Long Beach Island

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.

An old map of LBI, which my mother found among Grandma's things after she died.

An old map of LBI, which my mother found among Grandma’s things after she died.

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.

Marvel's Bakery

Marvel’s Bakery

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.This used to be my grandmother's house. It was green then, with no lavander shutters nonsense. I loved that house so much!

This used to be my grandmother’s house. It was green then, with no lavender shutter silliness. I loved that house so much! I wonder if there is still a stain on the kitchen ceiling where I threw the spaghetti that time to see if it was done?
There are piles of trash -- like this one outside of Grandma's old place -- in front of many houses on the island.

There are piles of trash — like this one outside of Grandma’s old place — in front of many houses on the island.

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.

LBI, 27 December 2012

LBI, 27 December 2012

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. OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Oh Dorothy! You dropped another house? What a cruel world!

Oh Dorothy! You dropped another house? What a cruel world!

Someone has apparently already scored the ruby slippers.

Someone already nabbed the ruby slippers.

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.

Note the ingredient is French's fried onions, not French fried onions. So much for my foodie cred!

Note the ingredient is French’s fried onions, not French fried onions. So much for my foodie cred!

My sister had a turkey sandwich with Asiago cheese, cranberry mayo and romaine.

Turkey, yum.

Turkey, yum.

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!

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Chowdah!

How You Brewin’? 8 North Long Beach Boulevard, Surf City, New Jersey.

Gateway Lounge and Liquors. 227 West 8th Street, Ship Bottom New Jersey

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5 responses to “Long Beach Island

  1. Another great blog. I miss spending time at LBI and remember the many wonderful times I had there when I was young and also when our children were small.

  2. Nice- Remember the Lucy Evelyn and Hartman’s amusement park too

  3. That must have been some trip and seeing your Grandma’s house after the Sandy devastation must have been a huge shock. But nice that it’s still there, lavender shutters and all. We used to have a rather ugly seaside house in Ocean City and I checked on that one via the web, but it had already been torn down years ago and replaced with a lovely 4 condo building. 50 years ago we ate fabulous breaded flounder from a takeout place there, called Campbell’s. Funny the things we remember from childhood!

  4. OMG as the young folks would say. You went and brought back all of my fond memories of LBI. I have to say that those were some of the best times of my life Mother, Daddy, and Randy and I spent many long hours at the shore from sun up till sundown. We prowled the dunes looking for pirate’s treasure, swam till our lips turned blue as well. When the teen years came, lots of listening to portable radios on the beach, nighttime bobfire beach parties, and, in my case, checking out the male residents home from college. Oh, those were the years! Then there was you, my precious godchild and neice when you visited as a little girl and I was your teenage caretaker of sorts. LOL. Love the blog!
    Aunt Lynda

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