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.

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!


When we bought


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.


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…..


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




Summers at the Beach

imageIn 1955, when I was 5 years old, we first came to a Jersey Shore town I have come to think of as my home away from home, Ocean City, NJ. Growing up and still living on Long Island, over the past 61 years I have been asked time and time again, “You live on Long Island, and you go to a Jersey Shore beach?”. Well, the story is simple. In 1955, both my Mom and Dad were singers in New York’s Metropolitan Opera’s Chorus. In those days, the Met’s season was very short…something like 40 weeks including rehearsals and the spring tour. The rest of the year, they got by courtesy of New York State Unemployment Benefits. So, with all this time off in the summer, and having a 5 year old child, it was the Summer of 1955 that they took the advice of people they worked with in the Met Chorus, and the D’Elia Family journeyed to Ocean City.

Walter and Kathy were another married couple in the Met, and my Mom and Kathy had been friends in Chicago. Walter, on the other hand, was a Philly boy, and his family had a summer cottage on Asbury Avenue and 32 Street in Ocean City. They arranged for us to rent a room next door in Dorothy’s “boarding house”, and for the next 5 summers, Ocean City, NJ was our address! I grew up on the beach and boardwalk of Ocean City, forever forming in my mind the image of a beach town in Ocean City’s likeness.

The story of our connection to Ocean City picks up in the spring of 1980, shortly after Susie and I were married. After those first 5 years, my Mom and Dad started working more during the summer, and our trips to Ocean City were few and far between. After being away for years, in 1980, Susie and I came down to sample the new gambling Mecca, Atlantic City, and our trip included a wonderful trip down memory lane for me in Ocean City, wandering through town and on the boardwalk, and that was the beginning of an ongoing relationship between Ocean City and our family.

Every summer, since 33 year old Bill’s first in 1983, the D’Elia Family has spent part of every summer in Ocean City! When his younger sister and brother, Krissi and Kenny came along in 1986, we continued our tradition of having babies on the beach and boardwalk of this great town. Some years we were able to rent a house for a week or two, some years it was a couple of day’s stay in a motel, and other years we camped in our Pop-Up trailer just off the island on Route 9, and made day and night trips to our beach town. Then, 11 years ago, in January of 2005, something changed for us. Thanks to a fortuitous real estate deal in Las Vegas, Susie and I found ourselves in a position to live out our dream, and we did! For the past 11 years, we have been proud owners of our dream home, on Pennlyn Place in Ocean City, NJ. Since then, weekends, spring weeks, summer weeks, holiday vacations, and whatever time we could steal have been spent here.

Then something else changed for us on January 29th, 2016…I retired and joined Susie, who had already left the work world, and now our time was ours, and less others. Now, what would you do if you owned a beach house? Yep, spend as much time there as you could!! So the past 4 months have found us traveling as much time as possible to Ocean City. Our trip down to Florida in late February did take some time away, and unfortunately the rather cold spring we’ve suffered through, and some ongoing health issues with Susie’s Mom has prevented us from having the kind of first spring in Ocean City I dreamed about, but all in all, it has been great! We no longer have to travel back and forth on the weekend, the beach is still only 500 feet down the street, so we go whenever we want, our great neighbors and friends are still steps away, and our life is settling into the routine we’ve dreamed about for years. It’s mid June, our daily dress is shorts, T-shirts, and flip flops, and we’re already tan…what could be better!!

One of the best parts of having a place that you love is being able to share it with people you love, and this past weekend was a banner example of that! Early Saturday morning, our oldest son Bill, his wife Lori and our two beautiful grandkids Layla and Henry joined us at the shore. They brought with them our favorite daughter, Layla and Henry’s Aunt Krissi, and the family was almost complete!! (Just missing youngest son Kenny, who is presently performing on a cruise ship in the Caribbean…not a bad deal!) It was a great weekend!

We could get very use to having these little shoes in our house!

We could get very used to having these little shoes in our house!

Layla is a little over 2 years old and such a beautiful little person. Henry is just shy of 8 months and starting to crawl. What a wonderful continuation of family tradition to see these two beautiful children in a place that I still so remember their Dad in at their ages. After the excitement of Layla exploring the house, finding her room, and helping Daddy unload the car, it was time to get changed and get to the beach. First there was a trip down to the water, and although it was cold, Layla would have stood there all day. Each time the ripple of water would wash over her feet, she laughed and splashed and loved it. Then it was sand castle time. She and Daddy dug a big hole, Dad went and got the obligatory pails of water, and Layla had a great time dumping them into the hole. Then all thoughts of sand castles disappeared and Layla discovered it was more fun to stand in the hole and have Daddy bury her legs in the sand. Meanwhile, Henry was busy keeping Aunt Krissi, Mommy and Grandma on guard, as his real desire seemed to be to get down on his knees and crawl all over Pennlyn Place Beach! And what was I doing you may ask? Taking pictures, watching the unfolding family tableau, and smiling ear to ear!

By afternoon, it was time to get the kids back to the house and prepare everyone for a trip to the boardwalk. On Layla’s agenda was some french fries (perhaps this little girl’s favorite food), and rides! Sounded like a solid plan to me, so as soon as the 7 of us were changed, off we went! One of the great parts of the location of our house, is that we just need to walk down the block, get on the boardwalk, turn right and walk 6 blocks south, and we’re at the commercial part of the Ocean City Boardwalk! As we walked by Wonderland Pier, Goofy Golf, Johnson’s Pop Corn, and the Old Time Photo place, my son Bill’s plan became clear. “How ‘bout we head down to Hamburger Construction Company and then go next door to Playland?” Playland is one of the two large amusement park areas on our boardwalk and Hamburger Construction Company has been a favorite meal stop for the D’Elias since Bill was Layla’s age!



