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An Island Keepsake for a New Generation

By GLORIA C. ENDRES | May 23, 2018
Courtesy of: Gloria C. Endres

Scrapbooking is a wonderful hobby. You don’t need Facebook to access memories. It is more than just an old photo album or handwritten journal. It is rather a concrete, three-dimensional way to preserve photos, mementos and important scraps before they are lost. That is why, after 11 years, I decided to arrange the original clippings of my SandPaper columns, sometimes accompanied by photos and artsy stickers, into a scrapbook.

Before that, they had been scattered in boxes and paper bags. I had to hunt for them, sometimes print them out from my Word file, and finally put them in some kind of order for the scrapbook.

My first SandPaper essay was published in 2007. It was a reprint of a college assignment – an eyewitness account of the devastating Ash Wednesday nor’easter of 1962, when I was only 21 years old. After that, I had to depend on photos and memories to tell the stories of my family’s adventures on Long Beach Island. Those memories include stories told to me by my mother, Mary, who had first visited the Island as a young child before World War I. They span a century.

My own earliest memory of childhood  on the Island, recorded in The SandPaper, surrounded another storm, the Great Atlantic Hurricane of 1944, which swept away much of Beach Haven, including its old boardwalk. I actually found a photo of me taking baby steps on that old boardwalk a couple of years before the hurricane struck. In another photo, my twin brother, Danny, was being bottle fed by my dad, Nick, on a boardwalk bench.

Every time I opened an old photo album, more stories appeared. Writing took me back in time and even to the time before my time, when my grandparents, Virginia and Joseph, traveled by train from Philadelphia to a totally Victorian LBI and ate from picnic baskets with their two children. The only thing my grandmother would ever order in a restaurant was black coffee with coconut custard pie.

My scrapbook articles include historic events such as those great storms that continuously sculpt the Island. The power of wind and water is written in the landscape. Those historic changes also include manmade disasters like fires, as well as building construction and beach restoration.

One of my favorite pieces describes an event that had more to do with marine animals than Mother Nature. It was the story behind the novel Jaws by Peter Benchley. The true story of the attacks by a great white shark took place not in some quaint New England resort, but right in the ocean off Beach Haven back in 1916. It was not a pretty girl but a young man, Charles Van Sant, who was the first victim. I learned all this only after I, a non-swimmer, fully aware of the close presence of a school of sand sharks, had jumped into the waves, followed by my husband, Stanley, to rescue a sea gull trapped in a fishing line. Coincidentally, the location where we performed the rescue just happened to be near where Van Sant was fatally bitten. (Pulled bleeding from the ocean, he expired on the registration desk of the old Engleside Hotel.)

The next generation of the family to enjoy the Island was our daughter, Claire Marie, who knew exactly what to do with a bucket and shovel at just 12 months old. I recall how my parents, and even my niece Nancy, met us on day trips and enjoyed being with her there on the beach sometimes accompanied by Snoopy, their beloved beagle. 

Before our family vacationed on Disney Cruises, we introduced a nervous young Claire to cruising Barnegat Bay on the Black Whale, all saved in the scrapbook. We loved exploring the Island with her from the dock of the bay to the top of Old Barney. Our last recorded Island vacation together was Claire’s 16th birthday, celebrated at Show Place Ice Cream Parlour in Beach Haven. 

The following year we all took an unforgettable trip to South Africa. After that, Claire graduated high school, began college, moved to her own place, and broke the tradition of trips with Mom and Dad to LBI. No more building sand castles with Daddy. No more flying kites. No more gathering shells and sea glass on the beach. Goodbye to pancake breakfasts at the fantastic Uncle Will’s and musicals at Surflight Theatre. So long, Barnegat Light.

But the story thread continues. After our beloved husband and father, Stan, passed away in 2010, Claire resumed her connection with the Island. She has been taking me down every year on my wedding anniversary on Aug. 12, which I have recorded in The SandPaper. We even explored the Island after Superstorm Sandy and made sure it was still intact. We always check out our favorite old haunts. Rain or shine, we drive up and down the Island, ending with Old Barney, in the process creating new memories, photos and essays for The SandPaper.

Claire is Mrs. Stephen Wildman now. That little girl who built sand castles, jumped fearlessly into pools, flew kites – and once nearly scared us to death falling off a friend’s Boogie Board and going to the emergency room – is now a married lady.

Of course, the story of connection to the Island does not end there. Those sepia studio photographs of my young mother and her family in their Victorian swimwear were taken a century ago when the Island was mostly dunes and cottages and fancy hotels. In the middle of that century, my brother Danny and I created our own childhood Island adventures in the sand and surf, recorded first on a Brownie box camera. A little more than a quarter century later, our little Claire showed off her skills in pool, bay and ocean. 

Now it is soon to be someone else’s turn. Claire is expecting her first child, a boy, in August. She always wanted a summer baby, since her hubby was born in June and she in July. Stanley Joseph Wildman will make his first appearance in the middle of August. One day, Claire plans to introduce him to the Island just the way we took her, my parents took us, and my grandparents took my mom. A new generation will be born to enjoy the beauty and adventure of Long Beach Island. And a very proud grandmother will be there to sketch, photograph and record it all for The SandPaper and her growing scrapbook.

Gloria C. Endres of Philadelphia is a life-long visitor to Long Beach Island.

 

 

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