Monday, September 22, 2014

Wildwood 2014

Wildwood: twice a year this New Jersey shore town is my Brigadoon: the same town but around 1963, because a big classic-car show (with an auction in the Convention Center, in the fall) adds to the motels that time forgot.

Good thing we made it in time on Friday, when the boardwalk show wasn't crowded. The boardwalk car displays are almost a second attraction. Tops: just sitting on balcony of the Oceanic Hotel, watching the ghost-car traffic go by, and the big street parties (with shared booze) Friday and Saturday nights as the cars go from the boardwalk to the streets and the motel lots, real-life scenes from American Graffiti, including cars peeling out at intersections, and the occasional cop bust.

Most of my favorite cars were out and about: a few '40s cars, smart mid- and late-'50s Fords, Buicks, and Pontiacs, and the first four Impalas ('58-'61). About the only ones not there were the Christine ones from Chrysler, '57-'60.

'48 Ford and '49 Mercury. The great shift in American car design for most makes was the '49 model year: the first true postwar cars, featuring unibody designs. People love the '49 Merc because of James Dean.

Little cars, this one by Messerschmitt: because Europe's '50s were different.

"You may saaaaaay I'm a dreamer..."

Not shown: a great shore tradition, boardwalk fudge.

Fake! On the boardwalk. Went here a year and a half ago. $15 per person for a burger lunch because you tacked 45s and posters on the walls and named your dishes things like the Little Richard? Forget it, Fonzie.

That's more like it. Not retro; OLD. Lose the cutesies; just have some good food, maybe the new Wibbage on the radio, and as close to 1963 prices as you can afford to offer. Patrons, don't forget to give to the Greek Orthodox parish's jar at the register.

The Pink Cadillac used to be a real local diner (moved) so this whole setup works... except the radio plays '90s music and they offer things like wraps and paninis. Get real. That said, their Cajun-spice burger and fries weren't bad.

You don't expect showoff prices at a restaurant that calls itself the Ravioli House but it's just about worth it. Nothing is trucked in or made with Chef Mike: pastas and sauces made on the premises at a place founded by a couple from Italy, and a fine atmosphere too.

The Jersey shore legend of Uncle Bill's: now I get it. As much as the Olympic Flame is our boardwalk Saturday breakfast, Uncle Bill's is jampacked for a reason. They've got breakfast down to a science.

What's with the fake palm trees? They're actually not old! They're from an '80s fad.

The shore goes to the dogs:

Bentley liked Donna.

Haley the beagle was pretty indifferent to the cars and didn't much like the noise. Her day job is as a therapy dog for autistic children.

Sweet Pom.

Trixie the petite Sheltie. Originally a separate breed, bred with collies for their looks.

Mass at St. Ann's: my window on the American church outside of tradland. '70s Novus Ordo but Benedict the Great successfully put a lid on it. You'd think this was the church hall or a gym. No, it's the old parish church, now merged with another on the island and renamed Notre Dame de la Mer. Except for the cute granddaughter altar girls (in albs: I half-expected the crucifer to wear a Swedish Lucia candle crown), an older but sizeable congregation, including the holy gentleman following along in his copy of Magnificat as I do in my hand missal at home, and raising his arms at the Our Father, the charismatic way.

Before Benedict, the only way you could understand the new Mass in English in a Catholic sense was if you knew the old. Now at least you can get the gist.

One of my favorite categories: "Protestant churches that make better Catholic churches than our own churches." These are on Atlantic Avenue near St. Ann's. The winner should become St. Ann's church building; the old church can be the hall/CYO basketball stadium. The architecture and colors even match.

Best on the island: First Baptist, probably of Tripp's persuasion.

Second: Holy Trinity Lutheran. Bet they still use the altar rail.

"All so bloody green." North Wildwood's Irish Festival was the same weekend. "Top o' the mornin' to ye." "Dear Irish-Americans: You're not Irish. But please keep coming over and spending money. That's grand. The Irish." This is American St. Patrick's Day II, which sort of makes sense since the original is in the middle of Lent. As you can see, American St. Patrick's Day has merged with Mardi Gras. But we went and found a good-hearted celebration, which at night added to the classic-car weekend. Me? 0% Irish and 100% Catholic. It's really a celebration of the immigrants succeeding here, including building the American church before the council.

