street that runs along the course. Deer and other wild animals were frequently seen around the course until the 1950s, when they developed the Fairways homes and the Garden State Parkway came in.
“When they put the developments in they ruined one of the best hunting grounds around,” Buck related. “I remember when there wasn’t a home from Route 9 to Mays Landing Road. Buffalo Plastics came first, then a little motel, the oil company and then the Parkway came in. What’s now stores and developments behind the golf course was once all open country, and the best hunting in the world.” Joe DiOrio recalled that, “Deer used to come up to our back door when we built the bar on MacArthur Blvd in 1951.”
Eddie O’Donnell said, “When I first got there they had the last of the great amateur Eastern tournaments,” events that included such legendary amateur champions as J. “Woody” Platt, James “Sonny” Fraser, Billy Hyndman III and a young Arnold Palmer, before he became a professional.
But the most fun was had by a group of golfers that was known as the “Spinach Mob,” a group of locals who played together many afternoons. Some were nightclub owners, like Rickie Rich, who owned the Hialeah Club in Atlantic City, and Elmer Blake, who ran Steel’s Ship Bar on Bay Avenue, next to Tony Marts.
They worked nights and like to play golf all day with their friends – John Cressi, the Linwood Country Club pro, Harry Azzi, Ernie Brown, John Keminosch, Bert English, Alan Meyers, Freddie Curtis and Lou Curcio. They were called “The Spinach Mob” because they enjoyed playing for sporting wagers and gave each other nicknames. O’Donnell was “Lucky Eddie,” Azzie was “Az,” Curcio was “Cooch” and Curtis was “Checkbook” Freddie because he never won and always paid off with a check.
Curcio, the club champion from 1954 to 1958, ran the Tilton Driving Range for many years and was the handicap man for the Spinach Mob. “There were eight of us who played together,” Curcio recalls,” and we had a handicap system. Harry Elwell was the best player , a scratch player, and I could never beat him. I only won after Harry Elwell was gone.” Curcio then won five consecutive years, lost one and then never came back again.
O’Donnel said it was a slow day when the young Coast Guard enlisted man came into his pro shop sometime in 1950 and wanted to play. Eddie asked him if he was an officer, and he said, no just an enlisted man. But he mentioned that his father worked at golf course near Pittsburgh, and Eddie said it was okay, and he could play for free.
O’Donnell introduced the young Palmer to the club champion and local postman Harry Elwell, Sr., who became somewhat of a mentor to Palmer. When there paths crossed again in Florida some twenty years later, Palmer asked O’Donnell about Harry Elwell, who had passed away earlier, but who he remembered as an influential person in his life.
According to O’Donnell, there weren’t many people playing golf back then, and the club only had 50 or 60 members.
One man who stayed around into the early 1950s was Harvey Lake. He would occasionally put in an appearance on the course in his later years. O’Donnell remembered Lake playing with a single club, called a cleek. Before numbered irons were invented, you had different types of clubs for different situations, including cleeks and mashies.
McNespy also remembered Lake well. “I can see him now,…suspenders, glasses, a cap and a garter on his sleeve, just like the old time bartenders used to wear, standing about five foot six, and he’d play five or six holes with one club, a 4 wood.”
Eventually Whittaker, Zimmeman and Lake died. They had a deal with each other where when one died the others would inherit the shares until no one was left, and the last one would leave the course to charity. Trustees for Shore Memorial Hospital and Burdette Tomlin Hospital sold the course to a group of businessmen in 1971. Mr. Eugene Gatti and attorney Art Kania were the primary partners, while the limited partners included Mr. Joseph DiOrio, Dr. Nick Collova, Cas Holloway and Tullio deSantis.
They were also the principle partners with the Brighton Hotel and Casino in Atlantic City. In 1981 the Sands Corporation bought the hotel, casino and country club, renaming the country club the Sands. It remained a part of the casino corporation’s assets until Mr. Gene Gatti repurchased the course in 1991 and renamed it Greate Bay Country Club.
They made significant renovations, leveled the old clubhouse and built a new one, upgraded the course, changed a few holes around (The fairways, bunkers, greens and sandtraps remained basically the same, only then numbers changed. The old 18th became the 17th, the old 10 became 1), put in a driving range, built condos around the course and changed the name to Greate Bay Country Club.
It was under the stewardship of prolific amateur golfer Mr. Gene Gatti when the club served as host to the ShopRite LPGA Classic tournament from 1988 to 1997.
