Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Egg Harbor Township After Hour Joints

Egg Harbor Township (EHT) After Hour Joints

For many years Egg Harbor Township allowed those liquor licenses within their jurisdiction to remain open 24-hours a day, and some of them did, especially those near Somers Point, where the bars were forced to stop serving at 2am and close by 3am.

Brownies Lodge, a rustic log cabin in Bargaintown was probably the first to become popular with the post-Somers Point crowd, and many old timers recall driving out there to continue the party after Somers Point had closed.

John McCann, Sr. and Dick McLain, the owners of Bay Shores built the most notorious of the after hour clubs – The Dunes, on Longport Blvd. at the intersection of where the roads from Somers Point and Ocean City came together.

Then there was Jack’s Grove, down past Route 9 on Mays Landing Road, just on the other side of the Patcong Creek. Jack’s was a laid back place under a grove of trees, but was renamed the Attic when a guy named Joe bought it and broke it up into two bars – one upfront with two pool tables, and another larger room in the back where bands played.

Joe sold the place to a group of guys who cleaned up the place and renamed it the Boatyard, and continued the live music tradition.

O’Byrne’s was a local taproom just on the other side of the bay bridge at Lousy Harbor on the Longport Blvd, that became the Mug and the Purple Dragon before Andrew Cornaglia bought it and renamed it Mothers, after the bar in the TV show Peter Gunn.

All of these places were either closed during the day or virtually deserted until around midnight when things would start picking up and they would get more crowded as the Somers Point bars let out. By 3 in the morning they were jamming, most of the them with live bands that didn’t even begin to play until midnight and continued to early in the morning. Dunes ‘Til Dawn was the slogan on the T-shirts.

The bands that played these places were special too. The Dunes had the best bands early on mainly because of their affiliation with Bay Shores, so many of the bands from there would go over to the Dunes when they got finished at Bay Shores and continue playing or jam with the band that had the gig.

Airport was the house band at Mothers for a few years, while Bob Campanell and the Shakes also played there a lot. Bob’s brother Gabbo had a band The Flys, whose equipment was destroyed when Mothers burnt down a year or so after Andrew sold the place to Charlie Brown.

Mike’s Towing was the band at the Attic for many years, and Mike and his pals would move to the Pocono mountain resorts for the winter after the summer ended at the Shore.

A lot of bands played Brownies over the years, including Jack Zwacki, Larry Hickman and Back Roads, which included Nancy and Tom, Jack Patch and Billy Mueller.

Today, none of these places even exist. Brownies is still there but after Joe Hoffman died his second wife sold it to some guys who operated it as a bust out joint for a year or two and then went bankrupt, and it now sits empty.

After Mothers burnt down its liquor licenses was sold and moved to the Cardiff Circle.

The Dunes was renovated into a sports bar by the Suttor family from Margate, who also owned, at one time – the Sailfish Café and Roberts in Margate, the Point Pub and the Owl Tree in Northfield.

Then they lost it and the Dunes was taken over by the State of New Jersey Division of Fish Game and Wildlife – and went from one wildlife to another.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Judge Ed Helfant

Judge Ed Helfant and Flamingo Motel and Lounge (Press of Atlantic City file photos)

Judge Ed Helfant

Somers Point municipal judge Ed Helfant served during the heyday of the Bay Avenue bar scene, and milked it for all it was worth.

Setting up night court the police – Lynn Bader’s Raiders would pick up people for drunk and disorderly, DWI, urinating in public, open containers or any other infraction they could us, and bring the offenders directly to court where they were usually fined whatever cash they had in the pockets.

Helfant was well known in Atlantic City as well, and had the right connections so that when someone needed a legal favor Helfant could usually arrange it, for the right price.

According to Phillip “Crazy Phil” Leonetti, a top underboss of the Scarfo mob family in Atlantic City, Helfant was paid off to arrange a light sentence for Nick “the Blade” Virgilio, but failed to come across. He took the money but Virgilio got a lengthly sentence.

When Virgilo finally got out of prison, he got Scarfo’s permission to wack Helfant, and did so while Helfant and his wife were having dinner at the Flamingo Lounge on Pacific Avenue.

Leonetti was later indicted and convicted for other crimes, and then flipped, entering the Federal Witness Protection Program in exchange for testifying against his former pals – including Scarfo, Virgilio and New York mob boss John Gotti.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

John McCann Somers Point Mayor (1972-1974)

John McCann, Jr.

Before Bayshores was demolished and the Waterfront built, one of its last owners was John McCann, Jr., the son of the long time owner, former bootlegger and Philadelphia beer baron John McCann, Sr.

The McCanns lived in a big historic house on Bay Avenue across from Smith’s Pier where they had built a Olympic diving pool for McCann’s daughter while McCann, Jr. was reared to take over the nightclub business.

John McCann, Jr. grew up working at Bayshores and the Dunes, and could often found sitting on a stool at the front door with a wad full of money in his hands, taking the cover charge to get in.
After college he became a successful businessman and following George Roberts, was elected mayor of Somers Point (1972-1974). He served as mayor while at the same time directing a Pittsburgh company with his brother-in-law. On occasion he would fly in by helicopter to attend city council meetings before eventually relinquishing his local post to concentrate on his Pittsburgh business.

The Dunes after hours club in Egg Harbor Township was sold to State Senator Pat Dodd, who also flew in by helicopter to oversee the Dunes before that too was eventually sold to the N.J. Division of Fish, Game and Wildlife, going from one wildlife to another.

Like his father the bootlegging beer baron, John McCann, Jr. became something of a pirate himself, as his financial success, it turned out, was based in part on smuggling cocaine from Columbia via Panama. In Panama, where he refueled, he personally brokered a deal with then dictator Manuel Noreaga with a $200,000 bribe. Once when McCann visited Panama, the dictator showed him his CIA file, which also indicated the CIA’s support for Noreaga. Both appeared to have the Reagan administration’s support to smuggle the drugs, possibly as part of the CIA’s contra operations in Nicaragua.

But after one of McCann’s planes crashed in Mexico, McCann and his wife and two children disappeared, mystifying his Pittsburgh neighbors. After a federal warrant was issued for him while he was on the run, a former Somers Point neighbor on vacation in Canada ran into him stocking the shelves at a convenience store. McCann was later arrested while trying to cross the Canadian boarder back into the USA, and he later died at the Federal Penn at Merion, Illinois where Noreaga is now living.

A local wake was held for McCann at the upstairs loft at the Waterfront, the site of the old Bay Shores, and he is remembered locally as a good guy who got involved with some bad people and paid his dues for his mistakes.

George Roberts - Somers Point Mayor (1968-1972)

George Roberts and the Sale of the Old Anchorage

One day, as the story goes, a man no one had seen before walked in the front door of the Anchorage, looked around and announced that he had bought the place and would soon be the new owner.

When someone called Andrew on the phone and asked him, and he didn’t know anything about it, everybody laughed and treated the guy like a crank.

Bill Morris however, was very serious, as he had recently arrived from Florida where he had met with George Roberts and gave him a serious deposit on the property.

George Roberts former Mayor of Somers Point (1968-1972) was a local real estate agent whose office was on the north east corner of Shore Road just across the street from City Hall and Charlie’s bar. Roberts had known Andrew’s father Henry Corneglia so when Andrew considered selling the Anchorage he gave the listing to Roberts along with a sale price that he didn’t think would be seriously considered.

Roberts apparently took the money and never reported it to Andrew, and Andrew tried to oppose the deal and took it to court. Even with three lawyers working for him, Morris won the case because Andrew had given the listing to Roberts and Roberts was acting as an agent for Andrew, even if Andrew didn’t get any of the deposit or agreed to sell.

The sale of the Anchorage however, was just the tip of the iceberg, as it quickly become known and other people realized that George Roberts didn’t just suddenly lose his scruples but had been “robbing Peter to pay Paul” for sometime, and had been involved in dozens of real estate schemes that led to many people losing their money and homes.

Roberts was eventually convicted on a number of counts, and served some time, but was released from prison early and within a short time was a free man, despite all the harm and distress he had caused.

The Anchorage was sold, and Morris was the new owner, so as the days and nights went by, there was a sense of doom that settled over the place, as everyone awaited the inevitable end to arrive.

One day a young man in a suit and tie and briefcase came in and he was there to handle some of the sales and tax matters, to make sure everything was on the up and up, and often sat down at the back bar with Andrew. The guy was Irish, a Notre Dame grad, clean cut and straight arrow, at least when he first came in, but after awhile, he was drinking, smoking and gambling with all of us and we became friends.

When the final day was announced, a party was scheduled and word went out that the last day of the Anchorage would be the best.


Former N.j. Mayor Guilty In $3 Million Fraud The Somers Point Retiree Admitted Bilking 35 People - Many Of Them Elderly - In Two Schemes

February 11, 1993|By Pam Belluck, INQUIRER STAFF WRITER

At an age when most people are living in quiet retirement, former Somers Point Mayor George Roberts - known as "Gentleman George" to some - was a busy man. He was running a scheme that defrauded 35 people, many of them elderly, out of more than $3 million.

Yesterday, Roberts, 75, a real estate agent who was mayor from 1968 to 1972, pleaded guilty to selling fraudulent mortgages and taking money for bogus investments from April 1987 to April 1992, in what prosecutors called Atlantic County's single largest fraud case in memory.

Prosecutors said it was a classic Ponzi scheme, in which new investors' money is used to pay off earlier investors.

