The Beachcomber

Decades of Memories Alive in Janneys of Barnegat Light

May 26, 2017

One phrases not heard every day: “I used to semaphore from our house to the Loveladies Coast Guard station.” But that is one memory that stands out from Ernest F. Janney Jr.’s youth in Barnegat Light.

Another is that time in 1943 when an Army plane crashed on the 29th Street beach. It was one of five on a flight up from Langley Air Force Base in Virginia, and some bad weather diverted them. One ended up in a lake, one in a field in Elizabeth, N.J., and the others may have turned around to head back south, but one landed nose-first in the sand, just minutes after the Janney family had vacated that very spot.

Ernest Janney, known as Jerry, which is short for his middle name, Fitzgerald, grabbed a camera and took some pictures of the scene from an upstairs vantage point in his neighbor’s house.

Janney and his six siblings grew up in Rancocas, but his family has vacationed on the Island since the early ’30s. His parents rented in Brant Beach before they bought property in Barnegat Light, where his dad built a house in 1939. He and his brother, Bill, were outnumbered by five sisters, but they made a good team.

As adults, for two years in the mid-1970s, they teamed up in business to publish Bicycle Spokesman, a national consumer magazine “dedicated to recreation, camping, safety and touring – family style” and “bicycle action around the world.”

The magazine, with a circulation of 75,000, was based in Chicago, and Bill was the publisher. Jerry was the East Coast rep, handling advertising, distribution and administration for Philadelphia, New York and D.C. markets.

Bill’s religious faith and morals as a Christian Scientist prohibited him from printing advertisements for cigarettes or alcohol. But Jerry gave him a piece of advice: “I said, ‘Bill, you gotta have T&A on the cover!”

Indeed, many of the covers in Jerry’s binder full of pristine, chronologically archived issues show, in addition to prime examples of the era’s graphic design style, attractive young couples, or well-muscled moms with their little ones in child seats on the front, back or both.

Copies in good condition are fetching $13 or $15 on eBay.

Education, service and a love of the water have been driving forces in Janney’s life. He received Quaker schooling and earned degrees in education and psychology. He served in the Marine Corps for three years active and 25 in the reserves. His career was largely in human resources, with electronics company RCA and then with the McDonald’s corporation under the leadership of Ray Kroc, who took it over in 1955. For his work on policy writing, Janney earned the President’s Award in 1978.

Around the age of 12 he learned to sail, and, along with the other Island boys in his circle, “we had our own little yacht club.” He was a Ship Bottom lifeguard for a time.

“With five sisters, the house was crawling with Coast Guardsmen,” as Janney recalled. Blimp pilots would toss messages in shell cartridges down to sunbathing beauties on rooftops.

Island summers as a younger man included Scandinavian dancing at Kubel’s and bonfires on the beach with friends. Simpler times. So goes the adventurous story of how he met his wife (whose name is Rita, but everyone knows her as Missy): He and his brother were hitchhiking to catch a ride to the Colonial movie theater in Beach Haven when Missy’s father picked them up. Missy, a teenager at the time, was in the car urging her dad not to stop for the strange boys but, in the end, it was good he did, because that day Missy picked up a lifelong mate.

Jerry and Missy lived in Cherry Hill for 43 years where they raised their son, Tom, during which time Janney ran a remodeling and appliance business before moving to Barnegat Light in retirement.

Today an old sailboat sits on a trailer in his front yard, though it hasn’t been seaworthy in many years. The boat became Janney’s when its previous owner was giving it away for free.

“My wife said I couldn’t buy a boat – so I didn’t!” he quipped.

They’ve seen a lot of changes on the Island in 80 years, mainly in terms of building. “That doesn’t bother us,” Jerry said. LBI “is a great place, and everybody has a right to share.”

— Victoria Ford

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