Friday, July 27, 2007

Oh, Those Wildwood Days!

There is peaceful serenity in the clear blue skies and the fast-rising sun, in the swooping and squawking of the seagulls, in the clatter of bicycle tires along the boardwalk on a typical laid-back summer morning in the Wildwoods.

There is excited chaos in the colorful lights of the amusements, in the smells of the incredible variety of foods, in the dull roar of thousands of conversations taking place among the throngs along the boardwalk on a typical free-wheeling summer night in the Wildwoods.

For my family and me, and for countless others for nearly a century now, summer means “Wildwood Days”, a trip “down the shore”, where every day’s a holiday, and every night is a Saturday night.

The place is known by many names: Wildwood, the Wildwoods, Wildwood-By-The-Sea. There are the old names: Anglesea, Holly Beach, Wildwood Crest.

Today we have the three boroughs that include Wildwood, North Wildwood and the Crest. But whatever name it goes by to you and yours, the place is known by all of us as the epitome of the family summer sun and fun vacation spot.

As a boy, my family had a place on Magnolia Avenue, just about a half-block off the boardwalk, not far from the famous Groff’s Restaurant. It seemed that every night the line would form outside Groff’s for the dinner crowd, stretching all the way down Magnolia away from the boards. We had a small place, usually crowded with parents and kids, aunts and uncles and cousins, and many friends.

After a few years, a few of the aunts and uncles organized and bought a place farther away from the madness, on Leaming Avenue at the far southern end of Wildwood, about 2-3 blocks from the Crest and about five blocks from the boardwalk. It was much farther away from the action, but it was still down the shore, and the new house was bigger with a number of bedrooms and a nice sized backyard.

For most of the 1970’s and even into the 1980’s, this was the Wildwood of my youth. A family shore house filled with uncles rising early to go crabbing and then coming home and playing pinochle on the front porch, aunts cooking up those crabs and many other meals while keeping the conversations flowing on family news, and us cousins running around the house, the streets and the boards.