Ocean City – Part 6

 

We first saw the property of 854 Pennlyn on December 28, 2004. Exactly one month later, on the afternoon on January 28, 2005, we were sitting in the office of NJ Title Company on West Avenue in Ocean City signing a ream of legal papers.  By the time we left the office, we were the proud new owners of the first floor of 854 Pennlyn Place!  Our dream of having a house in Ocean City, had turned into a reality!  

 

img_0780 It was a great feeling, knowing that although we would be renting out the house during the summer, we also would be using it as much as possible.  Unlike the Las Vegas house, this was by no means just an investment, it was a real place just 3 hours away from home in Mineola.  Speaking of investments, let me tell you what our plan was when we bought 854.  If you remember, in Part Five of this epic, I spoke about the increases in property values Ocean City had been experiencing.  Fantastic double digit value increases had been the norm for the couple of years before we bought, and although our place was only 4 years old, we were the third owners.  The others had bought it, held it for a couple of years, and then sold at a substantial price increase.  That was also our plan before we spent that first night.  We’d keep it for a year or two, flip it for something bigger and more expensive, continue to do that, and eventually perhaps have a million $ plus house right on the beach.  Then something changed.
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On the morning of January 29th, 2005, I came out the front door of the house and was standing on the front porch surveying my kingdom.  As I was standing there, a gentleman came out of the small bungalow to my left.  He said good morning, and asked if we were renting the place for the week (that’s mainly what had been happening to our place as the former owners rarely used it).  I replied that no, we’d just closed on it yesterday, and were the new owners.  The gentleman walked down his steps, crossed to ours, came up on the porch and shook my hand.  That was the morning I met our next door neighbor, Doc Anderson, and the beginning of our first “flip house” turning into our forever home!  

IMG_2654We call Doc the Mayor of Pennlyn, and with good reason…he knows and talks to everyone on the street!  Doc was also our introduction to so many of our friends, that we feel like we’ve known them forever!  Over the years, our group of friends has increased, be they full time residents, of which there are many on our block, or the summer/weekend friends that get down here as much as possible.  In a very short time, we’d met lots of them, and we found that we were down at the Ocean City house an average of 3 weekends a month!  Oh yes, we had indeed found our special place, our sanctuary, our place populated with friends that feel like family.  Our happy place that just getting to, no matter what our moods, made us feel happy…..854 Pennlyn Place!  

So now that we were owners, we really took a good hard look at the place, and what we saw really didn’t thrill us.  The house was decorated with a real tropical theme, with lots of wicker furniture, but the closer we looked at some of the furniture, the more issues we saw.  It turned out that some of wicker furniture was held together with tape, that was keeping the wicker from unraveling.  Of particular concern to us were the chairs of the dining room set, that sagged every time you sat in them.  We could just imagine that a renter would sit in one, end up on the floor, and a lawsuit would arrive in our mailbox.  Also, it only provided seating for 4, so a new table was in order.  Looks like a trip to Platts was in our near future!

 

              Old to New

Platts is a wonderful beach furniture store that you pass in Somers Point on the way into Ocean City.  We’d wandered in there several times, fawning over the incredible beach furniture, and now we were going to get to buy something!!!  In short order we found the perfect table and ordered it…the first of many, many orders we’d place at Platts over the next couple of years!  Before long, we’d bought a new coffee table, new snack tables, a couple of chairs, lamps, and even a bed.  Then there were other chairs (including one that went home to Mineola), more lamps, and assorted other items that upgraded the house.  As I said, the more we looked at things, the more issues we saw.  We honestly wondered if the former owners had furnished the place with garage sale finds or even things picked up at the curb on trash day!  Boy, had we learned our lesson about beauty being skin deep!  But the good news was that the house itself was in good condition, so as long as we were just dealing with decorative items, we were happy!

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When we bought

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After our Platts visits

Our first year, we listed the house with 3 local real estate brokers, and in pretty short order, we’d rented most of the summer.  That first Spring, we took a week off from work to make sure the house was ready for our guests.  We’d loved the houses that we’d rented that seemed like homes, not just investments,  and that was what we wanted our renters to feel. That was one of the things we loved about renting Denise’s house on Asbury.  A funny story…when we told Denise (who’d become more a friend than a landlord) that we wouldn’t be back the summer of 2005 and why, she told us that she and a friend were starting a Saturday House Cleaning business.  We ended up being her first customer!  She was an important part of our team during those first years of rental, and treated our house like her own.  Every week after she cleaned our house, she’d call and tell us everything was ready for the new tenants and rated the tenants who’d just moved out!  Perfect!

Of course, we’d kept 2 weeks mid July for us, but as the first renters moved in, we were already anxiously counting the time till we’d be back!  For us, the two worst parts of renting were those last moments when we left before the first rental, and the day we returned.  The first was hard because we knew there’d be somebody else living in our home, and the second because we knew there would be work getting the house back in shape!  It may seem like a little thing if you’ve never rented out your house, but trying to find where pots and pans had gone, and bringing some semblance of order to the kitchen cabinets and drawers left us wondering so many times, “why would you put that there????”  We quickly learned it was just part of the summer house rental game.  

