From boardwalk pizza to saltwater taffy; body surfing in the Atlantic to traffic on the AC expressway: there’s nothing like a Memorial Day weekend spent on the Jersey Shore.
Here were some of the sights, sounds and voices of the unofficial start of summer in Ocean City.
Shirtless and well tanned, Jack Gal,with dark sunglasses and grey stubble, stood at the water’s edge on the beach in Ocean City, staring out into the haze of the horizon.
What was he thinking as he stared at the ocean?
“Relaxation. Total relaxation.”
A maintenance supervisor for a South Jersey school district, Gall brought his family down the Shore for the weekend to escape “the job. Everyday stresses of life, like everybody else has.”
Gall’s son just had a baby, so as a newly minted grandfather, the little joys in life feel even sweeter:
“The smell of the ocean, the waves, the breeze, the people. It’s just a complete package.”
For Bill Trackman, born, raised and still living along the Shore, that package is his backyard.
He sat alone on a bench on the boardwalk, relaxing under his big straw hat and watching as waves of joggers and bicyclists clicked and clacked their way across the boards:
“I came up without my family. I have four kids, but I just came up to see what the world does.”
When you’re a South Jersey native, he says, the world comes to you.
“I’ve been watching them for 45 years. You can tell who’s from Philadelphia or who’s from New York. And it’s just funny. You hear a lot of accents from all over the world. And not only that but you can see a shoobie from miles away.”
Shoobies — as in daytrippers who don’t how to dress or behave at the beach.
Shoobies or not, Brendan Wildes and Gabby Gosciniak were enjoying a day trip from the Lehigh Valley. Dating three years, they walked hand in hand along the surf.
How does it feel to be young and in love at the beach?
“It feels great,” Wildes said. “It’s what you want, the tranquility, all the other nice young-in-love people with all the tattoos. Yeah, it’s nice.”
From Atco, N.J., Russel Mackel, thrilled to be off from school, listed his favorite beach activities as his younger sister Reagan splashed contentedly in a sandy puddle.
“Playing in the water. Sitting in the water and the waves are blowing me back into the land.” As for little Reagan, she was enjoying the heck out of that puddle.
A man named Turk McQuade said the McQuade clan has made the trek rom Lancaster County to Ocean City a Memorial Day tradition.
“Just out on the Fifth Street jetty doing a little fishing, have the kids out here, glorious day in Ocean City, so we’re having a lot of fun,” he said. “Caught some pretty decent bluefish. One striper I caught was a little small so that was a throwback, but yeah, it’s been a pretty productive day so far.”
For many years running, Jim Venables and his wife, Ann, have been crossing the Atlantic from Wales to visit relatives in New Jersey.
“I used to work for British Airways, so we have the flights,” he said. “We could go anywhere in the world, Hawaii, anywhere, but we come here instead.”
They attended Ocean City’s Memorial Day service honoring the Americans who died in military service:
“We were all in the same war, weren’t we, so, eh, you know you got to pay your respects to everybody.”
They say they vividly remember the American troops who were stationed in their hometown when they were kids during World War II. As D-Day approached, it seemed that everybody in town deployed to Normandy.
“And that was the beginning of the end.”
John Krivulka is a retired Philly cop who fought in Vietnam.
He kicked back on a low beach-chair near the water, watching his grandchildren run to the surf as his big, grey, straggly beard rested on his chest.
As soon as he retired, Krivulka and his wife bought a year-round house in Ocean City, the town where they first met.
“She worked in a hotel and I worked on the boardwalk, and we dated here. We started here, our marriage, and I guess we’ll live here until the day we die. Nice way to end it.”