Tales from Ocean City: Charlie Bowman Sr.

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A college student in 1962, Charlie Bowman Sr. said the storm “was wild.”

“It was a good one,” he said. “There was water everywhere.”

Bowman and his high school classmate, Tom Adams, put a duck-hunting boat they owned together to good use.

The rescued the Adams family and explored the city’s north end.

“It came in handy that day, that’s for sure,” he said. “We saw Mr. Adams trying to get to his house, and we saw that Mrs. Adams was completely stranded, the house was surrounded by water.

“We took Mrs. Adams and the three kids to safety at our house, at 342 Central Ave. We had water in the street, but not in the house. She had a baby, a little baby, and it was kind of scary.”

Yet the college students were pretty fearless. They explored the island until they were forced indoors.

“We rowed the boat from my house over to Asbury and went to the Chatterbox on Ninth Street and had coffee and rowed back on Asbury Avenue. It was easier than walking with the hip boots. Imagine that, rowing right down Asbury. The stores were all under water.

“We saw a big boat, a 28-foot boat, which was big back in those days, just floating down Fourth Street.”

Before they took the boat out, they walked over to the boardwalk.

“The boardwalk was amazing,” he said. “The waves were breaking over the boardwalk, right into the stores. The boards were lifting, great big 2-by-6 boards snapping like toothpicks and washing up everywhere. I’ve never seen water like that on the island before or since.

“We walked down Atlantic Avenue, and the waves were breaking on Atlantic, it got worse as the day went on,” he said. “We jumped up on people’s porches to safety and when the wave went back out, we ran to the next porch. The waves just tore the boardwalk apart. The waves were just rolling into the houses on Atlantic Avenue.”

Bowman said the south end was a “total disaster.”

“Mayor Tom Waldman did a very good thing after the storm was over,” he said. “He built a bulkhead from 34th Street all the way south to the end. A lot of people thought he was crazy to spend money like that, but he knew the bulkhead would protect the island in case we had a storm like that again. It was a very good investment.”

Bowman said his favorite story from the storm came from the late Mackey Corson, who lived with his family at the end of Eighth Street on Snug Harbor.

“At the height of the storm, Mackey said he looked out from his second floor windows at the Ninth Street Bridge,” he said. “All that he could see of the bridge was two bumps, at the top of the drawbridge on the Ocean City side and the drawbridge on the Somers Point side. The rest of the bridge and the whole causeway were under water. The concrete railings along the causeway were completely underwater.

“You can’t even imagine that,” he said.  “The bridge was totally covered.”

“The storm was unforgettable and very scary,” he said.

Bowman said he remembers calling his girlfriend, Beth, now his wife, and saying “You’ll never believe it, but there are waves on Central Avenue,” he said.

“It was just an unbelievable experience,” he said. “I remember it so vividly.”

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