A Tribute to the Jersey Shore
By Todd Durkin, MA, CSCS
Superstorm Sandy wreaked havoc on the Eastern seaboard October 29th. It was the once every 200-year storm we wish we never witnessed. She ravaged the Northeast. And she crushed my beloved Jersey Shore, home of my childhood and backdrop to so many of my memories.
Sandy brought unprecedented flooding, 85-mile per hour winds, downed power lines, fire, greater than 100 deaths, and more. A million people are still without power as I write this a week later. This storm was devastating. Unimaginable. Surely, it was one of the worst natural disasters ever to hit our country. I heard they’ve put a $50 billion dollar price tag on recovery, but money couldn’t replace so much of what was lost.
Since Sandy hit, my heart and thoughts have been back on the Jersey Shore. I grew up there in a town called Brick, NJ, where I spent the first 18 years of my life. Boy-o-boy, those were some great years. Discovery years. Formative years.
In my 20s, I continued to spend summers there. I even lived there intermittently while playing football in Europe. And even now, the Jersey Shore is where I take my wife, Melanie, and our three children practically every summer just so they can get a little slice of what I experienced as a kid.
Brick is just minutes from some of the areas hardest hit by Sandy. Point Pleasant. Mantoloking. Seaside Heights. Long Beach Island. Three of my sisters live within blocks of the beach in Point Pleasant and Bay Head. My sister, Judy, lost everything she had in the home she was renting when it filled with 5 feet of water. My other two sisters, Patti and MaryBeth, had their businesses devastated. It will be months before they will be able to re-open their doors to customers.
For days, I’ve been riding my emotions like a rollercoaster. An overwhelming combination of sadness and sentimentality. This, mixed with confusion about what to do from so far away and amplified with a growing need to help.
It took days after Sandy hit, but finally I was able to talk with each member of my family. Their losses are monumental. But they are physically safe, and I am grateful.
As the days pass and recovery efforts ramp up, I continue to watch the news and I talk with my sisters. We talk on the phone while they walk the streets of our childhood and describe what they see. They send pictures and short video clips so I can “see” first-hand and understand.
In addition to the grief we share, I’m left overwhelmed with nostalgia and filled up with so many GREAT memories from when I was a kid and young adult.
So permit me to take you down “Memory Lane” and share with you the Jersey Shore of my childhood. It makes me smile as I write and remember what makes this special place worth the cost of recovery.
- Trips to the Point Pleasant boardwalk with my godparents, Aunt Jo and Uncle Frank (Curcio). Going on all the rides, eating cotton candy, riding the little fire-trucks, throwing darts at water balloons, playing skeet ball, eating Kohr’s frozen custard, and bopping those clowns over the head when they popped up in that old arcade game.
- Massive amounts of snow in the winter. Snowball fights. Snow angels. Hot chocolate. Football games. Shoveling driveways for $20.
- My paper route. I used to deliver the Asbury Park Press and I built my business up to 32 accounts. Customers paid $1.85 a week for 7-day delivery and I would hope to get $2.25 from each one so I could get my tip in there (some people even gave me $3.00!). I took tremendous PRIDE in my paper route and loved having it. I would fly around on my blue Huffy bike with yellow mag wheels and see how fast I could get it done. My best time was 18 minutes (some things you never forget). For four years, I delivered the paper immediately after school got out. Before homework. And always before play.
- Delivering the Sunday paper with my dad. Because the Sunday paper was so thick, my dad would often drive me around in his 1979 blue Bonneville for the Sunday deliveries. First, we stuffed the inserts, and then we delivered. I remember sprinting from house to house. I loved that time with my dad.
- Catching my first fish on the Norma-K III out of Point Pleasant. When I was about 7-years old, my Dad took me fishing on a big charter boat and I was so excited when I caught a fluke. This is a memory I will never forget.
