I Visited the Jersey Shore in the 1930s. You Won’t Believe How Little It’s Changed.

A trip with seven friends to the Jersey Shore in the 1930s provided a lifetime of memories.

Reminisce Magazine jersey shore great depressionCourtesy Amelia Williams

The Great Depression was winding down when I was a high school senior, but we still couldn’t spend money frivolously.

As a result, seven friends and I organized monthly moneymaking activities throughout our senior year and saved diligently, planning a vacation together after we graduated.

When school ended in our hometown of West Orange, New Jersey, we pooled our money and were thrilled to discover we had enough to rent a cottage for two weeks at the Jersey shore!

Our dream cottage in Point Pleasant was on a narrow walkway that ran all the way to the end of the boardwalk.

In those days, we would never have been allowed to go without a chaperone. Luckily, the parents of one of our group employed a widow with a 6-year-old son. She agreed to go if she could take him.

When one girlfriend and I arrived at our little cottage, everyone else was there, and our chaperone had purchased our groceries. Our chattering and giggling reached a crescendo before we changed into bathing suits and headed for the beach.

Basking in Carefree Days
After securing a place on the sand with our beach blankets, I realized how tired I was. I flopped down and let the hot sun lull me into drowsiness. I was relaxed, yet I had a pervasive feeling of uncertainty—I realized I had never been this unsupervised.

On most nights, we all went dancing at Jenkinson’s Pavilion. We loved the music of Big Bands with the tenor sax sound that was so popular then.

At midnight, we returned to the cottage and went to bed. When the talk of boys finally subsided, it got very quiet. While drifting off to sleep, I listened to the sound of the ocean slapping the shore as the tide came in. I still love that sound.

One morning, I woke up very early and tiptoed out onto our wooden porch. I could see the ocean and the boardwalk and a few people walking and riding bikes.

I put on a bathing suit and coverall and walked down to the beach. The sand was cool under my feet as it squeezed up between my toes. It was hard to walk in the sand. I went to the water’s edge and walked a long way before I stopped to drink in the stillness. The quiet was broken only by the cawing of seagulls and the sound of the ocean waves.

A Wave of Realization
The water sparkled in the early morning sunlight. It was very beautiful and peaceful. Somewhere on that beachfront, I left the giddy high school girl behind and became an adult. As I slowly walked back to the cottage, I knew I would have to come back here again.

We did return for two more vacations before marriage, careers and families broke apart our little group. When we closed the cottage door for the last time, I was saddened by the sense of finality and the ending of such a fun and exciting phase of my life.

Last summer, I visited Point Pleasant for the first time in 60 years. I was thrilled when I saw many of the same boardwalk attractions were still there, seemingly unchanged. Jenkinson’s Pavilion looked the same as ever, and I longed to hear the swing and sway of a Big Band.

I walked to the end of the boardwalk and looked to my left, and there it was—the same little cottage where I had spent so many carefree days!

I felt a keen excitement when I looked at it. I just wish I had withstood the ravages of time as well as that seemingly fragile little house I stayed at in the 1930s.

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Originally Published in Reminisce