Author Margaret Buchholz Draws Crowd for Long Beach Island Chronicles

Latest From LBI Historian Margaret Thomas Buchholz
By PAT JOHNSON | Aug 01, 2018
Photo by: Pat Johnson The writer and editor of Long Beach Island Chronicles, Margaret Thomas Buchholz, greets her audience at the High Point Firehouse in Harvey Cedars.

Nostalgia is like bittersweet chocolate: delicious, but don’t eat too much of it at a time. That’s why it might be best to skip at will through the six chock-full-of-stories sections in Long Beach Island Chronicles, edited by Margaret Thomas Buchholz and recently published by Down The Shore Publishing, taking a sample of days gone by and friends missed, and then a bite of a historical essay and maybe a dash of storm drama.

All the entries are short enough. Some were newspaper articles first published in The SandPaper and The Beachcomber, most within the 1980s-’90s timetable. Some are historical documents; some come from diaries, and one from a journal kept by schoolchildren in Barnegat Light’s one-room schoolhouse.

Delve into the first section, titled “Up and Down the Island,” and read the funny, touching and sweet entries by the late Larry Savadove, a writer who epitomized the élan of a bygone time, an intelligent man who had the confidence to write about the most mundane subjects and make them shine. For instance, in “The Cat That Walked Alone,” he presented an abandoned cat left to fend for herself on LBI after her summer family packs up.

Savadove’s lively imagination ran amuck in “What We Do All Winter,” where he revealed the secret lives of year-round Island folk: drag racing on the Boulevard, iceberg jumping and participating in the great cat roundup.

Two stories, “Night Beat with Men in Blue” and “Rescuers Finally Get Their Man,” take us to the noir edge of the Island where vacationers drink a bit too much and cause a ruckus.

A day spent “Tiptoeing with Tiny Tim” through Manahawkin by Curtis Rist is a hilarious account.

After these more modern accounts, maybe turn to the section “Island Storms” to read “Trapped in a Car in a Hurricane.” This heart wrenching, real-life tale told by a survivor of the 1944 Hurricane is in a letter now residing in the Long Beach Island Historical Museum.

For more thrills, read “Just Before Christmas” by Edward Brown in the section titled “Way Back When.” Brown may have taken a real event, a story of a man’s wild adventure getting his wife and baby through a winter storm on LBI by pumping a rail car across the bay. Or, as Jack London did in Call of the Wild, Brown may have made the entire story up – doesn’t matter. He entered the spirit and mind and drama of the tale so perfectly that we are shivering with the family and thanking our stars for the luck to live in modern times.

The “On the Water” section includes the tall tale “WWII: Snagging the Enemy,” a first-person account by William J. Kunze Sr. about his hooking a German submarine. Find also a Beachcomber interview with “Stretch Pohl, Master Surfer” about the origins of surfing on LBI (hint: The Beach Boys had not a lot to do with it).

“A Sailor’s Restless Urge” by Don Launer is so evocative of spring along the shore that I wish to skip two seasons in order to get there. “Life jackets and cushions laid out in the sun brighten the boatyard. Some mallards swim in and out of the empty slips looking for handouts. As I walk to my cradled vessel, I see rolled up shirtsleeves exposing sun-starved arms. Greetings are exchanged by paint-splattered faces and summer plans discussed.”

This is lyrical writing that hangs between poetry and narrative.

Then there are the interviews with local folks and folks whom locals remember well. Find interviews with commercial fisherman Lou Puskas, Black Whale and Maritime Museum Founder Deb Whitcraft, Herman Joorman of Polly’s Dock, and the history of “The Shack,” as well as of Beach Haven when it was quiet.

The nostalgia and the familiar – those were the reasons so many Islanders came out on Thursday evening to hear Buchholz read from Long Beach Island Chronicles. “Pooch,” as she is known to most in the crowded High Point Firehouse, knows what makes a good read and what stories will ring true to her audience. She published The Beachcomber for 32 years and later worked as its editor at The SandPaper until 2014. She is the author of or has edited a number of books, including Great Storms of the Jersey Shore (coauthored with Larry Savadove), New Jersey Shipwrecks, Shore Chronicles, Island Album, The Long Beach Island Reader and Josephine, all published by Down The Shore Publishing.

Perhaps most importantly, she is an Islander. She remembers the first time she was in the High Point Firehouse. “I was four years old and I was here to see Santa Claus.” She knows what makes a Long Beach Island story worth telling. Long Beach Island Chronicles is published by Down The Shore Publishing. The book is available in local book and gift stores or online at

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