Sunny Memories of LBI on a Cloudy Day

By GLORIA C. ENDRES | Aug 23, 2017
Courtesy of: GLORIA C. ENDRES

As anyone who has followed some of my summer columns in The SandPaper might recall, I enjoy coming with my daughter, Claire, now Mrs. Wildman, to Long Beach Island every year in August on my wedding anniversary. It has been seven years since my dear husband, Stanley, passed away, but my daughter knows how much it means to me to be near the sea on our anniversary. She started this tradition that first summer and has not failed me since.

Of course no two visits are alike. The weather is never the same. The beach keeps being reconfigured by storms, erosion or construction. Businesses and landmarks change all the time. One year, unfortunately, we were even in a car accident on Route 72, but we managed to get to the Island anyway. We have never missed a year.

Well, this year on Aug. 12, a Saturday, the weather forecast was gloomy. They predicted spotty showers and a possible thunderstorm later in the day. Only an optimist would attempt to bring a beach umbrella and folding chairs in anticipation of time on the sand. I always figure if I actually carry an umbrella, the chance of rain diminishes. I was right as usual.

We noticed as we crossed the Causeway, still under construction, that the stratus clouds were a dark gray and rather menacing. The breeze was mild, however. The air just hung with humidity, as evidenced by my frizzy locks. Still my heart leaped, as it always does, when I saw the buildings, docks and homes along the bay as we approached. My Island!

Our first destination, as always, was to have breakfast at Uncle Will’s Pancake House in Beach Haven. The only problem was that it seemed as if every other discouraged Island visitor had the same idea. The hostess told us the wait could be about an hour and a half or longer. Undeterred, we simply signed in and went next door to shop for souvenirs. Nothing like a bleak day at the shore to fill all the shops to overflowing.

The hostess had warned us that we should be back in an hour just in case they stopped calling names. That still gave us time to poke into a couple more stores, including Kapler’s on the corner next to Uncle Will’s. Claire was having a good time picking up presents for her friends. In one store, Claire mentioned that she had forgotten to bring a hat, so I bought her a cap with the words “Mermaids Don’t Care” printed on it.

Lucky for us, we returned to Uncle Will’s with our loot just in time to be called into the overcrowded restaurant. (I was even wondering if they would run out of food.) We feasted on waffles, bacon and divine blueberry pancakes covered in pecans.

It was now afternoon and there was a slight drizzle in the air. I told Claire that we still had to check on the newly reopened Surflight Theatre and Show Place before we went anywhere else. We drove past the ice cream parlor first, and I noticed a bunch of actors rehearsing a dance number in the area behind the theater. I would have loved to listen to them. As we came around to the front of the theater we saw that the current show was Disney’s “Newsies.” I cannot tell you how happy I am to see these fantastic arts venues reopened. I can still recall when the whole Surflight Theatre was contained in a small garage, and the Show Place was a corner ice cream parlor called Margo’s, with only a jukebox for musical entertainment.

After that we continued until we came to one of our favorite destinations in the whole world, Bay Village and Schooner’s Wharf. Parking was difficult because of the huge crowds who would have been sunbathing instead. But we finally found a spot and headed for Allison’s Wonderland.

The owner recognized us immediately even in the crowd of shoppers. She hailed me as “ATM Mom.” Let me explain. A few years ago, Claire and I were shopping there and I saw some souvenirs with the name “MOM” printed neatly on them. I told the owner that the word “MOM” was misspelled. She looked at me, puzzled. I told her that the correct spelling of that three-letter word for mother was “ATM.” Well, she never forgot it. Neither did an embarrassed Claire, who nevertheless did not mind that I bought her a decoration for her lawn. As a bonus, Allison let me have a gift from her “grandmother’s trunk.” It was a little light to attach to a book. How much fun is that?

We never did go to the soggy beach, but Claire headed for our final destination, Barnegat Lighthouse. Believe it or not, by 4 p.m., there was a break in the clouds and the sun peeked through. It was warm but comfortable. The umbrella stayed in the car. We parked and explored the grounds including the little bayside beach with its picnic tables. We were delighted to observe many boats skipping across the water. And of course we had to take a selfie with the lighthouse behind us.

After resting a while on the long cement pier stretching into the inlet, we decided to call it a day. But what a happy, sunny day it was after all. The Island had more than enough to amuse us even without the beach. The fickle skies never threatened us with either too much water or lightning. It was peaceful. Comfortable. And instead of breakers, I got to see calm waves lapping at the rocks near the lighthouse.

Back on Route 70 toward Philadelphia, we made one more stop to fill up on fruits, veggies and a couple of cakes. It was a sweet ending to an especially sweet day with my beloved daughter and, always, spiritually, with her father.

Gloria C. Endres of Philadelphia is a long-time visitor to LBI.




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