Wildwood Leader

In Another Time > Local concern for oil pollution came early

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Written by Jacob Schaad Jr. Wednesday, August 24, 2011 11:51 am

The huge body of water we call the ocean has been one of tourism’s best friends---perhaps its best---since the three Baker brothers discovered the Wildwoods and converted the island into a place for fun and games for those wanting to escape the ordinary of their lives.

People swim in the ocean or they wade in it at water’s edge. The more adventurous surf in the ocean, the Isaac Waltons fish in it and the seafarers captain their boats in it for pleasure or transportation of cargo and people.

And there have been some who claim they come to the ocean to revitalize their health or reinvigorate their busy everyday lives.

The ocean, though, has not always been treated kindly, sometimes soiled with unwanted products, other times accepted early on as a place for users and little said or done about the abusers.

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In Another Time > Big road expansion of the ’20s leads to big corruption trial

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Written by Jacob Schaad Jr. Wednesday, August 17, 2011 09:25 am

Many years ago in the 18th century, long before there was a Wildwood, there was in the territory now known as Cape May County a government agency consisting of justices and freeholders. It was a precursor of today’s Board of Chosen Freeholders, which with the passage of time has eliminated the justices from its title and functions.

Then, though, at a time when religion was a big influence on the local but yet-to-be-incorporated American municipalities, the board of justices and freeholders served as a form of combined grand and petit jury, holding hearings and meetings in homes and the halls of churches. They were held on what was called court days when people assembled not only to listen to the courtroom travails of their neighbors but to gossip, barter and gamble in a picnic-like day of celebration.

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In Another Time > Wildwood politics connected to the national scene

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Written by Jacob Schaad Jr. Wednesday, August 10, 2011 10:57 am

In its long history, starting after the Civil War, not all of the entertainment on the island of the Wildwoods came from the beach, the boardwalk and the ocean. When the temperature dipped and the first leaves fell from the shedding trees, when stores were boarded and streets were barren and when there was not much else to do, people started playing full force one of the oldest games in the land.

It is called politics.

It began inauspiciously in the tiny towns of Anglesea to the north and Holly Beach to the south where the first mayors were elected in the incorporated municipalities in the year of 1885. In Anglesea that honor went to an ailing Dr. William A. Thompkins, who came to the fishing village for his health and died a year into his term as mayor.

To the south in the town of wooded Holly Beach, so named after its abundance of holly bushes, the first elected mayor was Franklin J. Van Valin who also was to serve for but a year.

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In Another Time > Laughs and lifesaving each contributed to Wildwood

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Written by Jacob Schaad Jr. Monday, August 01, 2011 02:27 pm

Several names stand out among those who served beyond the line of duty in the history of the Wildwoods.

The three Baker brothers, of course, are the most prominent having founded much of the island, developed it, served as mayors of three of its early municipalities and donated land and funding for various projects and sites.

Dr. Margaret Mace is said to have ridden a horse in a snowstorm to reach a pregnant patient. William C. Hunt, movie house and amusement pier impresario, was an early advocate for the starting of the Burdette Tomlin Memorial Hospital and for the Cape May-Lewes Ferry. At Christmas he gave free movie passes to children. As today’s history continues to unfold the current Morey family, the successful centerpiece of the Wildwoods Boardwalks, will be given equal recognitions for its civic contributions here.

There have been others too, perhaps not quite so spectacular as their predecessors but still very meaningful in the texture of life that they brought to the Wildwoods

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In Another Time > Mother of Wildwood newspapers also a minister, temperance supporter

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Written by Jacob Schaad Jr. Tuesday, July 26, 2011 03:59 pm

A religious woman was the catalyst for journalism on Five Mile Beach in the borough of Holly Beach during the year of 1885, the same year that Holly Beach was incorporated as a borough and 27 years before it became part of Wildwood.

