Tales of the Tides: Jeanne Holbrook

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I lived in Ventnor Heights and remember the ’62 storm very well. I was 14 years old and lived with my parents, Harry and Virginia Bickel, grandparents and brother on North Suffolk Avenue in the house my father built. He was born and raised in Ventnor, so when he built his house, he built it higher than most other people did.


The neighborhood was not as heavily built-up as you see it today. We could see from our dining room across to Chelsea Heights with no buildings obstructing the view. The water got as high as the top step of our front porch, but did not enter the house. We even watched flounder swimming by, following the sidewalk.

My father was a fireman with the Ventnor City Fire Department and had to go to work. After dropping the anchor to his Chris Craft boat sitting on cinder blocks in a lot next door, he walked to the Dorset Avenue Bridge wearing his fishing waders. He was picked up on the other side of the bridge in a boat and conveyed to work.

As the waters kept rising, my grandfather and mother went into the garage and tipped the washer and dryer over into the garvey that was in the garage to keep them safe from the rising water.  Our heater was already safely mounted on a 2-foot-high platform. All through the day we watched as police and firefighters evacuated neighbors who could not stay in their flooded homes.

In the months after the storm, we viewed the devastation that was caused by that nor’easter.  Years later, my father resigned from the Ventnor City Fire Department and took a commission as building inspector for the city. Through his efforts new building rules were established for waterfront property. It was through his efforts that all new buildings on the ocean front or bay front must be constructed on pilings driven deep into the ground. He took a lot of heat over that and even had threats against himself, family and home, but he persevered, and now it is standard for all waterfront building.

Dad was a boat builder, home builder, master (finish) carpenter, fireman, building inspector and an avid fisherman, hunter and family man. He was born at home, 205 Sixth Ave., on Dec. 31, 1925 and except for being in the Navy during World War II and one year in the Oregon lumber industry, spent his entire life in Ventnor. He passed away Dec. 21, 2007 at my home in Egg Harbor Township.

Jeanne A. Holbrook

Egg Harbor Township

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