In his plea in Atlantic County Superior Court to charges of theft by deception, Roberts agreed to accept a sentence of seven years in prison and to pay $3,612,694 in restitution.

However, Roberts' attorney, Bud Bennington, said his client doesn't have any money to make restitution.

The plea prohibits Roberts from appealing his sentence, which is scheduled to be imposed on March 12.

Roberts' victims included an 83-year-old woman who lost $400,000, and a Catholic church that lost $60,000. The church, the Shrine of Our Lady of Fatima in Corbin City, was told in late 1991 that the loan would help one elderly woman pay for treatment at a cancer research center and another woman pay off bills that had piled up, said the Rev. Henry Lovett. The women never got the money and the church never got its money back, he said.

"He was introduced to us as a real gentleman, a nice old man with white hair," said Father Lovett. "I feel so stupid. I mean, charity is supposed to be personal, and we never contacted the old ladies personally to see if they were getting it. And this was a loan with interest, something the church shouldn't really do."

Most of Roberts' victims were from the Jersey Shore area, but some were from Virginia, Alabama and Florida, said Atlantic County Prosecutor Jeffrey S. Blitz. Individual losses ranged from $6,600 to $647,000. Several victims have filed civil suits that are pending.

Roberts defrauded his investors in two ways, Blitz said. One scheme involved selling fraudulent mortgages on properties that were not actually being mortgaged. Roberts would usually provide a fictitious title insurance policy, a forged mortgage and a fake settlement sheet.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

American Heroes at Tripoli's Martyr's Square

Old Map of Tripoli Harbor shows the sinking of the Philadelphia and the explosion of the Intrepid and the old castle fort.

American Heroes Buried at Martyr's Square Tripoli

Martyr's Square (aka Green Square) - Epicenter of the Libyan Revolution

The Arab revolutions that are sweeping across North Africa and the Middle East center around the public square in each city, and in Tripoli, that is Martyr’s Square, which was renamed Green Square when Mohmmar Gadhafi assumed power in a 1969 coup, but will assume its original name of Martyr’s Square after Gadhafi is gone.

But the only real martyrs actually buried at Martyr’s Square are eight American sailors, three officers and five men who died in the explosion of the USS Intrepid in Tripoli Harbor on September 4, 1804.

Their commander, 25 year old Master Commandant Richard Somers, was born in Somers Point, New Jersey, the son of a Revolutionary War colonel and privateer captain who attended the Philadelphia Free Academy with Stephen Decatur and Charles Stewart.

When President Washington ordered Captain John Barry, the Wexford, Ireland born “Father of the US Navy” to prepare some young men to be officers in the new US Navy, he chose Stewart as his first officer and Somers and Decatur as his Midshipmen.

A reluctant Congress finally approved financing for a Navy when North African Barbary Coast pirates began plundering American merchant ships, ransoming their crews and demanding tribute to stop the practice. Instead, Americans responded with the cry, “A million for defense but not one cent for tribute,” and built a fleet of frigates and schooners to fight the pirates. Somers, Decatur and Stewart served under Capt. Barry on the frigate USS United States, built in Philadelphia, and then were given command of their own schooners.

Lt. Andrew Sterett aboard the schooner USS Enterprise was the first to encounter a pirate ship and won the engagement handily. Lt. Decatur was then given command of the Enterprise while Somers had the schooner USS Nautilas, both capturing pirate prizes, including a ketch they rechristened the USS Intrepid.

Unfortunately, the frigate USS Philadelphia ran aground while chasing a pirate coarser into Tripoli harbor and the ship and its 300 man crew, including Captain William Bainbridge and Lt. David Porter, were taken prisoners and held in the dungeons of the old castle fort.

Under the command of Captain Edward Preble, Somers and Decatur each led flotillas of gunboats against the pirate fleet in Tripoli harbor, and Decatur led a commando team into Tripoli harbor at night aboard the Intrepid, recaptured and sunk the Philadelphia and escaped without any casualties.

The success of that raid led Preble to approve another plan, to outfit the Intrepid with explosives as a fire ship, sail it into Tripoli harbor at night, aimed at the anchored enemy fleet, light a fuse and escape in row boats. But something went terribly wrong, the Intrepid exploded prematurely killing all thirteen men, who were found washed ashore the next day.

Their bodies were identified by the surgeon from the Philadelphia, and buried by a party of prisoners, “one cable’s length” (720 feet) east of the walls of the old castle fort, in two nearby but separate graves, one for the three officers and one for the ten seamen.

Besides Somers, the officers included Lt. Henry Wadsworth (uncle of Longfellow), the first officer, and Lt. Joseph Israel, who had come aboard after they had gotten underway and requested permission to stay aboard, the unlucky 13th man.

They were buried on the shores of Tripoli, and there they remained, until 1930, when an Italian army road work crew uncovered the remains of five of the men. They were reburied about a mile away in what is known as Old Protestant Cemetery, a walled enclosure that also includes the remains of about a hundred others, mainly Christians from various European embassies who died there.

In 1949, the USS Spokane put into Tripoli harbor, and honored those buried at the cemetery site with a formal ceremony, that included a bagpipe band and the mayor of Tripoli, Yousef Karamanli a namesake and a descendent of the Yousef Karamanli who led the pirates two centuries ago.

Throughout the fifties and sixties, the cemetery site was maintained by the Officer’s Wifes Club of nearby Wheelus Air Force base, but the US military were forced out when Mohmmar Gadhafi assumed power in a 1969 coup.

The cemetery site was then forgotten about and was overgrown with weeds and debris when two American tourists stumbled upon it, and wrote about it in American Legion Magazine (May, 1977). The article inspired many Americans, especially veterans and family descendents of Richard Somers and Henry Wadsworth, and they sought the repatriation of the remains of these men and the eight others who are buried in the original grave site outside the castle walls in Martyr’s Square, which Mohmmar Gadhafi had renamed Green Square.

By the 1980s however, the United States was practically at war with Gadhafi, who was held responsible for terrorists attacks against American soldiers in Europe. In response the United States bombed Tripoli, and hit Gadhafi’s tent, allegedly killing his adopted daughter. (She later reappeared after the revolution).

When relations between Libya and the United States later thawed after the turn of the century, members of the Somers family and Somers Point officials personally asked Gadhafi to allow for the return of the remains of these Americans, and he agreed. It was the United States Department of Defense and the US Navy who balked. All of their studies of the cemetery site indicate it was a secured and well marked site, and because the men were honored in the 1949 ceremony, the Navy concluded the cemetery should be the permanent resting place for those men.

Their ruling did not mention or include the original unmarked mass grave sites outside the walls of the old castle fort, which is now Martyr's Square, the epicenter of the revolution, political speeches and public gatherings. The only real martyrs buried there are the eight American naval heroes.

In 2011 however, after the Arab revolution spread to Libya, and Green Square became a rally point for the pro-Gadhafi demonstrators, the original grave site once again came into primary focus, and Rep. Frank LoBiondo (R. NJ) asked for assistance from Rep. Mike Rogers (R. Mich), the powerful head of the House Intelligence Committee.

In April 2011 Rogers, a veteran himself, introduced a House Resolution that called for the Secretary of Defense to do whatever is necessary to repatriate the remains of the American military in Tripoli. And ater the national directors of the American Legion endorsed the measure, Rogers attached the resolution to the Defense Appropriations Act, which was passed by the House in early May and is now being considered by the Senate.

Now that Gadhafi is gone, Green Square has been renamed Martyr’s Square for the tens of thousands of young Arabs revolutionaries who died fighting tyranny, and for freedom, justice and democracy – the same things that Somers, Wadsworth, Israel and the men of the Intrepid died for over two centuries ago.

Now the revolution has made it to Martyr’s Square in Tripoli, remember the officers and men of the Intrepid, and the fact that they are still buried there in unmarked graves, and should be repatriated home so they can be properly buried with full military honors.

The Anchorage Tavern - Historic Marker

Anchorage Tavern Sold
Morris to Mahoney

Ocean City Gazette
By Bill Kelly

The historic Anchorage Tavern, Somers Point’s oldest continuously operated business has been sold to chef Don Mahoney, who said that he plans no major changes, at least until the end of the summer.

Settlement on the $2.3 million deal was set for last week. That number includes the transfer of the liquor license, which has already taken place.

Originally built for bird gunners and baymen at the end of the last century, some date the building to the 1880s, it was called the Trenton Hotel at first, but the Anchorage name has been maintained for the pat hundred years and it has only changed hands through three families in the past half-century.

Victorian-era photographs show women in gowns and men in suits and ties relaxing on the ornately-trimmed porch during a time when life was lived at a slower pace.

Before St. Josephs church was built, Catholic masses were held in the living room of a private home until 1910 when Father John F. Sweeney, pastor of St. Augustine’s in Ocean City, began taking the ferry boat to Somers Point to say mass in the ballroom of the Anchorage, where there was no shortage of wine for the services.

After Prohibition ended in 1933, the Anchorage was issued liquor license C-5, the fifth legal license and the only one that retains its original name. For awhile the hotel and bar were operated by Judge Larry Brannigan, who was known as the local Judge Roy Bean and “the law east of Patcong Creek.”

