Sunday, September 30, 2012

LBIF hosts Manhattan Short Film Festival

Photo via Cinema Salem
If you like calling the shots, then participating in the 2012 Manhattan Short Film Festival on Saturday, Sept. 29 at the Long Beach Island Foundation of the Arts and Sciences in Loveladies is a must-do for you. Established in 1998, it is the first film festival to ever take place in all 50 states of the United States.

“One World One Week One Festival” is the mantra of the event. Its mission is to unite viewers from more than 250 different cities across six diverse continents during the same week, through the 10 most engaging short films submitted annually. You are the judge, and the audience gets to vote for the best-produced film. The Foundation hosted one of four of the events held in New Jersey. Viewing time will begin at 7 p.m.
This year's short film finalists include producers from Norway, the Netherlands, Russia, the United Kingdom, Ireland, Peru, France, Romania, the United States and Spain. Featured movie topics range in variety from a perilous journey to the North Pole to bad luck and relationship kindling. Each film is between 10 and 20 minutes long.
“I was here last year, and it was actually pretty cool,” said LBIF marketing and special events coordinator Lydia Owens. “There were a couple of really wild films, and there were a couple of really inspirational and very touching ones. One of them was really hilarious, and it actually won the whole film festival. So there’s a pretty good variety of films. It’s really intense, and there are a lot of really beautiful pieces that show up in the film festival. Some of them are actually true stories,” she added.
The Foundation's festival participants were given a voting card and an official program at the beginning of the event. After the viewing, everyone was asked to vote for the one film they though deserves the winning title. Individual votes were tallied and sent in to the Manhattan Short headquarters. The festival’s winner will be announced on Sunday, Oct. 7, at 10 p.m. via the Manhattan Short website.

Admission to the event costs $7. For more information, call the Foundation at 609-494-0662, or visit 
For more information, call the Foundation at 609-494-0662, or visit

This article was published in The SandPaper.

Friday, September 28, 2012

Introducing: STAC's conservatory

The Stafford Township Arts Center's new conservatory was buzzing with live workshops and performances of dance, music, visual arts and theater on Saturday afternoon, Sept. 15, during its free open house tour. The enactments introduced the public to the school’s newest professional instructors, while also giving them a first-hand look into the types of classes they can enroll in. 
Photo by Kelley Anne Essinger
“This is the big opening to bring all of this out into the community, which is really, really exciting,” said Kelly Harris, STAC's manager and conservatory director. “There are classes for people from 3 years old to seniors in every discipline of performing and visual arts, everything from photography to creative dance to violin and piano. So there’s pretty much something here for everybody,” she added.

After growing up around parents who were in show business and running many successful conservatories in Europe and the United States, Harris helped initiate the theater’s programs and classes. She surveyed the community, starting in January, about what types of curricula they would be interested in and set to work making it happen. In the interim, she spoke with many local dance trainers, music instructors, school teachers, parents, drama clubs and college professors to gain a better understanding of how the conservatory could benefit the local area.

“It’s very much in cooperation with the local studios and local school programs, with the idea that these students would get an education that they can get into colleges with, like the Berklee College ofMusic and Juilliard. I actually even spoke with professors from Berklee, and I asked them what kinds of things students would need when they audition. So I got all that feedback and compiled it altogether to design these courses and then find the right teachers to teach them,” she added.

Of the 106 contenders who applied for a teaching position at the theater, only 30 were interviewed and eleven were hired. All eleven of the school’s newest instructors, who will begin their teaching term on October 1, performed on stage or gave a demonstration in one of the surrounding classrooms at STAC last weekend. Although unsure of where the year will bring them, their eager demeanor was an obvious expression of their excitement to be part of something so culturally and communally beneficial.

“I hope to pass on my musical knowledge to the younger generation and put real musicians out into the world,” said Christina Skleros, STAC's newest vocal instructor.

Photo by Halley Feaster
Like many of the instructors at STAC, Skleros, 24, who grew up in Barnegat, has been practicing her special talent since she was a young child. She began taking private singing lessons from local instructors at the age of three before making her way to New York City, where she studied Classical Vocal Performance at the Manhattan School of Music and later, Jazz Vocal Performance at William Patterson University. She is most notably recognized for singing at The White House for President Clinton during the ’96 election and as the Yankees’ “good luck charm” when she sang at Game Six of the 1996 World Series. She also owns a professional music studio in Manahawkin called Musicology Studios, where she teaches professional voice, piano, flute, violin and guitar lessons on the side.

Gregory Foote, 7, from Manahawkin, showed up with his parents Karen and Greg and his younger brother Andrew, 5, to look into piano lessons and also see STAC's piano instructor Michael Engesser, a world-renowned music composer, producer and engineer who grew up playing piano in Munich, Germany.

“I like the piano because you get to make crazy music,” exclaimed Foote.

Foote received a keyboard for his birthday and has always been musically inclined, according to his parents. They said he is always singing and can really carry a tune. He even whistles like a champ.

His favorite music comes from video games like the Mario Brothers and Star Wars,” said his mother. “He'll download the music onto his iPod and let it play in the background when he plays with his toys. He's even picking up on some of his mom's favorite music like Pearl Jam,” she added with a laugh.

Foote's parents decided they would look into the conservatory's classes after receiving an email about the open house tour. They were interested in the idea of sending their kids to a visual and performing arts school that offers affordable lessons in one convenient location. Whether or not Foote decides to stick with piano, his parents believe learning how to read music will help prepare him for other musical instruments he might like to try learning, including guitar. And that, of course, is STAC's mission exactly.

Drama instructor Nicole Mayer, 24, of Barnegat said she wishes a similar local program existed a few years ago when she was in search of professional acting and modeling classes.

