1958: Causeway Rising; Litterbug Infestation; $11,000 Cottages

The Beachcomber
Photo by: Jack Frost and Charles Tucker 1958: The Route 72 Causeway bridge under construction on Manahawkin Bay, as viewed over Long Beach Island, N.J.


A half-century ago plus five years, a new causeway was arching over the bay. By Memorial Day weekend there was only one section to go. Until it was complete and open, visitors still had to sit and wait every time the bridge between Bonnet Island and Ship Bottom was raised to let a boat pass underneath. The War Department – under whose auspices the drawbridge operated – decreed that the bridge would not open during certain hours. So the boats had to line up and wait, too.

Before the span was complete and open, I quite illegally and foolishly drove in my little TR-3 past the barricade up to the unfinished edge going east. Seeing the Island spread-eagle by the Atlantic Ocean was a spectacular sight for anyone used to traveling a few feet above the water. One lane was open by the end of the summer and the new causeway was in full service by the 1959 summer season.

Total cost: $8,043.773.

By comparison, today’s budget is 44 times that amount to rebuild the 1959 bridge, plus erect a twin span over the bay; update the causeway’s three smaller bridges; add new facilities for biking, walking and fishing; plus make causeway terminus improvements in Ship Bottom. Cost: $350 million for eight years of construction beginning June 2013.

Beach Erosion: The Harvey Cedars borough engineer reported more heavy, northeast winds over the previous winter than any time in his long experience here. Up and down the Island residents complained about eroding beaches and disappearing dunes. But not, we reported, at one location in Loveladies. Contractor Oliver Cox, who was clearing away blown sand from the driveway, left a flock of wheelbarrows in the lee of the garage over Sunday. When he returned Monday to resume work, there was no sign of them. The northeast wind had planted a nice high dune right in front of the garage entrance and buried the wheelbarrows under four feet of sand.

Anti-litter Campaign, From the Beachcombings Column: “Our anti-litter department can’t get past this first issue without a blast at those people who throw trash and garbage about on this Island, a practice causing pleasure to nobody but flies. Every town does all it can to increase its trash collection in summer and to put containers about. Yet, visitors continue to toss trash out of cars and to litter the beaches. We hear that the police will go after flagrant violators whenever possible.

“And this reminds us of our favorite anti-litter story, the one about the motorist who threw the used contents of an entire box of Kleenex out the window of his car without realizing that the car behind him was a police car. The tissues were scattered over the roadside for more than a block near Beach Haven and the policeman gave the litterer the choice of picking them all up or going to the police station. He picked them up.”

After July 4th weekend we wrote: “The amount of litter on the beaches is disgusting and the season has hardly begun. Back yards and side streets are more unsightly than ever. Is LBI becoming the world’s largest garbage dump and are people past caring how they leave the beach? A little more cooperation, please.”

Cost of Real Estate: Loveladies Harbor had about 40 homes in the new development, selling that summer for $10,750 …  American Seashore Homes was developing the large expanse of vacant meadowland between the Sisters of Charity Maris Stella property and Camden Avenue in Harvey Cedars. The ad didn’t tell the total cost, but a new house and lot would cost only $63 a month. … A four-bedroom cottage near the Spray Beach Yacht Club was offered for $11,500.

Cost of Living: Three gallons of ice cream for $2.50 … Washers, dryers and refrigerators between $169 and $229 … Rib roast 69 cents a pound, bananas 12 cents a pound, paper napkins 10 cents, cherrystone clams 3 dozen for $1 … Island Record Shop in Ship Bottom sold a “high-fidelity, 4-speed phonograph with dual speakers and $10 worth of records for only $79.70.” That’s vinyl, kids.

After the first big weekend, we reported in Beachcombings that over a half-million dollars was deposited in the Beach Haven bank. (Only one bank on the Island 55 years ago.) On the first Monday in July, check deposits totaled $830,534, a record breaker. (Didn’t the businesses deposit cash?) … Gasoline was about $1.60 a gallon in N.J. in 1958 and it went up one cent during the summer when the state increased the tax.

Old and New Business: The Acme Supermarket opened mid-summer … Surflight Theatre raised its curtain for the ninth season, the same age as The Beachcomber … The Beach Haven Fire Co. celebrated its 75th anniversary. It was founded in 1883, after the Parry House burned down. The Parry House was replaced by the Baldwin Hotel, which in turn, burned in 1960. Holy Innocents Episcopal Church is on that site now. … Sink ‘r Swim Shop in Harvey Cedars doubled its size. Four years later the March ’62 northeaster swamped the beachwear store, but it re-emerged in Haven Beach, where it’s been going strong ever since under the second generation of Coyles … Kaplers Pharmacy in Beach Haven advertised homemade food at its luncheonette counter.

Local businessmen predicted that the new Levittown being built near Mt. Holly, barely an hour’s drive from the shore, would bring an added flood of visitors to the Island. The eventual plan was for 15,000 homes there.

Two young men named Jack Frost and Charles Tucker were flying over the Island this summer, taking aerial photographs of the Island. We went up with them on one flight and published the photos throughout the summer.

Beach Haven opened the first public launching ramp on the Island. We wrote, “The Borough is to be congratulated for providing this needed service Other Island municipalities please copy!”

Author Margaret Thomas Buchholz’ latest book is Josephine: A Memoir 1917-1959, From Washington Working Girl to Fisherman’s Wife, available at local stores. Reach her at lbipooch@comcast.net.

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