We had some great rental experiences and some not so great.  One of the not so greats was the Saturday Denise called us to report that our last renters had left the house a mess, and she’d found mustard in the bathroom tub and hair in the refrigerator.  Interesting, to say the least!  Then there was the renter that kept calling and complaining because they were building a house down the street (our good friends Patti and Meade’s new place), and she couldn’t enjoy her vacation.  We sent her back some money, and she surprisingly had no problems!

Then there were the great ones.  Like the family that battened down our house, put away our porch furniture, and treated it like it was their house, when a hurricane approached Ocean City late in the summer.  They were with us for a number of years!  There was also a lovely lady who came from Arizona every summer to return to her South Philly routes and vacation in Ocean City.  She loved Ocean City and loved our house and sharing it with her family.  We were very sad after she was with us for 4 years, to get an email from one of her friends that she’d died of cancer.  She said one of her best memories was the time she’d spent with her good friend at our house by the sea.  There are some good times when you rent to people who love your house as much as you do!

Coming next…the joy of being a landlord, and the thrill of stopping!

 

Ocean City – Part Five

Just for continuity, understand that much of part five takes place at the same time as the developments in Part Four. 

img_0769-1So, having made our decision, things were a little different when we came down to spend our 3 weeks at Denise’s house during the Summer of 2004.  We had something else to do besides go to the beach, eat out, and do some gambling in AC during our vacation.  We had to now add house hunting to our list!

Our local realtor Ray Elias had sent us listings all through the spring, and by the time we got to Ocean City in July of 2004, we were primed to start looking at properties. We met img_0773with Ray 3 or 4 times a week, traveled the island, as he showed us various houses at different price points and different parts of the island.  Although we had always rented in the South End of town (first the 3200 block of Asbury when I was a kid, then the 3900 block of Central, and now the 4900 block of Asbury), there was something we liked about the newly found area of the island called the North End.  I say “Newly Found”, because to be honest with you, in close to 50 years of coming to Ocean City, I had no recollection of ever traveling to the North End.  I know that Susie and I had never gone beyond 9th Street with our family, so this was all new to us.

I don’t know what the legal definition is, but to our mind, the North End starts just beyond 9th Street, and runs till you get to the much more residential (not as beachy in img_0772-1other words) Gardens section of Ocean City.  Ray had showed us several interesting houses, on the shorter East/West streets in that part of town, and we found them very attractive.  First of all, having rented on Central and Asbury, where you have traffic traveling the length of the island, a house on a quiet street running just a couple of blocks was an interesting prospect.  Then, those streets were also on the boardwalk…not the commercial part of the boardwalk, but an area just a couple of blocks north of Gillian’s Wonderland.  That meant a trip to the boardwalk was a walking event, not a driving and finding parking event.   That sounded good too!

The interesting thing was that during our summer hunt, we’d even looked at a couple of properties on Pennlyn Place, including the upstairs of our now good friends Jane and John!  Yes, we continued to look at other places, in other areas of town, but we kept coming back to the North End.

Kind of like Las Vegas, Ocean City had been experiencing it’s own growth in property values.  The yearly jump was quite substantial, and we even had a first hand brush with that growth.  One of the properties Ray had to show us was an empty lot and plans of a house to be built on St. James Place in the North End.  He’d showed us some of the builder’s other work, and wanted to show us the plans and the lot, but we had friends coming to town, and rather than go on Friday, we put it off to the following Tuesday.  Well, over that weekend, the calendar changed from July to August.  On Tuesday morning he came to our rental house, laid out the plans for a second floor and owner’s cottage 4 bedroom 3 bath condo, on the dining room table, and we liked what we saw. The price was at the top end of our range, but doable for such a nice property.  Before we headed to look at the lot, he called the real estate that was the broker, wanting to make sure it was still available.  Yes it was, but when he checked the price, it was $50,000 more than he quoted us, just because it was now August and not July!  Needless to say, we didn’t see that lot!

Our vacation ended and we had still not identified a house we were interested in, but we had time because the Vegas house hadn’t been sold yet.  We planned to come back to Ocean City between Christmas and New Years as we’d done for the last couple of years. 0F1B810F-3729-43BD-A467-E57096BAC502Houses were much cheaper to rent at that time of the year, and we loved the empty city that morphed into a much fuller town as New Year, and First Night approached.  Well, when looking for a rental that year, where did we find one, but right on Pennlyn Place!  It was about mid block, and a perfect place for us to house hunt from.  By now the Vegas house had been sold, so the clock was ticking.

Ray came over the day after we arrived with several houses to show us.  We loaded into the car, and traveled to a brand new property on West Avenue.  We were impressed by the newness, but had doubts about the layout of the property, and the fact that it was on West Avenue in the teens.  First of all, it was a long walk from the beach, second, it was a very commercial area of West.  It was nice, but we had our doubts.  

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThen Ray took us to the second property of the day, and that was just down Pennlyn Place from our rental.  This property was a first floor, 3 bedroom, 2 bath, in a house that had been built just 3 years earlier.  We loved the street, loved the way the property was decorated, loved the fact that it was just down the street from the beach.  In short, we loved everything we’d seen.  It was a little more expensive than the West Ave property, and to help us,  Ray did a workup for us of what the mortgage costs of the two properties would end by being.  It turned out that there was just dollars difference per month between the two properties.  I think the kicker was that Susie and I agreed that if we bought the West Avenue property, we wouldn’t even consider vacationing there, so if we bought that, we’d continue to pay Denise to rent her home, rather than stay at ours.  The West property would just be an investment.  Those two week’s of rent would more than make up for a year’s worth of mortgage difference.  The decision was getting easier.