Photo by Kelley Anne Essinger
In 10th grade I went to John Casablancas (Modeling and Career Centers) in Pennsylvania every Saturday for six months, and that was a couple of thousand dollars for commercial acting lessons,” said Mayer. “I also did Barbizon (Modeling and Acting Centers) in ninth grade. It was expensive. You got pictures and a few modeling lessons, but it’s still not affordable for parents who have kids who are interested in this stuff.

“If I could have gone to a conservatory, I would definitely have done that,” she added. “The conservatory is strictly for community, but it’s not limited to just Stafford or Manahawkin. I had people calling from Lacey, and I said, ‘Bring everybody down here.’ It’s supposed to be affordable for all of us, and if you’ve talked to Kelly (Harris), you know her passion for this place is remarkable,” she added.

Classes at STAC’s conservatory run from Oct. 1 to June 30. Registration is ongoing. For more information, visit, or dial 609-489-8600.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

LBI Garden Club Members receive national award

On Thursday afternoon, Sept. 13, members of The Garden Club of Long Beach Island presented Edith Duff Gwinn Garden committee chairwomen Peg Felix, Betty Frey and Cathy Sutton with a Perennial Bloom Award from the Central Atlantic Region of National Garden Clubs, Inc. The honor recognized the three women for their exceptional work in the local Eden, which they have headed for the past 14 years.

“Every year we say, ‘That’s it,’" joked Felix. “But we always come back. We love the garden.”

Photo by Ryan Morrill
Those who attended the town’s old, one-room schoolhouse – now the Barnegat Light Museum on Central Avenue at Fifth Street – used the outside courtyard as a playground. After the schoolhouse closed, the courtyard became an alluring garden adopted by garden club founders Edith Duff Gwinn and Frances Selover.
In 1998, Felix, Frey and Sutton, who had been members of the club for only a few months to a couple of years, began managing the preservation of the garden. Every Monday morning from May through October, at least one if not all of the women is outside in the garden, leading other members who show up to help with landscaping duty.
“We tell all the worker bees what needs to be done,” Sutton said with a laugh. “We do routine maintenance on Mondays. We cut off all the dead stuff. And then next week there’s a whole new batch of dead stuff we need to cut off. It’s always nonstop maintenance,” she explained.
Many years ago, the garden was decorated with numbered stakes that corresponded with the title of the plant it stood near. Plant descriptions could be found written down in a book, kept inside the museum. Now the garden is in constant reorder, with new plants and flowers interchanged every season. Keeping up with the numbers of plants is just too trying a task to mark every one.
An array of annual flowers planted every year, including marigolds, petunias and geraniums to name a few, can be seen throughout the garden during the spring and summer months. The variety of colorful flowers planted in the garden is always different every year.
Plenty of flowers and evergreens can be found in front of the museum on Central Avenue. Five years ago, the garden club raised enough funds to redo the front area, which formerly was a dirt patch many visitors used for parking their cars. Now the front yard is bedecked with beautiful plants, including knockout roses and lilies, alongside a winding walkway.
The pathway leads back around most of the garden, which was finished in four installments and funded through the sale of engraved pieces. The other portion of the garden has maintained its natural trail of pine needles and soil.
Perennials can be found throughout the garden all year long. Witch hazel trees, bamboo, heather and bearded iris are just some of the many beautiful plants that thrive throughout the fall and winter seasons.
“In the springtime, the garden is alive with flowers. But anyone who doesn’t come up to the garden in a snowstorm is missing out,” said Frey. “You have to see it. The witch hazel, heather, kale, cabbage: It’s all in full bloom. It’s beautiful,” she emphasized.
Photo by Ryan Morrill
Benches donated by longtime members are stationed near a compass designed in honor of Selover. A wrap-around seat, surrounding a giant tree, was dedicated in remembrance of 9/11 and is now a perfect place to sit and relax amid the flora. But many of the club’s members prefer sitting upon a large rock situated in the middle of the garden, while sipping coffee and iced tea during their 10:30 break on “Monday maintenance” mornings.
Copper birdbaths, picnic tables, a fish pond filled with goldfish, an herb garden marked by seashells, a trickling water fountain dedicated to everyone who has worked in the garden, a spherical sundial donated by Selover’s daughter-in-law, and a tar pot replica are just some of many wondrous things found among the variety of plants and flowers in the garden.
The club also maintains the garden at the Beach Haven Public Library. The annual Holiday Tour of Homes on Long Beach Island will be held on Thursday, Dec. 13, to help raise money for the club and the scholarships it offers to local school students. For more information, visit

This article was published in The SandPaper.

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Dinosaurs Rock (And so do you), at STAC

Dinosaurs Rock,” an interactive museum exhibit and show featuring the personal fossil and mineral collection of renowned paleontologist Neil Brown, will be held at the Stafford Township Arts Center today. Playing off Brown’s own life-long fascination with fossils, the event is specially geared toward the child’s sense of wonder and imagination. More than 100 different dinosaur bones and minerals will be on display.

Photo via Dinosaurs Rock
“They’re bringing a 24-foot trailer with all of these specimens, and what they’re bringing with them is just unbelievable,” said STAC manager and conservatory director Kelly Harris. “They’re bringing a 9-foot-high, Ice Age mammoth leg. They’re bringing a life-size T-Rex skull, a (life-size) 7-foot triceratops skull (and) genuine dinosaur bones. They’re bringing fossils, different geodes that you can break open, and they’re even doing a fossil dig with the children (with fossils) that they can take home,” she explained.
“The thing that’s amazing is normally you go to a museum exhibit and you look at these specimens, which is wonderful, but this is very interactive. So the kids get to understand what the specimens are and take them home with them. It’s extremely educational,” said Harris.
A presentation on the Ice Age led by Brown will take place at noon and 3 p.m. The exhibit will be open from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Tickets cost $15 for adults and $12 for children. A family pack of four tickets costs $40, and $50 for a family pack of five. For more information or to purchase tickets, call 609-489-8600 or visit

This article was published in The SandPaper.