From Brannigan the Anchorage was passed on to Charles Collins, “who sold it in 1938 to Lucille Cornaglia Thompson, who sold it to her brother Andrew “Henry” Cornaglia in 1945. From South Philadelphia, Cornaglia and his wife Luci (nee Corcione) made the place famous for good Italian food popular with families. “It was a running joke in the family that she could cook for 120 but not for four,” said Andrew Cornaglia, Jr., who took over the operations of the Anchorage when his father died in 1965.

Although he was only 20 and not old enough to drink, Andrew found himself suddenly responsible for operating the hotel, bar and restaurant. “When my father passed away, I didn’t know vodka from gin, and if it wasn’t for my mother, I would not have been able to sustain the first couple of years.”

While Bay Shores and Tony Marts were famous for the live music, the Anchorage sported a piano that, legend has it, was played by the late, great Nat King Cole, although it was the Seven-for-One draft beers that made the place famous. The Anchorage didn’t originate the idea of serving seven beers for a dollar, but they made it popular and famous with a line of 7 for 1 T-shirts that are colletor’s items today.

Pat Pirano, who worked there during the helicon days recalled that, “I was enthralled to be a 19-year old bartender in a place that was considered a legend to my generation. It was wall-to-wall people and lines to get in, with the fire marshal controlling the crowd at the door. There were 10 bartenders, nine bouncers and two glass-pickers working most nights from 1978 to 1981. Then the drinking age went back to 21, and it took a few years for it go become a local bar again.”

From the days of Andrew’s father the hotel rooms were occupied primarily by bartenders and musicians who worked the other bars and restaurants in town, with the hotel eventually closing in the 1980s and the upper floors shut off.

[See: Lynda Vandevater’s beautiful story of losing her virginity in a second floor room on Labor Day weekend in Dunes Til’ Dawn, a chapter from her book on life as a nurse in Vietnam – which became the basis for the TV program China Beach.]

Andrew Cornaglia, Jr. went on to open Mothers, an all night joint on the Longport Boulevard, and two places in Atlantic City and one in North Philadelphia before returning to operate the Anchorage as a neighborhood saloon in the early 1990s.

Andrew placed the Anchorage on the market with local real estate broker George Roberts, a former Mayor of Somers Point. Roberts apparently accepted a $100,000 down payment on the Anchorage from Bill Morris, without telling Cornaglia about it. Roberts’ subterranean sale of the Anchorage was just the tip of the iceberg, as it eventually was revealed that Roberts had a Ponzi scheme going and was responsible for the theft of millions of dollars in mortgage loans and bogus sales of properties. Roberts was convicted, served some time and was released. Although Andrew contested the sale the courts ruled that he had a legal listing and sold the property to Morris.

Morris didn’t close the Anchorage for a day, but began renovations and restoration efforts immediately, keeping the tavern pretty much the same with the juke box and two pool tables in the back. But he added a fireplace and reopened the ballroom as a dining room. Morris also introduced the then-novel concept of leasing out the kitchen, first to Tyson Merriman, who went on to purchase and restore the Tuckahoe Inn in Beesleys Point, and then to Don Mahoney.

Ironically, Andrew Cornaglia had tapped Mahoney to be his chef when he was trying to purchased the Island Inn on the Longport Boulevrd, but when that deal fell through Mahoney took over the Anchorage kitchen.

With local roots that go back to his early days working in Daniel’s kitchen, Mahoney is a hands-on chef who can be always be found on the job. So, after six years at the held of the Anchorage kitchen, when Bill Morris and his family decided to put the place on the market, Mahoney was already in a position to leverage a deal.

The liquor license changed hands a few weeks ago, while settlement on the property was yesterday, ushering in yet another era for Somers Point’s oldest and most enduring institutions.

“The Anchorage has always been something you could hold on to,” said longtime patron Nace Brenner. “It’s always been the Anchorage. When everybody else changed, the Anchorage always stayed the same. It’s like an anchor.”

As for any major changes, Mahoney said, “I’m not going to do anything until after the summer is over, then maybe we’ll enclose the porch, but if it ain’t broke, why fix it?”

Bay Avenue Nightlife - Historic Marker

300 Years at the Point - Preface & Epilogue


Three hundred years seems like a long time. 1693 was a time as foreign to us as space travel would have been for the people who lived then. In geological and evolutionary time however, 300 years is merely yesterday, a few heartbeats away. In Europe, 1300 years is old, while 300 year old buildings are quite common. For Americans, three centuries is an old as can be, and only a small fraction of the 10,000 years the Lenni Lenape lived here without any technological changes.

It isn’t just the centuries, the decades, the years; it is the generations and the spirit of the people who lived at that particular place over time. It is the succession of people who made Somers Point what it is today.

“The illusion that times that were are better than those that are has probably pervaded all ages,” Horace Greeley once mused. Yet we look to return to yesterday, the better days that we long for. “Those were the days,” and indeed they were special. However, it is a fallacy, I believe, that today is not as good as yesterday, and that are children can never enjoy life as much as previous generations enjoyed it.

Styles change, times change, but certain variables remain. People still like good music; they like to dance, and fall in love with each other; they like the times in which they live. It is the people who make a community and Somers Point, in 300 years, has developed a sense of community that should endure as long as our civilization.

We must strive to preserve what is historic, remember what is good, and like the Lenni Lenape before us, retell the stories of these lives, so a record of our existence and the spirit of our lives will endure forever.


In the end, the treasures of Somers Point are the same today as when they were first discovered by the early settlers. The cool breeze blows off the bay, shellfish and seafish abound, and the small town atmosphere endures.

The legends of the pirates and smugglers, though, are repeated to a new generation, and the myths are carried into a new century. The tales of the secret brick tunnel persist. Some argue the tunnel exists today. It is a passageway, they say, that when opened, will contain the treasure trove of pirates, the Somers’ family jewels and a rum runner’s forgotten stash.

Deeper still are the stone and bone relics of the Lenni Lenape Indians. Beyond that, where the tunnel opens into the sun, are the sparkling Bay waters and the pristine wilderness that existed for hundreds of thousands of years before the first settlers came 300 years ago, just yesterday.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Local Delicacy - Snapper Soup

Snapper Soup

Snapper soup is a real local delicacy and hard to find mainly because snapper turtles are hard to get, mean to catch, sloppy to clean and complicated to cook properly, but those who have been doing it for decades – say over fifty years, keep doing it because, well it’s really good to enjoy and a fine tradition to continue.

You don’t have to be a connoisseur to appreciate snapper, but if you like it, you know where to get it – Greogory’s, the Crab Trap and the Point Diner are three places you can get it locally.

Although there is a white, southern style snapper turtle soup that’s mixed with vegetables, but I’m talking about the local snapper turtle soup recipe that is of a thick, brown gravey, the origins of which can be traced to Old Original Bookbiiners (125 Walnut Street, Philadelphia).

As Craig LaBan called attention to it in the Philadelphia Inquirer (Sunday, June 12, 2005), “We are famous for preserving every other aspect of our history, but why, I wonder, has Philadelphia let so many of its old restaurants drift away? Our dinning scene is many things – youthful, sophisticated…but we have virtually no connection left to the grand restaurants of yore, those brassy old spots where snapper soup tastes as it did when our grandparents tipped the sherry bottle with extra fervor, but we are poorer the fact, and missing a crucial piece of the family puzzle.”

LaBan described the true bill as tasting like “dark as molasses with a trace of fragrant spices and a citrus zest that dances across the sherry-splashed broth like an exotic trade wind.”

While LeBan was critical of the snapper soup when Old Original Bookbinder’s reopened in June, 2005 under the stewardship of John Taxin, he lamented that“…we are poorer and missing a crucial piece of the family puzzle.”

Well, after over a century, if the Taxin family lost the recipe for their original snapper soup, Gregory’s has it.

Just as the Taxin family maintained Bookbinder’s traditions through generations, the fifth generation of the Gregory family is now running Gregory’s in Somers Point. Headed by cousins Walt and Greg Gregory, sons of the late Walt and Elmer Gregory, the sons of old man “Pop” Gregory, the kitchen today is in the hands of Joe and Paul Gregory, graduates of the Culinary Arts Institute at Atlantic-Cape College.

Few people, other than the above gentlemen, know the family recipe for snapper soup, as it was passed on to Pop Gregory from a Bookbinder’s chef back before the war at the original Gregory’s bar in the Kensington section of Philadelphia. Pop Gregory spiced it up a little bit to make it unique, and put it on the menu when he opened Gregory’s in Somers Point in 1946.

Pop taught his sons Elmer and Walter and Rosie Gregory, and they taught Greg Gregory, who remembers when they used to buy their snappers from a Piney and kill them in the backyard by cutting off their heads and letting them run around headless. Then they hanged them from a clothes line to dry them before cutting off the shell and skinning the meat.

One of the benefits of living in these parts is being so close to the Jersey Pines were there is an almost unlimited supply of snapper turtles that thrive in the fresh water cedar lakes.

Having grown up summers on a Mirror Lake lagoon in Browns Mills, in the heart of the Jersey Pines, I know how to catch snapper turtles, as I did it many times unintentionally. They’re pretty nasty devils with a sharp bite and once they get a hold of something its like a vice and they don’t let go. While they prefer baby ducks they pull down from a mother’s brood as it crosses the lake, they are caught on fishing line or in nets. My former neighbor used to catch them and only keep the big ones – two feet or more. If you get one on the dock you give it the end of a long stick to bit and then you can pick it up by the tail, but must be careful that it doesn’t get a hold of one of your fingers.

