The Beachcomber

1973: ‘Watergate Sales,’ Bay Pollution, Offshore Nukes!

Source: PSE&G THEY WEREN’T KIDDING: At the dawn of the environmental conscience movement in 1973, Public Service Electric and Gas got to the public hearing stage with its twin nuclear plants proposed for a site in the Atlantic Ocean three miles southeast of Beach Haven, NJ. The public shot it down.


This Watergate summer of ’73 Richard Nixon was president. On July 23 he refused to turn over the presidential tape recordings. A Beachcomber reader quoted a letter from a Boston newspaper that said Nixon wasn’t hospitalized for the reasons officially announced, but for a hurry-up course of treatments for tapeworms. … Sari Harari, a clothing shop in Viking Village, advertised a “Watergate sale with sinking prices.” India print dresses sold for $2 and $3.

As the Justice Department was trying to clean up the White House, so the N.J. Department of Environmental Protection was trying to “cleanse” the pollution-beleaguered bay clams. Trenton dug them up from the bay off Atlantic City and replanted them in Great Bay at the mouth of the Mullica River, where the bivalves rested and filtered the clean water for three weeks, when they could be harvested. … A quarter of the state’s shellfish water was condemned, over 5,000 acres. … The Delaware River around Camden was declared officially dead, unable to sustain any life due to years of dumping lead cadmium, along with other industrial waste.

Long Beach Township considered a new ordinance that would forbid using boats as “floating motels” without strict regulation of waste and garbage disposal. … Eight northern Barnegat Bay beaches were closed when raw sewage was reported there. … In a special Senate session called by LBI’s most distinguished summer resident, Gov. William Cahill, the N.J. Coastal Protection Act was passed, although opposed by “Big Business and Big Labor.”

The first steps were taken in the direction of building an offshore nuclear power station, putting the area officially on the way to having a floating nuclear power plant jammed down its throat. Fortunately, the increasing environmental awareness of the populace helped to nix it.

Recycling took its first baby steps. Island officials were considering providing a spot to drop off bottles, and newspaper recycling was stopped until a place could be found to keep the paper dry. AAUW organized the recycling and proceeds went to the year-old Southern Ocean County Hospital. … The Garden Club of LBI was again offering black pine seedlings, ten for $2. In the decade since the 1962 storm they had sold over 100,000.

History, being a fickle mistress, had shown interest in the fate of the Edward Nees and James Sprague families. In 1961 these two men were rescued from sea after three days. A search plane looking for a stricken airplane spotted them by chance, adrift in the huge swells. In June 1973, their daughters, Ruth Ann Nees, 13, and Cindy Sprague, 10, were trapped for three hours in a drifting boat in the bay during a torrential rain and lightning storm. Nees and John Hargis found them off Beach Haven Terrace, on the west side of Ham Island, about 11:30 at night. The girls were very wet, but uninjured.

A similar story but with a tragic ending was that of 20-year-old Debbie Komanski who in late June drowned in the Surf City surf. “Man’s ancient friend, the sea,” our writer eulogized, “turned enemy and a girl cried for help with no one to come to her aid.” The Surf City Council, in an ill-judged attempt to save money, had kept their guards off the stands until June 30.

Walters’ Bikes in Surf City fronted a safety campaign to get cyclists to wear armbands with lights and sold them for $1.79. … Concrete, not pavers, was the choice for driveways and cost 70 cents a square foot. … Five bucks would get you a sightseeing flight out of Manahawkin Airport or a half-day of fishing out of Barnegat Light. … Bud Simmons advertised a Pelican Pedal boat for $375.

Marv Levitt taught sculpture at the Foundation. He is still very much in action, sculpting and painting and showing at the m.t. burton gallery in Surf City. … ACLU Executive Director Spencer Coxe spoke at the Foundation, one in a series of “Outstanding Personalities”. … Surf City’s Bill Willem taught aikido at St. Francis. … The Jewish Community Center celebrated Israel’s 25th Anniversary. … Ten-year-old Cindi Wieczorek published her poem in our poetry page. … John Bell Maschal and friends collected $65 for the animal shelter building fund. … John Spark, Bill Kapler and Frank Laird on the Center Ringers team won the men’s basketball playoff championship.

A letter from an irate reader: “I can no longer sit idly without responding to the activities of a male chauvinist – the M&M ads are an insult to women. The writer [Tony the owner] calls his wife a broad and refers to her as the ‘biggest crab of all.’ My family and I will no longer patronize that business.” … John Maschal lost a fight to move his liquor license from the Rip Tide on Dock Road in Beach Haven to The Mooring in Bay Village. He eventually prevailed.

Letters From Our Readers, this one from October 1973: “Please keep printing as many items as possible about the MIA situation. Newspapers must keep the public aware of this crisis, so our boys can be found. The search for the MIAs must be kept alive until every one of them is accounted for. This is a cause that must not be forgotten as the conflict of the Vietnam War soon will be. Thank you. — Rosemary Longo.”

St. Francis initiated the 18-mile run to honor the 11 Israeli athletes slain at the Munich Olympic Games the previous fall. Tim McCarthy photographed that now iconic event in our October 18 issue. About 40 runners ran that first year. Forty years later, over 900 runners are expected. Congratulations, St. Francis!

Margaret Buchholz is the former owner of this newspaper and author of Josephine: From Washington Working Girl to Fisherman's Wife, Shore Chronicles, New Jersey Shipwrecks, Island Album and co-author of Great Storms of the Jersey Shore, available at local stores. Reach her at

Comments (0)
If you wish to comment, please login.