Tribute to the police: the Philly ones are heroes, handling real problems, and I thank my town's force for literally guarding the entry points at 1 in the morning, with squad cars stationed at them.

Cozy Morley.

"Jurassic Park is frightening in the dark..."


  1. Heh. I saw one of those "doo wop"-type diner places at the seafront yesterday myself---in Brighton, England.

    You can't go wrong with Greek diners. A few years ago over the holidays in NYC I found myself spending $16 on breakfast at a pretentious "diner" by Union Square in Manhattan. The next day I had a proper (and filling) $6 breakfast (did I say filling? How about humongous?) at an all-night Greek joint in Astoria, Queens. For the food, I doubt even Archie Bunker would have minded the icons and photo of the Ecumenical Patriarch on the walls.

    Up in New England (where I'm from), we have some Greek diners, but the Greeks are really known for their succulent roast beef sandwich joints. Go to Nick's in Beverly, Mass., and prepare to be wowed. Not that our diners are bad, either! The Capitol in Lynn has been open since the 1920s and is still great.

  2. This one of the best vacation we had down in Wildwood nj. We had know clue there be @ least 650 cars on the boardwalk theses 2 days. And there was so many good ones this yr the had one of my faves as always the Buick grand national, but this car this yr hard a twist they hot rodded it and called it the grand nasty. The other fave of mine there was the Bel airs there were so many styles and colors. I wanted all of them. And as john mentioned the breakfast food we ate on the boardwalk in the Olympic flame was great. And so was Uncle Bill's pancake house. We both had the best time down there. I think that's our new tradition for every fall going to the big Classic Fall Car Show in Wildwood nj every sept as long as its in the budget. And its every yr as I always get us good deals to stay down there at our fave motel the Oceanic.

    1. From "Flyer" at the Doo Wop Preservation League Forum:

      Seeing two and a half miles of classic cars parked on the boardwalk has to be seen to be believed.

  3. "This is American St. Patrick's Day II, which sort of makes sense since the original is in the middle of Lent. As you can see, American St. Patrick's Day has merged with Mardi Gras."

    Somebody recently suggested to me that America's Catholic holidays have all morphed back into Pagan ones- St. Patrick's is a celebration of Bacchus, St. Valentine's of Venus, etc.

    I'm Irish-descended on both sides (I'll be a dual citizen if I ever get around to completing the expensive and time-consuming paperwork), and I detest American St. Patrick's Day. Police and ambulance sirens blaring all day long, broken glass and puke in the streets, drunken jerks smiling while they act like asses, lime-green t-shirts with stupid sayings that only seem witty to the sloshed, and you can't grab lunch anywhere because every place with a liquor license has had a line out the door since 9AM. It's the only day of the year I feel ashamed about my ethnicity. Granted, a lot of the trouble isn't really from Irish-Americans serious about their heritage; it's mostly opportunists who want a socially-acceptable excuse to get wasted before noon (likewise, few of the revelers on Mardi Gras have any intention of fasting through Lent, and almost nobody pounding tequila shots on May 5th can accurately recount the Battle of Puebla). It goes against every bone in my libertarian-educated body, but I almost wish they'd pass an ordinance closing all pubs on March 17th.

    That said, "off-season" heritage festivals are usually very nice, like the one you found. I like to see parents enjoying some live music with their young kids, without running the risk of being puked on.

    1. In Ireland, St. Patrick's Day is a holy day of obligation, actually about this non-Irish bishop saint converting the Irish and miracles associated with him. The pubs used to be closed.

  4. Good advice from "57tbird" at the Doo Wop Preservation League Forum:

    Based on two years of coming down, I can make these observations:

    1. Friday is
    THE day to see the cars on the boards... yes, you're missing about 20% of them that show up on Saturday but it is MUCH less crowded, the cars AND owners are more accessible... great stories from some of the owners.
    2. Friday night is cruise night! There was a large falloff on Saturday night...I'm not sure why...
    3. If you want to watch cruise night from your hotel, don't go much farther south than Cresse Ave. A buddy of mine was six blocks further south and I noticed a pretty big dropoff.
    4. Don't expect the convention-center vendors to be open on Sunday...they start boxing things up near closing on Saturday night.


Leave comment