We chose Galloway, New Jersey as a one month stop because it’s very close to Atlantic City. Some of you may remember the splendor that was A.C. This is the town my Mom and Dad brought us to for summer vacations when we were children. We couldn’t wait. The rip to Atlantic City became more of a reality the closer we got. We could taste the salt on our lips, and smell the clams and other sea life in the surrounding marshes, several miles before arriving.
We stayed in an old guest house called Rose’s, a green wooden clapboard structure that was probably razed to make way for the casinos. Even as a child, I remember the rooms being small, and the bathroom was in the hall, shared by other vacationers. For us, that usually meant extended family – aunts, uncles, and cousins. On Sundays, the smell of spaghetti “gravy” filled the air, and the familiar, melodious vowel sounds of the Italian language could be heard throughout the guesthouse.
Atlantic City was glorious. We would go to the beach everyday, then head home to shower and dress.
The picture above is the true, beautiful, and expansive AC Beach
After we we were all dolled up, we would go out for dinner, and then walk the boards – the best part. Million Dollar Pier was an amusement park and arcade extraordinaire. There were men who guessed your weight. And contraptions where men brought a sledge hammer down to ring the bell, to show their strength. There were many booths where prizes could be won. Throwing darts at balloons,
tossing coins into a saucer, tossing a ring over a bottle neck, shooting water guns to fill up tubes – it was great! Of course years later when I worked one of these booths in San Diego’s Mission Beach (yes, I was a “carney” for a month), I found that these games were set up so that people would not win, unless they found the “trick” to winning. Of course finding that trick took quite a bit of trying, and a lot of money spent. Sure, you see people walking the boards, even today, with life-size plush animals. But trust me, they are only flukes. By the way, if you’re dying to know – I worked in a booth where there were baskets on their sides, and all you a had to do was toss a basketball, and have it stay in the basket. Sound easy? Try it. Some day I’ll tell you all about my stint as a potato salad maker for Kentucky Fried Chicken (really )
I made lots of money for the park, and I guarantee, not many prizes were won.
Steel Pier was another great over-the water wonderland, with lots of games, rides, a Ripley’s Believe It Or Not, and a Diving Horse.
A diving horse is an attraction that was popular in the mid-1880 to the mid 1950s, in which a horse would dive into a pool of water, sometimes from as high as 60 feet. It’s true – I saw it. Although I never believed for one minute that a horse willingly jumps. I’m pretty certain the lovely woman who accompanied the horse carried a hidden needle to give the horse a good pinch, thus, causing him to dive from the platform, sometimes four times a day, seven days a week. Pressure from animal rights activists, and declining demand led to this “act” being permanently shut down in the 1970s. The president of the Humane Society of the United States stated: “This is a merciful end to a colossally stupid idea.” Amen to that !!!
Back to the boards. Atlantic City was glamorous. Walking the boards was an activity in and of itself. Everyone got dressed up. And I mean with high-heels, and furs. There were even rubber tips for the heels that made them just wide enough that they couldn’t slip between the slats of the wooden boards.
My Mom dressed me, my brother, and sister, to fit the occasion. We looked adorable, IMHO, and looked forward to a night “on the boards”, with great anticipation. For those who didn’t want to stroll, there were human-powered “baskets” in which to ride the boards.
Atlantic City was a place to see and be seen. It is a great childhood memory. If you’e never been to Atlantic City, check it out. Although the town I described above is long gone, you can still find great restaurants and excellent entertainment. Steel Pier has been renovated, and is open in the summer. Sure, the boardwalk is still there, and of course the expansive, still-free beach, and gorgeous ocean, but mostly, I think that now it’s about the casinos that line the boardwalk, and stand in the marina district.
In 2016, the highest grossing casinos are as follows: Number three, the Tropicana, on the boardwalk, is the third highest grossing casino. It’s theme is Old Havana. In second place is Harrah’s in the marina district. This large casino has a very contemporary feel. There is no “theme” per se, just clean lines, and lots of marble and dark woods. The number one casino is The Borgata. It is well-maintained, and beautifully decorated, with Dale Chiuly blown glass art pieces gracing many different ceilings. Ten years after it brought Las Vegas glitz, glamour and luxury to Atlantic City, the Borgata Hotel Casino & Spa still dominates the market.
Atlantic City was the inspiration for the American version of the board game Monopoly, especially the names of roads you still drive along today.
Since 1921, Atlantic City had been the location for the Miss America pageant. It did move to Las Vegas in 2005 after 83 years. The iconic image of the tearful winner with glittering tiara and bouquet of roses parading down the catwalk in the middle of Boardwalk Hall was greatly missed by many. For years as a young girl, my Mom and I sat on the ouch armed with paper and pencils. We scored the contestants, trying to choose a winner. I can honestly say in the ten or so years we “judged”, we never, ever picked the winner. In September of 2013, the pageant moved back to AC, to crown Miss America, 2014.
This is the first Miss America, 16-year old Margaret Gorman, who was crowned in 1921.
…and 2017 Miss America, Savvy Shields
The TV show, “Boardwalk Empire”, was based on Atlantic City in the time of Prohibition. This is a must-see.
I’m really comfortable here in Atlantic City. It evokes only pleasant memories. I hope one month is enough…