Now the snapper turtle meat comes pre-cleaned and cut but is still supplied by the grandson of Pop Gregory’s original supplier. It’s a family thing all around.

For awhile Gregory also let a non-family member in on the secret, and before he went to work down at Dolphin Dock, Jimmy Simmons would go by Gregory’s whenever they needed a new batch of snapper soup and prepare it. Simmons was also one of the most prodigious fishermen on Great Egg bay, who caught his share of stripers, but died tragically when a boat he was working on fell off its mount and crushed him.

In any case, making snapper soup from scratch is a very difficult and complicated process, so much so that it’s not really worth it to make it yourself, and just going out to buy a bowl is easier and you couldn’t possibly make it better than they do.

Gregory’s prepares a large multi-gallon pot two or three times a week, depending on the season, and they spice it up to make it a little bit different from the Crab Trap or Point Diner, and have their regular clientele who come in once or twice a month just for the soup.

Served with bread and butter, crackers and a snifter of sherry that’s added for flavor, you have all the workings of a true local delicacy. And don’t eat the bay leaf, that’s only one of the traditional touches.


• 1½ pounds beef or veal knuckles, 2-inch pieces
• ¼ cup butter melted
• 1 cup chopped onion
• ½ cup chopped celery
• ½ cup chopped carrot
• ½ teaspoon salt
• 1 whole clove
• 1 small bay leaf
• ¼ teaspoon pepper
• ¼ teaspoon dried thyme, crushed
• ¼ cup all-purpose flour
• 2 10½-ounce cans beef broth
• 8-ounce can tomatoes
• 1 pound frozen turtle, thawed and diced
• 3 cups water
• ½ cup dry sherry
• Dash bottled hot pepper sauce
• 1 lemon slice

In a shallow roasting pan combine the first 10 ingredients. Bake at 400 degrees for 30 minutes. Push the bones to one side; blend in flour.

Lower oven temperature to 350 degrees and bake 30 minutes longer. Transfer to a soup pot, add beef broth and tomatoes. Cover, simmer 45 minutes. In a large pot combine turtle meat and water. Cook, covered, until meat is tender, about 1 hour. Remove meat to cool. Reserve 2 cups cooking liquid.

Add turtle meat, reserved liquid, sherry, hot pepper sauce and lemon to soup pot. Cover and simmer for about 20 minutes. Remove lemon. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

800 Bay Ave. Corleto's Marina Sold

Sketch of Corleto's by Robert Barnsey "Caveman" Barnes

Ocean City Gazette
Wednesday, Dec. 11, 1996

Somers Point’s oldest and largest unrestored landmark is in the process of being sold, renovated and restored into an upscale hotel, restaurant and marina.

Corleto’s Marina at 800 Bay Ave., on the corner of New York and Bay avenues, overlooks the Somers Point municipal beach and the bay. It has remained pretty much the same as when Ernie Corleto purchased it in 1962 when it was known as the Point Tavern.

Corleto, a former Philadelphia gas station operator, sold the liquor license, which was relocated to the Somers Point Shopping Center and is now the Point Pub. Corleto continued to run the marina. For the past 35 years Corleto’s has been popular with the local fishermen and boaters mainly because it’s one of the last vestiges of old Somers Point.

John and Susan Meyer, neighbors from down the street, have entered into an agreement to purchase the property, a deal contingent on the city approving the plans they have to establish an upscale hotel, restaurant and marina.

That approval was granted Monday by the Somers Point Zoning Board.

Ernie Corleto, now 79 years old, has decided to retire and has moved most of his stuff out, including the vintage 1934 pickup truck with boat crib and derrick that graced the front yard for the past quarter century.

“They were part of history; now they are history,” he reflected during a recent tour of the property.

Whatever the future holds, the place, which dates to the mid-1800s, has an intriguing past.

“When I moved here 36 years ago,” Ernie recalls, “a neighbor came over and told me the building was 112 years old,” which would date it to around 1850.

In previous incarnations it was the Grand View Hotel, when Mrs. M. Cormey was the proprietor, while more recently it was the Point Tavern. For awhile it was run by the Latz family, who popularized the Knife & Fork restaurant in Atlantic City.

Ernie Coleto bought it from two guys – McGeen and Gliven, though he knows it had been operated by organist Bobby Brian. Another entertainer, Bill “Vaughan” Comfort, is also known to have performed there when it was the Point Tavern.

Ernie Corleto has been on the scene daily since 1962.

“They’re all good memories,” he says with a smile from under his old seaman’s cap. “I don’t have any bad memories. I didn’t have any problems with people. All the summers were god ones and no one year stands out, except for the storms. The one thing that really stands out, the only thing that really worried me was the storm of ’62. That was the first year we were here. But we weathered that one.”

And it’s been relatively smooth sailing since then.

“We spent a lot of time sitting on the steps. That’s a daily thing,” he explained. “A lot of fish were caught and a lot of fish stories were told.”

The place has changed over the years, but only a little bit.

From old photos you can see where various additions were added to maintain the structure over the years, where there were wings and rooms that are no longer there. Now additional changes are planned.

John Mayer reached an agreement with Corleto to purchase the property, an agreement contingent on Mayer receiving approvals and variances from the city. Their plans have met the approval of the city Historic Commission, the Zoning Board granted the project a use variance, area and bulk variances plus preliminary and final site plan approval at their meeting on Monday, Dec. 9.

Mayer and his wife Susan told the Historic Commission they intend to refurbish the marina, restore the building and reopen as a Cape May style upscale bed-and-breakfast hotel/marina that will include eight rooms, a restaurant and 100 boat slips.

Renown interior designer Charles Tilly, who the Mayer’s met in New York, will handle the interior decorating, making the hotel and interesting place to visit.

The Historic Commission could only rule on the exterior plans, which include the replacement of the cedar shingle roof with fiberglass shingles and the construction of porches, decks and a turret on the southwest corner of the building. While the Historic Commission approved these plans and commended the Mayer’s desire to restore the historic structure.

Other issues remain, however, including the acquisition of a liquor license which will be harder to obtain in Somers Point, where there are already 20 of them.

Although a license to serve the public was sold recently for approximately $150,000 (Daniels to Doc’s), and there is at least one other license for sale, the cost of a public license would be a small part of the $2 million considered necessary for the project. As the building was the site of the Point Tavern for many years, it has such a previous use. But Mayer also wants to consider the option of obtaining a private club license.

As the hotel will be an upscale one, little off-the-street clientele is expected, but there will be an in-house yacht club and fishing club as well as facilities for special occasions and functions, like weddings and meetings when booze will be required.

“At one time it was a classy joint,” Mayer said. “People used to come here all dressed up in top hats and tails and I want to make it classy again.”

According to Mayer’s plan, “It will have a split personality, with a seashore motif on the water side, where the ballroom and restaurant are, and a Victorian there on the street side, where the rooms and guest quarters are located.”

A new kitchen is planned for the north wall, a small bar on the south side, with glass walls facing the bay. Eight guest rooms on the second and third floors will have their own baths, and bay view or balcony. One will be a two-room suite, while all the guests will share a picturesque lounge overlooking the water.

The marina will accommodate 80 seasonal boat slips at competitive prices, with 20 slips reserved for transients. A barbeque pit is planned for the boaters.

“People come here from all over,” Mayer said. “They buy a boat, they want to go out on the water, they bring in their fish, they want to meet people, they want to eat and drink with their friends and they want to be a part of this area.”

As John Meyer puts it, “We want to take the old Grand View Hotel and turn it into a nice place again. Not just for Somers Point; we want to make it the jewel of the Jersey Shore.”

As the former owner of Maye’s Marina, which is now the Somers Point Marina, Mayer has the background and ability to operate the marina, while his wife has experience in marketing.

Susan wants to utilize her experiences with shopping mall developer Crown and Mary and Hecht department stores. As Susan Meyer told the Historic Commission, “There’s nothing like it on the water, even in Cape May. It’s an unbelievable property that’s always been there, but its been ignored. People ride by and just don’t see it. It’s almost invisible at the moment, but we want to make it a landmark attraction for the area.”

A report on the development of Bay Avenue also featured Corleto’s as the primary attraction.

“We’re very excited about the Bay Avenue project and firm believers that it’s going to work,” Mayer said.

A city sponsored study concludes that the Bay Avenue project, in order to succeed, would have to be a joint effort on the part of the city, state and the private sector. So far the private sector is making all the major moves and it will be hard for the city to hinder preserving, restoring and upgrading historic properties.

Asked what he’s going to do first now that he’s retired, Ernie Corleto said, “I’m going to take Lucky the dog to have a shampoo before I take her home to Longport.”

Nine years of the boatyard will be hard to soak out of the old salty dog.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Ernie and John Mayer at Ernie's Marina

PHOTOS By Rich McNally

Ernie ran his marina on Bay Avenue next to the Somers Point Beach for decades. Before Ernie it was the Point Pub, a very popular place run by Vaughan Comfort, an entertainer who played the piano. The liquor license was moved to the Somers Point Shopping Center. After he left the Point Pub Vaughn Comfort opened a new joint on the circle, which was up on pilings and featured singing waiters. One of the singing waiters from North Jersey got his job when he auditioned with Frank Sinatra, who didn't get the job because Vaughn Comfort said he couldn't sing loud enough.

Ernie converted the huge dining room into a bait and tackle workshop for his boatyard, and the place stayed pretty much the same for a few decades, as Rich McNally's photo attest.