Her name was Jeanette DuBois Meech and she was a woman for all seasons, working as a teacher, a fundraiser, a lecturer, a temperance advocate, a merchant, and a preacher in the pulpit and on the pages of her newspaper. Originally from Frankford, Pa., where she entered the world in August of 1835, Meech moved to Vineland and then to the seashore with her husband, a minister, who was suffering from ill health. It was believed by many then that the ocean and the clean fresh air that accompanied it were the right panacea for whatever ailed the body.

Soon, already an active Baptist, the enterprising Meech opened a store near the train station where she attracted the passengers as they debarked for a vacation at the seashore. As the years progressed and she became more and more involved with the community, Meech advocated for a newspaper in the borough.

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In Another Time > Wildwoods, nation face a turbulent decade

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Written by Jacob Schaad Jr. Tuesday, July 19, 2011 12:55 pm

While the nation was suffering from one of the most volatile periods in its history, the Wildwoods were aching locally too during the turbulence of the decade of the 1960s.

Violence was to be a key word in the story of the ’60s, whether it be on a street in Dallas, the jungles of a country called Vietnam, on a college campus in Ohio, the streets of our big cities and, yes, even on a beach in Wildwood, New Jersey.

On the big landscape of the nation during this decade of anguish, pain and frustration within a five year span between Nov. 22, 1963 and June 5, 1968, a president of the United States, his brother and a civil rights leader were murdered.

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In Another Time > Wildwood has always had an eye for movies

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Written by Jacob Schaad Jr. Monday, July 11, 2011 03:11 pm

Although the Wildwoods weren’t involved in the invention of the movies, their long history shows that they certainly contributed to the advancement of it.

New Jersey was a prime place for the invention of film making, for developing the process and for being the first state in which films were shot.

A Frenchman by the name of Louis Lumiere gets the most acknowledgment for having invented the first motion picture camera in 1895, the same year that Wildwood was incorporated as a borough. He and his brother were the first to present projected moving photographic pictures to an audience of more than one person. But they were not the first to project film.

Lumiere was not very optimistic or prophetic either.

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In Another Time > Tram car is one of several innovations for moving visitors

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Written by Jacob Schaad Jr. Tuesday, July 05, 2011 11:36 am

In its very early days, getting about in the Wildwoods from one end of the island to the other was something of a challenge, limited to sparse dirt roadways created by Indians or the alternative of the vast ocean waterway.

Then as the developers arrived and with them the summer settlers and the year round residents it became obvious that the subject of transportation was to be high on the agenda of needed improvements.

The first signs of achieving that goal occurred on Jan. 3, 1902 , 17 years after Holly Beach at the southern end and Anglesea at the northern end were incorporated as boroughs in 1885. Both were to later change their names, Holly Beach to become part of Wildwood and Anglesea to be renamed North Wildwood.

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In Another Time > Ed Zaberer created a restaurant landmark

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Written by Jacob Schaad Jr. Wednesday, June 29, 2011 03:38 pm

Many roads , if not all of them, led to Zaberer’s Hollywood-like restaurant in the Anglesea section of North Wildwood as it grew in popularity from 1955 until its decline before a four alarm fire wiped it out conclusively in June of 1992.

In fact it might be said that Ed Zaberer, once among the poorest kids on the block, led the crowds on the roads to his self-named establishment on West Spruce Avenue in the oldest community on Five Mile Beach. It was here that he entertained future presidents (Reagan and Nixon), movie stars (Jimmy Durante, June Allyson, Vince “Dr. Ben Casey” Edwards), night club entertainers (Liberace and Ed Ames), and Philadelphia and local politicians including Joe Rizzo, a member of a famous Philly family who also served as Philadelphia fire commissioner and was the brother of the Quaker City mayor.

Zaberer was prouder though, that he could provide family dining with his stars. Children under 12, for instance, were charged 25 cents for clam chowder, 60 cents for a serving of shrimp and $1.05 for baked flounder.

Eventually in its prime time the restaurant hired 350 employees, fed 1,000 diners at four dining rooms, had four lounges, playrooms for kids and bars and a kitchen that would have consumed four other kitchens on Five Mile Beach, plus fancy Tiffany lamp decorations that sent its guests back to another era.

