Long Beach Island (known to its many friends, which by the way includes one Jon Stewart, as LBI) is 18 miles long (of which 3 miles at the southern end are nature reserve) and one-half mile wide at its widest point (300 m at its narrowest). LBI is off the Jersey Shore, about 55 miles southeast of Philly. There are about 10 000 off-season residents and about ten times that many during the summer months. My grandmother once had a house on LBI and I spent vacations there when I was growing up, including a very memorable two months after high school graduation when I worked in the kitchen at Marvel’s Market making deli salads.
There were three of us in the Marvel’s kitchen: one old lady (probably about my age now) and another girl of my vintage and we made 150 pounds of cole slaw and potato salad every day, plus other delicacies such as fruit delight (canned fruit and marshmallows mixed with Cool Whip©) and chopped chicken livers. I always had to leave the kitchen when they chopped up the livers.
We peeled the potatoes while they were still boiling hot — I still don’t have much feeling in my forefingers — and we used to have peeling contests while the deli crew cheered us on. I once lost a slice of finger in the potato salad. Can’t remember if we served that or not. Marvel’s was famous for its fresh donuts with cinnamon sugar. People lined up in the morning to wait for them. The owner, Tommy Marvel, was a very fine fellow. He used to fry up slices of eggplant for the kitchen crew as a treat. My brother Doug was there as well, working behind the counter at the deli and living with lifeguards (I stayed with my grandmother). We generally worked in the mornings and had the rest of the day on the beach. That might have been my best job ever.
The Interwebs are not very forthcoming about when and why it happened, but at some point Marvel’s Market closed down, which must have been a sad sad day for the island indeed. It subsequently opened up across the street as Marvel’s Bakery, a smaller place with (I believe) a different owner. By all accounts, the donuts are still the island’s best. My sister and I went to find Marvel’s and it was closed and flooded. In fact, lots of things were closed and flooded the day we drove down to check on her beach house, bought about 30 seconds before Superstorm Sandy hit. But more on that anon.
Long Beach Island has claims to fame besides Marvel’s donuts of course. The first of the New Jersey shark attacks of 1916 occurred in Beach Haven, resulting in the early and toothy demise of Philadelphian Charles Vansant and partly inspiring the novel Jaws. The Big Storm — the one people always talk about in hushed tones — took place on Ash Wednesday in 1962. The storm, which lasted three days, literally cut the island into three, sweeping away scores of houses and creating two channels from ocean to bay. The 1962 storm, which affected the whole mid-Atlantic region, did hundreds of millions of damage in six states. In a detail that will appeal to all women of a certain age, Misty of Chincoteague spent the storm in her family’s kitchen then had a foal named Stormy. (Everyone I know devoured the Marguerite Henry books about Misty the pony and her pals). BTW, Misty’s body and that of Stormy have been preserved via taxidermy and can be seen at the Beebe Ranch in Virginia. Stupid Interwebs. Like I needed to know that.
Sandy hit Long Beach Island very hard. Residents were evacuated and the island flooded, with the ocean joining up to the bay in certain areas. The streets were covered with up to four feet of sand in some places.
Many homes along the ocean and bay front communities were destroyed by the 18-foot waves that pounded the island. Fortunately, my sister’s house got off nearly scot-free. The evacuation order was lifted on 10 November. Two months later and people are still clearing up, although most of the hundreds of tons of sand have been bulldozed back where they belong. This Facebook site is for people to post photos of detritus they find that might be someone’s beloved possessions swept away by the storm. The site has already reunited one lady with her father’s WWII medals. Cool, eh?
There was a big storm the night before we went down and many of the streets were flooded.
Quite a lot of work is underway to bring the island back to what constitutes normal before the start of the summer season. There are still some pretty amazing sights to be seen, like this house that flew off its foundations to smash into the place next door.
Although most things were closed, we did manage to score a tasty sandwich at How you brewin’ (Shout out to Joey!). I had a roadhouse roast beef with BBQ sauce, cheddar, romaine and French’s fried onions with romaine.
My sister had a turkey sandwich with Asiago cheese, cranberry mayo and romaine.
On the way off the island, we stopped by the Gateway Lounge to take away some of their justly famous, award winning clam chowder. All in all, a very nice day. Sad and nostalgic all at once. I can’t wait to come back. Jersey Strong!
How You Brewin’? 8 North Long Beach Boulevard, Surf City, New Jersey.
Gateway Lounge and Liquors. 227 West 8th Street, Ship Bottom New Jersey