In 1998 Gatti sold the club to Archie Struthers, who began working in golf as a caddy at Pine Valley. Struthers renovated the course in an effort to recreate some of Willie Park Jr.’s original design ideas, yet maintain the course’s championship qualities. Struthers also took the course private again, and went on to design and build his dream course – Twisted Dune, which is recognized for its unique, one of a kind attributes.
Although Pat Croce is well known for being passionate about sports and competition, it was his partner Mark Benevento who convinced him that golf is good and Greate Bay a good investment and they have been managing the club with an energy and synergy that’s contagious.
To comment on this story: - Billkelly3@gmail.com
Slimetime – The Art of Fishing
By Robert “Barnsie” Barnes (aka the Cave Man)
Jeramiah Was A Whooumper!
My 51 Ford pickup coasted to a quiet stop. The lights had been shut off a hundred yards back as we needed to slip into the swamp without alerting the quarry. Plenty of bug spray applied liberally above the waste, a couple of flashlights with extra batteries, plenty of smokes and extra matches in a plastic bag, and back in those days, there would be a couple of sixpacks of Bud hanging on me like handgrenades.
We picked up our weapons and stepped into the cool water. I was with Frank and we were two of only the six people I met who were fortunate to engage in this great sport – bullfrogging.
There are many better restaurants which feature these fine eating criters as a delicacy and they sell on the street for $30 a pound. At those prices I could capture about $600 bucks worth on an average night. But I’d rather eat them myself.
I’ve never encountered anyone else in the swamp. No crowds, no Shoobies, no competition, no hassles, maybe another crazy like myself, and a hell of a lot of fun. A calm night, a small boat, or maybe a sneakbox, a burlap bag ad plenty of bug spray.
I don’t take small ones, cause the big ones have a lot more mean and are easier to detect. Amid all the other noise that about at night in the swamps, the unmiskabable sound of “Whooump, Whooump, Whooump,” tells me where the big ones are. They don’t “croak” they “Whooump!” I catch them and then they croak.
The stalk begins. They don’t just sit there and let you pick’em off. And even a small wave will send them to the bottom quick. I’ve don’t the best I can, I’ve ignored a couple of turtles that I’ve stepped on. I’ve ignored a dozen snakes and zillions of mosquitoes. He’s sitting on a Lilly pad, looking at the bugs, getting ready to strike.
Quiet, move slow, don’t move at all, then move quick, the hand is faster than the eye, and he’s in the bag. I’ve got my limit. I’ll be pigging out soon. A nice salad, maybe some fries, corn on the cob and bunch of frogs legs.
From The Native Guide Vol. 3 #4 April, 1999
Thursday, July 21, 2011
Sam McDowells painting of the whale hunt in the West Indies
Sam McDowell was born in Somers Point but is probably best known in these parts as the owner of the Smuggler's Shop on the Ocean City Boardwalk between 13th and 14th Streets. With his beard and odd assortment of merchandise, McDowell was a popular Boardwalk figure when I first arrived in town in the mid-Sixties.
Iron Mike, a deep sea diving suit was one of the attractions at the shop.
Sam is more generally recognized elsewhere as an artist and one of the best contemporary scrimshaw artists in the world.
After selling is Boardwalk shop in Ocean City Sam moved to California where he lives in Carmell, though he spent many winters at his island home at Bequia in the West Indies.
The island natives, as they have for centuries, are permitted to hunt whales, and invited Sam to participate in one of their hunts, which included a Nantucket Sleigh ride once the whale was harpooned.
Besides his scrimshaw, Sam also paints, and has done some paintings of Somers Point as he remembers it from his childhood, including the house on Somers Avenue where he was born and the trolley stop at Christmas time.
Sunday, July 17, 2011
Through the Old Anchorage Porthole
THE LAST SUMMER AT THE OLD ANCH
Part 1 – Spring 1993
The last summer at the old Anchorage Tavern in Somers Point began like many others when the morning shift bartender, 83 year-old Ed Margerum parked his grey pickup truck on Bay Avenue by the corner and walked up the steps to the porch to unlock the front door.
As he opened it a rush of stale air, a mixture of cigarette smoke, liquor fumes and a unique musky aroma, rushed out past him into the fresh salt air.
It’s 6:30 in the morning and the sun is rising over the bay. Through the large porthole window Ed sees the bright orange sun reflecting off the calm bay waters at low tide. Just across the street a lone, large blue heron stands out stalking his prey in the tidal pool among a flock of curious seagulls, a dozen lazy duck and some pigeons that roost on the sunny side of a nearby roof, taking it all in.
