Friday, September 25, 2015

Down at the Crossroads with Dylan, Robert Johnson and the Devil

  Down @ the Crossroads with Dylan, Robert Johnson and the Devil

The day Bob Dylan signed his first recording contract with Columbia Records in John Hammond, Sr.’s office, Hammond gave Dylan a couple of albums of other Columbia artists including Robert Johnson’s “The King of the Delta Blues,”  who Dylan never heard of but blew him away.

The Mississippi Delta is the home and cradle of the blues as much as New Orleans is the birthplace of jazz, and in academic circles blues is considered a branch of jazz, and in fact followed the jazz trail when the musicians and prostitutes were kicked out of New Orleans in the closure of Storyville. The once-legal red light neighborhood was closed by the U.S. Army and Navy, though the righteous citizens of the city protested - “You can make it illegal but you can’t make it unpopular,” the New Orleans mayor said. 

But just as Katrina did a century later, the civic crackdown on Storyville – in November 1917, spread the musicians and the music beyond the city limits, and most of the suddenly out-of-work musicians followed the riverboats upriver to St. Louis, Memphis and Chicago, letting off the bluesmen in the delta where they took root.

Their contemporary offshoots include the likes of Sonny Boy Williamson, James Cotton, B.B. King, Levon Helm and Robert Johnson – the “King of the Delta Blues,” who died broke and friendless at 27 years, said to be poisoned by a jealous husband or lover, leaving behind only 20 some recorded songs and two photographs.

When John Hammond, Sr. and Allan Lomax tried to find him to record him he was already dead, but not forgotten.

Legend has it that Robert Johnson couldn’t play a lick when he first picked up a guitar as a young boy, and was the subject of jokes among the real musicians, until he left town for awhile and came back with a style that shocked and amazed everyone, sparking the myth that he made a deal with the devil, selling his soul in exchange for the musical talent.

“Sweet Home Chicago” was one of the songs Johnson recorded in two sessions at Texas hotels, and his other songs were covered by many artists over the years, but his most famous song is “Crossroads Blues” that Eric Clapton, Stevie Ray Vaughn, Jimi Hendrix and dozens of others have covered and made famous.

According to Dylan, Robert Johnson hit him like a “tranquilizer bullet.” 

Dylan later wrote in his autobiographical Chronicles, Volume 1: “I listened to it repeatedly, cut after cut, one song after another, sitting staring at the record player. Whenever I did, it felt like a ghost had come into the room; a fearsome apparition…masked the presence of more than twenty men….Johnson’s words made my nerves quiver like piano wires. They were so elemental in meaning and feeling and gave you so much of the inside picture…..There’s no guarantee that any of his lines either happened, were said, or even imagined…I copied Johnson’s words down on scraps of paper so I could more closely examine the lyrics and patterns and free associations that he used, the sparkling allegories, big-ass truths wrapped in the hard shell of nonsensical abstraction – themes that flew through the air with the greatest of ease. I didn’t have any of these dreams or thoughts but I was going to acquire them. I thought about Robert Johnson a lot, wondered who his audience could have been. It’s hard to imagine sharecroppers or plantation field hands at hop joints, relating songs like these. You have to wonder if Johnson was playing for an audience that only he could see, one off in the future.”

Dylan discounts “the fast moving story going around that he had sold his sold to the devil at a four way crossroads at midnight and that’s how he got to be so good. Well, I don’t know about that. The ones who  knew him told a different tale and that was that he had hung around some older blues players in rural parts of Mississippi, played harmonica, was rejected as a bothersome kid, that he went off and learned how to play guitar from a farmhand named Ike Zinnerman, a mysterious character not in any of the history books.”

“This makes more sense,” says Dylan, as “John Hammond had told me that he thought Johnson had read Walt Whitman. Maybe he did, but it doesn’t clear up everything…..I would see Johnson for myself in eight seconds worth of 8-millimeter film shot in Ruleville, Mississippi, on a brightly lit afternoon street by some Germans in the late 1930s, but slowing the eight seconds, you can see that it really is Robert Johnson, has to be – couldn’t be anyone else.”

“I wasn’t the only one who learned a thing or two from Robert Johnson’s compositions,” Dylan wrote, “Johnny Winter, the flamboyant Texas guitar player born a couple of years after me, rewrote Johnson’s song about the phonograph, turning it into a song about a television set. Robert Johnson would have loved that. Johnny by the way recorded a song of mine, ‘Highway 61 Revisited,’ which itself was influenced by Johnson’s writing. It’s a strange the way circles hook up with themselves. Robert Johnson’s code of language was nothing I’d heard before or since. To go with that, someplace along the line Suzie (Rotolo) had also introduced me to the poetry of French symbolist poet Arthur Rimbaud. That was a big deal too. I came across one of his letters called ‘Je est un autre,’ which translates into ‘I is someone else.’ When I read those words bells went off. It made perfect sense….I went right along with Johnson’s dark night of the soul…Everything was in transition and I was standing in the gateway. Soon I’d step in heavy loaded, fully alive and revved up. Not quite yet though.”