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854 Pennlyn before it was OURS!

It was December 28, 2004, and that was the day we saw our future home at 854 Pennlyn Place!  After looking at the place again, we had Ray make an offer, and before we left from our week’s stay on Pennlyn Place, we got the word…if everything else worked out, we would shortly own a house in Ocean City.  Our dream was that much closer to being reality!

 

To Be Continued…..

FYI….

Ray Elias…https://www.longandfoster.com/AgentSearch/AgentInfo.aspx?PersonID=10451215

 

 

 

Ocean City – Part 4

 

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So, when we last left you, Susie and I had a house built in Las Vegas, had been the first ones to sleep in the house, and had then rented it out on a yearly lease.  We had a local property manager who collected the rent, took a percentage, and sent the balance to us monthly.  The money we got, covered the majority of the expenses of the house, we got a pretty nice tax benefit from owning and renting the house, and we had an excuse to travel to Las Vegas, which we did several times. The only thing missing was that we never got to use the house.

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Sometime in the Spring of 2004, Susie and I went for a weekend trip to Atlantic City.  Since it’s only 12 miles away from Ocean City, on Sunday, after checking out of the hotel, we took a drive to Ocean City.  I don’t remember if we hit the boardwalk or not, but we did drive around town, and when we drove by an Open House on Asbury Avenue, we decided to stop in and take a look.  The town was empty, and the realtor had been alone for most of the day, so he was more than happy to spend some time talking to us after we viewed the house.

His name was Ray, and that day was the beginning of a relationship that changed our lives!  We got down to the nitty gritty, started talking costs, hearing about how much property values in Ocean City had been increasing, talking about what we could rent out a house for during the summer season, and really had our eyes opened that day!  In the car, on the way home, we talked a lot about our future and about our real estate portfolio.  The more we thought about it, although we’d enjoyed Las Vegas a lot, we both knew that we’d miss the ocean if we retired to the South West, plus having a house 3 hours away by car rather than a 6 hour plane ride seemed to make a lot of sense!  It appeared we’d made a decision!

img_0768-1The next call was to our friend and realtor Sharon Malloy in Las Vegas.  We laid out what we were thinking of doing, and she agreed it made sense.  We loved what she told us about the Vegas real estate market, and were ecstatic when she told us what we could probably get for the Vegas house!  We gave her the okay to put the house on the market, and to have the Property Manager let the tenant (who was now renting month to month since the 1 year lease had expired) know that we were putting the house on the market.  Everything sounded like it was on track!

Well, not quite!  First wrinkle in our plan was that for some reason, the Property Manager had sent the tenant a signed lease for a 6 month extension of her rental.  Although she’d had the lease for several months, and had never signed it and returned it to the Property Manager, she was right that she had a signed 6 month extension.  Okay, that pushed the potential return of the house to us back by a couple of months.  We thought we could deal with that.  Then, the second wrinkle hit…..as we were about to put the house on the market, the bottom fell out of the Las Vegas market!

90204822-C099-4C04-B9A9-926D82D5900CRemember the US Housing Bubble in the late part of the first decade of the 21st Century?  Well, Las Vegas had it’s own housing bubble burst, but a bit earlier.   Turns out that they had overbuilt the housing stock in response to a population increase that leveled off.  Because many folks had bought multiple properties without enough capital to carry them if they didn’t have renters, they were in trouble, because the rental market was over saturated.   In reaction to what was happening, housing prices were dropping as landlords attempted to unload their unrented houses, rather than lose them to the bank.  It appeared we’d missed the house price peak.  Trust me, this only increased how pissed off we were at the Property Manager for screwing up the lease extension with our tenant!

We were very lucky, because our real estate agent Sharon was well versed in what was happening in the market, and had great advice for us.  She knew what was going on regarding sales in the development our house was located in, and came up with the perfect asking price and marketing plan for the house.  Although there were a couple of weeks of nail biting on our part, in the end it worked out.  Even though we’d missed the market peak because we couldn’t get rid of the tenant when we wanted, thanks to Sharon’s good guidance, we were able to sell our house for a very good price. We’d owned the house a bit more than a year and a half, and we’d sold it for about $140,000 more than we paid for it!  A pretty good profit in our minds for a 19 month investment!

img_0767Doing some research, I discovered that there was a tax legal way to transfer the profit gained on an investment property to another investment property, and not pay any Capital Gains tax.  Called a 1031 Like Kind Exchange, in essence it allowed us to “trade” one house for another, and if we met certain requirements, not to have a taxable event.  We found a company in Nevada that acted as the intermediary for this, and they handled all the paperwork and banked the funds until we bought the next property. One of the requirements, however, was that we had 45 days to identify that next investment property and then had 180 days to complete the purchase.

The clock was ticking!

Next time…finding that property, which turned into a home!

FYI…..