- 13 Edgewood Drive. The house where we grew up in Brick. Eight kids… five sisters… two brothers. Enough said. Many, many memories. Christmases. Easters. Hoops in the driveway with the homemade backboard and rim. I spent hours working on my left-handed underhand scoop shot. When Mom tried selling the house when I was in the 8th grade, I used the For Sale sign for aiming practice because I did NOT want to move. I probably broke 10 signs before the agent figured out it was ME. I lost that war. But my football aim got real good—thanks MOM!!!
- Ice hockey at “the Cove” on the Metedeconk. The Metedeconk River would freeze each winter and we would play hockey. I bought $85.00 ice-hockey skates with money I saved from my newspaper route. We would play for hours on this huge frozen river.
- 579 Princeton Ave. This was the house in my family since the 1920s and where my grandmother (Mom’s mom) lived when I was a kid. It was a small home on a beautiful piece of land on the Metedeconk River. Crabbing, boating, swimming, and sailing in the summer. Ice-skating and iceboat sailing in the winter. I even lived there for a few years during high school.
- The $1.00 Bill Trick. Man, I loved this one. In middle school, we would go to the Point Pleasant boardwalk practically every weekend night in the summers. One of our tricks was the $1.00 Bill Trick. I would go under the boardwalk, stick a $1.00 bill up through the boardwalk slots, and as soon as a passerby would spot it and bend down to grasp it, my friend standing lookout nearby would yell, “NOW.” Upon command, I would quickly pull the $1.00 back down and the person would come up empty. OMG—I loved that one!
- Hoffman’s ice cream in Point Pleasant. And a lot of it. For many years. Heck, we still go there when I take the kids and Melanie back to the Shore.
- The water park in Seaside Heights. You couldn’t count the number of times I’ve been there as a kid and as an adult. Always fun and always an adventure. Plus, it was Seaside!
- Taking the green Brick bus to the beach with boogey-board in tow EVERYDAY of summer in my middle school years. Man, those were the days!
- “Beach practice” for high school football at Brick Beach. In trying to restore the glory and fame to Brick HS football, we instituted “beach practice” three nights a week in the summers before regular practices began. My gosh, practicing on sand was hard. But it was fun.
- Lifeguarding at Brick Beach during college summers. Some of my best memories of the Shore. Training for an hour EVERY morning. Rowing, paddling, swimming, beach running. I was probably in the best shape of my life between my beach workouts and my 90-minute weight-training sessions at Bally’s on Chambers Bridge Road.
- Nightlife at the Jersey Shore. There is nothing like it when you are in your 20s. Jenkinson’s. Martell’s Tiki Bar. The Surf Club. The Parker House. D’Jais in Belmar (OK, I went once!). Wow, now that is memory lane!
These are the people, the places and the memories of my childhood on the Jersey Shore… It is such an honor to call this part of the world “home.”
I am the man I am today in part due to these experiences, which is probably why I’ve always said the best of both worlds would be to have a place in San Diego (my “new” home for nearly 15 years) and a place on the Jersey Shore for summers.
Just a couple of years ago, after I wrote my book, The IMPACT! Body Plan, Melanie and I rented an oceanfront home in beautiful Lavallette, NJ (halfway between Bay Head and Seaside). We spent an entire week there with family and friends, just chilling on the beach during the day and relaxing at night. All in all, I think we had about 10 adults and 10 kids, with many more friends and other family members just swinging by to say hello. What a celebration it was.
You see, this is how it’s done in Jersey. We surround ourselves with family and friends, in good times… And in bad.
My friends, right now it’s bad and people need help. It’s time to unite as ONE COUNTRY, ONE TEAM, and together RISE UP, TAKE ACTION and REBUILD.
The heart of this team is made of East Coast people. People who are resilient. People who are tough. And with our help, people who WILL get the job done. So, whether it’s making a donation to the Red Cross, to FEMA, or sending supplies to people you know. Do something to help. Do something TODAY.
A fellow trainer, good friend, and New Jersey resident (Red Bank, NJ), Rick Ivone said to me the other day, “Todd, you can take the boy out of Jersey, but you can’t take Jersey out of the boy.” Amen to that, brother.
It’s time for IMPACT!
With so much love,