And so it was when Hollywood came calling for the movie rights to the P. F. Kluge novel “Eddie & the Cruisers,” and the producers and script writers would eliminate a chapter, the one where the Cruisers drive their ’57 Chevy to Camden to visit Walt Whitman’s house, and in its place Whitman’s “Leaves of Grass”  and “singing the body electric” is replaced by Arthur Rimbaud, who reportedly faked his own death  in order to live out his life anonymously, much like Eddie Wilson does in the follow up film.

Is Dylan pulling our leg with the Ike Zinnerman story, a farmhand teaching Robert Johnson how to play guitar instead of making a deal with the devil at the crossroads? After all, Dylan’s real name is Robert Zimmerman.
Supporting Dylan’s version, over the popular myths and legends, is the fact that the devil isn’t mentioned in the lyrics of Robert Johnson’s song “Crossroads Blues,” that makes no reference to a deal with the devil.

Cross Road Blues

I went to the crossroad
fell down on my knees
I went to the crossroad
fell down on my knees
Asked the Lord above "Have mercy, now
save poor Bob, if you please

Mmmmm, standing' at the crossroad
I tried to flag a ride
Standin' at the crossroad
I tried to flag a ride
Didn't nobody seem to know me
everybody pass me by

Mmm, the sun goin' down, boy
dark gon' catch me here
oooo ooee eeee
boy, dark gon' catch me here
I haven't got no lovin' sweet woman that
love and feel my care

You can run, you can run
tell my friend-boy Willie Brown
You can run, you can run
tell my friend-boy Willie Brown
Lord, that I'm standin' at the crossroad, babe
I believe I'm sinkin' down

According to the popular legend: “A crossroads or an intersection of rural roads is one of the few landmarks in the Mississippi Delta, a flat featureless plain between the Mississippi and Yazoo rivers. It is part of the local iconography. A crossroads is also where cars are more likely to slow down or stop, thus presenting the best opportunity for a hitchhiker. In the simplest reading, Johnson describes his grief at being unable to catch a ride at an intersection before the sun sets. However, many see different levels of meaning and some have attached a supernatural significance to the song.”

Crossroads are also points where people, families, towns, cities and sometimes whole societies reach a point in time where life changing decisions must be made, directions are changed and new destinations are set.
And so it came to pass in the summer of 1965 when America’s national psych came to a crossroads that was a circle – the Somers Point, New Jersey circle that led to many directions, five different roads, each with its hazards and rewards.

Some people want to know why the summer of ’65 was the best tourist season the Jersey Shore has ever seen before or since. Families came, college kids made it cool, hippies thought it was hip, bikers put in an appearance, but as everyone who was there remembers, it was The Place to be at that time. Some say it was the weather, others say the economy was good while still others say it was written in the stars, and it was just the right alignment of people and planets to create the special things that occurred.

And so the summer of 1965 began down at the crossroads, down the shore, the South Jersey Shore, where the crossroads was a circle, the Somers Point Circle, and very close to where all the action would take place and from where, as the sun set on Labor Day, everyone would leave to go in their own way, for better or for worse, to reward or tragedy, their destiny was determined - a fait accompli – but it still had to play out, as it does in Waiting for the Angels - the Long Cool Summer of '65 Revisited. 

Image result for Somers Point Circle

Friday, September 11, 2015

Act I Episode 1 The Hell's Angels Come to America's Greatest Family Resort


A novel by Bill Kelly []

ACT I EPISODE 1 – The Hell's Angels Come to America's Greatest Family Resort

At the Bay's shores just off the Somers Point, N.J. Circle at the base of the 9th Street Bridge causeway.

The summer of '65 began inauspiciously enough with the soft sounds of shore birds chirping and the waves of boat wakes lapping at the bay shores and the strong smell of the salt ocean air brought in by soft bay winds. The natural sounds of spring were slowly over ridden by what began as a soft humm that seemed to get steadily louder. The animals sensed it first, darting their heads as the birds went silent and the squirrels and rabbits scattered away as the humm steadily increased in volume until it was a constant vibration almost running ripples counter to the lapless tide, crescendoing into a thunderous roar of motorcycles that flew by in a blur and a cloud of dust and slowly faded away to a quiet hum and after a few moments the lapping of the tide could be heard again. 