Friday, September 21, 2012

Tuckerton Lumber Company helped build Long Beach Island

Sometimes what starts out as a means of survival turns into a fruitful blessing. For the Tuckerton Lumber Company, the need to provide for a family turned into an 80-year dynasty rich in business and in love.
Photo courtesy of TLC
Times were tough during the Great Depression in 1932. Work was scarce, and money was even harder to find. But people still married and children were still born. For newlyweds Fred and Mildred Bunnell, raising a family obviously meant providing income. When their only daughter, Claire, was born that year, finding work became an even bigger priority.
Sensing this growing need, Fred's father, Fred Bunnell Sr., a family doctor in Barnegat, decided to purchase the Tuckerton branch of his uncle’s lumber company in Toms River, so the family could provide for their own. Fred ran the lumberyard on Railroad Avenue in Tuckerton, and Mildred, alongside one other employee, ran the hardware store on Main Street.
During World War II, Mildred continued to run the hardware store, while Fred worked at the lumberyard after working a full day at the fish factory in the middle of Great Bay, where he caught and cooked bunker fish and helped produce fertilizers and weaponry for the war.
Making a living during the war was even harder than it was before, and business was tough. Ordering merchandise for the lumber company was next to impossible.
“We had been able to get nothing in the store,” said Claire Laird, choking up a bit at the thought. “Maybe we might get some hammers, or maybe we might get some screws. But you couldn’t just order things and (expect) they would come because we were in a war. There was rationing all over.
“Then all of a sudden, the world started to boom again. But (local) business was not real good,” she remembered.
Bunnell Sr. continued his medical practice in both Barnegat and on Long Beach Island, seeing patients, delivering babies and occasionally removing fishhooks caught in someone’s arm or leg. He and his wife spent their weekends in a small cottage on 13th Street in Ship Bottom, which they purchased years earlier. When money was tight, some patients paid him in property for their medical bills.
Photo courtesy of TLC
“The land was worthless in those days,” said Laird. “It had gravel roads, and it wasn’t developed that much. So some of the people said, ‘Pay the doctor with this land over here. It’s nothing but weeds and mosquitoes.’”
When the war ended, business began to boom. Mildred filled up the Tuckerton hardware shop on Main Street with apple cookie jars, ivy bowls and French cottages. The merchandise went flying out the door; life was good again.
Mildred sensed that the extra free land on the Island that her father-in-law acquired from his patients could be of good use. She urged her husband to open up shop in Surf City, and in 1945 a gift shop called Bunnell’s was opened on North 2nd Street.
Although the store only carried knick-knacks and souvenirs, Mildred told customers who came in looking for paint, hammers and other small tools that she could have the supplies delivered to the store the following day on behalf of the Tuckerton Lumber Company.
The lumber company’s reputation grew, and over time there was enough business to add on additional stock rooms, an apartment and a storage shed to the gift shop in Surf City. It was later renamed the Tuckerton Lumber Company in 1948.
The company continued to grow stronger every year, as building progressed during the off-season and seasonal residents came scurrying in during the summer months. Family members continued to help out with the stores. Laird, known as the “barefoot teenager,” helped out wherever she could, counting screws or wrapping purchased merchandise in paper and bags.
“I used to work there, and I’d say, ‘Can I help you with something?’ And a man would say, ‘Look, I’ve been in Philadelphia all week, and I’ve come down here, and I’m just roaming around this store; I’m just looking at everything,’" remembered Laird. "It would be almost like a treat for them. They’d come down and just check out everything that we had. And we always kept, I think, pretty up-to-date with everything. We would have everything people needed. 
“It was really funny weighing out nails with a claw hammer and counting out screws. Things are so different nowadays. It was all taking care of everybody with little bags and little packages and little things,” she added, snickering at the memories.
Though things have certainly changed and some of the family members have come and gone, others have stuck with the business. Laird's three children and their husbands and wives have all worked at the store at one time or another. Her son, Bruce Nelson, is chief executive officer of the Surf City store, and her daughter, Elizabeth Harrigle, is financial secretary. Harrigle’s husband, Timothy, runs the Tuckerton Lumber branch in Tuckerton. And the family couldn’t be happier.
Photo by Kristin Blair
“We are so grateful to the people of Long Beach Island and the people that came from Philadelphia and North Jersey because they made business such a fun thing,” said Laird. “And we were, of course, able then to get all kinds of supplies; all of the sudden the world just started to boom. The Island grew and grew, and we eventually became what we are today: a great, big store with a lumberyard in back and lumberyards at the side, and all that,” she added with delight.
The gift shop was given up three years ago when Laird decided she had enough of gift shows. But the hardware, paint and building supplies are still thriving. 
“We’re so grateful to all the people that have been such faithful customers of ours and the builders that are still making Long Beach Island such a wonderful place to come and live,” she said.
“It’s great being in a family business. It’s been a real blessing to be a part of it,” agreed Harrigle. “Eighty years is a long time, but there’s never a dull moment. Sometimes business is tough, and we’re challenged to stay current with our products. But it’s very good to us,” she added with a smile.
The family hopes to see the Tuckerton Lumber Company surpass another 80 years. But while they’re waiting for life to take its course, they’re content sharing the wealth of good business and even better family.

This article was published in The Beachcomber.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Oram Tonge: ‘Godfather’ of Long Beach Island architects

Oram H. Tonge, a well-known architect from Long Beach Island, has designed more than 4,000 structures at the New Jersey shore over the last 35 years. When The Beachcomber met up with him at his office in Ship Bottom to discuss his distinguished career, he remarked that he knew he wanted to design buildings ever since the time he was 5 years old.