The kids have a great stroller that both Henry and Layla can ride in, and that made the mile or so trip down the boardwalk easier, as it would have taken a toll on those little legs of our Granddaughter…lord knows it was taking enough of a toll on her Grandparents’ legs, but we did survive and landed at Hamburger Construction Company! As we sat down, stretching across 2 booths in the back, suddenly I was back in the early 90s, and was sitting there with my kids and not my grandkids! That’s the great thing about Ocean City…some things just never change! The cheese steaks, chicken cheese steaks, french fries, birch beer, and even Layla’s hot dog were exactly like I remember when it was our little kids ordering. Heck, the same guy is even still manning the grill…he’s no longer the young life guard looking stud I remember, but it’s him! About the only thing that seemed different was the Garbage Fries that Bill ordered. A paper plate of fries, cheese sauce on top, and then it’s topped with cheese steak meat and fried peppers! Looked good…but I didn’t try it!

imageThen it was time for the rides! First was the Merry-Go-Round, where Layla, Mom, Dad, and Aunt Krissi selected horses and enjoyed their ride, while Grandma and Grandpa watched a sleeping Henry. Layla’s next choice was the helicopter that Daddy went on with her. Luckily, there was a bigger seat in the back for Dad to sit in, and Layla loved going round and round, especially when Daddy showed her that if she pulled the handle back, the ship went up in the air! After that, she and Dad sat down at a water gun shooting game called Stinky Feet, and they won a stuffed tiger for Layla. Then Layla and Aunt Krissi went on a ride that spun and went up and down and Layla was all smiles…Aunt Krissi not so much! Next, Layla picked the surf buggy car ride, and everyone could go on this…even Henry. Layla liked it…no comment from Henry! (Grandma and Grandpa babysat the stroller!) After that it was a ride on the train, but as it only made a small circle, that didn’t seem to be a favorite….I think Henry slept through it! The last ride was another car ride that she wanted Aunt Krissi to go on with her. It looked harmless enough, but when it started up, we realized it was a new incarnation of a ride that her Dad loved when he was little that was called The Whip. Layla loved it as the ride “whipped” you around the corner and she laughed at every spin. The look on our daughter’s face when she got “whipped” around at every corner gave us the clear indication that Layla enjoyed it more than Aunt Krissi!!

The Merry D'Elia Family at Playland

The Merry D’Elia Family at Playland

Then it was inside to the arcade and a few games before we headed home. Daddy showed Layla one of his favorites that has not changed a bit since he was her age, the Shooting Gallery. Populated with tomb stones, crows, old bottles, rail road signs, and even a “green guy in a box” (a younger Billy’s description), the object is to hit the electronic bullseye with your rifle “shot” and make things move or make noise. While Daddy was transported back in time by taking his turn with the rifle, Layla didn’t seem to be thrilled and moved on to play some Skee Ball with Mommy and Aunt Krissi. Meanwhile, Grandpa decided to put a $10 bill in the coin changer…I’ve still got about $8.50 in quarters…anyone need change?


“Sit on the couch Grandma, next to me.”

The kids (and the old folks) were getting tired, so after a brief stop over at Kohr Brothers for some ice cream, it was back to the house. Why is it that when you are walking like this, the return trip always seems longer? Could it be that it was late afternoon and the temperature had been steadily rising and the sun was out in full force? Could it be that we’d just spent several hours walking all over the boardwalk and Playland? Could it be we’re not used to keeping up with a two year old? Well, whatever the reason, we all made it home in one piece, and everyone started showering and changing. Grandma was done first, and was sitting on the front porch couch when her favorite Grand Daughter came out all sparkly clean in her cute jammies and put her little chair right next to the couch so she could sit with Grandma. As the rest of us would come and go, Susie would occasionally get up to do something and Layla would say, “sit on the couch Grandma, next to me.”.

Layla had a little bagel with “dip dip” (cream cheese) and Henry had a bottle, and before long we had two pooped kids who were ready for bed. There were kisses and hugs all around, and the little guys went off to bed. Then it was time for the adults to decide what to eat for dinner (take-out seafood won out) and what card game to play (May I was the game of choice). Unfortunately, the day had taken it’s toll on us too, and we never got through the entire game before it became night-night for us too!

I woke up the next morning to the smell of coffee, and as I opened the bedroom door, Layla looked up from picking up her little shoes in the living room and said , “Grandpa’s up”. Just thinking back to that moment and hearing those words, I have a big smile on my face. You love your kids with all your heart, but there is just something about that little girl, her beautiful face, and adorable voice. She owns my heart!

Unfortunately, Henry hadn’t had a good night and was all stuffed up and on top of that, Daddy’s work phone had been exploding because of the Orlando shooting, so it looked like Sunday was going to have to be cut short, but in the end, that didn’t matter. We loved having two of our three kids and our daughter-in-law with us and we really loved seeing the littlest D’Elias on our beach and boardwalk, and seeing the D’Elia Family’s love of Ocean City continue for another generation! All around just a great time, but Susie and I both agreed that having children is definitely a young person’s game. We were exhausted, but as our summers at the beach go on, these kids (and hopefully more) will get older and they will love visiting Grandma and Grandpa at the beach as much as we love having them!! If our plans work out as we hope, by this time next year, this Ocean City house will be our permanent home, and there will be lots more visits in the future as we all grow older. Till then, we have great memories of a wonderful weekend to start off our first summer at the beach!