Ocean City police patrolman William Warren was sitting in his patrol car in the parking lot of the Circle Liquor Store, which overlooks the bay and the bridge and was where patrolman Warren was eating his lunch when the swarm of motorcycles sped past him. While he was technically in Somers Point, Ocean City police patrols the causeway and strictly enforces speeding laws. Warren put down his sandwich, reached for the patrol car radio and called it in, and then began pursuit.

As those of you who were there will recall, the summer of '65 began normally enough, hell we didn't even know the Hell's Angels came to town. That was a city and state secret and we only found out about it later because Tom Waldmam the mayor of Ocean City New Jersey was in the thick of it all.

And while we didn't know it at the time, and as we later discovered, the summer of '65 really began when those Hell's Angels came to town.

“There were two entirely different and unrelated incidents,” the mayor later explained. “The Hell's Angels did come to town before Memorial Day, but that and the Labor Day events were two different incidents and were not really connected, and that’s a different story.”

As the mayor explained, “There weren't that many of them. Less than a dozen bikers - Hell's Angels. 
What happened was a black police officer ordered them to pull over and they ignored him. He was probably the first black police officer on the Ocean City, New Jersey police force.”

When the bikers ignored him and refused to pull over on the causeway he radioed ahead so as they cruised in town down 9th Street they were met by a police car roadblock at West Avenue where they were corralled into a vacant lot at the end of the railroad line and what is now McDonald’s.

There, they were just as belligerent.

“They would only talk to the mayor,” said Waldman, who was summoned out of his 8th street travel agency office, picked up in a squad car and taken over to talk with their leader, as legend would have it, was Ralph “Sonny” Barger, the badest Hell’s Angel.

According to Hunter S. Thompson, “Barger’s word goes unquestioned." The father of gonzo journalism called him “The Maximum Leader,” and described him as “a 6-foot, 170 pound warehouseman from East Oakland, the coolest head in the lot, and a tough, quick-thinking dealer when any action starts. By turn he is a fanatic, a philosopher, a brawler, a shrewd compromiser and final arbitrator.”  

The leader of the Hells Angels met Mayor Waldman, the suit and tie travel agent and “maximum leader” of Ocean City.

The mayor said, “Whenever you have a large transient population like we do, you will have exposure to all types, including these violent motorcycle gangs. But you can’t condone it, and you can’t ignore it.”

“We talked, and I introduced them to the black officer,” he remembered, “but they were very racist and weren’t going to take any orders from him."

"I told them he was only doing his job and trying to earn a living for his family. They were very polite, and eventually we all shook hands in the end. But we didn’t go out and have cocktails together.”

Mayor Waldman had Patrolman Warren give a single ticket for speeding to their leader - Ralph S. Barger, Golf Lane, Oakland, California, and the mayor told him if he didn’t accept it they were all going to be issued tickets and their background checked and they would be arrested if there were any outstanding warrants anywhere in the country.

Waldman the Mayor of America’s Greatest Family Resort and Sonny Barger the leader of the Hell's Angels went eyeball to eyeball and the leader of the pack blinked, took the speeding ticket and without saying another word they all got on their bikes and left the way they came..

And there it should have ended. But it didn't. It just set the tone and style for the rest of the summer, which was one that anyone who was there will never forget.

Act I Episode 2 Prologue The Murder of Harry Anglemeyer

Act I Episode 2 - Prologue - The Murder of Harry Anglemeyer 
Image result for National Archives DC The Past is Prologue

There's a statue just outside the front door of the National Archives building in Washington DC called “Justice” and inscribed with the words “What is Past is Prologue.”

It's often said to mean that we are doomed to repeat history if we fail to learn it's lessons, or as Peter Pan said, “This has all happened before and it will happen again."

But actually it comes from William Shakespeare's “Tempest.,” a play about a shipwreck, said to be based on the true life adventures of Captain Somers, whose ship ran aground in Bermuda in a storm.

Captain Somers, the admiral of the Jamestown Colony fleet, is said to be related to Quaker John Somers, who came from White Ladies, England and founded Somers Point, the quaint fishing and boating community across the bay from Ocean City. In fact, Ocean City was once John Somers' cow pen and was called Cowpen Island, a name now given to the patch of sand on the causeway where the visitor’s Information station is located.

“The past is prologue” line from the “Tempest” comes at a time in the play where they are discussing a murder, and actually refers to how the past gives reason, meaning and motive to what is about to happen.
Antonio says: “We all were sea-swallow'd, though some cast again, and by that destiny to perform an act whereof what's past is prologue, what to come in your and my discharge.”