John Mayer's family owned Mayer's Marina on Bay Avenue, down the street from Ernie. He sold his own marina and bought Ernie's, and took me and Rich McNally for a tour of the place before he renovated it.

Shortly after these photos were taken, John Mayer had the place totally rebuilt at the cost of over $2 million. He tried to establish a private yacht club that could offer liquor to its members, but when that effort failed he sold the place to Dr. Ira Trocki, who moved the liquor license from the old Tony Marts/Egos, which now sits empty.

Johnny Mayer moved to Florida with his wife. For awhile the place was known as Tuckers, and served fine Italian food. Trocki has since leased it to a variety of people who opened it under different names. I think it is now called by its address. Eight hundred something Bay Avenue.

Some of the Regulars at the Old Anchorage

Nick and Kathy on the left and Winnie with the camera on the right. That might be Lisa in between.

The late Great Charles Cox and Barbara

Pat the bartender

Monday, August 15, 2011

Did Jersey Shore Lose Striper Bass Record?

Did The Jersey Shore Lose the World Striper Record to Connecticut?

For the past five decades South Jersey Shore fishermen have held the last two striper bass world records caught by Maury Upperman of Margate and Albert McReynolds of Atlantic City, both seasoned striper fishermen.

Now however, another seasoned striper fishermen, Greg Myerson of Connecticut, has laid claim to the title.

Myerson, a six foot two, 43 year old, 275 pound former college linebacker hauled in a 88 pound 1 ounce striper bass while fishing with his friend Matt Farina on his wooden 17 foot skiff in Long Island Sound on Thursday night, August 4th.

Myerson, a union electrician who lives in North Branford, Conn., fishes every night he can, usually at his favorite spot, a fishing hole with big underwater rocks, best at slack tide at the high water mark when the moon is high and there’s a wind.

Myerson keeps his boat at Pier 76 Marina, north of the Singing Bridge over the Patchogue River in Westbrook, Connecticut.

Using a Quantum Cabo reel and a short, stout St. Croix six-and-a-half foot rod, Myerson used a three-way swivel rig with a big eel. As they were drifting, Myerson said he first felt a powerful strike, but lost half the eel, so they began to drift again.

"I expected the fish would be still there, especially if it was hungry,” he said. Then it struck again and ran the reel. “Crashing the surface, its dorsal fin was so big it looked like Batman's cape.”

As he was fighting the fish, Meyers slipped on some deck eel slime and bruised his ribs on the side of the boat, but the fish eventually gave and they boarded it with a net held by
Farina, who also caught a 48 pound striper that night.

A broken leader in the fish’s mouth indicated that another unlucky angler had almost snagged the record but the fish had got away.

Since the stripers were running they kept fishing for awhile, and then put the fish on ice and retreated to a local seafood shack for a meal and to celebrate. Having weighted the fish at 82 pounds aboard the boat, he knew he had a big one and called ahead to Jack’s Shoreline Bait & Tackle shop in Westbrook to let them know he was coming in and there was a crowd on hand by the time he got there.

“Approval of a record is a rigorous process," says Jack Vitek, International Game Fish Association (IGFA) records coordinator. The appropriate documents must be completed, and the fishing line and leader used to catch the fish must be tested, as well as the scale on which the weight was certified. Then it can be certified 60 days from the time it was caught.

The IGFA rules for applying for a world record include:
- the fish must be weighed on certified scales;
- an IGFA record application must be filled out and notarized
- photos of the angler and the fish, the scales and the rod and reel must be submitted with the application
- plus samples of the leader and a minimum of 50 yards of the line. They test the line for breakage point to determine line class records.

The current record is still held by Albert McReynolds – 78 pounds 8 ounces, caught on Sept. 21, 1982 during a rainy storm with 25 knot winds and waves crashing on an Atlantic City jetty. McReynolds broke the record previously held since the 1960s by Maury Upperman of Margate, who caught his 62 pound 9 ounce striper nicknamed “Big Ben” in a boat north of Atlantic City, on his own handmade bucktail lure.

According to former Press of Atlantic City sports editor Mike Shepherd “Two days after Myerson's catch, McReynolds called The Press to say that he was considering legal action for fraud.”

But when reached later, the 64-year-old McReynolds said that “Myerson deserves the honor of the new world record because Myerson is a real fisherman who earned it. McReynolds said it is not about the money or honors, but about the joy of fishing. That was his biggest advice for Myerson - just do whatever makes him happy.”

Myerson said that he’s talked to McReynolds on the phone about five times. "He's been treating me with nothing but respect. He told me to lay low for a couple of days. Just enjoy it. He probably is the only person who knows what I was going through.”

Myerson said McReynolds, who spent years defending the catch from others who claimed it was caught by a net and even received hate mail, also advised him not to worry about what everybody says. "Keep fishing, get out of the house, stay focused on fishing," McReynolds said

"Everyone has been pretty cool," Myerson said. "Nothing has changed. I'm just going to keep on fishing. I want to start a company that sells online. It would market T-shirts, caps, fishing rods and maybe reels."

Bill Kelly can be reached at

Friday, August 12, 2011

A Tale of Three World Record Stripers

From the Top: The latest striper caught last Friday (Aug. 5) by Greg Myerson weighted in at 88.1 pounds, Al McReynolds of Atlantic City and his record 78 lb 8 oz fish and Big Ben, and the wake of the previous world record 62 lb 9 oz caught by Maury Upperman of Margate.

Myerson caught his striper off Long Island Sound, just off Westbook beyond the Outer Southwest Reef with a large eel on three-way swivel rig and Quantum Babo reel and short, staut St. Croix rod. McReynolds caught his with an artificial lure off an Atlantic City jetty in September 1982 during a Noreaster. Upperman caught Big Ben with his own home made bucktail lure in the 1960s.

Levon & the Hawks at Tony Marts

Spring 1965

Levon Helm & the Hawks, just off the road from having toured with Ronnie Hawkins, left Rockabilly Ron but kept the name the Hawks. They were tired from moving around from road house to road house and needed a place to settle down and be in one place for awhile, so their booking agent, Colonel Harold Kutlets, sent them to Tony Marts in Somers Point, NJ.

Somers Point, just across the bay from the dry - no alochol - island of Ocean City "America's Greatest Family Resort," had nearly two dozen bars, nightclubs, restaurants and liquor stores within a few square miles. Tony Marts on Bay Avenue was one of the half dozen rock & roll bars that lined the bay - and was just across the street from Bay Shores, another legendary rock & roll club.

Dressed in suits and ties, the Hawks - Robbie Robertson, Rick Danko, Garth Hudson, Richard Manuel and Levon Helm were considered the House Band and played three sets a night, every night for six to eight weeks in the summer of 1965.

Other bands came and went, as did a number of headliner acts, including Conway Twitty, before he went country.

They lived in rooms above the club, formerly Schicks Hotel - a German Rathskeller bar that Tony Marotta had bought in 1944 with proceeds from the hot dog and sandwich stand he ran at St. James Street on the Atlantic City Boardwalk (where the Irish Pub is located).

Tony remodeled the place a number of times, adding bars and stages each time so eventually there were three stages and eight bars, and they would all be going at once on a Saturday night in the summer when 2,000 people would pass through the doors.

They played through mid-August 1965 when Levon got a phone call from New York. It was Bob Dylan. He wanted to know if Levon & the Hawks would back him for a series of concerts he had booked at Forest Hills and Newport.

Levon later said he had, at that point, never heard of Bob Dylan and asked, "Who else is gonna be on the bill?"

"Just us," Dylan said to the incredulous Helm.

But some of the other guys in the band had heard of Dylan, a folk singer, and the Byrds had made Dylan's song "Mr. Tamborine Man" a hit. Dylan was well known in folk circles, but was not yet mainstream, and he apparently wanted to see what it was like to plug in his acoustic guitar, "go electric" and go with the rock & roll revolution that was in the air.

Legend has it that Dylan came down to Tony Marts and saw the Hawks play, and maybe that happened, but if he did, he didn't introduce himself.

Levon and Robertson and some of the Hawks went to New York and met Dylan and decided that they'd like to try working with him once they met Albert Grossman his manager and Grossman's secretary Mary. Mary was from Canada, and knew the Hawks from their hometown, and when Dylan and Grossman asked her who she thought was the best rock & roll band around, she named the Hawks. Grossman tracked them down at Tony Marts, and though they wanted to play with Dylan they were under contract to play in Somers Point until after Labor Day weekend, the busiest weekend of the summer.

When they explained the situation to Tony, the strict Sicilian grumbled, but he liked the "boys" as he called them, because they were gentlemen who called him "boss," and they played by the rules, unlike the drug-crazed nuts who would shortly follow.

Tony let them out of their contract so they could go off with Dylan, and even threw a farewell party for them.

Tony called Colonel Kutlets and told them that the Hawks were leaving and he needed a new band for the Labor Day weekend, so Kutlets sent Tony a new group - Mitch Ryder and the Detroit Wheels, who were running with a new hit song, "Devil with the Blue Dress On."

Levon and the Hawks moved up to New York and got to know Dylan enough to back him at Forest Hills, a large outdoor tennis stadium, where Dylan at first came out alone with his acoustic guitar and played to the primarily folk music crowd. Then the Hawks came out and tuned up their electric equipment and when Dylan donned an electric guitar they began to boo.

