Downbeach recalls ’62 storm

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The sand partially buries cars outside the White House Bar at Atlantic and Washington avenues, the site of Ocean City Home Bank today.
Many people who were here in 1962 remember the storm that battered the coastline 50 years ago this week. For three days the winds howled and refused to let the tide go back out. Each successive high tide built on the one preceding to raise the water level in the streets until the rising bay and ocean waters met in some locations.

Margate Mayor Michael Becker

Michael Becker was in the U.S. Army stationed in Massachusetts. He said he kept hearing how bad the storm was and noted that his brother told him he would not believe the devastation.

“I lived here all my life, and we had seen nor’easters before and I am thinking, how bad could it be? Well, a few weeks later I was home on leave, and I was really shocked at some of the things I did see,” Becker said, noting that the most shocking destruction he saw was at Hackney’s Restaurant in Atlantic City. “That was always a special place, and to see the damage done by the storm really made me appreciate what a terrible storm it was.”


 

Longport Mayor Nick Russo

Nick Russo and his family were living on Annapolis Avenue in the Chelsea section of Atlantic City. He was 12 years old.

“We were very happy that the ocean did not meet the bay near our house because so much of Atlantic City was underwater. We were lucky,” Russo said.

“We had a basement apartment in our house that we would stay in and rent our upstairs to vacationers in the summer. We were really lucky that we did not have water in the basement and nothing was damaged from the storm.

“I do remember boats out on the streets and a lot of debris, which as kids we were always fascinated to see what the tide brought in. This time there was so much more.”


 

Ventnor Mayor Theresa Kelly

Theresa Kelly and her husband, Dennis, waited out the storm at their Chelsea Village apartment in Atlantic City while she was pregnant with their daughter, who would be born in April.

“It was just like a pool out in the front of the apartments. You couldn’t get out,” she recalled.

Kelly grew up in Atlantic City on Nevada Avenue and was a teacher at the Brighton Avenue School.

“This storm was scary. You realize when you live through something like that you are on a barrier island surrounded by water, and water will win out,” Kelly said.

She said only the hurricane of 1944 may have been worse; that was when she saw the bay and the ocean meeting on Atlantic Avenue.

“I understand we need beach replenishment because that’s our livelihood in this area, that’s why people come here. But the one thing I dislike about the dunes are people wanting to sit on the boardwalk and they can’t see our beautiful ocean and beach because the dunes have taken over. I would wish they could limit their height.”


 

Tom Hiltner, Margate city clerk

Tom Hiltner was 4 years old, and his family lived on Ventnor Avenue. Even though he was young, there are some things that still stick in his mind, he said: the debris, the sand in the street and the smells that followed the storm.

“Our neighbors had this garden with a brick wall around it, and it was higher than anything around. I remember my father saying that garden would never flood, and after the storm we went and looked, and it was filled with water and sand.”


 

Scott Abbott, Margate city solicitor

“I remember getting up in the morning and calling my buddy, Jim VanDuyne, to ask him if he thought we would have school that day. The schools were closed for four days. We were 11 years old, and we had a blast,” Scott Abbott said.

At the time his family was living in the Ventnor Hotel while their home was being built on Bayshore Drive. They were several floors up, so they had no problem with flood waters.

“My stepfather was a camera buff and he had a movie camera, so we went all around the city and he shot movies of the storm and the damage,” said Abbott. The film shot by his stepfather was given to Stewart Farrell, professor of Marine Geology at the Richard Stockton College of New Jersey and head of the Coastal Research Center. Farrell collected many photographs and movies shot during and in the aftermath of the 1962 storm.

Abbott said the memory that stands out most is watching as the boardwalk at Dudley Avenue was destroyed by the storm.

Abbott vividly described the force of the tide coming in, hitting the beach hard and shooting back out, only to be met with another incoming wave. The sheer force of the water splintered the boardwalk right in front of their eyes, he said.


 

Robin Scott, Ray Scott’s Dock in Margate

Robin Scott lives in the same Amherst Avenue home on the bay where she and her family waited out the storm when she was 9.