Antonio is rationalizing that the murder they are about to commit is an act of fate because of all that led up to that moment, so the past has set the stage for the next act – murder.

And so it was the murder of Harry Anglemeyer served as the Prologue to the Summer of '65, as it occurred on the previous Labor Day, 1964, the final day of the summer when the tourists and shoebees had one last fling before packing it in to go back to school or work and the real world. That was Harry' Anglemeyer's last day on this earth as he made his rendezvous with destiny at the Dunes.

Harry was a young and successful boardwalk merchant who owned a chain of Copper Kettle fudge shops on the Ocean City, Sea Isle City, Wildwood and Atlantic City boardwalks. A suit and tie member of most of the local civic organizations, Harry made waves for his opposition to Ocean City's strict blue laws that prevented many businesses from opening on Sundays.

While the ban on the sale of liquor was a key element in keeping Ocean City “America's Greatest Family Resort,” Anglemeyer thought that the ban on retail business on Sundays was bad for the local economy, and there was mounting support for Antlemeyer's campaign to do away with the Sunday blue laws.

Although he had a girlfriend, Harry flouted some homosexual tendencies, which annoyed some of his more reserved and conservative civic club associates, so after a few anonymous complaints, on a day when the Mayor was out of town, the head of Public Safety – D. Allen Stretch ordered a loyal policeman “to get the goods on Anglemeyer,” which resulted in morals charges.

But the plan backfired when the Cape May County prosecutor indicted the cop too, since he admitted that he was party to the immoral act that was alleged to have been performed at Anglemeyer’s swank apartment above his fudge shop on the Ocean City Boardwalk.

Anglemeyer was acquitted at the first of two trials, and he insisted the second trail proceed although they offered to drop the charges, he wanted to vindicate himself.

And so it was on Labor Day 1964 when Harry did what he did almost every night – he went bar hopping in Somers Point, joining the line of cars as they trickled over the causeway, occasionally stopping for awhile as the two bridges opened for boats.

Harry's first stop in Somers Point was just off the circle at Steels Ship Bar on Bay Avenue where the patrons were an older, quieter crowd than the young college kids who flocked to the rock and roll bars – Tony Marts next door and Bay Shores across the street.

Harry bought drinks for a couple of young girls he knew who used to work for him and told them he was bar hopping around the Point and asked them to join him, but they declined as he also mentioned he had to meet someone at the Dunes later on, and didn't seem too enthusiastic about that meeting.

From Steels Harry then went up the street to Gregory's where he told the bartender Charles Carney to give him a short one – placing his thumb and forefinger a half inch apart as a sign to let up on the liquor in his drink. Harry had one short one at each of the places he stopped, which also included the Bali Hi - a Polynesian joint at Stinky Harbor, what is now Caroline's, where Harry arranged for a post season party for his employees. Then he went across the bridge to O'Byrnes, which was then a shot and beer and pool bar that later became Mothers, an after hours joint. Harry then went a few miles down the road to the Dunes, which was so crowded the parking lot was full and cars were parked along both sides of the road.

Because the music in Somers Point bars ended at two in the morning, places like O'Byrnes and the Dunes on Longport Boulevard, were popular after hour joints. Other places that were in Egg Harbor Township and open all night were Jack's Grove, which became the Attic and Boatyard, and is now the Elks, and Brownies in Bargaintown. Egg Harbor Township didn't yet have a police department so there was little fear of the law at these places. 

The Dunes was eventually purchased by the N. J. Dept. of Fish, Game and Wildlife and is now a nature preserve - from one wildlife to another, but in 1965 it was the place to go after midnight and was usually packed until the early morning hours and had the nickname “Dunes ‘til Dawn.” 

The Dunes was owned by John McLain, who also owned the historic General Wayne Tavern outside Philly, and John McCann, a prohibition era beer Barron from North Philly. They also jointly owned Bay Shores and built the Dunes because Bay Shores had to shut down at 2am and they needed a place for their customers who wanted to keep the party going.

The Dunes was open all night and most of the day, but the bands didn't begin until midnight, and played until the late hours of the morning, so it was night time when you went in, and since there were no windows, it was quite a jolt to walk out into the glare of the sun.

Their T-shirts read “Bay Shores” on the front and rising sun on the back with the inscription: “Dunes 'Till Dawn.”

Sitting on a bar stool at the front door of the Dunes, young John McCann, Jr., the son of one of the owners, took a $2 cover from everybody going in, and had a wad of cash in one hand as he shook Harry's hand with the other and let him in without paying the cover.