Dylan didn't care, and turned up the volume and played, and eventually the crowd came around, but some of the Hawks didn't like it. Especially Levon, who after a few shows, packed it in and went home saying he didn't enjoy being booed.

But other Hawks stuck around, and played with Dylan at the Newport Folk Fest where they were booed again, and they went to England to play a major festival. When they returned home Dylan was involved in a motorcycle accident, so they stopped playing for awhile while Dylan recouperated at his manager's home in upstate New York at Woodstock, which had been a thriving artists colony for decades.

The Hawks followed Dylan there, and liked it, so they took out a lease on a large, pink, split level house they called Big Pink and jammed in the basement. Eventually the neighbors began to refer to them as "the band," and they sort of just took on that moniker as Dylan healed and began to visit and jam with them. Garth Hudson, the organist and best musician of the lot had a reel to reel tape recorder that he used to record many of the basement jam sessions, tapes that would later be bootlegged as the legendary "Basement Tapes."

Now with Grossman's support, The Band released their first LP - "Music from Big Pink," said to be one of the most influential albums of all time.

They also let their hair and beards grow and took on a down home back country look.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Tony Mart's Scrapbook Revisited

Carmen Marotta - On the Boardwalk in Atlantic City (Photo Press of AC)

Carmen Marotta – Interview with Bill Kelly
Sunday, November 15, 1992
Marotta residence, Gull and Bay Avenues, Somers Point NJ

Bill Kelly: I’m with Carmen Marotta. Carmen how old are you?

Carmen Marotta: I’m thirty six years old.

BK: Your father Anthony Marotta owned Tony Mart’s Café.

CM: In 1944 my father purchased it and began renovating it. At the time it was known as Schick’s Tavern.

BK: What did he do before he came to Somers Point?

CM: He operated a hot dog stand and sandwich shop at St. James Place and the Boardwalk in Atlantic City, and he called it Tony Mart’s Luncheonette. He was the operator, he worked the grill and the counter and my mother was a waitress, counter girl and made sandwiches.

BK: Your father was born in Italy?

CM: He was born on the north coast of Sicily, in the province of Mesina, in a little town on a mountain overlooking the Mediterranean. The town is called Naso, which means nose in Italian because if you look at a profile of the mountain, it is nose like in appearance. It’s near Capo De Lano, the Cape of Orlando, a resort on the north shore.

BK: Is your mother from there too?

CM: No. It’s a funny story about my mother and father. My mother was born and raised in what is colloquially referred to as Ducktown in Atlantic City, near Blake Street and Georgia Ave, but my mother’s mother was from Naso. My mother’s father, my maternal grandfather is from Mesina, the capitol city of the province of Mesina, which is approximately 30 kilometers from Naso. So when my father came to this country he had, as one of his potential contacts, people from Naso in Atlantic City.

BK: What year were you born?

CM: 1956.

BK: What are your first memories of the club?

CM: I would say my first memories of the club were running around there as a child. Do you want me to just sprout off what’s coming into my head?

BK: Yes.

CM: Sitting in a car talking to Mrs. Tattler, who was Tommy Tattler’s wife. He was a talent and booking agent. Running around the front of the bar, playing with the bouncers, being in the bar when it was open and when it was closed, eating cherries and drinking cokes. Being in there. My very first memories go back to, I can recall things from 1961 or 62, when I was about five or six years old. The Fall Guys playing the “Alabama Jubilee” and “Tiger Rag” and doing the Sunday night Showtime when they would do a Dixieland, Southern type show and dance on the bar and play “When the Saints Come Marching In,” in sort of a mummers kind of way.

The Fall Guys were influenced by the Spike Jones kind of comedy groups. They were a lounge group that adapted themselves to the Tony Marts summer scene rock & roll type of thing.

BK: You have a brother and a sister?

CM: I have a sister Tina – Catina by birth, is eight years older than me, and could provide a lot more about the fifties and early sixties, naturally. And my little brother is 14 months younger than me, Tony, Anthony Marotta, Jr.

BK: Lets go through the Book – the Tony Marts Scrapbook.

CM: Here’s a photo of Charlote Kinsten with my mother. This would be circa 1964. she was probably my father’s first Go-Go girl. Now George Naame told me that my father didn’t like Go-Go girls. Now I didn’t realize this. I don’t remember it. Because my dad literally advertised No-Go-Go and George Naame had Go-Go girls at the Elbow Room in Margate, which is now Jerry Blavat’s Memories. George Naame is parenthetically, is one of the few people left still operating a club from my father’s generation. There aren’t many left. I don’t think there’s a handful left. My dad did eventually go with the Go-Go girls, and this Charlotte Kirsten is one of the first that he had. You’ll see her name in some of the ads in the scrapbook here.

CM: Reading the newspaper headline – July 23, 1961 – Thirsty Teen Throngs Besiege Point- Here’s pictures of Mike Calao checking age cards and Lynn Bader the Chief of Police in a white dinner jacket checking IDs. Mike Calao is now a councilman. He was a policeman who became deputy chief.

Lynn Bader. They called the police “Bader’s Raiders” in those days. There’s a wonderful picture of my father. Thinner there than I’ve ever seen him. And who was playing in Somers Point in those days – the legendary and infamous Peter Carroll and Tido Mambo. What’s funny is that Tido Mambo’s bass player is living out in Tuscon now with Dale Stretch, Bruce’s brother. And (my brother) Tony and him kibbutz all the time and talk about the old days.

BK: Whatever happened to Tido Mambo?

CM: I don’t know. Peter Carroll, I don’t know either. These guys just drop off the face of the earth.

BK: It says here capacity 1000. I think it was more than that. You know I have the Tony Marts capacity sign hanging in my garage and it says 1300.

CM: yes, it was 1300. I know dad used to do paid admission of over 2,000 in those days, as far as how many people came through the door on any given night. And that was before the lounge, the 1300 was with the lounge.

BK: Six bars, two stages.

CM: Eventually it became three stages and eight bars. That was in 1966 that he did the last edition.

BK: The caption on this picture says: “Three attractions. This is the corner of Bay and Goll Avenues, some under 21 and conjugate during the summer months. The college crowd likes to come here to Bayshores Café, Tony Mart’s and Steels Ship Bar to listen to their favorite rock & roll stars, dance and drink.”

CM: Evidently this article was inspired or came about because of the complaints from a portion of this community who thought Somers Point was becoming too much of a bedroom suburb to allow this kind of “Barbary Coast” activity. They always resented us, especially after Midnick put the track homes in the area that is now referred to as the Fairways. That’s when Somers Point began to become Bougouis, and these Bougouis people began to look askance at the businesses that were an original part of Somers Point – the Anchorage, Greogry’s, Elmer Blake (Steel’s) and my father, Mac’s, Daniels, the Antolinies and Previties.

BK: They’re calling it a “Mecca for young partying kids.”

CM: Here’s a wonderful picture from 1963 in the Courier Post, this is the real Eddie & The Cruisers.

BK: The Fabulous Fall Guys, The Roof Toppers and the Beanstalks, Jack & the Beanstalks.

CM: The absolute height, I would say the years 63, 64, 65, 66 were the very best years for revenue and attendance. Things were really happening.

BK: Things were different back then though, revenue wise. Like how much was a beer back then?

CM: I recall we used to have a pricing scheme called 60-70-80 meant a beer was sixty cents, a high ball with pouring liquor was 70 cents and top shelf was 80 cents. Then at night we would go to higher prices – 70-80-90. I remember as a kid, my father and Pete Toscano, who was the manger for many years in my early youth, talking to Tony saying, “We’re at 60-70-80, shall we go to 70-80-90?” And like wise, the admission was a dollar to get in or a dollar to get in with a one drink minimum. You’d get a minimum ticket. Then sometimes it was one and one, which was two dollars to get in and you got one drink. Or one and two, three dollars to get in and you got two drinks.

BK: What about the seven for one? Both Andrew at the Anchorage, who made it famous, and Gregory’s, who had it before the Anchorage, say that at least in Somers Point, seven for one started at Tony Marts.

CM: There is some controversy about that. I think that my godfather, Willie Theodore could answer that question. There aren’t may left from that era, other than Willie, Joe Orsini, who we called Little Joe, might be able to shed some light on that era. One person who could talk about that era going back to the 40s, is my uncle Pete Basile, who works for my uncle Tony at the White House Sub Shop (in Atlantic City). If both of us went out and tried to run all of this down we would barely scratch the surface. Unfortunately so many of them are dying.

BK: It’s too late for a lot of people.

CM: It’s too late to talk to Pete Toscano, God rest his soul. He was an integral part of this place, and his brother Harry is gone.

BK: Who was the other manager?

CM: Joe Fiore was the manger in the later years, you’re time – ’72-76. He went from our place to the casino industry. Tony and I really began to run the place in earnest in 1977. Tony and I managed the place from 77 to 82 when we closed it.

Here’s Roger Evoy doing the limbo. On Thursday nights we had a limbo contest on the dance floor behind the stage. That’s what this is (in this photo). Around 12, 12:30, depending on the crowd. Dad gave out T-shirts, gift certificates…because you couldn’t give out cash. There was an ABC regulation about giving out cash in those days.

BK: The dateline on this Philadelphia clip is July 28, 1963, my birthday. I was 12 years old. It says: “Saturday Night at the Point – Youth Capitol of South Jersey – Magic Number is 21 when Boy Meets Girl.”

