Magic of LBI Included Smoking a Pipe on the Beach
As I have frequently mentioned in past columns for The SandPaper, my daughter, Claire, has been taking me to Long Beach Island on my wedding anniversary, Aug. 12, since 2010, the year my husband, Stanley, passed away. It has become a sacred tradition. The Island and especially Beach Haven and Barnegat Lighthouse had always been fixtures in our summer visits to the Jersey Shore. Stan and I tried to plan our summer vacations as close as possible to our anniversary, when we enjoyed the relaxing pleasures of Island living, free of the hustle and bustle of life in South Philadelphia.
When Claire and I left the boiling hot city and arrived in Beach Haven on Aug. 12, we began our pilgrimage with our traditional seashore breakfast at Uncle Will’s Pancake House. (The blueberry pecan pancakes are divine, by the way.) Then we parked our car on Amber Street near the Engleside Inn, unloaded our beach gear and proceeded up one of the newly constructed ramps to the recently restored beach. At the base of the ramp we saw a clearly posted sign announcing that the beach was now a smoke-free area.
I was actually expecting this. In a recent Philadelphia Inquirer Travel and Shore Guide section, there was an article about the conditional veto by New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie of a bill that would have banned smoking in all public parks and beaches. In effect, he left the smoking ban up to local governments. The article clearly stated that some towns on Long Beach Island have implemented a smoking ban, including our beloved Beach Haven. The subject was also covered in a recent issue of The SandPaper. So, indeed, everyone has been fully informed and warned.
I also read where some residents of the Island heartily approve of the ban on something they consider unhealthy and messy for all concerned. Others complain that maybe there is a little too much interference with personal freedom. Setting up restricted areas for smokers does not appeal to many people. The controversy continues.
My feelings on the matter are more personal. As soon as I read about the ban on smoking on the beach, I immediately thought of my late husband. Stanley Joseph Endres was a pipe smoker. His favorite tobacco brand was Captain Black. He never smoked indoors as a courtesy to his family, but he took his pipe and smoked it outside, usually on long walks. Whenever we vacationed on the Island, he brought his pipes and a pouch filled with good old Captain Black. It gave him great pleasure to sit on a beach chair, read a book and puff away on his pipe. I even sketched him in this serene pose a couple of times and from different angles.
One of those times was in September 1997 right after I retired from teaching in the Philadelphia School District. I remember being delighted to be able to go to the beach on a school day. Stan, also retired, likewise looked forward to a late-summer trip to our favorite island. I can still remember him totally immersed in an action novel with the thin curls of smoke coming from his pipe to be snatched away by the wind. It was as if all the cares in the world evaporated with those smoky drifts.
Whenever we stayed overnight, Stan often liked to wind down from the day’s busy activities by taking a solitary walk in the evening after sunset, mostly on the beach. There was plenty of illumination from the string of motels and outdoor lamps. He carried his trusty pipe with him and lit up as he walked. I did not accompany him on those solitary walks because I knew he needed the silence to completely relax his mind. The rumbling of the evening tide was almost the only sound he heard on those walks. That and the soft crunch of sand beneath his feet accompanied by his quiet puffing on the pipe helped to relax his spirit. On his return, he might even find an outdoor chair near a lamp post and continue reading his book.
I might add that Stan was always fastidious about cleaning his pipe properly and disposing of the ashes. He never left a mess for others. He knew and practiced all the right smoking etiquette.
When I first entered the beach area with my daughter on Aug. 12, I could not help but notice the massive restoration of sand dunes. They were so high, they almost obliterated the view of the buildings along the beach. Looking back from the ocean, all one could see were roof tops. There was absolutely no view of the ocean until you reached the top of the high ramp. From there, the gritty, almost caramel-colored sand littered with tiny shell fragments seemed to go on forever.
It reminded me of the vastly wide beaches of my youth, except it did not have the soft, sugary texture of those older strands. It was actually difficult to walk on the hot, scratchy beach with bare feet. The countless multi-colored umbrellas hugging the shoreline also extended as far as the eye could see. All this was against an endless background of powder blue skies dotted with small cumulus clouds and gray-green ocean. There was ample space to accommodate literally thousands of day trippers and seasonal vacationers.
You know by now where I am leading. How, I wondered, could the township enforce a ban on smoking? I did not see any beach patrols walking around, sniffing for the smell of tobacco, much less writing citations. And sadly, I wondered how my beloved Stan would have reacted to this new law. In fact, how would any smoker, of cigarettes, cigars or pipes, respond? Would beach goers call the police on someone they saw smoking? How? What? When?
I am not saying that smoking is a good thing or should be allowed everywhere. Of course, it is bad for your health. I never smoked in my life, and I do not enjoy the odor of cigarettes, especially in a confined space, like a car. But in all the years I have traveled to the Island, I cannot recall ever actually smelling cigarette smoke on the beach. I could smell Stan’s pipe, but it was a mild, sweet odor, and rather pleasant. No one ever asked him to please put it out because it was offensive.
That day, while Claire and I relaxed on the beach, it was very windy. A strong sea breeze whipped our hair against our faces and literally snatched the umbrella from its anchor in the sand. That strong wind came from the intense meeting of hot and cold air, creating almost violent convection currents. I kept wondering how anyone’s tobacco smoke could linger long enough in such a wind to reach anyone else’s nose.
Whatever the reasons for banning tobacco from public parks and beaches, and there are surely good ones, I cannot help but feel sad thinking of the consequences it would have meant for my dear husband, who only wanted to light up his pipe in a place of peace and serenity – a place we both cherished.
Gloria C. Endres lives in Philadelphia and is a lifelong visitor to Long Beach Island.