Built circa 1888, the Anchorage Hotel has stood strong through over a hundred seasons that have come and gone. It was originally built to house visiting fishermen and gunners, bird hunters who came to the Jersey Shore to catch fish and shoot ducks for Philadelphia restaurants and other shorebirds, whose feathers were sold to haberdashers for women’s hats.
The bay, Great Egg Harbor bay, was discovered in 1614 by Dutch sea Captain Cornelius May, whose explorers discovered the banks of the bay lined with bird’s eggs and named it Eryen Haven – Egg Harbor.
When the hunters and fishermen lived there, they slept in bunk beds and were warmed by a pot belly stove.
After being renovated as a first class establishment by Judge Larry Brannigan, the Anchorage Hotel added a ballroom and catered to the society types who came to the Shore in the summer from Philadelphia and New York.
Then, owned by Mr. Charles Collins, it became a summer tourist hotel for those who enjoyed boating, fishing and swimming in the bay waters. Of course, during prohibition, it was frequented by rum rummers, and one old patron recalled a raid when slot machines were thrown into the bay.
In 1938 the Anchorage was purchased by Lucille Cornaglia Thompson, who operated it with her husband until 1945, when she sold it to her brother Andrew "Henry" Cornaglia, from South Philadelphia.
When the Cornaglia family bought it from Lucille, they either kept up or introduced fine Italian food and the place was popular for its good and inexpensive pastas and family atmosphere. Entertainment was not the main attraction, though people still remember a black trio - the Three Keys, which included a piano player who strongly resembled Nat King Cole, and their little piano was kept in the back room for decades after they'd gone.
Henry's favorite songs on the juke box were "On the Way to Cape May," and Dick Todd's "Bummin' Around."
During the rock & roll era, the rooms upstairs were primarily leased for the summer by bartenders and musicians who worked at Bay Shores, Tony Marts, Steels and the other nightclubs down the street. The bar itself however, was primarily popular with locals and seasonal guests until the death of Mr. Cornaglia in the spring of 1965 when his son Andrew took over.
Although he wasn’t yet 21 and old enough to drink, he managed the place. "I didn't know vodka from gin," he later said, "and if it wasn't for my mother I never would have been able to sustain the first couple of years."
Things began to look bleak when his father's friends and the older folks stopped coming in. Then, Andrew recalled, "I was mopping up on a Good Friday when we were supposed to be closed, but I had forgot to lock the front door. These three guys walked in, all bartenders in the area, and they like the place. They just sent me people after that, and it just took off when the young people started to drift in. All of the key things in my life happened by accident. When it's your turn, it's your turn, that's what the Fates are doing. You can make all the wrong moves and they turn out right."
He hired some new bartenders who drew a new, younger crowd that made the Anchorage THE Place to meet before hitting the nightclubs that featured live bands.
By the early 1990s, Bay Shores and Tony Marts were history, and in their place was a restaurant and disco, neither of which attracted the same crowd who enjoyed the Anchorage, which still catered to the young crowds at night, at least during the summer months.
During the day the clientele were mainly locals, while the morning crowd consisted of older, retired men, veterans on disability and casino workers getting off the graveyard shift, still in their white shirts and black vests. That’s the crowd that Eddie the Old Man catered to.
They called Eddie “the Old Man,” and he's one of the few of the old time bartenders at the point who had been through a few of the previous eras. For the most part however, he worked up the street on the morning shifts at Gregory’s and Charlie’s, both a block away on Shore Road. He lasted a couple years at each place and then was fired for being too slow or some reason or another, and drifted down the street to the Anchorage, where nobody else wanted to work the early morning shift anyway.
When Charles Carney heard that Eddie was fired from Gregorys, he convinced Andrew to let Eddie take the morning shift at the Anchorage.
Eddie begins the early morning chores, sweeping and then mopping up the bathroom floors, wiping down the bar, filling up the sinks with bubbly soap and cleaning glasses until his first customer comes in. Usually it’s a regular, a old retired gentleman or casino worker with a pocket full of tips that’s counted on the bar.
Then Bob, the liquor salesman puts his head in the door and asks Eddie if he wants a cup of coffee. Eddie says yes, he always says yes, but Bob still asks him anyway. Then he goes across the street to the breakfast grill Bayshores II and brings back two white styrofoam cups of steaming coffee.