Photo by Kristin Blair 
“I don’t know why, but I always wanted to be an architect,” he said. “I can’t remember a time I ever wanted to do anything else.”
Tonge grew up on the bayside of Leeward Avenue in Beach Haven. His parents, Oram and Marie Tonge, built a summer home there after tying the knot on the Island. The family, including Oram’s younger sister, Sandra, often traveled back and forth from Beach Haven to their primary residence in Burholme in northeast Philadelphia, his parents’ home town.
Tonge attended Kennedy C. Crossan Elementary School and Woodrow Wilson Junior High in Philadelphia. His fifth-grade teacher, who watched him incessantly draw up floor plans day after day in class, told his mother that Tonge had a knack for sketching and would make a fine architect someday. But his mother already knew that.
“I was always drawing floor plans. I would designate the rooms: Bedroom, bedroom, bath. I would put a deck on it, and that would be a house,” he said, while depicting a brief floor plan that resembled the work of his childhood years. “They were all different, but the big thing was to show the bricks; every patio had shaded bricks. I don’t know why, but it was important,” he said, laughing at the memory.
His family always visited Beach Haven on the weekends and throughout the summer months in July and August. In the early ‘50s, as a 9- and 10-year-old, he spent those summers working on rental boats at Mordecai Boat Basin. As a teenager, he worked at Morrison’s Seafood Restaurant as a cook and at Beach Haven Bakery.
Other than that, he horsed around and went to the beach.
His high school education was split between Southern Regional in Manahawkin and Northeast High School in Philadelphia. It was at Northeast High where his guidance counselor told him he wouldn’t amount to anything – that he’d be lucky to find a job at a factory.
Photo by Kristin Blair
But Tonge wasn’t a dummy. He graduated number one in his class from Temple University, with a bachelor of science degree in architecture. He went on to work in the design department at the headquarters of Acme Markets in Center City, Philadelphia. During that time, he also attended Drexel University, where he graduated first in class and obtained a professional degree in architecture.
After passing the Pennsylvania state architecture exam on his first try, Tonge landed the position of chief architect for the School District of Philadelphia, located in Center City. Meanwhile, his esteemed reputation was also catching on at the shore. He even designed a house right next door to his childhood home in Beach Haven, where he and his father lived together after his mother died.
Tonge designed his own home on Beacon Drive in Loveladies. During the building process, he often brought his young nephews, Bill and Rich Tagland, to inspect the procedure. (Years later, his nephews opened their own architectural firm on Long Beach Island.)
The first design contract Tonge undertook as an independent architect was for his father’s co-worker at the Institute for Cancer Research (now the Fox Chase Cancer Center) in Philadelphia. He was asked to design an addition for the man’s home in Beach Haven Gardens.
Eventually Tonge opened an office of his own in Surf City. He began designing homes and buildings all over the Island. He was appointed as chairman of the Long Beach Township Zoning Board. He even coined the coastal scheme, which reflects the native design elements of the East Coast: an over-hanging roof, lots of windows and a porch. An oceanfront home he designed on Nebraska Avenue in Haven Beach received national recognition for this type of design.
“Oram Tonge was the most sought-after architect in the ‘80s,” said Regina Pasquariello, a real estate agent at Re/Max of Long Beach Island. “Homeowners took pride in having him design their houses. His work now is still sought after,” she emphasized.
Some of Tonge’s most famous designs include Fantasy Island Amusement Park, Surflight Theatre (opened in 1987), Schooner’s Wharf, Township of Long Beach Municipal Complex, The Island Shop, Brant Beach Yacht Club, Freedom Surf and Spa, Harvey Cedars Borough Hall and Mancini Realty.
As work picked up, Tonge began investing in real estate on the Island. He later met and married Julie Helmer, a real estate agent at Zacharie Realty in Surf City. After the birth of their first daughter, Lauren, they sold their home on Long Beach Island and moved to Naples, Florida. They had another daughter, Nicole, and decided to raise their children there.
Photo by Kristin Blair
Tonge now breaks up his time by visiting family in Florida every couple of weeks, and heading back to the Island to design more homes and buildings. He works from an office in Ship Bottom that he shares with Re/Max of Long Beach Island and Island Chiropractic. He is currently working on five home designs in the area and one commercial building in Florida.
“He is an incredible asset to a real estate agency because you can get answers to (design) questions right away,” explained Joseph Mayo III, broker and owner of Re/Max of Long Beach Island. “There’s usually a delay when it comes to those sorts of things. In an ideal world, every real estate agency would have an architect, an engineer, a decorator and a builder. I call him ‘the godfather of architects,’ because many architects on the Island worked for him at one time or another.”

This article was published in The Beachcomber.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Spay/Neuter Mobile Unit offers low-cost services for local pets

Photo by Jack Reynolds
Friends of the Southern Ocean County Animal Shelter  has reserved the Associated Humane Societies’ Spay/Neuter Mobile Unit for Wednesday, Sept. 19, at the Popcorn Park Zoo, located at 1 Humane Way in Forked River. The “veterinary unit on wheels” will give local dog and cat owners and feral cat feeders who are looking to spay or neuter their pets, younger than 5, the chance to do so for a low-cost rate. The charge for a female dog is $95, and $85 for a male dog. The charge for a female cat is $75, for a male cat $65.