Sharon Malloy…https://www.realtyonegroup.com/realestateagent/sharon-molloy-5870774

 

 

Ocean City – Part 3

I firmly believe that you can’t live in the past, but in a sense, it’s sad that so much from both my childhood and even our kids’ childhoods are gone now.  The house I stayed in way back in the 50s, the beach stand on the 32nd Street beach, and even Campbell’s Seafood have given way to new construction and the 3200 block of Asbury Avenue looks totally different.  In the same way, both “John’s House” and the beachfront house across the street from our last summer rental on Central Avenue have been razed for new construction.  Change is inevitable, and so change did come to Ocean City, as it did to our family.  The kids grew, vacations went in different directions, prices went up, and our expectations went down.

img_0387The summer of 1988 the D’Elia’s did Florida, including a week in Disney World.  If you think bringing two babies to the beach had been something, you should have seen this Florida trip with two 18 month olds and a 6 year old!  Boy did we have “stuff” loaded in that Ford van!  Even though that was our big trip, there still was a couple of days stop in Ocean City, and that’s the way we continued our Ocean City connection for many summers.  Wherever we went, whatever img_0398else we did, there was at least a weekend in Ocean City.  In fact, for a number of years, Ocean City was a part of the D’Elia Family’s Memorial Day weekend!  It was fireworks on the beach on Long Island on Friday night, then Saturday morning it was off to Ocean City, where we’d walk the boardwalk, play mini golf, visit the arcades, and eat Hose Pizza. 

 

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 [Okay…time for a little side bar here.  Our favorite boardwalk pizza in Ocean City was from Mack and Manco.  It turns out that rather than using a ladle to put the sauce on the pizza, the sauce came out of a hose when they stepped on a peddle.  When Billy was small, he started calling it Hose Pizza, which incidentally we still do!  Back to our story] 

img_0470That was the way we got our Ocean City fix, but then in the summer of 1996, things changed.  We discovered camping!  That summer, we rented a small pop-up camping trailer from Tent City in Hempstead, and also had them put a hitch on our Ford van.  We made reservations to rent it for a week in July, and then set out to look for a campground on the shore.  Back in the 50s, when I was a kid, a ride along Route 9 in Cape May County was a img_0465trip down a totally desolate stretch of road, bordered by forests.  In the 90s, it was more populated, and the home to many campgrounds.  After looking at a number of them, we picked out Pine Haven in Ocean View, NJ, just off Garden State Parkway Exit 17.  It was close to Ocean City (just about 13 miles up Route 9), but our “rent” for the week was more like what we’d have paid for one night in an Ocean City motel!

Billy was 10, Krissi and Kenny were 6, and we got to spend several nights on the Ocean City Boardwalk and even had a day on the beach!  There was a pool, a lake, mini golf, and even bingo at the campground, and a good time was had by all!  We thought that this could work!  

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Attending a camping show the next winter, we came across the Tent City booth and told them we loved the last summer and were going to rent one again next summer, but for two weeks.  One thing led to another, and the next thing we knew, we owned a pop-up camper!  Two weeks the next summer at Pine Haven worked great, except for the 3 days in a row of rain we had.  The camper turned smaller and smaller each day it rained, but we were doing Ocean City on the cheap, and that was great!

 

 

                                       Crabbing and Fishing at Ludlums Landing!

 

The next year, when I took the pop-up in to be serviced, I made the mistake of dropping Susie at the showroom, while I went across the street and dropped off the trailer.  By the time I got back, she’d found this incredible new and big camper on the display floor.  Two king sized beds, an additional single bed, a large storage cabinet, sink and stove, place for the porta potty, and a table that sat 6.  Yes, soon we were the owners of two pop-ups, but we quickly sold our original one at a price that the dealer said qualified Susie for a job selling atTent City!

And that’s how we did Ocean City for the next 3 or 4 summers.  We’d stay at Pine Haven (the kids had made friends there that they saw every summer), travel down route 9 to spend time in Ocean City, and do the two weeks for less than what a couple of nights in Ocean City would cost us!  That is, until a 12 year old Krissi told us she was tired of going to the bathroom with bugs, and the D’Elia’s camping days were over!

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Our kids celebrating Christmas in July with their Pine Haven friends Kim and Tracy

img_0746Then for a couple of summers, we rented Denise’s house on 50th Street and Asbury.  This was a great 3 bedroom 2 bath home that had more than enough room for us and everybody could invite friends to drop in, and they did!  About the same time, Susie and I got the idea that we might like to retire to Las Vegas one day.  We had family friends out there who were in the real estate business, and in 2003 we went out for a visit and decided to have a house built.  We had no intention of using it, but thought if we could rent it and pay for the costs of the house, it would be a great way to get our foot in the Vegas Real Estate market!

I know, you are asking, “What does you building a house in Vegas have to do with Ocean City, NJ?”…just hold on, and you’ll see!

Our friend Sharon Malloy showed us many areas, and knew what to look for and keyed us in on what was right for us.  Eventually we decided on the Maryland Heights development, in the South East part of Las Vegas.  We picked out the lot, decided on which of the 4 models we wanted built on the lot, went to the design center and picked out finishes, appliances, cabinets, and the like, and that was that.  In 3 months we were the owners of a beautiful new 1800 square foot 4 bedroom, 3 and a 1/2 bath home.  We were close to Henderson and about 6 miles from the strip, and as the surrounding property was not yet developed, had a view of the Strip from the master bedroom.  It was a beautiful house and thanks to a king-sized Aero Bed we’d shipped to Sharon, we were the first people to sleep in the house.  We even had company, because oldest son Billy was doing a semester in Los Angeles, and he came for a couple of days too. 