Bob sits at the bar and drinks his coffee, smokes a cigarette and watches the sun rise through the big porthole window as Eddie comes out of the kitchen with a cigar box, the money till that was stashed somewhere in the back room. He counts out $150 from a bag marked "Front," counts the change and gets the cash registers going.
These are mirror sharp metal mechanical NCR registers that recorded everything on thin, white paper rolls, the same ones that Gregorys used.
Jimmy "Ironworker" comes in through the back door, back by the juke box and pool table. He's carrying a newspaper and a hot cup of coffee that he sets on the bar and reads quietly for awhile before ordering a cold Bud.
Bob the liquor salesman leaves to make his rounds when Brian, a casino worker comes in, off from the graveyard shift.
Then in comes Gordon, who puts his cell phone on the bar - he's one of the few who have a cell phone in this time and place - and drinks his beer in a glass with ice.
Kevin the clammer comes in, and has some clams to sell or trade and has a beer.
If it's a rainy day, the work crew will take off early and come in, Jimmy the carpenter, the best of the carpenters, tries to get the other guys as much work as possible, but if its raining, that's a good reason to go to the Anch for the rest of the day.
If somebody asks for a glass of water or soda without liquor, Eddie would say, "This ain't no drugstore."
This day isn’t so unusual except it’s the Old Man’s birthday, and so a few friends who usually don’t come in every day stop by.
A few hours into his shift a small party of old friends come in and after a few drinks everyone is telling jokes and laughing. Ed is all smiles, and someone inevitably asks him to tell the horse story again.
The one where he tells about hitting a horse while driving down the Black Hosre Pike in his pickup truck. He then walks into the bar and says, “I just hit a horse,” to which somebody replies, “That’s great, for how much?”
Then everybody laughs even though they heard it a dozen times, and it is funny in a way since its true.
Then the girl shows up, the dancer they chipped in and hired to do a strip and lap dance for the Old Man on his birthday.
Eventually, as it gets closer to noon, Charles Carney walks in the front door wearing a St. Michael's Marland t-shirt. He's a bit surprised at all the people, all twelve of them, and the party that’s going on. Charles has a newspaper under his arm and comes behind the bar for a changing of the guard, handing the Old Man his top jar and politely refusing to get in a photo of Eddie with the stripper.
While Charles, not as old as the Old Man, is a little haggered and doesn’t really need or want all these customers, but he reluctantly puts up with it.
Then, when one of the casino workers asks Charles if he’s heard the rumors that the Anchorage has been sold, Carney shrugs and says, “Yea, I heard that rumor years ago. I won’t believe it until it happens.”
As if on cue, Andrew the owner walks in the front door, looks around at all the riger moral, laughs and shakes his head. Placing his keys on the bar, he sits down along the side by the kitchen door as Charles sets him up with a drink and says, “If anyone calls, I’m not here.”
Then when its his turn to tell an Ed Margerum story Andrew recounts the time when he told Ed that if any strangers come in asking for him to tell them he's not here, and then he picked up his drink and ashtray and went over to the other side of the room and sat at the bar in the dark by the jukebox. Sure enough two suits walk in and ask Eddie for the owner and Eddie looks over to Andrew and pointed and said, "He's over there." Eddie gave him up without batting an eye.
It doesn’t take long for the phone to ring. The pay phone in the old wooden phone booth in the corner by the door has those swing glass doors, and is answered by a regular customer who, after a moment’s hesitation, says, “No lady, there’s no rooms here anymore, this is no longer a hotel,” and hangs up.
Well into the casino era the Anchorage Hotel was still listed first, alphabetically in the Atlantic County phone book under hotels, so people from out of town often call the number expecting to reserve a room.
The rooms up stairs hadn’t been used in over a decade, maybe longer, and nobody’s even been up there in years. Nor is the kitchen used anymore, and is now used for storage, as is the once elegant ballroom off to the side.
After the Old Man leaves and the party dies down, Charles Carney comes around the side of the bar and sits next to Andrew and opens the newspaper. Charles plays the horses and the stock market on occasion, and is a well read gentleman and professional bartender.
He’s been a bartender in Somers Point since he was young and a ladies’ man, and has a few wives, ex-wives and a number of kids who sometimes check in with him. Although he has a small apartment behind a house a few blocks away, he lives with Carol, his girlfriend, who tries to take care of him.
Carney has worked at practically every bar and nightclub in town, some more than once, and was either fired for insubordination or he quit, and has been known to just walk out on a job if he felt like it.