Micro-chipping, flea/worm treatments, nail clipping, leukemia- and feline-immunodeficiency-virus testing and vaccinations are also offered at reduced rates.
“It’s a significant savings for people who haven’t gotten around to having their pets spayed or neutered yet. The savings are at least several hundred dollars compared to other veterinary offices,” said Linda Bonvie, a local resident who has been volunteering with FOSOCAS for the past four years. “Going back a few years, I’ve spent $300, $400, $500 dollars for my pets to be spayed or neutered. So the program does offer a good savings, and hopefully it will promote and encourage people who have not yet had their pets spayed or neutered, to do so,” she added.
The veterinary mobile unit is fully equipped with everything necessary for surgeries and treatments. It is staffed by the Associated Humane Societies’ fully licensed veterinarians and veterinarian technicians who have been trained by the ASPCA in New York, which has run an effective mobile spay-neuter program for more than 10 years.
The unit was in town for the first time in March, when FOSOCAS, along with the help of the Harvey Cedars Police Department, area volunteers and representatives from animal protection agencies, hosted a trap-neuter-return event to help reduce the number of feral cats living in the area. This month’s event invites all cat and dog owners and feeders to take advantage of the program.
“Spaying or neutering is probably one of the most important health decisions you can make to create a happy life for your pet,” said Bonvie. “It’s very beneficial for female pets because they have far fewer uterine infections and breast cancers if they’re spayed before their first heat. Typically, a spayed cat or dog is less likely to roam or try to escape.  It’s also very good for male dogs and cats, as well. It definitely improves behavior,” she explained.
Anyone interested in reserving a spot for their pet at the event needs to make a reservation. To do so, call Linda Bonvie at 609-892-5678. Only 20 spots are available. Animals should not consume food or water after 10 the previous night. Cats (in carriers) and dogs should be brought to Popcorn Park at 8:30 a.m. on the day of the event. Pickup will be sometime between 1 and 4 p.m. the same day. Associated Humane Societies veterinary technicians will call owners around midday to verify a time. For more information, visit, or dial 609-978-0127.
FOSOCAS is planning another spay-neuter clinic in October.

This article was published in The SandPaper.

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Local woman rides her 15th year at Red Cross Rock 'N Ride

Photo by Jack Reynolds
Despite the gray sky and gusty wind that arrived on Sunday morning, nearly half of the participants who showed up at Sunset Park in Harvey Cedars for the 15th annual Red Cross Rock ’N Ride Bike Tour pedaled out of the courtyard, underneath a red-and-white balloon awning, and onto the Boulevard for the 40-mile bike route at 9 a.m. Yet not everyone who registered for the tour was as antsy as the others to get out on the road and go.

Trudy Gibson, a local resident in her 80s who has been participating in the South Jersey Region’s disaster relief fundraiser all 15 years, was content to catch up with volunteers and staff who were gearing up for crafts and games and, later, lunch catered by Got to Go Grilling and a musical concert led by Generation Next.
“Afterward, I’m going to have to ride my bike a mile-and-a-half back to my house, too,” said Gibson. “I usually ride the 40-mile route, but a couple of years ago I decided to stick with the 20-mile route because I’m getting old,” she added, before strapping on her helmet and hitting the pavement. Besides, she had just ridden her seven-speed Jamis cruiser a mile-and-a-half from her home to get to the park; she needed a breather.
The family-friendly event, originally set up as a fun way to raise funds for the Red Cross and bring people out to scenic LBI, also provided participants with the option of a 10-mile course. Rest stops were set up along all paths, administering water, sports drinks and protein bars. Support and gear wagons and road marshals followed behind riders on the road, in case of an emergency.
Before Gibson hopped on her bike to begin the adventure, Laura Steinmetz, community and government relations officer of the American Red Cross South Jersey chapter, presented her with a double-layered vanilla and chocolate cake in commemoration of her 15 years of participation. Shocked by the gesture, Gibson said she did not know what she was going to do with the pastry. On second thought, she decided she would drive her car back to the park at the end of the day to pick it up and share it later with her friends at the library.
“I just always rode my bike, especially during the gas shortage, back in the ’70s,” she said. “So I just continued riding my bike. And when I heard about (this event), I said, ‘Oh, boy. I’m going to do it.’ So I’ve done it for 15 years. I wanted to ride a bike and support the Red Cross because of what they do for everybody else. They help people all over the world.”
Gibson said it usually takes her a couple hours to complete the tour, depending on whether or not she stops to talk with friends she already knows or happens to meet along the way.
“I think Trudy is such a role model, such an example to all of us,” said Steinmetz. “She’s still riding, and she’s been here all 15 years. She’s amazing.”
Of course, Gibson wasn’t the only one enjoying the many festivities at the function. Attendees had full access to CPR demonstrations, an arts and crafts table donated by A.C. Moore in Manahawkin, a face painting station, and a hardware project table maintained by volunteers from Home Depot in Manahawkin.
“Last year, I made too many things; I had to get a box to bring it all home,” said Maddy Swift, 9, from Millstone. “I made literally everything they had. I’ll probably do the same thing again,” she added, pushing her just-crafted money bank to the side of the table before picking up a packaged goal post game.
Photo by Jack Reynolds
There was also a bloodmobile on site for those who wished to donate. By the time noon rolled around, 27 people had signed up to contribute a pint of blood to the Red Cross.
“We always need to raise money for disaster relief services and blood services that are here,” said Steinmetz. “We import blood here on the East Coast always, believe it or not, because we have so many research hospitals and the population is so dense that we always need to import blood from other areas of the country. So that’s the reason we have what we call the self-contained unit. But people commonly call it a bloodmobile. We usually make a goal of at least 30 units of blood (at each event),” she explained.
Later, Gibson arrived back at Sunset Park after cruising around LBI for nearly three hours. While the rest of the crowd was chowing down on hamburgers and hot dogs and jamming out to tunes played by Generation Next, Gibson said she was looking forward to having lunch at home.
“Going to Barnegat Light is tough for an old lady. The wind is strong,” she said. “I want to go home and sit down on anything other than a bike,” she added.

This article was published in The SandPaper.