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10423 Gwynns Falls Street, Las Vegas, Nevada

In very short order, the house was rented, for a price that allowed us to pay our mortgage and all costs associated with the house.  It was a reason to make 3 or 4 trips to Vegas, gave us a nice tax deduction, and the house was increasing in value.  What could be better?  Well, perhaps had the house been less than a 6 hour plane ride away, and something we might be able to use, but that’s a story for part 4!

To be continued…. 

 

Ocean City, NJ….Part 2 

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Our little family on the 40th Street beach in Ocean City in 1983

img_0749It’s hard to believe, but it took Susie and me 20 years before we rediscovered Ocean City.  It was during a trip to the Jersey Shore, the spring just after we got married. At the age of 30, I walked the boardwalk I’d first walked when I was 5, and discovered that so much was familiar.  Some of the stores were different, but the rides, and the smells, and the sights, and the atmosphere was exactly what I’d remembered!  It was an incredible reconnection with my past, and the best thing was that the girl who had just become my wife felt the connection too!  Who says you can’t go home again?

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John’s House

So, although the connection was there, the early years of a young couples lives are full.  For us, these were the years we bought our first house, and started our family.   The next time the D’Elia Family traveled to Ocean City was the summer of 1983, when son Billy was 7 months old.  We rented an old house in the 3900 Block on the west side of Central Avenue, and it reminded me a lot of the house we’d stayed in when I was a kid.  First, no air conditioning.  Okay, we’re at the shore and we’re in our 30s…of course we can live without AC!  The bathroom was painted purple and had a huge claw tub, but no shower.  The

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The purple bath

shower was located outside, at the bottom of the back stairs.  Billy was, of course, in a crib, and Susie and I got to share a double bed!  The rest of the house was furnished as if some old lady had just locked the door in 1957 and never came back…which was fine!  The one thing that cinched it for me, was that just like the house we stayed in when I was a kid, our rental house had a big front porch, full of more overstuffed furniture and surrounded by almost floor to ceiling windows. There was no TV in the rental, so just like when I was a kid, our afternoon and evening entertainment was sitting on the porch watching the world go by!  We didn’t have Campbell’s Seafood Take-out to watch, but the comings and goings of Central Avenue, and the neighbors across the street kept us plenty occupied

 

We rented from a young guy named John who stayed in a small first floor apartment, while we had the whole second floor. We always wondered if this was indeed an old family home, because the decorating style was definitely not in keeping with a young guy who drove a black Pontiac Trans Am! (think Smokey and the Bandit) One of the downsides of the place was that the outdoor shower, at the bottom of the stairs, was just outside John’s kitchen door.  We never saw what the downstairs looked like, but John and his friends always seemed to be in the kitchen, making the taking of a shower a little strange, because it kind of felt like you were showering in their kitchen!

 

img_0460But we were in Ocean City, half a block from the beach, and we loved it!  So did the rest of the family who came and visited us that first year!  My Mom and Dad came down, and relived those 6 summers long ago that Ocean City was our summer home.  Susie’s folks came too, as did her sister and husband and her brother and his girlfriend, and everyone enjoyed our summer rental…even if it was only for one week!  Traveling with a little baby is never easy, and we had “stuff” loaded in and on the car for our week in Ocean City.  By the time we were packed, our little Toyota Tercel was full…trunk, trunk top luggage carrier, back seat, and even a portable roof rack!  Porta crib, high chair, stroller, and all the other necessities made packing and unpacking a big job….thank God we have kids when we are young!  That first week as a family in Ocean City sold us, and with the exception of extending our rental to two weeks, for the next 3 summers we called “John’s House” our summer home! 

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Billy and Daddy on John’s Front Porch

 

Our “summers at the shore” were filled with days at the beach and in the water, meals cooked at home most nights, walks on the beach in the evening looking for shells and beach glass, and trips to the Ocean City Boardwalk.   It had been 22 years since I’d been a img_0399little kid in Ocean City, but there were still so many things from my childhood that remained.  Stores and rides that were still on the boardwalk.  A trip on the merry-go-round on Gillian’s Fun Deck, or some salt water taffy from Schrivers. A pizza “cut” from Mack and Mancos which I think was my Dad’s favorite place for pizza on the boardwalk when I was a kid.   Sounds of the Ocean City Pops coming from the Music Pier, and the movie theaters I remembered.  The Surf, the Moorlyn, the Strand, and even the old Village Theater, that had started on the ocean side of the boardwalk, but when they moved the boardwalk towards the ocean, found itself on the shore side!  Just like when I was a kid, Ocean City was still a img_0747dry town, and even in the early 80s had Blue Laws in effect, making a Sunday night walk on the boardwalk very different than it was any other night of the week. Amusements and theaters were closed, as were most stores.  The few stores that were open had large areas closed off containing objects that you couldn’t buy on a Sunday.  On a Sunday night, the Ocean  City boardwalk was about walking and looking at the ocean…much the same as it had been when I was a kid. 