The afternoon shift at the Anch, from noon to seven, is perfect for Charles, as it is better than the morning shift, tip wise, and not as hectic as the night shift, when all the young people come in and raise hell. It’s also a good shift for his friends who do work at night to come in and visit him, like Vince Rennich and George McGonigle, two other legendary Somers Point bartenders. Legendary is a heavy word to use but it certainly applies to Vince and George.
Although Ed the Old Man is an old timer, Vince, George and Charlie were three Aces on the one hand and the last of the old school bartenders who were young themselves when they first started working the Point bars and clubs in the heyday of the '50s and '60s.
Vince had started off as a barback at Bay Shores when he got out of the Army, a Korean vet, and was hired by John McCann, the beer baron who owned Bay Shores with Dick McLain.
Vince’s mom introduced him to McCann at a Philadelphia dinner party and told him to go down the Shore to Bay Shores and help open the joint for the summer. Living in a room upstairs, Rennich eventually became a bartender and after spending a few winters working in Flordia and summers at Bay Shores, after his wife got pregnant he got a steady, year ‘round job at Gregory’s.
When one of the other bartenders left, Vince called his friend George McGonigle in Atlantic City and got him the job at Gregs. Twenty some years later George and Vince were still a team, each working an end of Gregory’s long mahogany bar.
And sometimes, before going on their regular shift at Gregs, they’d stop by and visit their old friend Charlie Carney and share a few laughs.
THE LAST SUMMER AT THE OLD ANCH – To be continued.
Ed "The Old Man" Margerum toasts his birthday at the Anch. Nick sits behind him.
Last Summer at the Old Anch Part II - Mr. Mull Pays His Last Visit
The last summer at the Old Anch was also the summer that I was researching and writing what would become my first book 300 Years at the Point – A History of Somers Point, NJ.
I had proposed the book to the city and they accepted the proposal but when they got back the contract from the publishers, my friend and colleague Tim Cain was listed as the author. He had already completed his book Pecks Beach about Ocean City, and the publishers didn’t trust me so they gave him the job. I complained, and it was decided for both Tim and I to do the book with him doing half and me half and splitting the royalties.
Then Tim went and hung himself, for reasons unknown, and the book deal was called off, but I was too far into it and continued writing, convincing the city of Somers Point to back me and that I would do it on my own.
For beer and spending money I took on two bartending shifts at the Anchorage, the Wednesday and Thursday early morning shifts that nobody else wanted, the worst tipping shifts of the week. But that was alright with me, as I was just looking for something to do and when it wasn’t busy I could read and write away.
I pretty much had the same clientele as the Old Man, and did the same routine, cleaning up the place and then serving the first, early customers. Bay Avenue is pretty nice in the morning as the sun is coming up, and I’d get a cup of coffee from the breakfast grill across the street, Bayshores II, named after the old and now defunct rock club.
Then one morning, while I was by myself, an old man hobbled in leaning on a cane. He had peered through the porthole window, and I waved to him and he came in and sat down, looking around. “I was just passing by and thought I’d stop and come in and take one last look at the old place,” he said.
I wasn’t sure if he was talking about one last look for himself, or if he had heard the rumors that it was sold and maybe torn down for condos or renovated.
His name is John Mull he says, beginning to tell me his story, “and I just wanted to see if it’s the same as I remember it.”
Mull is now 86, older than the Old Man, and he wants to look through the closed and locked swing doors that lead to the ballroom, but I won’t let him. “It’s too cluttered up with junk back there and isn’t safe I tell him,” but he insists and tries to persuade me.
“I used to attend mass in the backroom,” he says, taking a swig of beer that I poured him.
“I was just a kid,” he continues, “and there were only about 500 people in town then, and we didn’t have a church. Sometimes we had a mass in someone’s house when there was a priest in town.”
Mull said that his father, Harry Mull, who worked at the Bayview Inn, convinced the owner at the time, Charles Collins, who owend both the Bayview and the Anchorage, to let them say mass in the backroom ballroom, then a dining room of the Anchorage.
As Mull remembered, “Father Blake came over from St. Augustine’s in Ocean City. He came over on the Shore Fast Line Trolley, and walked down Bay Avenue to the Anchorage. The backroom was a big room then, with wire backed chairs, tables and a bar against the back wall. I remember the ladies putting the liquor away and placing a white sheet over the bar, which was used as the alter.”
There was never a shortage of wine for the ceremony, and Mr. Mull remembers his brother Robert being baptized on the bar in September, 1914.