CM: Notice the picture is of the Ocean City beach. It shows the beach, which tells the story. Together, Ocean City and Somers Point comprised one of the major seashore resorts on the east coast – comparable to Fort Lauderdale.

BK: Well Ocean City has the beach but doesn’t have the booze, so they compliment each other.

CM: Exactly. That’s what this is all about. Otherwise, in other places, like Rehobeth, Ocean City, Maryland, Fort Lauderdale – the bars are right on the beach. But here you have the unique situation of the blue laws in Ocean City. I think that may have factored into the reasoning for my father buying Tony Marts in the first place.

BK: Here’s a headline: FBI Checking Fake ID Cards. Somers Point nets $5,000 from 48 persons found guilty by Judge Edward Helfan t. Ordinance #11.

CM: In this picture is Joe DiOrio. This just goes to show how deeply involved in community government civic associations the taproom owners are. The Licensed Beverage Association the important political force in this town (for many years). It is nothing compared to what it was. There still is one, but its lost its political clout. You don’t have these old characters – maybe you have Elmer Gregory and Joe DiOrio. Mr. Antolini has lost his business (Daniels), Tony Sr. is gone from Mac’s, Buddy Styer (Harry’s) is gone, Elmer Blake (Steels) and McCann (Bay Shores) are gone. My dad has been gone since 1986. You have corporations and Yuppie types running places like Markers. These people were great characters like Judge Helfant presiding over this, and solicitor Naame (George’s uncle Lou).

These stories in the scrapbook are about controversies. You have to understand, I mean there were so many people coming here, there was so much activity, so much booze being sold, there was a controversy simply because of the sheer volume. Between those three clubs in the summer you would average 5,000 people on Bay Avenue. They would be in Bay Shores, Steels, Tony Marts, the Anchorage, Gregory’s Jolly Roger, DiOrios; Your Father’s Mustache was a Dixieland club on the circle.

BK: Here’s a photo of the Fall Guys.

CM: The Fall Guys were one of the greatest groups to ever play at Tony Marts. This is the original Fall Guys – Jack the bass player, Joey Delvecio the drummer, Don the guitarist. Now the saxophone player and the trumpeter left the group about ’62 or ’63. Two other gentlemen, Kenny Koucha (ph) and Bill Laws replaced them and those five in that form have remained the Fall Guys up until the last time I saw them, which was at a casino in Atlantic City about fiver or six years ago (1987). They became a casino lounge act, an excellent group that played a broad spectrum of music.

There was always a broad spectrum of music played at Tony Marts, not just rock & roll, which is the type of music that is so frequently associated with this, but there was Rhythm & Blues, which is tantamount to Rock & Roll in a lot of ways. Ray Charles, Dixieland, Big Band – Tommy Dorsey’s band played here in 1963. Bill Haley played this year here. Jerry Gabriel and the Angles were here with the Fall Guys. Interestingly, Jerry Gabriel’s saxophone player became the arranger for Ike and Tina Tuner, that’s one story I know about this page (in the scrapbook).

The Fall Guys did comedy music. They used to do “Unchain My Heart,” “Peanut Butter,” “My Blue Heaven,” which was a Dixieland classic, and songs that are classic rock & roll, “Runaround Sue,” which was in Eddie & the Cruisers. And the Fall Guys came back and did us a favor by coming back and doing the testimonial on our last night.

The Kit Kats were here, and they were a famous band in Philadelphia. The Fables were a great band from Canada, extremely popular.

Pete Carroll was an excellent showman, singer and guitar player who fronted this band. He was also a Wildman who was notorious for his drunken binges and his outlandish behavior after consuming too much alcohol. A very colorful character. He’s the one that nobody could find when he was supposed to go on stage, and he was out in the middle of the bay in a rowboat, drunk. He probably got fired from Bay Shores and went to Steels. That’s the way it was in those days.

BK: Here you have different dances for different nights of the week – Mashed Potato Monday, Twist Tuesday, Talent night Wednesday, and Limbo Thursday.

CM: Talent night was always on Wednesday and the Limbo on Thursday. This handbill with all of the Ivy League schools reflects the collegiate nature of the crowd. Even though some of the nare-do-well, do-gooders in Somers Point tried to make it out like it was a drunken, rowdy crowd, just the opposite was true. The patrons and employees of Tony Marts were for the most part college students and graduate students, many of whom have become successful lawyers, doctors, engineers – I could sprout off some of their names if you’re interested.

BK: Yea, let’s name a few.

CM: Atlantic City attorney Harry Goldenberg worked at the Triangle Bar (by the front door) for my dad, while Sonny McCullough, the mayor of Egg Harbor Township worked the same bar. Dick Brunswick became an open heart surgeon at Tulane University in New Orleans. Dubie Duberson, another bartender, worked for Dunn & Bradstreet while he moonlighted at Tony Marts.

Ronnie Frey, a school teacher and wrestling coach was the head bouncer in these years, the golden years.

Here’s a picture of Dick Brunswick beating on a trash can from behind the bar, probably to a song like “Alabama Jubilee.”

Here’s the Fall Guy’s song list – “Alabama Jubilee,” “If You Want to Be Happy,” “The Bounce,” “Peanut Butter,” “New Orleans,” “Shout,” “Can’t Sit Down,” “ Do You Love Me?” “Muskrat Ramble,” “Do Run Run,” “Twist & Shout,” Duane Eddie’s “Honkey Tonk,” and he later came here himself. My father said that Duane Eddie was probably the greatest draw of anybody who ever played here. He played one week and he made a lot of money that week.

Other songs on the list include Ray Charles’ “What I’d Say?” “Secret Love,” “Tiger Rag,” a New Orleans-Dixieland favorite, “Movin’ and Grovin’” Chuck Berry’s “Memphis” and “Maria,” from West Side Story. “Melaguana and “I Wish You Love.”

CM: That gives you an idea of what I was saying before, of the vast spectrum of music that was played. Here’s a picture of Bill Haley & the Comets, playing on the same bill as Conway Twitty. One of these guys with Haley now runs a restaurant in Barcelona, Spain, and he likes to remember those days.

Here you have Bill Haley, Conway Twtitty, Del Shannon and the Fall Guys, all in one week. To put this in modern rock terms it would be like having Huey Lewis & the News and Hank Williams, Jr. and……Conway was not so much country in those days. He was rock & roll. After he left here, in ’64 or ’65, he crossed back over to country and became even more successful. I could tell you some interesting stories about him too.

Conway was a hell of a guy, a nice person, great softball player. Conway and his drummer Pork Chop were two of the best player on the Tony Marts (All Stars) soft-ball team. They used to play at the Somers Point ball field. They used to play against Bader’s Raiders, the Somers Point Police team. They would play on Monday afternoons because Sundays were big business, and Mondays and Tuesdays were the days that most of the valuable musicians and bartenders would be off because they were the slowest days of the week.

BK: You had a lot of bands from Canada.

CM: That was the Harold Kutlets agency, out of Hamilton, near Toronto. My father met him through MCA out of New York. They were a promotions, talent, productions, booking company. Kutlets is the man who is eventually credited with picking up and representing the Hawks, Levon & the Hawks who became The Band.

They were with Ronnie Hawkins and were the Fabulous Hawks – that’s where the name Hawks comes from – the rockabilly, rhythm & blues singer. Then when they lost Ronnie Hawkins, they had a fight with them or something, they became Levon & the Hawks. Even though they were a Canadian group they couldn’t get any work in Canada at the time, and they were touring down south, we’re talking about the winter of 1965. They were kicking around the south, some of them were from Arkansas, and Kutlets called dad up and said he had this great band that needed a break. They would work cheap. Dad put them in in April. They played six nights a week, four or five sets a night, for $700 total, plus rooms, they lived over top of the bar. They worked their way up to $1300 a week. Now this is for five guys and a manager, a character named Bill Avis, and of course Harold Kutlets got a cut of that.

Then, as the story goes, and its been corroborated, that they became such a legendary talent, that Dylan himself came here. The way it was told to me was that people from Boston to Georgetown, D.C. were coming here just to hear Levon and the Hawks, and hear Richard Manuel sing Ray Charles and Ottis Redding and James Brown, and see Garth Hudson play the sax and do Junior Walker and the All-Star’s “Shotgun.”

Dylan took them from dad the week before Labor Day. But dad still loved them and even gave them a cake and party for them on their last night, but he was mad that they couldn’t stay that last week of the summer. But of course Dylan didn’t care about that, and he took the band. But dad was able to get Mitch Ryder and the Detroit Wheels to finish the last week of the summer. It was big times in those days.

The Four Fables were here too. A great show band. Another Harold Kutlets Canadian band, Joey D and the Starlighters, who became famous for doing the Pepperment Twist. But they played here in 1961, before the Twist. And my father maintained that Joey D learned to rock & roll at Tony Marts. Warren Covington led the Tommy Dorsey band. Wes Covington was a big name in swing and they came and played a Sunday jam session. Swing, Dixieland, traditional jazz, rhythm & blues, there was all kinds of music on Bay Avenue, it was not simply rock & roll.

The Roof Toppers were a strong second band they supported The Fables and the Fall Guys. They kept he room moving. The Four Fables were an excellent draw, a dynamic group of performers. Notice the bands at this time all wore suits and ties. Even the Furies have their freshmen sweaters and patent leather shoes. All of that was a part of Tony Marts until 1966.