Friday, September 14, 2012

'Concert for Care' set to benefit two local women in need

Concert for Care, a benefit performance featuring finger-style guitarist David Paul and KEPT, a local, contemporary Christian rock band, will take place on Saturday, Sept. 15, from 7 to 10 p.m. at King of Kings Community Church in Manahawkin. The show will help raise money for King of Kings member Chrissie Melnick and KEPT’s sign language interpreter, Randi LaRocca.
Chrissie Melnick

Both are suffering from serious health issues and costly healthcare bills that need immediate assistance. Melnick recently underwent surgery after being diagnosed with squamous carcinoma. LaRocca, suffering from many unnamed autoimmune diseases, is in dire need of a lung transplant.
“These women are suffering to the point of no return,” said Paul, who is known around the world as “The Maestro of Guitar.” “This benefit is not about KEPT and me. It’s about raising money and bringing awareness to the community about two local women who are in desperate need of everyone’s help. I’m going to meet with the mayor of Manahawkin and invite him. Hopefully he’ll come, and he’ll see the great work around his community,” Paul added.
Randi LaRocca
“The band had talked about setting up a benefit for the two women for a while, but I think it was probably when Randi (LaRocca) met David Paul that we got the ball rolling,” said Keith LaRocca, Randi’s husband and one of KEPT’s three guitarists. “I think maybe once he met Chrissie and Randi and saw what she did through KEPT and he started to meet everybody in the band, that was the driving force behind getting it all going. David Paul’s dad had the same disease as Randi does, and I think that’s what really struck a chord with him,” he explained.
Both Melnick and Randi LaRocca will be in attendance on the night of the show. “If the Lord gives her the strength,” LaRocca will even conduct sign language as a member of KEPT, during the band’s performance. The women will also share their stories of health and sickness.
All proceeds from the ticket and refreshment sales will go directly to the church benevolent fund, which helps support Melnick’s and LaRocca’s health concerns. Tickets cost $15 per person and can be purchased inside the church lobby, or online at Donations can be made out to King of Kings Community Church, Concert for Care. For more information, contact the church at 609-597-7177.

This article was published in The SandPaper.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Family's Island love spans nine decades

Photo provided by Jeanette Fusco
For Jeanette Fusco, author of Seagate House: Legacies of Long Beach Island, traveling to “the beach” in 1935 was much different than it is now. Fusco began visiting Long Beach Island with her family when she was just a mere 2 years old.