“When mass was over, out came the liquor and up went the bar again,” Mull said with a smile.
After Mass the adults left but the kids would stay for Sunday school with Father Blake.
Mull also recalled attending first grade in the old City Hall and second grade in the old one room school house, which was heated with a pot bellied stove, was located between first and second street on Connecticut Avenue before it was moved to New Road when the New York Avenue school opened. The old one room school house on Rt. 9 became the Little Red Onion bar.
“Mrs. Leeds, the teacher at the one room school house,” recollected Mull, “had a daughter with blonde hair.”
After a pause for reflection, Mull said, “Isn’t it strange what you remember after 80 years?”
Then he remembered he left his wife in the car parked out front, and as he slowly made his way to the front door he explained that they were heading home from the supermarket and the ice cream was melting.
At the front door Mr. Mull stopped, leaned on his cane, turned around and said, “I liked it better as a kid. The bay was full of fish, the mosquitoes were the only problem, and I used to get a kick out of this place.”
January 9, 1932 – December 18, 1999
Vince F. Rennich, “Vin Vin” 67, died Saturday at Shore Memorial Hospital. Born in Philadelphia, PA he was an area resident for 46 years and local bartending legend at Greogry’s Restaurant and Bar for 42 years. He served in the Korean War in the First Calvary and was the recipient of the Bronze Star with Oak Leaf Clusters and two Purple Hearts. Mr. Rennich was a graduate of the school of hard knocks, loved to travel and had a zest for life. He lived each day as his last.
A Mass of Christian Burial will be held on Wednesday at 10:30 AM at St. Josephs Church, Shore Rd. Somers Point. Interment Seaside Cemetery, Palermo. Friends may call after 9:30 AM at the church.
Just out of the Army from the Korean War, he was hired by John McCann, the Philadelphia beer baron, and sent to work at Bay Shores, a Jersey Shore resort nightclub that catered to seasonal tourists.
“Where’s Somers Point?” Vince Rennich wanted to know, and McCann told him, “Throw away all your books, now you’re going to get a real education.”
“And he was right,” Vince said to me from across the bar. “You wouldn’t believe what I’ve learned behind the bar.”
Driving into town for the first time around Easter, 1953, Bay Shores wasn’t a hard place to find. The first thing was to get the place in order to open the weekend before Memorial Day.
Opening the closed and shuttered front door they found the place just as they left it last Labor Day.
“There’s still be beers and glasses on the bar as they left them,” said Vince, who explained that in that era, all the seasonal employees – cooks, waitresses, bartenders, even the bands all relocated to Florida for the winter, taking jobs at the seaside hotels and then returning around Easter to work the Jersey Shore in the summer. They preferred Miami, Boca and Fort Lauderdale.
Vince was shown a room upstairs where he could live, or sleep, and he said that it was, “the biggest dump with the nicest view in the world.”
Downstairs the bar that had a dance floor that extended out over the bay, was divided according to age lines, with the old timers in their suits and ties listening to their staid pop bands, while the younger crowd hung out on the other side of the room where there was another stage, where they played that loud, crazy music they hadn’t even give a name yet, but would become known as rock & roll.
The main acts at Bay Shores, at least among the young crowd, was Mike Pedicin, whose song “Shake A Hand” was popular and getting radio airplay, and another Philly band that included a teenager on trumpet, Frankie Avalon, and another kid Bobby Rydell, both sidemen who weren’t old enough to drink legally.
At the end of the summer, Vince visited friends in Florida, then got a job across the street from Bay Shores at Steel’s Ship Bar, which also featured live music, but then he was hired away by old Pop Gregory, who offered him a steady, year ‘round job up the street.
Vince would work at Gregory’s Hotel Bar & Restaurant for nearly a half century, taking seasonal vacations to Florida and maintaining his network of friends, especially his comrades George McGonigle and Charles Carney.
Bill "Boo Boo" Saylor reads a paper with John "Wolfman" McGonigle, both local neighbors sitting with Charles Carney, whose pouring a draft at the front bar.
Although this photo was taken during the day, the tap beer was still flowing, and it was the tap beer - seven beers for a dollar that made the Anchorage famous.
Although other bars had tried to used the gimic earlier, it really caught on at the Anchorage and that's one of the things that made the place popular and famous.
