Absecon man saw his family livelihood washed away

Attention: open in a new window. PrintE-mail

ABSECON – At one time Paxsonville was a mainstay of this city – a tourist court with 62 cabins and a restaurant on the White Horse Pike west of the Delilah Road overpass.

Stormwater rises in front of the restaurant at Paxsonville; it was to get a foot or so higher. Stormwater rises in front of the restaurant at Paxsonville; it was to get a foot or so higher.

The March 1962 storm put an end to that.

Paxsonville evolved from a gas station opened in 1928 by Joseph A. Paxson at the site off the westbound lane of Route 30.

“My grandfather had eight different kinds of gas and 50 pumps,” James Paxson Sr. told The Current Sunday, March 4. “Later he expanded it with an animal zoo. It had bears, lions, coyotes, ostriches, leopards and orangutans – you name it.”

The zoo animals were sold to famed trapper, author and later movie celebrity “Bring ’Em Back Alive” Frank Buck.

James Paxson said his grandfather was “involved in a million things.” He was a judge in Atlantic City, where he served a brief stint as mayor in 1930.

Paxson’s father managed Paxsonville, and his uncle operated another motel on the east side of the pike.

But that was before March 1962, when the Jersey shore was battered for three days by punishing winds, heavy rain and high tides.

Little of Paxsonville survived.

Paxson worked there as a youngster and fully expected to one day succeed his father, Ivo Paxson, in its management. His family lived in a house on the property.

“It was sad; we lost Paxsonville,” Paxson said. “We moved to Absecon.”

Paxson, 72, said he will always remember the storm’s fury.

“I was in the midst of it,” he said. “You don’t forget when the waves hit with such force. The kitchen sink moved back and forth. The laundry room door burst open. Water came in up to our knees.”

Paxson said he had an Argus C-3 camera.

“That was one of the first really nice 35mm cameras,” he said. “I learned how to use it during the storm. It had the old flashbulbs. It worked good.”

The family fled once the floodwaters got indoors. Paxson said he doesn’t remember how they got out.

“I remember we kept the cars at a high point at the highway,” he said. “When waters were around we always had the cars ready to back out.”

The Paxsons sought shelter with family members in Pleasantville for two days before returning to their home and source of income.

“The wind blew paneling off the walls,” he said. “Our appliances ended up under the house. It was on pilings, but it still all got flooded.”

The knee-level water had continued to rise, he said.

“We found seaweed on the doorknobs when we came back in,” Paxson said. “There was an inch of mud on the floor.”

Many of the motel units were simply gone – taken by the wind or shattered into countless pieces.

Paxson went to work at Smithville Inn, where he was a waiter for 28 years.

“I was there in Fred and Ethel Noyes’ heyday,” he said.

He worked another 18 years stocking shelves at night for ShopRite.

Paxson’s father died in 2002. His mother, Selma, is 92 and lives in Williamstown.

He has other relatives still living in the area.

“But I’ll always remember Paxsonville,” he said. “You could call it Paxsonville or the Paxson Motel – but we always called it ‘the place.’ That was my life.”

Picture taken from James Paxson’s bedroom window. Water was up to his knees in the house when the family fled. There was seaweed on the doorknobs when they returned. Picture taken from James Paxson’s bedroom window. Water was up to his knees in the house when the family fled. There was seaweed on the doorknobs when they returned. Shot from the Delilah Road overpass facing Absecon. Paxsonville is on the right side of Route 30. Shot from the Delilah Road overpass facing Absecon. Paxsonville is on the right side of Route 30. The storm whipping up, as seen from the back of the Paxsonville complex. The storm whipping up, as seen from the back of the Paxsonville complex. The Paxson family home is on the left and motel rooms are to the right. Here, various items are placed outside after the storm. The Paxson family home is on the left and motel rooms are to the right. Here, various items are placed outside after the storm. Items ripped from rooms by the storm include toilets and hot water heaters. Only cinder blocks remain where motel units were in February 1962. Items ripped from rooms by the storm include toilets and hot water heaters. Only cinder blocks remain where motel units were in February 1962. A fallen firehouse crushes the Paxsonville fire truck, a vintage 1928-30 high-pressure Hale pumper. James Paxson’s grandfather, Joseph A. Paxson, bought the vehicle and built the firehouse, which lowered insurance rates for him and his neighbors. A fallen firehouse crushes the Paxsonville fire truck, a vintage 1928-30 high-pressure Hale pumper. James Paxson’s grandfather, Joseph A. Paxson, bought the vehicle and built the firehouse, which lowered insurance rates for him and his neighbors. This row of motel units replaced a group that was lost in a 1950 storm. They appeared to have withstood the storm of 1962, but water damage inside resulted in them all being lost, too. This row of motel units replaced a group that was lost in a 1950 storm. They appeared to have withstood the storm of 1962, but water damage inside resulted in them all being lost, too. Debris from cabins completely blown away litters the site in this photo of Paxsonville taken facing Route 30. Debris from cabins completely blown away litters the site in this photo of Paxsonville taken facing Route 30. Water rose over a bulkhead, crossed Route 30 and climbed its way into Paxsonville’s 62 motel units. Water rose over a bulkhead, crossed Route 30 and climbed its way into Paxsonville’s 62 motel units. James Paxson Sr. holds up a scrapbook with a 1960s newspaper ad. His father, Ivo Paxson, wrote to the Mengel Furniture Co. that their wooden dresser survived the March 1962 storm, and they made an advertisement out of it. James Paxson Sr. holds up a scrapbook with a 1960s newspaper ad. His father, Ivo Paxson, wrote to the Mengel Furniture Co. that their wooden dresser survived the March 1962 storm, and they made an advertisement out of it.


blog comments powered by Disqus