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Gillian’s Fun Deck…now the Water Park

 

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Dinner from Campbells with Susie’s Mom and Dad and sister and husband

It wasn’t just the boardwalk that held memories of my childhood at the shore, downtown Ocean City still looked much as it had when I was a kid.  Stores like Stainton’s on Asbury or the Chatterbox and Bookers restaurants on 9th Street. So many of the big old houses through town were now B and Bs, catering to a new generation of tourists.  Every summer we had to have at least one meal from Campbell’s Seafood, my old neighbor on Asbury.  When we’d go down to pick it up, I’d look across the street at the old house we use to stay in, and be that 5 year old again. The new Campbell’s was built on the parking lot and the parking lot was where the old building was, but the menu and food was much the same. We’d get the meals in the white boxes and be fascinated when they’d run them through the string tying machine, giving you a neat stack of boxes, all trussed up and ready to take home. Unfortunately, something else was the same and that was when we got home, there always seemed to be something wrong or missing from the order.  

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Wonder who took this picture?

img_0752Another thing that was the same as when I was a kid in the 50s was communication with home.  Now, this may be hard to believe in the times we live in, when virtually everyone is walking around with a phone in their pocket, but the only way we had to check in with what was doing at home and to assure everyone that we were good, was via a pay phone.  Looking back in my mind, I recall there being blocks of pay phones on the Oceanside of the boardwalk, and img_0753lots of folks using them.  That’s what we’d do on nights we were at the boardwalk, calling either Susie’s or my folks to check in. On nights that we didn’t go to the boardwalk, we’d walk the two blocks to the corner of 40th Street and West where there was a pay phone outside of a restaurant.  This was the way it was in the 50s, and still the way it was in the early 80s.

Something else that our kids have a really hard time understanding is the fact that when we first started going back to Ocean City in the early 80s, there were no such thing as ATMs!  Frankly, it’s even hard for me to remember what the world was like when you couldn’t access your bank accounts from almost every corner anyplace in the world, but that’s exactly what you dealt with when you went on vacation way back then!  It really impacted us one summer vacation when oldest son Billy must have been 3.  It was early img_0751in our Ocean City stay, and one morning we decided to go downtown and rent a surrey for a ride along the boardwalk.  A surrey is basically a cross between a bike and a car, in fact it’s like having two bikes side by side…..four wheels, 2 sets of pedals, and instead of having two handlebars to steer with, there’s a steering wheel.  So we rent a surrey, and since Billy is so small at that point, he gets to sit in a basket on the front of the vehicle. We have a nice hour or so ride, and as we get back to the rental place, I pull down the break lever on the steering column just as Billy turns and sticks his little hand in the wrong place!   He screams, I scream, he starts gushing blood, and Susie grabs him up. We run down the street to the car, jump in, and speed off to Shore Memorial Hospital in Somers Point!  Well, long story short, the X-rays showed a break and after an appointment with a local orthopedic doctor the next day, all was well…but for one thing.  Billy couldn’t get the finger wet for the next couple of days! 

So there we were, at the beach for 2 weeks with a three year old, planning that most of our days would be taken up by hours and hours on the beach, and suddenly we had to put that plan on hold.  So what else could we do?  Trips to the boardwalk, visits to Cape May, and just about everything else we could think of to occupy him cost more money than spending the whole day at the beach.  Our cash that we had with us that was budgeted for our two week stay was going fast, and I really worried if we would be able to stay the whole time.  Luckily I discovered a way that an American Express card and a personal check could buy you AmEx Travelers Checks, but I look back on that time and really wonder how we got along without our modern conveniences like ATMs and Cell Phones!  

So we spent 4 great summers at “John’s House” as a family of three, but by the next summer, everything would change.  You see, upon getting back from Ocean City in the summer of 1986, pregnant Susie’s scheduled appointment with the doctor revealed not one little baby growing inside her but two!  With just a scant few months to wait, we needed to wrap our minds around the fact that our family of three was about to turn into a family of five!  Our twins, Krissi and Kenny joined the family on November 20th and suddenly we were parents of 3 kids under the age of five!  Of course, with changes in family size, other things have to change, and our plans for the D’Elia Family’s Summer of 1987’s Vacation did too!

One thing that didn’t change however, was our destination.  Where better to introduce our new babies to the beach, than Ocean City, NJ? So, come June of their first year, Susie and I loaded up the van with a 4 year old and two 7 months olds, two cribs, two high chairs, two walkers, and about everything else we could think of, and headed to Ocean City.  Two changes though, this year we decided that 3 weeks would be better for our expanded family and our destination was not “John’s House”.  

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Billy and Mom at 3917 Central Ave

For the summer of 1987 we upgraded our residence by moving from the west side of Central Avenue to the east side.  That summer, we spent our time on the second floor of a beach front house just across the street from John’s house.  We were now living side by side with the folks we’d been watching for the last 4 summers!  3 bedrooms meant that the twins had their own room as did Billy and two bathrooms plus a real indoor shower meant that life was much more comfortable for us.  Just being able to take the path over the dunes to the beach also meant that it was a lot easier for us to bring all the junk that three little kids need from the house to the beach.  It also meant that when we had to travel back to retrieve the one or two items that we always seemed to have forgotten, that wasn’t such a big deal anymore either.  It was an idilic 3 weeks at the beach and all the kids loved it.  