The Anchorage began serving seven beers for a dollar in 1966, Andrew's sophmore year in the school of hard knocks. Although it was a concept Andrew appropriated, he took it beyond the bar by making it a slogan and putting "Anchorage 7 for 1" on Tee shirts that were seen all day long up and down the Ocean City boardwalk and beach, giving the place unprecedented publicity, until the T-Shirts were banned by the ABC - NJ State Alcohol Beverage Control.
"Seven for one" seemed to roll off your lips so naturally, and was served up by bartenders with such flowing, poetic motion to the tunes of "Pennys from Heaven" or "Runaround Sue" that it was almost like a ballet. Set before you in a circle of spilling white topped foam they were never enjoyed alone, and had to be shared, and only cost a buck.
Passed around like a sacrament and toasted in a communion honoring the moment, it was a ritual that baptized more than one generation through the rights of passage that signaled the transition from youth to adult, and the best buck you ever spent.
"No one ordered just seven," Andrew reflected after it was all over. "You would get your orders for seventy - a hundred, and there would always be a bar full of beer, a backup of people who wanted beer, and two bar boys collecting the empies at all times. It was a great scavenger hunt."
Saturday on Labor Day weekend 1970 was the best day ever recorded, when they went through 44 half kegs, which amounted to someone figured out 17,556 beers. They continued to serve the draft beer until 1980, when the cost became prohibitive. It wasn't the cost of the beer however, but the glasses. The beer, either Piels, Black Label or Ortleibs was the least expensive beer on the market, the six ounce pilsner glasses that cost four cents each in 1966 cost 34 cents each by 1980, so another distinctive era came to an end.
For Andrew, it wasn't just about the Anchorage. They say he had a golden touch with turning places around, and before long had interest in five establishments. He bought the old Mug, which had been O'Byrne's and the Purple Villa, and converted it into Mothers, an after hour joint just across the bay bridge on the Longport Boulevard. Named after Peter Gunn's favorite hangout, Mother's featured live bands, had walls and ceilings that were lined with shag carpets and a backroom bar that was Charlie's Carney's private domain. He even had a separate door that you could get in without paying a cover if Charlie gave you a key.
Mothers gave the Dunes some stiff competition and often had the better bands, like Hit and Run and Bobby Campanell and the Shakes.
Andrew didn't stop there, but also had interest in the Bottom Line, an attempt to create a fine Italian restaurant on Pacific Avenue right across the street from Convention Hall. Andrew's family had lived in the neighborhood, and the Bottom Line was strong for as long as Andrew was there.
Just down Pacific Avenue on the corner near the casino was the My Way Lounge, which didn't have any windows, was dark as it could be and only had Sinatra tunes on the juke box.
Then there was the Yorkshire in Jenkentown, in North Philadelphia, which was a local saloon that he made popular.
"The key things that happened to me in my life were basically working hard, lucking out and knowing my brother-in-law Joesph Trecheck."
Trecheck ran the Anchorage for a couple of years while Andrew took care of the other places, but Andrew got rid of them one by one until he was back at the Anchorage, where he started out, and where he met with his motley band of friend, associates, workers and former workers who strayed in on occasion.
Flashback to the summer of 1975, or was it 1976, the Bicentennial Summer?
In any case, Scotty worked nights and Buck the bartender worked during the day most days, and sometimes there was Charlie Brown, and also a guy whose name I can't recall, but it might be Bill.
Bill recalled that early one summer a guy came in and got a beer and went into the back by the juke box and sat up on the pool table that ran against the back wall, that had a hard mahogany wood cover that could be lifted up and fastened to the wall to play. With the top down, people sat on it like a raised bench, and this guy sat on it with his back to the wall, writing furiously in a little notebook.
Bill said he talked to the guy and he was a college student from Philly, like one of the thousands of college students from Philly, but this guy was different. Bill said he talked to the guy for awhile, as he was waitin' on a friend. It wasn't until the guy became famous that he could even tell the story of Jim Croce sitting in the back of the Anchorage and writing one of his songs, suggesting that it was "Time In A Bottle."
Another day, Tito Mambo came down from Bay Shores and discovered the little piano that was left behind by the The Three Keys decades before. It still worked, except for a couple of keys, and he banged out a few tunes for all of the few customers in the place on a quiet, sunny afternoon at the Old Anchorage.
Then one afternoon Buck the bartender had to do something else and he asked Scotty to work his afternoon shift, and I joined him, and since there were no customers, me and Scotty played a game of pool. While we were shooting, two guys walk in the front door in suits and ties, lose around the neck, and carrying suitcases.
