Greetings from Wildwood.
Well, I guess I should fill you in on who I am and why I am here. The why – it’s kind of complicated, the who is a little easier – funny, how words and thoughts come back to you when you take a moment out of your daily routine to think of the “what, when, where, who and how’s” of life. We will get back to this question in a few paragraphs.
So often I get this question; “gosh, you’re so lucky you live at the beach in the summer, but what the heck do you do in the winter?” My answer; “the same as you, probably more.” While I have learned to love and accept the solitude of the winter months, let me say this; I will always think of Drexel Hill as my home. With that being said though the shore is alive and well in the off season, there are plenty of things to do, places to go and friends to see, there are wine festivals at the many local vineyards, and theater performances, jazz concerts, art gallery openings and of course shopping – for me there’s always shopping.
The barrier islands in south Jersey have certainly changed from when I was a kid. The change of season was as if Mother Nature dropped a starting flag and the summer towns would empty out like low tide. My family was no exception to this rule. After the last of the renter’s left our home, Mom and Dad would pack my brother and I into the back seat of our rusty old station wagon. The usual silliness took place in that back seat filled with anticipation of kite flying, bike riding and going to Hoy’s 5 & 10. During the 2 hour drive we’d experience laughing, crying, laughing again, whining, fighting, sleeping, counting the electrical poles out of sheer boredom, and asking the timeless question; “Are we there yet???” We’d jump back to brotherly/sisterly love when my father shot us that look. Dad was an ex-Marine DI so we knew when we got that look, there was no turning back and we better take the warning and “knock it off, before I pull the car over!” Funny though thinking back today, I don’t ever remember him actually pulling the car to the side of the road to do whatever it was that he was threatening to do. Finally we arrived at our destination – Avalon! While my parents were working and cleaning, my brother Joe and I would be bored to tears. In my brother’s typical style he would meet up with some of the kids that were year round residents – “locals” and play. I would be stuck alone as usual being the little sister, riding my bike in the church parking lot which was situated across the street from our house. I can see it like it was yesterday and not 47 years ago, looking up at the sky and riding my bike in a circle for what seemed to be hours. Knowing my short attention span back then it was probably more like 5 minutes. It was boring, I was bored. Sidewalks literally rolled up on Labor Day. And it seemed colder too? Probably a product of my over active and very vivid imagination, but honestly I can remember being bundled up with heavy wool sweaters in September. The highlight of my day in the off season was going with my father to the only stores open – Hoys 5 & 10 and Seashore Hardware inStoneHarbor. Hoy’s was much more exciting to me because I knew that he would buy me something to occupy my time – usually a paint by numbers set. Finally the trip seemed worthwhile, it was hours of enjoyment for me painting at the kitchen table.
Avalon or any barrier island had a different feel back in the 60s, as if it were an only child, quiet and alone, alas that has changed greatly. We here in Cape May County now have a WalMart, Marshalls, Ross and TJ Maxx – not always quality shopping but if we want different, unique and superb quality we have the sweetest boutiques throughout all of the barrier islands and we have outlet shopping in Atlantic City. We have DooWop Tours in Wildwood, a great nightlife scene in North Wildwood, and a beautiful historically restored Victorian town calledCape May– the oldest seaside resort in the nation. While Avalon,StoneHarbor, Sea Isle and Strathmere are quite in the off season, there are groups and organizations that do offer a variety of things to do.OceanCityis pleasant any time of the year. When the boardwalk businesses close,Asbury Avenueis a delightful stroll filled with charming coffee houses, delicious restaurants, exquisite boutiques and magnificent home interior shops.OceanCityalso sports wonderful thrift and consignment businesses, flower shops, sporting goods stores and surf shops.
Each barrier island offers active committees looking to lure tourist to their towns throughout the year and they work harder than any big town city because they understand the tourist trade is their bread and butter.
A bit further north the beach towns take on a completely different façade – with Longport,Margateand Ventnor (known to locals as “Downbeach” who knew?) are kicking and very much alive in the off season due, in a big part to their close proximity to Atlantic City. Ahh,Atlantic City, say what you will but I personally loveAtlantic City. AC offers everything – the beach, the boardwalk, good shopping, fine restaurants, spas, nightlife, theater, and of course the casinos. If you are visiting southJerseyI encourage you to take the journey up the road north on the GSP (Garden State Parkway) and you’ll see the shore from a completely different point of view.
Over the newly constructed bridge is Brigantine and like Downbeach it too has an AC spill off. A pretty beach town that juts out into the mighty Atlantic Oceanwith more of a year round population. There are interesting pubs and restaurants on the beach. In the summer it fills up like all of the barrier islands with tourist and day visitors.
Gone are the days of desolate isolation. These tiny communities play host and provide a backdrop to energetic chamber’s of commerce which strive to bring in new business and increase awareness of what each town offers to the tourist and visitors market.
So shred the misconception that the barrier islands turn into a ghost towns, while it does get quiet in January and February, it’s far from spooky dead.
Oh, now back to me. Let me introduce myself, my name is Caroline Ranoia and this is just a small sampling about what’s in store with this blog. I grew up in Drexel Hill- go ahead, ask me what parish because only folks from DelCo know what I am talking about with the “parish question.” That would be St. Bernadette’s class of ’73. In 7th grade my parents moved a little further up the road to St. Dorothy’s. Cardinal O’Hara was my next scary adventure in Catholic education and then ontoCabriniCollege. Finally they let me out of the pen and I joined the punk rock wearing all black artsy crowds at Philadelphia College of Art – funny I was the only girl that wore a kilt to a drawing class – hey, you can’t take the Catholic girl out of the Catholic school, just like you can take the girl out of Delaware County – Drexel Hill will always be called home. A few years after college and working full time for a travel agency, I got married, flash forward – got divorced and I’ve been around the block a few times.
In 2001 I purchase a “fixer-upper” in Wildwood, NJ. Life, liberty and the eternal pursuit of happiness is what I am looking for and in between should we happen to hail from the same town, please say hello and tell me your connection. My friend Jim has said to me if you want people to feel comfortable around you ask questions about them and let them do the talking! He is right. One thing I have learned, and please I am no exception to the rule – we all like to talk about ourselves. But, I do hope to make this blog a little different. So in the famous words of country superstar Toby Keith; “I want to talk about YOU!” Learn about you and your connection fromDelawareCountyto “da shore.”
My hope is that this blog will be fun, funny, informative and about our DelCo connections. If you have an event going on – email me and let’s chat.
Until then, I hope to live up to my promise and bring to you lively photos and interesting editorial.
Wish you were here!