This past week we travelled for a couple of days to the Jersey Shore. I guess these two nights in Wildwood comprise our summer vacation for this year.
Wildwood was a second home for me as a kid. Most summers we would spend two weeks there. We stayed in the home of an older Swedish couple that my parents had somehow met from years of going to this community and searching rental places. We all became almost like family to the Johnsons. But about the time I was getting out of college and getting married, this couple had passed away and we no longer gathered at the same home. There have been a couple of extended family gatherings in North Wildwood over the past 35 years, but my memories are mostly frozen in the mid 60s to mid 70s.
So in this summer of reconnecting a bit with my past – known and unknown (but now discovered a bit) – I wanted to spend a couple of days biking around Wildwood to all the places I frequented 40-50 years ago.
It just ain’t the same.
Wildwood has really gone downhill over the years. We stayed at a 4-star motel. Hmmm…. These star ratings must be rather arbitrary. I think we’ve somewhere and sometime stayed at a worse place … I think … though I can’t remember where. And I think we’ve probably paid more somewhere … I think … though I can’t remember where or when. I kept saying to Diana, “Think of this as a missionary trip into a foreign culture!” She couldn’t seem to connect to the humor in that suggestion!
I had heard stories that Wildwood is at the bottom end of a cycle to renovate and resuscitate its former greatness. The home where we used to stay is on a block in very serious need of renovation. The house itself appears to be uninhabitable at the moment. It was all very sad to see, as this was a nice neighborhood in the past.
And then there was a restaurant where we always visited most evenings. Like the name of the people from whom we rented rooms, we ate most dinners at Johnson’s – which is now a pancake house of a chain of such eateries. I asked the owner about this, and he showed me how they had preserved the sign from the former establishment.
Even the beach is all different. Whereas it seems that most shore communities regularly battle to keep their beaches from washing into the ocean, at Wildwood the beach has doubled or tripled in size …. So walking to the actual ocean is now a major trek across the sand. And in the years since we went there, the city has built a convention center on the very spot where I spent so many happy days of my childhood at the beach.
So though it was nice for one day to have Nate and Allie and the grandkids come down from Allie’s family’s homes in Ocean City, NJ, I drove out of Wildwood with the posture of permanently closing that chapter of life. It cannot be recreated in any way. I don’t intend to ever go back.