“I remember the wind and the water just kept coming. Our place was battered and beaten,” said Scott. “I put on hip waders just to walk downstairs in our den. We lost the whole end of our marina in the storm. And from where we were, we could see houses and porches float by on Beach Thorofare.”

She remembers the aftermath of the storm vividly.

“People had left, but we stayed. My dad said if we left and they closed the roads whatever we might be able to salvage would be lost because the roads would be closed and we could not get back to the house and the dock to save what we could.”

Scott said she remembered walking down Decatur Avenue and seeing cars buried under so much sand you could not see them. She also remembers some unwanted insects that came after the storm.

“Critters are survivors, and they will find the best place to go. For several weeks after the storm we were finding ants and the like on the second floor of our house, and my mom was very neat, and this just bothered the heck out of her,” Scott said.

Her family pitched in to repair the marina.

“I have 13 first cousins that are guys, and we had a cool family get-together and they did all the repairs.” She said it was by far the worst storm she has ever seen or ever wants to see.


 

Steve Woerner, lifelong Margate resident

Steve Woerner was 13 and remembers people riding in a boat down the street of the 400 block of Quincy Avenue. His family lost a boiler and a heater, but that was it.

“The water rose right up to our front door but never came in. We pretty were lucky.”


 

Frank Tiemann, Margate historian

The person with probably more storm related photographs than anyone else in Margate was not in Margate at the time of the storm. He was in the U.S. Marines stationed in Germany. Many of the photographs he has at the Margate Historical Society were taken by his mother of the damage up and down Atlantic, Washington and Ventnor avenues.

Tiemann’s family owned the Greenhouse that still sits at the beach at Decatur and Atlantic avenues, and he has many pictures of the mud and mess left in the wake of the storm. The Greenhouse reopened after considerable cleanup and repairs.


 

Lenora Karlock, president, Longport Historical Society

Lenora Karlock was living with her family in Margate and remembers the howling winds. She said the water came to their door, but they did not have any flooding in their home.


 

Mimi Turner, lifelong Longport resident

Mimi Turner said her father, Capt. Jim Turner, the first chief of the Longport Beach Patrol, took his family to his parents’ home in Margate to ride out the storm. “I had a young child at the time and there was no milk delivery, and my father said we would be in trouble with the next high tide, so we went to my grandfather’s house to ride out the storm.”

They returned home after four days.

Turner said Longport had a lot of damage from the storm, but their home was spared.


 

Kathleen Donnelly Tabasso, Longport librarian

Kathleen Donnelly Tabasso was 6 and living in Ventnor. Her father was in the military, and when the storm hit, he was called on to help with rescues.

“My dad took us over to my grandmother’s house on Ventnor Avenue, where she lived in a second-floor apartment. We were there for four days before my father came back. When he returned he took us all around the area and said we should look at all of the damage caused by the storm and remember what we had seen,” said Tabasso. “I was only little but I remember that it was so odd to see great big seashells in the middle of Atlantic Avenue, and there was sand piled up everywhere you looked.”


 

Anne Pancoast, lifelong Margate resident

“That was the year I graduated from Glassboro State College, and I was commuting back and forth from Margate. We lived on Gilmar Circle at the time, and our house was fine. We did not have any damage from the storm.”

Pancoast said she remembers driving back to her home after classes.

“I was driving toward the Margate Bridge and it was very windy. I remember seeing a wave crash on the roadway just ahead. A Volkswagen in front of me just turned around and headed back toward Northfield. I was driving a big Chevy Bel Air and did not have any trouble and got home safely.”

Shaun Smith contributed to this article

Photos courtesy of the Margate Historical Society

Julie Eichwald Tiemann, left, and Nancy Maros brave the elements in this photo taken March 8, 1962 at the corner of Ventnor and Washington avenues in Margate looking south. Margate City Hall is behind Tiemann.   This photo looking west from the parking lot of the Greenhouse at Atlantic and Decatur avenues shows Lucy the Elephant after the storm at her former location at Cedar Grove and Atlantic avenues.

Photos courtesy of the Longport Historical Society

The Press graphic of the damage from the storm, town by town.   Across from Gospel Hall, 29th Avenue in Longport.   Manor Avenue in Longport   Longport, 102 30th Avenue   Longport, 104 18th Avenue


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