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Krissi and Kenny on the OC Beach their first summer

As usual our days were spent at the beach and most meals were home cooked.  There were occasional nights along the boardwalk pushing twins and sometimes carrying Billy.  There was a lot of Dad standing outside stores on the boardwalk, because getting 3 little kids in a store was not easy.  There also was the night we felt sorry for ourselves as we waited in line, trying to get into Mack and Manco’s pizza with the twins in a double stroller.  Our attitude was changed greatly through when a woman came out pushing triplets in a Triple stroller!  

The first taste all three of our kids had of beach life happened in Ocean City, NJ.  It was a great introduction, and it was a continuation of my summers in Ocean City to the next generation.  While Ocean City would be a part of these three kids’ lives every summer growing up, sadly, after the summer of 1987, our visits would change and it would be a number of years before we’d get back to this kind of an Ocean City visit, so the summer of 1987 is really the end of part two of our saga of the D’Elia Family and our love of Ocean City, NJ!

To Be Continued

Ocean City, NJ..Part 1

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My Mom and Dad on the 32nd Street Beach in Ocean City in the 50s

Are you lucky enough to have a special place, a sanctuary, where you can go to recharge your batteries, or to hide from the world?   A place that’s populated with family or friends that feel like family?  A happy place that just getting to, no matter what your mood, makes you feel happy?  Well, Susie and I do, and it’s Ocean City, New Jersey!  Ocean City is located on a barrier island, accessible from the New Jersey mainland by 4 bridges.  It is the largest and northern most city in Cape May County, deep in the heart of the southern Jersey Shore.  But never confuse our Jersey Shore, for the Jersey Shore you see on television.  What we love about the place is that in the summer it’s a thriving summer resort, when the population swells to 150,000, but in the winter time is a lovely little town with a resident population of just under 12,000.   What we really love is the friends and the life we have there, and the feeling of happiness that washes over us every time we drive across the 9th Street Bridge!  Ocean City is now our forever home, and here’s how we got here!

 Our family’s association with Ocean City started the summer of 1955, when I was 5 years old.  My Mom and Dad sang in the chorus of the Metropolitan Opera, and although the job of a singer in the Metropolitan Opera Chorus may seem glamorous, in the early 50s the Met’s season was less than 30 weeks long.  That meant that my Mom and Dad only got paid for 30 weeks of work a year, and we survived the rest of the year courtesy of New York State Unemployment Insurance.   Not exactly the kind of financial background that led to summers in the Hamptons, but when I was 5 years old, a financial background that allowed us to spend most of that summer and the next 5 at the shore! 

 Another married couple who sang at the Met were from Philadelphia, and as such knew the Jersey Shore very well.  So well that their family had a home in Ocean City. Founded in the late 1800s by 4 Methodist ministers as a Christian seaside resort, Ocean City in the mid 50s was still a dry town and a place where businesses closed because of Sunday Blue Laws.  They called it, America’s Greatest Family Resort and did all they could to prove that it was true.  A great family friendly boardwalk, two and a half miles of white sandy beaches, and a small town attitude were what they were selling, and we were buying!  Of course, based on my folk’s finances, we weren’t buying too much, but I sure enjoyed those summers!

 

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3220 Asbury Avenue

Their friends Walter and Kathy’s family had an old summer cottage in the 3200 block of Asbury Avenue, and Dorothy, their next door neighbor, rented rooms.  Well, we spent those wonderful summers in Ocean City in a rented room and as so many folks say when they look to save money on a resort room, all we did was sleep in it!  Two different days of each week my Mom and Dad would need to head back to Queens to sign up for that week’s unemployment benefit.  On Tuesday my Dad would take an early bus from the Public Service Bus Terminal on 9th Street, be at the Unemployment office for his 1 PM appointment, and then head back to Ocean City late in the day.  Every Wednesday afternoon we’d drop my Mom off at the bus terminal and she’d do the same thing, but since her appointment time was first thing Thursday morning, she’d spend the night at our apartment in Jackson Heights, and then sign for her check the next morning and be back in Ocean City just after lunch.   They did that every week we were in Ocean City and netted a combined amount that was under $80.

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The Public Service Bus Station on 9th Street in Ocean City 

Looking back on it now, I’m sure that as a family we were on the lowest rung financially of folks who were summering at the beach, but we were summering at the beach, and frankly, we may have been doing it on the cheap, but I never knew it!  Our days were spent at the beach in the sun and the waves.  An inflatable raft that was bought at Hoys was my prize possession, and it entertained me every day better than the most expensive video game!  A sandwich wrapped in wax paper and as a real treat, a 2 cent pretzel from the beach stand at the 32nd Street Beach schmeered with mustard, and I was happy.  My only concern was how long after eating did I have to stay out of my beloved Atlantic Ocean! 

