Under The Boardwalk

Under The Boardwalk
Harry Hallman

This morning I started working at 6 AM, which is my new standard nowadays. I wake up, brush my teeth, do my business, take my blood pressure meds, shake off the cobwebs, and stretch out my achy joints and muscles. Then I walk twenty feet to my makeshift office and start writing. That’s the life of an old semi-retired writer. Ho-hum!

Anyway, I’m sitting at my desk staring at a blank page on my computer screen. I needed some inspiration before I started crafting persuasive marketing messages, so I asked Alexa to play some sixties music. Now Alexa is a very accommodating robot, and maybe she even understood I needed something to kick me in the a**. I’ll have to ask Amazon. Anyway, the first song she played was Under The Boardwalk by the Drifters (1964).

 “Oh, when the sun beats down and burns the tar up on the roof

and your shoes get so hot you wish your tired feet were fireproof

Under the boardwalk, down by the sea, yeah

On a blanket with my baby is where I'll be”

 The memories of hanging out on and under the Wildwood boardwalk rushed into my mind. I could smell the salt air, the hot sand, and the Pizza cooking at Mac’s. I was inspired but not to write marketing articles but rather to share with you some of those memories.

My earliest memory was when I was lost on the beach. It wasn’t so bad for me, but my mom (she told me later) was out of her mind with worry. She imagined I was kidnapped or drowned. When she heard my description and name over the lifeguard office speaker, she rushed to see me sitting on a chair eating French fries.

I also remember sifting through the sand under the boardwalk, looking for treasure. People sometimes drop money through the spaces between the boardwalk. Pennies, nickels, dimes, we wanted anything we could find to get us a cold drink or to play the pinballs at the arcade. I don’t remember ever finding anything, but it was a lot of fun trying.

Some of my favorite memories were laying towels out under the boardwalk at 17th Street. The ocean at that time was close to the boardwalk and was a good way to get out of the sun. The best part was that we were there as a family. My mom, brother, sister, kids, and my dad when he came down on the weekends.

 Teens do some strange things, and we were no different. Once (maybe a couple of times), my friend, more like a cousin, Pat Morris, may he rest in peace, and I decided that the best way to attract girls was to sing. So we perched on the boardwalk rails and started singing Michael by the Highwaymen.

 “Michael row the boat ashore, hallelujah

Michael row the boat ashore, hallelujah

Sister help to trim the sails, Hallelujah

Sister, help to trim the sails, Hallelujah.”

 We had no idea that it was a kind of religious song. It was easy to sing, so we did. I am sure we sounded like squeaking unoiled wheels. To us, we thought we were better than the Highwaymen.

Guess what? It worked. These cuties stopped to ask us what we were doing. We said, singing. They laughed. One of the girls pointed to the ocean and said, what’s that? I said, “the Ocean.” “No, what else is it?” she asked. “Oh, it’s wooder,” I exclaimed.  They laughed again.

 It turns out they were from Baltimore, and after they schooled us on the proper way to pronounce their city’s name, “Baltermeer,” they left.

 Long walks on the boardwalk were also fun. If we had money or were with a parent, we might get a Coconut Champaign drink, a Hire’s root beer, a pork roll on Kaiser roll, a piece of pizza, or a foot-long hotdog. With dark mustard, of course. My favorite was French fries with malt vinegar and salt.

 We watched out for the Tram cars that always seemed to almost hit people. I loved those boardwalk games where you paid more than the prize was worth if you won. The piers were my favorite with all their rides and games like miniature golf.

 So many memories floated in my mind. I can’t write them all down. Maybe you can help. What are your Jersey shore boardwalk memories?

 Ut-oh! Alexa just played “Wake Up, Little Susie.” Maybe someday I’ll write about my Drive-in movie experiences. Maybe!

 Images are from my Philly Tales photo collection https://mercyrow.com/pages/philly-tales-photos


  • Thank you for the stroll down memory lane! It was wonderful. The memories came soaring back. The awk, awk of the gulls as they swoped down to steal your food. The sand in everything you ate no matter how careful you were! Running to the edge of the waves with my bucket to dig for sandcrabs. My dad striding down to the sand carrying, beach chairs, umbrella and towels and all the paraphenalia but still a block ahead of the rest of us. My dear mother, yelling as we would run off, don’t go to far in the water. What a wonderful time! Thank you for bringing me such joy today!

    Rosemary Duffy
  • I enjoy your writing. Thanks for letting me “share” your memories. I’m a former “Philly” girl and it is nice to se the Philadelphia of my childhood. The Philadelphia I grew up in doesn’t exist any longer, It is so sad to see the Kensington area has not changed for the better.

    Joanne Johnson
  • I just purchased your Mercy Row books for my kindle an am enjoying them.

    Faith Synol

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