The Blastoffs, The Magnetic Magnatones, Johnny Caswell shows up here as a little second band to the Magnatones, and the third band was Paul and the Profits. May 20, 1964 – this is when Johnny Caswell was just a kid. At this time it was Johnny Caswell and the Secrets. It’s spelled in the newspaper ad – Coswell – that’s my father saying “Coswell” over the phone.

Sean Kelly and the Irish Beatles. He was the front man for the Magnatones. Everybody was doing the Beatles then.

The Skyliners played a number of engagements for dad. “Pennies from Heaven” is still on the jukebox at the Anchorage. In the ad it says, “Stars of the Ed Sullivan and Perry Como TV shows.”

The Rockatones were another band that recorded, “I Don’t Know Why?” for ABC Paramount Records.

The Fireflys, Little Anthony and the Secrets – five white guys, Johnny and the Holidays, The Corvairs, The Temptations – a white Temptations, Jerry Gabriel and the Angels, very talented, almost everybody in Jerry Gabriel’s band went on to noteworthy careers in popular music. One went with Ike Turner.

Len Carey and the Crackerjacks. Len Carey was a legendary performer. Now we’ve made a retrograde move here. These guys were from the fifties. He was gone by ’61. Len Carey, my dad said, started with him in 1954. Carey was a show name. He was really an Italian guy. They did a lot of Spike Jones type comedy, music, swing, Dixieland and were wonderful at dancing on the bars and throwing crackerjacks out into the crowd the way they throw novelties at the Mardi Gras in New Orleans. “The Saints Come Marching In” – it was very Dixieland, and it was really important in the history of Tony Marts because it was this band that my father told me, that really made Tony Marts take off. I dwell on the Fall Guys because they were more my era, my recollection, but Len Carey was here before I was even born.

BK: They’re billed as the “Stars of the Spike Jones Show.”

CM: Spike Jones was a famous band leader from the Swing era into the fifties, and known for his comedy music. In fact Levon Helm refers to him in the song “Up on Cripple Creek,” when he says, “I can’t stand the way he sings, but I love to hear him talk.” Spike Jones was a comedian and band leader and Len Carey played with him and was inspired by him and came off like him. It says here, “Jazzmania Simile.” He started with dad in 1954 and played through 1960. I asked dad one day, “Dad, what really took you from being a small piano bar to becoming a showplace nightclub?” And he said
“Len Carey. It was Len Carey.”

He was a dynamic showman who used to perform to the people and project in such a way that he actually developed a big following at the bar, and that’s how Tony Marts became a big club. This guy was very instrumental in the development of Tony Marts. He and dad remained friends and he came back and visited six or seven years ago when dad was still alive.

And Len Carey was till performing as an old gentleman, performing for senior citizens on Staten Island, which is where he was from.

Duane Eddy was one of the best. A great sax player. Dad payed him several thousand dollars to work a week but Duane Eddie was a big name in those days, and dad said he never made as much money in any other week. I think it was in 1964.

Johnny Miestro and the Crests, who became Johnny Miestro and the Brooklyn Bridge, he played for dad a couple of times. A balladeer, crooner and kind of egotistical and dad didn’t get along with him.

Dad had this saying, “The musicians are playing for themselves,” meaning they were playing music with an artistic slant rather than catering to the crowd and keeping the room moving so the people would dance and drink. Needless to say, my father would fire bands that would play for themselves.

The Furies were still here in 1962. Now this (scrap) book is not chronologically accurate. Now it says here that the Carroll Brothers were on tour with Chubby Checker in South America, so Pete Carroll was a very noteworthy cat.

People think that it wasn’t until the late 60s and 70s that rock & roll tragedy was invented, with Janis Choplin and Jimmie Hendrix and Jim Morrision, but this stuff was going on down here on Bay Avenue in the fifties. These people were talented, and crazy geniuses. They carried on, they did drugs, it just wasn’t celebrated. There was cocaine on Bay Avenue, but they were not “social problems” in those days. It was just part of the thing. The kids going into the clubs weren’t doing cocaine, but some of the musicians were.

Conway Twitty worked many years here. He was a gentleman who worked very well with my father. A hell of a showman, dad told of the time the IRS came knocking on the door and said they had a court order compelling him to turn over all of Conway’s salary for the week. And dad argued with them because he wanted to be able to pay Conway. “Look, he’s got to pay his men, he’s got to eat.” But the IRS didn’t want to hear it. So dad advanced Conway half of the next week’s salary, so he could take care of his men and eat. But today it’s ironic because Conway is one of the biggest names in music today.

The Royal Dukes Quintet, just off their Canadian tour. Don Ellis was a big name in the annals somewhere. The Needler was a publication that came out with semi-nude women in it. Bobby Blue, Bobby Comsock, Johnny Preston….

The Fall Guys were the house band. They played for the season for a set rate. Then dad would bring in big names to play overtop of them as the draw. But the Fall Guys were the house band.

The Female Beatles Dad did well with them. The female bands of that era, the thing that I remember, is that they were lesbians. He liked to bring in a female band once in awhile to change the pace. The Kit Kats became famous in Wildwood, Margate and Philadelphia.

Here’s Jeff, who I recently saw in Sea Isle City, Rickie & the Rockets, he first played here with the Lively Ones.

BK: It says Coming Tuesday – Levon & the Hawks – May 6, 1965 With Conway Twitty as the main attraction.

CM: Phil Humphrey and the Fendermen and Damien & the Classics. This is a damn good lineup. This is when Conway Twitty was beginning to get into country. His six man Oklahoma Review with Jackie Apple and the Applejacks

Ted Shall’s Nightly Whirl – he did the display advertising (for the Press of Atlantic City) and did what Dave Spatz does today. This is when Levon and the Hawks first got here, but later on in July when the summer came it really got hot.

Shall wrote: “Don’t forget that tonight is going to be a big one in Somers Point, and at Tony Mart’s in particular. The renown Conway Twitty arrives at the offshore nightspot to join a Canadian group that has rated plaudits for a number of weeks – Levon and the Hawks.”

CM: 1965 and 1966 were the biggest years, the absolute biggest years.

Here’s an article about softball. The Tony Mart’s All-Stars, with South Philly Al, the pitcher, in the Hangover League, when they beat Bay Shores. Sonny McCullough, Freddie Smartly was a big guy who worked for years for dad. Nickie Russo…..

I was only nine years old at the time, fourth, fifth grade, but I remember The Band. I remember The Band being great. I remember hearing them play. They had two keyboards, there was a railing that ran along the stage and they had Richard Manual on the left hand side, looking at it. It was the center stage, which the L-bar was built around. On the right was Garth Hudson’s organ, a B-3, and all his saxophones and accordions – he was always playing different instruments. In the middle was the drum riser with Levon Helm, and Rick Danko and Robbie Robertson were out front.

I remember how great they were. I remember the soulful blues they played. I think that Richard Manuel was the greatest blues singer to ever sing at Tony Marts. I think he was one of the greatest under-rated white blues singers, and he was known for that, as was their music, their jamming, their diversity. They would do, “Little Lizza Jane – I got a girl and you got none….” That was unusual to hear a hillbilly song being played with a rock beat in Tony Marts. They also played, “They Call Me Mr. Pittiful,” “Please, Please, Please,” “Shotgun,” “Blue, Swede Shoes,” “Memphis,” and a lot of the songs on their album, “Moondog Matinee” they played at Tony Marts. Richard Manuel and Levon Helm used to do some of the old southern stuff.

Mitch Ryder came in after The Band was taken by Dylan. Mitch Ryder had Little Huey in the band then.

CM: Here we are (in the Scrapbook) in the New York Times in 1965. This was at the height of our activity, as attested to the fact that even the New York Times is running stories. Tuesday August 24, 1965. “A New Look Slowly Comes To The Jersey Shore – Changes Some Subtle, Some Abrupt and Flamboyant.”

The contrast between the geriatric nature of Ocean City and the action at Tony Marts in Somers Point. “Changes are evident nearly everywhere along the shore.”

BK: Who was the house band at the very end?

CM: The last year we had Fanfare and some other bands – Shotgun from the Villanova area, the summer of 1981. Alien was doing their Doors show that summer. We remained on the cutting edge as far as music went. We had financial constraints and couldn’t fix it up the way we wanted to, but musically we were right there.

The band were doing the music that was happening on the college campuses and radio stations.

One For All was noteworthy – disco year 1978 – they came up from Fort Lauderdale. Joey Powers ’67 – Joey Powers and the New Dimensions. A strange thing happened in 1967 – the drug craze.

The suits and ties came off in 1966.

The Magic Mushrooms were the first psychedelic band to play in South Jersey. The beginning of the British Invasion – the Kinks, the Stones….

Gunther’s Bus played “Indagodadavida” at Tony Marts.

I remember Tido Mambo – a crazy man but dynamic performer. He had long, greasy hair that he used to comb. His band was called Tido Mambo and the Upsetters and he used to draw. He used to give dad fits. People would go to Bay Shores to see Tido Mambo because he was the first long hair. So Bay Shores had that long hair thing with a crazy band. This was a time – 1966, when the Beatles were going psychedelic. So my dad brought in the Magic Mushrooms.

BK: IT must have been hard for him to get away from the suits and tie thing.

CM: It was. But he was convinced, at first they came and it was like a costume thing, with flowerprint and paisley shirts, Nehru jackets and psychedelic garb, so he was just thinking this was a costume, and from the very beginning they did tremendous volume in attracting crows. So the money helped persuade him in that regard.