“Getting there was always an all-day affair,” Fusco remembered, rolling her eyes and giving a laugh during an interview.
Fusco’s family lived in Englewood, Bergen County in northern New Jersey. After packing up the family’s green Dodge with everything from clothes and linens to sandwiches and beach supplies, the first part of the gang – parents Ted and Jessie Kamish, and Jeanette with older sister, Adele, and younger brother, Ted – would pile into the car and make the half-hour drive to Weehawken. Weighed down by the sheer magnitude of people and things inside the car, the bumper scraped along the edge of the driveway as they pulled out.
Meanwhile, Aunt Alice, Uncle Joe and cousins Mary Elizabeth and Alice, both a few years older than Jeanette, had traveled from Brooklyn and over the Hudson River via the Weehawken Ferry. They would be waiting for Jeanette’s family to pick them up.
Uncle Joe, well over 300 pounds, always sat in the desired front seat of the car, alongside Jeanette’s parents. Aunt Alice, Mary Elizabeth and young Alice all squished into the back of the car, equipped with a small chair for an extra seat. Luckily, they always shipped their long-term luggage via train.
Hot and sweaty, with nothing to cool them down but the smoggy, northern New Jersey air blowing in through the rolled-down windows, the family turned around and headed for Long Beach Island.
When they finally came out of heavy traffic and into the greener land of South Jersey, they’d stop for a break in Lakewood, where the air was cooler and cleaner. They’d purchase eggs and chicken at the local food market and run into the woods for a pit stop before piling back into the car again, where they’d fight tooth and nail for every millimeter of personal space available.
From Lakewood, they traveled south on Route 9 all the way to Route 72. (This was 20 years before the Garden State Parkway vastly improved access to South Jersey beaches.) By the time they reached Beachwood, just south of Toms River, the children were so tickled by the vision of silky, white sand, they could barely contain themselves.
“Are we there yet? How much longer?” The children were relentless. “What about now?” Eventually, Jeanette’s father threatened to end their vacation right then and there if they asked any more questions. The kids were always quiet then.
When they reached Manahawkin, they always stopped at a grocery stand on East Bay Avenue to pick up fresh fruits and vegetables, which still smelled of the earth’s pure fragrance.
Fusco remembers calling it “the Old Man’s” stand. The owner looked like Santa Claus, with white hair and spectacles.
After loading up on groceries, everyone carrying a brown bag exploding with fruits and veggies, they’d pile into the car once more. Before the modern-day causeway bridge was built in 1958, summer motorists frequently waited in traffic stopped on the two-lane, wooden causeway while large boats took their time passing underneath the raised drawbridge.
At last, they finally landed in Ship Bottom. They headed straight for Zacharie Realty.
“When we got to the Island, we had to find a place to rent,” Fusco said. “You would never do it when you were up in North Jersey. That’s just the way it was. You couldn’t go online and see what the place looked like. When you came to the Island, you looked at what was available, and if you wanted to rent the house, you did.”
The family always vacationed in Ship Bottom for six weeks. Fusco’s father would drive back up north for work during the week, but he always came back to the Island on weekends and during the last two weeks of summer; staying for Labor Day was a must.
They rented for many years on 20th Street, near Joe Pop’s Shore Bar and Restaurant, in what they called the “Pinkerton Cottage,” named after the woman who owned it.
Photo provided by Jeanette Fusco
“My mother would complain to my father of Joe Pop’s Bar on 20th Street: ‘We’ll have to rent elsewhere. The drunks are singing all night,’” Fusco reminisced with a chuckle.
Many of the houses back then had no refrigerator. Fusco recalls chasing after the “iceman,” a local college student who delivered ice to renters with iceboxes in their basements.
Watching the fishermen at the pound fishery bring their day’s catch in to the beach was also fun entertainment.
Fusco said she learned how to swim in Barnegat Bay. Her father and cousin Alice were wonderful athletes and great swimmers. They often swam off the pier near Bay Beach, where commercial garvey fishing boats came and went, and a man who commuted from Philadelphia docked his seaplane. Fusco also remembers swimming on the Boulevard after a big hurricane, when water was waist deep near Lang’s Liquor Store.
Jeanette often watched the young girls who attended Camp Dune, a sailing camp for Christian girls, trot around the beach near the water’s edge. But Jeanette didn’t have much interest in sailing. She was more of a fisher-woman. Fishing, crabbing and clamming were more her thing. Every year, she and her brother Ted bought new fishing equipment, including a crab trap from Conrad’s, the local hardware store.
They also enjoyed going out for ice cream sundaes at the local drug store, complete with an ice cream parlor that sold Dolly Madison ice cream.
“My uncle Joe used to take us there. All the drug stores had ice cream parlors back then,” Fusco said. “It had a bar across the counter, with red stools. We would get banana splits and all kinds of different stuff. It was difficult to make our minds up when we were kids because they had so many kinds and flavors. It was wonderful; we used to think it was just grand.”
Vacations on LBI weren’t always so sweet. During WWII, Navy blimps patrolled the coast for enemy submarines and no one was allowed on the beach after dark. Fusco’s family and the rest of the people residing on the Island were required to have black-out shades on the windows of their houses. Air raid wardens walked up and down the streets to ensure everyone had their windows covered. Any light that showed through could help Nazi U-boats near shore seeking potential ship targets in the dark.
“During World War II, some German subs were seen in close,” Fusco recalled. “I remember my brother and I picking up wooden crates that had held oranges. The printing was in German. My brother also picked up a German sailor’s hat on the beach. Tar was everywhere from a sunken sub, and my mother had a tar station at the door with kerosene to clean our feet.”
In 1949, four years after the war ended, Fusco’s parents bought a house in Peahala Park, which was built by Herbert Shapiro, a pioneer most notably recognized for developing Beach Haven West on the other side of the bay. Fusco’s parents paid just $8,500 for the home. It sold a few years ago for approximately $400,000.
As a teenager, vacationing on LBI was just as fun, if not more so, as it was for Jeanette as a kid. She and her friends always made a trip to Atlantic City, 34 miles away. They’d walk up and down the Boardwalk, eating custard and trotting out to the edge of the Steel Pier. Watching the diving horse show, with a female rider on a trained horse that jumped from a tower into a small pool of water, was one of the trip’s most eventful sightings.
Back on the Island, Jeanette and her siblings enjoyed climbing the 217 steps of Barnegat Lighthouse, though it wasn’t very well maintained during those days. The lock on the lighthouse was usually broken open, and the inside of the tower appeared dirty and unsafe.
When Jeanette was 17, she met a boy whose family owned a six-person cabin cruiser. One night on a whim, they took the motorboat through Barnegat Inlet out into the ocean. Inexperienced and caught in a tremendous current, the two needed the Coast Guard to tow them back to shore.
Every Sunday, the family attended Catholic Mass. But Jeanette’s father didn’t feel comfortable attending the church in Beach Haven; it was too crowded. So they began to attend Mass inside the Colony Theater in Brant Beach, where Franciscans came to worship after traveling from Philadelphia. The kids, wearing stiff, starched clothing, always complained about having to wear shoes.
“We walked around the beach barefoot most of the time, so we hated having to wear shoes,” said Fusco. “But my father would always tell us that we could give God one hour of our week.”
On other days, the family went to the Colony Theater to watch the latest movies. The theater had no air conditioning, so doors in the back were left open for the ocean breeze to waft in. Unfortunately, so did the mosquitoes. The owner of the theater came in with his flit gun to help get rid of the flies, and everyone knew to duck when he walked by.
Photo by Ryan Morrill
When the “mosquito man” came around town in his car, puffing out bursts of insecticide, the children ran down the street after him.
“In the 1960s, ‘the mosquito man,’ we used to call him, had a jeep and a big drum on back, and he used to go up and down the streets,” said Fusco. “The kids would run behind him, breathing all that stuff in. The whole block would run after him. Who knew about insecticides back then?”
Things have certainly changed at the Shore, but Fusco and her extended family, including her children and grandchildren, still come to the Island to visit every summer. In her spare time, Fusco researches and writes about the changing community of Long Beach Island. Her latest fiction novel was self-published in 2010. Seagate House: Legacies of Long Beach Island can be found in Andy’s at the Light in Barnegat Light, Book Worm in Surf City, New Jersey Maritime Museum in Beach Haven and the Beach Haven Public Library. For more information, visit

This article was published in The Beachcomber.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

A guided tour of nation’s oldest science museum, naturally

When I got wind of a 1962 Beachcomber article that referenced a petrified crab brought and donated to the Academy of Natural Sciences of Drexel University – celebrating its bicentennial in 2012 as the nation’s oldest natural history museum – I decided to make a trip to Philadelphia to check out the sea fossil with my own two eyes.

