It is amazing how 40 years can only seem like no more than even half that long ago!
The summer of 1972 was between my 11th and 12th grade years of high school. I had spent the previous two summers working at a Christian camp in southern New Jersey – called “Ha-Lu-Wa-Sa.” I cannot for the life of me remember why I did not do the same in 1972. It might have been that there was a sense I should be earning some money for the college years ahead.
I spent some of the early part of the summer working for my uncle and repainted the building in which he had his milling business.
But around early to mid July, the pastor’s son of our church (a guy who is a pastor now himself) got me involved in working for the remainder of the summer at a hotel in Cape May, NJ. It was at a place called the “Christian Admiral” and was an 8-story grand hotel on the ocean that had been turned into a Bible Conference location.
This facility was ground zero headquarters for a fiery preacher named Carl McIntyre – a staunch conservative fundamentalist and anti-Communist political activist. My family knew well of this man – whose pastoral career was in Collingswood, NJ near Camden (more on Collingswood later). McIntyre was a great radio preacher and Bible expositor, though his downfall was too large of a dabbling in matters political and a penchant for fighting every cause to the death!
So my family, my church – all knew of him, though were not supporters and followers. However, the grandfather of my friend – the pastor’s son – worked for McIntyre in finance and accounting, and swung a deal to get us hired for the summer. Hey – a summer at the beach! Cool! (Although most of the time I was working when the sun was up!)
My friend Dan was a cook and had some experience working in the kitchen the last several years at the same Christian camp I mentioned. Me? I was assigned to busboy duties in the dining room. However, after one meal and numerous complaints from the clientele, I was banished to the dish room! My offence? My hair was too long! Understand, it was NOT too long – by 70s standards I was a total geek since my hair was so short. But it was thick and curly (take that on faith!), and these people were as far to the right as you could get (the “anyone to the left of me is a flaming liberal” types!). Anyhow, I liked the dishwashing job better!
If you go to Cape May now, it is a beautifully restored town of colorful Victorian architecture. In 1972, it was a dump – well before community renewal efforts. Carl McIntyre had purchased a large number of the grand old hotel types of buildings in town – most of which were foreclosed upon or later sold off – but he did end up saving many from destruction (though the Admiral is now gone).
There were separate smaller old hotel residences for boys and girls that housed the workers for this Bible Conference. These places were total dumps – barely livable. There could not have possibly been building inspections in those days. The one I stayed in was called “The Virginia House.”
And here is what made me even think about this summer and start writing about it. We are going to Wildwood for a few nights later this summer, and in looking for places to stay, I saw the Virginia Hotel in Cape May advertised – FOR A HIGH PRICE! Clearly it has been renovated and is now a somewhat elite place to stay! Amazing!
My friend and I were the only high school guys there. Most of the workers were college students – mostly from two very, very, very conservative colleges – one in South Carolina, and the other in Florida. These are colleges FAMOUS for their strict rules for students. Well, let me just say that I learned more about sin in a few weeks there than I had in all my previous 17 years. These fellows truly made up for their school months of monastic life in a big way over the summer! Fortunately I was too young and unknown to them for fellowship in much of their debauchery.
About the worst thing I did was help another guy re-paint the “The Virginia House” sign – which was made of raised black letters on a white background. He got some white paint and we simply covered the “I” and the “A” letters … and then sat innocently on the porch to listen to the remarks of people walking by “The Virgin House!”
Actually, my most enduring memories of the summer there involved a couple of big stories in the news: the massacre of the Jewish athletes at the Munich Olympics, and violence at national political conventions in Miami.
There was also this very pretty blonde-haired high school girl from the Philly suburbs who came as well to work at the Admiral as a waitress. We became friends and often got together over the next several years. I’ve met few people in my life who have had such a passion for Christ and for evangelism – a total heart for lost people and desire to see them come to faith.
Oh … about Collingswood … the first year that Diana and I were married (77-78) we lived in Collingswood, NJ. Here is a picture of that house. An elderly man owned it. He used the parlor room in the very front for an office and lived upstairs. We had the entire rest of the downstairs as an apartment… for the rent of $125 / month! However, our entire income was $165 / week.