 By the time night came, I was exhausted from a day in the waves, and I’m sure more FCA5D283-AE28-4639-B1E2-FE76B994E017interested in sleeping than eating, so simple fare for our evening meal was fine with me.  It could be pizza or a hot dog during an occasional outing on the boardwalk, or a quick meal cooked in our communal kitchen.  What I do remember was nights sitting on the big front porch of the house watching the world go by on Asbury Avenue.  Dorothy’s house was just across Asbury from Campbell’s Seafood take-out, an Ocean City landmark for many years, and I’d amuse myself watching the customers head in and out of the parking lot.  This really became a sport on Fridays, as this was back in the days of meatless Fridays for Catholics and Campbell’s business would double!  Even the adults watched those nights!

 Occasionally there were special nights when dinner was a night out at Watson’s on 9th Street, or Chris’ Seafood Restaurant and Fish Market on the bay at the foot of the 9th Street Bridge, or perhaps Sim’s on the boardwalk.  Honestly, I do not remember much about the food at Watson’s, but I do remember that anytime you went there for dinner, you had a long wait, and I’ll always be able to picture in my mind people sitting in white Adirondack chairs waiting to be called for dinner.  I remember Sim’s as the typical seafood restaurant of the 50s, where I only ate fried flounder!   The one I do remember is Chris’, not so much for the seafood which was caught on their own boats and sent all over the country, but for what happened after dinner.  Everyone who ate there got a ticket for a free sightseeing ride on on of their boats, and the one you always wanted to be on was the Flying Saucer!  A 75 foot wooden converted PT boat from World War II, the Flying Saucer would take up to 125 passengers on a ride out of the inlet and then for a wild wave jumping trip into the ocean.  Now that was the way to end a meal!!

 

After six glorious summers spent in Ocean City, my folks started working at the Cincinnati Summer Opera, and our summers went in another direction.  After that, there were occasional trips to Ocean City, but just for a day or two. We never again spent the summer at the beach.

To be continued….don’t you hate when they do that!

 

Sunday, March 4th, 2018

As I warned you might happen the other day, you didn’t get a post yesterday, so here it is!

We woke to a pretty, if chillier day than we were used to, at the Hampton Inn in Roanoke Rapids, North Carolina. The temperature was in the 30s when we got out of bed, so we knew that the socks and sneakers were destined to make a return. Our toes were not happy campers! It was the last day of our trip (Day 24), and now that a great trip was almost over, we were looking to get home!

Speaking of the trip being over, we’ve come to the conclusion, that when a trip is over, a trip is over, and nothing you do can change that fact. Something clicks off in your head, and your desire to do any more sightseeing, or make unnecessary stops, is just gone. To be honest, in our original plans, we had two more hotels reserved, and stops at several Atlantic Ocean Island points, but on reflection, we just wanted to get home, so we changed those plans and were looking forward to being home tonight, rather than mid-week.

As we talked about in Saturday’s blog, one stop that we did plan to make, was in response to a text we got on Saturday from Paula and Jerry Mikowicz, Krissi’s boyfriend Mike’s folks. They live in Columbia, Maryland, and wondered if we might like to make a stop off to have lunch with them on our way up I-95. They were supposed to be in New York this weekend, visiting with Mike and Krissi, but the nor’easter on Friday canceled those plans. We had a very nice lunch at Clyde’s on the Lake in Columbia, and enjoyed the conversation we had with Paula and Jerry.

(Lunch Picture – As you can guess, there should be a picture of the 4 of us having a very nice lunch in Clydes, but as we often seem to do, we forgot to take a picture of the food, of each other, or to have the waitress take a picture of the four of us. We are bad at remembering that)

We traveled a total of 391 miles yesterday, staying on I-95 until we crossed the Delaware Memorial Bridge and joined the New Jersey Turnpike. Traffic wasn’t bad, except for a construction delay approaching Washington, DC. We lost about a 1/2 hour there, causing us to meet up with Paula and Jerry just in time for our 1:30 reservation. Speaking about the delay, why is it that so many morons on the road just increase the traffic delay, because they don’t read or follow signs? A big digital sign, more than a mile before we lost the right lane said, “RIGHT LANE CLOSED AHEAD”, but still there were people in that lane right up until the last minute, making the rest of us stop, so that they had someplace to drive! Don’t get me started!!!

Again yesterday, we saw a number of utility trucks heading north on I-95. Saw in the news this morning that there are still a lot of areas without power, so know our friends from the south will be a welcome sight in many neighborhoods!

Once we’re on the New Jersey Turnpike, it’s an easy trip up to Exit 3, where we join Route 168 for a few miles (and a cheap WAWA Gas Station) to get to the Atlantic City Expressway. In less than an hour from there, we transition to the Garden State Parkway, and made the short ride down to Exit 30, and home. A brief stop at the Acme on 8th Street to get some half and half for the morning, and we were backing into our driveway.

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We unloaded the trunk into the garage, had a nice relay going up the stairs with our stuff (really could have used Disney’s Boardwalk Resort’s Bell Staff), and we were home!! In case you’re wondering, no Chinese take-out after our lunch in Maryland, but it was good to be home, changed into comfy clothes (or PJs), and started hitting some DVRed shows we’d missed (NCIS and NCIS New Orleans). As great a trip as it was, we are happy to be home!

Susie and I were talking over some highlights of the trip yesterday in the car, and we will probably have a recap post for you this week, but know that we loved just about everywhere we went, everyone we met, and everything we experienced. It was indeed a great trip!

See you soon….