Barney and Marty, direct from Irleand, just off the plane, caught a bus from New York City to Atlantic City and took a cab to Somers Point where they were told by someone at the bus terminal that it was a place where they could get jobs for the summer.
Scotty gave them each a cold beer while he listed to their story and called over to me and asked if I thought we should call Brian, our Irish friend who came to America under similar circumstances a few years earlier and was now working as a bartender at Zaberers, a big dinner joint out on the Black Horse Pike by the Race Track.
While I gave Brian a call from the Anchorage pay phone, Scotty asked them what kind of work they wanted to do.
When we discussed the fact that the guy who ran the Anchorage kitchen was not coming back this year, Scotty asked the two Micks if they wanted to run the kitchen right there, and they looked it over.
There was a grill with an overhanging umbrella and a deep fryer, as well as a refrigerator and freezer, and plenty of pots and pans, it was just a matter of cleaning things up and getting some supplies, and oh, yea, what's the rent?
The rent, according to Joe Trichek, Andrew the owner's brother-in-law, was to pay the electric bill for the entire summer, which came to between five hundred and eight hundred dollars. No problem.
I had gone back to making pizza on the Ocean City boardwalk that summer, and couldn't leave that job, but I became Barney and Marty's partner by bankrolling the first couple food accounts - hotdogs, hamburgers, blocks of cheese, onions, tomatoes, french fries and fresh Formica rolls from Atlantic City. We got some fresh clams from a clammer. But that was basically the Anchorage menu that summer.
I explained to Barney and Marty what a Cheesesteaks was by making one, and it became the best item on the short menu.
They moved, at first, into the apartment at my house that wasn't rented out until Memorial Day, so they had a few weeks to find new quarters, and Brian got them a car from a waitress at Zaberers - a white 65' Mustang convertable, for a couple of hundred dollars.
I owned a '57 Chevy that summer so we had two classic cars between us.
During the day the Anchorage was pretty quiet, but at night, it filled up with young people and had three bartenders, all busy, all night long.
The enticement was the seven draft beers for a dollar that were lined up along the bar, and people would come in and drink for an hour or two and meet their friends before walking down the street to the rock & roll bars, Bay Shores and Tony Marts, where the bands played.
The Jukebox at the Old Anch
When Andrew Henry Cornaglia owned the Anchorge it was famous for its pasta and Italian wines, and Henry's favorite songs on the juke box were "On the Way to Cape May" and Dick Todd's "Bummin' Around."
Later, after Johnny Caswell and the Chrystal Mansion began playing at Bay Shores, his songs were the local hits, along with the Skyliners's "Pennies from Heaven" and Dion and the Belmont's "Runaround Sue."
"Got an old slauch hat got my roll on my shoulder
I'm as free as the breeze and I'll do as I please just a bummin' around
I've got a million friends don't feel any older
I've got nothin' to lose not even the blues just a bummin' around
Whenever troubles start to bothering me
I grab my coat my old slauch hat and hit the road you see
I ain't got a dime don't care where I'm goin'
I'm as free as the breeze and I'll do as I please just a bummin' around
[ piano - fiddle ] I've got an old slatch hat...
Just a bummin' around."
TOP 10 SONGS ON THE OLD ANCH JUKEBOX
1) Pennys From Heaven - The Skyliners
2) Runaround Sue - Dion & the Belmonts
3) Beyond the Sea - Bobby Daren
4) Mack the Knife - Bobby Daren
5) Hallaluja - Johnny Caswell & the Crystal Mansion
6) Country - Johnny Caswell & the Chrystal Mansion
7) Just Bummin' Around - Dick Todd
8) Charlie Brown - The Coasters
9) To the Moon - Frank Sinatra
10)On the Way to Cape May -
Also rans: Quarter-to-Three - Gary U.S. Bonds; Ain't Nobodys Business - Billie Holiday; Up on Cripple Creek - The Band; Rock Around the Clock - Bill Haley & the Comets; Expressway to Your Heart - Soul Survivors; Time in a Bottle - Jim Croce;
Billy Boyd, another legendary Somers Point bartender, lived upstairs when Andrew's father Henry owned the Anchorage.
Boyd went to Florida where he opened his own bar - the Parrot in Ft. Lauderdale, which became somewhat of a winter haven for Somers Point bartenders and patrons and is still a hangout for Philadelphia Eagle fans.
Billy Boyd came back to the Anchorage for the last night, as did a number of other old timers who wanted to pay their last respects.