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In Another Time > Burgeoning population of visitors needed feeding

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Written by Jacob Schaad Jr. Wednesday, June 22, 2011 09:45 am

When the three Baker brothers and their contemporaries discovered the communities-to- be of the Wildwoods during the second half of the 19th century, they didn’t have a clue that some day there would be a McDonald’s or Burger King or WaWa on the same territory. Soon, as progress came to the island, it became apparent that without food and water to go along with it, a developed island was like a body without a heart. .

The Lenni Lenape Indians, who came there before the brothers, didn’t need fast food or any kind of restaurant, for that matter, to satisfy their hunger. They fished in the ocean, hunted on what was still virtually virgin land and then cooked their own meals on the land that was later to become known as Five Mile Beach.

This would not work in the later days of the Bakers.

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In Another Time > Planes, beaches and automobiles in the Wildwoods

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Written by Jacob Schaad Jr. Wednesday, June 15, 2011 09:45 am

Although the two sets of brothers probably never met, the Wright brothers, Wilbur and Orville, and the Baker brothers, J. Thompson, Latimer and Philip, had something in common. They were all inventors at about the same time.

The Wrights have been credited with having given birth to the powered airplane on Dec. 17, 1903 with Orville clinging to a wing as he piloted the plane. Like all births there was a gestation period to make it happen, however, and it started in 1896 at their bicycle shop in Dayton, Ohio, and came to fruition at the wind swept beach of Kitty Hawk in North Carolina.

Also at the seashore, but hundreds of miles to the north, the Bakers had discovered much of the island of what was to become known as the Wildwoods in the late 19th century. They were to invent and build the territory as seashore resorts while the Wrights were flying high with their invention. As history turned out, Orville Wright was a better inventor than prognosticator.

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In Another Time > Big bands held on, even as rock rolled in

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Written by Jacob Schaad Jr. Tuesday, June 07, 2011 03:28 pm

The music beat has continued in the Wildwoods throughout the years as the resort communities followed the music changes and patterns established earlier in the nation. There were some, however, who contended that it was the other way around: That it was the nation that followed some of the changes and patterns that started in the Wildwoods.

Tony Bennett, a frequent performer on the island in his early days, claimed Wildwood was the birthplace of rock ‘n’ roll. Chubby Checker also performed here and is said to have developed his hit “Twist” in Wildwood, and Bill Haley and the Comets augmented the popularity of the song and dance in performances in Wildwood. And Bobby Rydell, who spent part of his youth here, brought national prominence to the Wildwoods with his performance of the song, “Wild, Wild Wildwood Days.”

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In Another Time > Music has long been key part of Wildwood

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Written by Jacob Schaad Jr. Tuesday, May 31, 2011 03:08 pm

The tourists who vacation at the seashore expect sunny skies, warm temperatures, pleasant ocean breezes and an ambience that happy days are here again.

As raconteur-actor Will Rogers once said, there’s not much we can do about the weather except talk about it. The ambience is another thing.

Almost from the start, when the trio of the Baker brothers founded much of Five Mile Beach, they and their successors decided that while the ocean, the beach and the early scattered pieces of boardwalk were incentives to woo visitors to the island they needed more to keep them not down on the farm but down at the seashore instead.

Soon, as the days segued into nights, the sounds of music were to come on the beachfronts, the Boardwalk, the drinking spas and the hotels that emerged with the arrival of the railroad and the passengers it carried.

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In Another Time > Historic church has been through a lot

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Written by Jacob Schaad Jr. Wednesday, May 25, 2011 11:19 am

One of the oldest and smallest year-round churches in the Wildwoods may be the hardiest.

Officially 115 years old but unofficially born 127 years ago, the First Presbyterian Church of Wildwood, at the corner of Pacific and Burk Avenues, has a history that includes being set afire by an arsonist, suffering severe damage from high storm waters and at one point being on the verge of closing its doors for good. But it pulled itself up by the bootstraps and is still surviving today with a membership of 35 parishioners.

“We continue to serve the community, especially children,” says the Rev. George Schmidt, the stated supply pastor. A stated supply pastor is a temporary appointment.

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