Photo by Kelley Anne Essinger
The petrified, or fossilized, crab was picked up years ago by a Long Beach Island freelance writer named A.V. Stratton. According to the June 21,1962, Beachcomber article, Stratton recalled he had been perusing the beach looking for shells to skip across the water, when he happened upon the stone crab. Taking it home, he put it to use as a paperweight – or when the need arose, a hammer – before deciding to drop it off at the academy on a day when business took him to the city. (The article did not say when this took place; evidently it was during the 1950s.)
Curator Henry A. Pilsbry scraped the fossil, and even tasted it, according to Stratton, before concluding it was at least 100,000 years old. It was classified as an ancestor of the dungeness crab, a popular seafood crab, which dates back to the Pleistocene Age, 500,000 years ago. It was reported at the time as the only whole fossil of its kind.
As part of the academy’s bicentennial celebration this year, the public is encouraged to join a 20-minute, behind-the-scenes tour of the museum’s collection of 18 million specimens. A different collection is highlighted every month through March 2013. July was reptile, amphibian and mammal month, and featured a tour of the herpetology or mammalogy collections. Tours take place at 11 a.m., Thursday through Monday. Tickets cost $5 for academy members and $7.50 for nonmembers.
On July 12, I was the only person who signed up for the tour, and I got full access to the specimens collection. Paul Callomon, collections manager in Malacology, Invertebrate Paleontology and General Invertebrates, was indulging in tea time with some of his colleagues – a tradition held for many years at the academy. After a quick introduction, he delivered disappointing news: Stratton’s petrified crab was nowhere to be found. But Callomon had located a pagurid crab, related to the dungeness crab, which had been dredged off the beach in Wildwood in the early 19th century.
The fossil looked and felt like a regular rock; it was bland and bumpy. But when looked at closely, the faint outline of a crab could be detected.
“It’s quite rare to find well-formed fossils in New Jersey,” said Callomon. “There’s not enough rock. It’s very sandy off the coast.”
He went on to explain that many of the seashells found at Long Beach Island have a black or gray tint, which means the shells were on their way to becoming fossilized.
When a sea specimen dies, it sinks under the sand, and seabed begins to grow on top of it. Iron begins to leak out of the sand and into the specimen, coloring it black. If the specimen isn’t disturbed in the process, the weight of the compounded sand turns it into rock.
“Those black shells are tens of hundreds of thousands of years old. But the beach (on LBI) is shallow with a sandy bottom, and it’s in constant motion. The sand is dredged up for the beach and in heavy storms, so the (fossilization) process is often interrupted,” said Callomon.
After chatting about the crab, Callomon led a tour of the malacology (study of mollusks) collection. He pointed out some of Pilsbry’s finds; Pilsbry was the academy’s first professional scientist, starting in 1888. He died in 1957 in Florida, while preparing to come back to Philadelphia to finish a paper at the academy.
Photo by Kelley Anne Essinger
Pilsbry and William H. Dall, a prominent malacologist who worked at the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C., had a long-standing rivalry to see who could collect and describe the most new species. Pilsbry won, with more than 5,600. Between the two scientists, more than 10,000 new species were identified, more than double the number a malacologist could expect to identify during the course of a career.
George W. Tryon Jr. founded the Malacology Department on Dec. 31, 1866. He donated his shell collection, which was the biggest in the world at that time.
“The appeal in this department is that there are so many things to collect and specialize in, and it’s cool,” said Callomon.
He went on to explain that the rate of discovery of new mollusk species has not slowed down since the 1850s; everything keeps evolving. He said there are 130,000 different known mollusk species, and there are probably just as many that haven’t been identified yet – especially on the coral reefs off the Philippines and other Pacific islands.
Nowadays, DNA calculations are very specific, so it’s easy to tell the differences among the family, genus and species of mollusks. Slit shells, for example, haven’t evolved much over the past 180 million years. Scientists know this because shells have so many different features that make them easily distinguishable.
The academy’s malacology collection includes 174 dry and alcohol lots collected from LBI. A lot can have anywhere from one shell to 1,000 shells in it. Forty-one families are represented by these lots, including one cephalopod (squid), 18 marine bivalves, one freshwater bivalve, six land snails, 12 marine snails, one freshwater snail, one sea slug and one land slug. The oldest lot cataloged from Long Beach Island was collected in 1897 by U.C. Smith.
As one example of the academy’s ongoing value to research, its 1940s collection of oysters from the Gulf of Mexico was recently studied for comparison to new specimens collected since the 2010 British Petroleum oil spill. The gulf was much cleaner in the 1940s.
The next expert to meet was Vertebrate Zoology Collections Manager Ned Gilmore, who happens to be a long-time friend of The SandPaper’s managing editor, Jay Mann, an avid fossil collector. The two met in 1993 in Middlesex County, where they were searching for amber fossils.
Before unlocking the first of many cabinets in the mammal collection, Gilmore directed a question: “You don’t mind looking at dead things, do you?”
“I’m in a natural science museum. Looking at dead things is what I’m here to do,” I replied.
Gilmore chuckled and unlocked the first cabinet, which held drawers and drawers of Hoffmann’s sloth study skins, donated by the Philadelphia Zoo sometime during the 19th century.
The academy collects and studies animal skins to aid researchers in their studies. When preparing a study skin, the insides of the animal are extracted, and the skin is dried and stuffed with cotton. Wires are most often used to hold the arms and legs in place.
The odor of musty chemicals and mothballs inside the collection drawers is extremely potent. But Gilmore and other academy staff who opted to participate in the tour are so acclimated to the stench they don’t notice it.
Photo by Kelley Anne Essinger
There were many interesting animal parts, including Asian and African elephant skulls; gophers that resembled wild guinea pigs; a two-headed kitten; the upper jaw of a sperm whale; a True’s beaked whale skull that was collected in 1940 on Island Beach at the Phipps Estate, four miles south of Seaside Park; and a long-finned pilot whale skull from Long Beach Island, which was donated by the famous paleontologist Edward D. Cope in 1868. There were even a couple of Franklin’s ground squirrels that were brought in from Tuckerton in 1867, when they flourished between New Gretna and Manahawkin before dying out a few years later.
“And it all fits in a cabinet,” summed up Carolyn Belardo, the academy’s senior communications manager.
In honor of its bicentennial, the academy is holding many interesting and fun events that are based on each monthly theme.
October’s monthly theme is seashells, featuring a tour of the malacology collection. The Philadelphia Shell Show and Festival will take place Oct. 20 and 21 from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. each day. For more information about the museum and its special events, visit

This article was published in The SandPaper.