McCann, Jr. would later be elected to city council and serve as a Republican mayor of Somers Point and like his father the bootlegger, young McCann would be arrested for importing tons of cocaine and die in prison. But in the summer of '65 he was the kid who took the money at the door of the Dunes.

Harry and McCann exchanged a few words about the success of the summer season, and once inside Harry walked past the bars and the band on the stage and went up a flight of stairs to the private Sand Piper Club, which was for members only.

While they often hung from the rafters and danced on the bar downstairs, you could barely hear and feel the hum and vibes of the music as the Sand Piper Club was pretty quiet, and good for conversation. But when Harry arrived there were only a few patrons at the small bar and sitting around the tables. Harry had his usual, a short one, and then sat there and waited. He told the bartender he was waiting for someone, but didn't say who, and after awhile, before the sun came up, Harry left the Sand Piper Club to meet his rendezvous with destiny alone.

From there we know from a teenage couple who were making out in a parked car that Harry had an argument with another man in a black suit and tie, and the other guy punched Harry once and he went down, hitting his head hard on a concrete abundment. The other guy then just walked off.

According to the young couple, three young men, one in a red and white Ocean City high school football jersey, picked up Harry and dragged him a few feet and put him in the driver's seat of a parked car. They then walked away while the young couple went back to making out.

Harry was still alive at that point, and if the three “Good Samaritans” as they were later called, or the young couple had called an ambulance or drove him to the hospital, Harry would have lived and maybe would still be alive today.

So it doesn't appear that the guy who hit Harry actually wanted to kill him, but that was the result, and it was still murder.

By the time the sun came up, Harry was dead and someone had killed him, a murder – some would say a political assassination that would remain unsolved, as justice would never be served, and as those who figured it out, for good reasons.

Harry died before the bikers came to town, so he wasn't around the following summer when things got crazy, but his murder would hang like a dark cloud over the island community of Ocean City, “America’s Greatest Family Resort,” especially during the Summer of '65, when Harry's spirit could be felt during the on-going proceedings – and in some quarters, Harry's ghost still lingers today.

Harry Anglemeyer's murder served as a prologue to the Summer of '65, giving it meaning, and provides a motive for the powers that be to continue their treachery and reactionary policies that would result in the man-made catastrophe that was now coming, a train wreck that couldn't be stopped.

As a Shakespearean play, if it wasn't so tragic it would be considered a comedy, and though in the end, Harry was the only mortal fatality, for the survivors it became a comic farce.

Act I Episode 3 The Beach and Boardwalk

Act I Episode 3 – The Beach and the Boardwalk

The Hell’s Angels that were heading to the Ocean City beach and boardwalk were stopped in their tracks and turned away by Ocean City's finest at West Avenue, where the railroad station and support buildings were located just across from the Texaco station.

At one point more people arrived by train than by car or bus, and the train continued operating direct express to Camden and Philadelphia into the 1980s.

While anyone would recognize the beach and boardwalk today, Ninth Street is radically different from what it was in 1965.

Coming into town across the causeway from Somers Point the Ninth Street strip has been totally revamped. Gone are Chris and Hogates bayside seafood joints, the gas stations, drive-ins and diners that were replaced by banks and convenience stores.

Familiar landmarks come into play when you get to West Avenue with Voltaco's and the Italian joint on the corner, the Chatterbox and the shops across the street are easily recognizable.

But gone are the big old, clapboard hotels – the Lincoln, Strand and Biscayne, that were once nice hotels where tourists who arrived by train could stay for a reasonable rate, but by 1965 had deteriorated into shabby joints that were taken over by college students who could get a room for a few dollars a night or cheaper by the week. These discounts appealed to what the mayor called the “transient population,” mostly college kids who didn't spend much time in their rooms anyway.

Before Lauderdale and Cancun there was Ocean City - “Where the Boys Are” was the scene and where the college kids came from Philadelphia, Delaware, Pittsburgh, Ohio and West Virginia to line the beaches, wall to wall - beach blanket bingo. 

While the families still populated most of the island, the college kids ruled Ninth Street, the Ninth Street beach and the Fourteenth Street surfer’s beach where most of the action took place.

To put things into a proper perspective, especially for those who weren't born yet, in the summer of '65, LBJ was president, young men were eligible for the draft, the war in Vietnam was quietly raging and Richard J. Hughes was governor of New Jersey, and the governor would come into play before the summer was out.

The songs on the transistor radios on the beach blankets and the juke boxes at the Chatterbox, College Grill and Bob's Grill were by the Supremes, Four Tops, Sony and Cher, the Byrds and Beach Boys as well as a slew of British Invasion bands – the Beatles, Hermans Hermits and the Rolling Stones, who would play the Steel Pier in Atlantic City and make a cameo appearance in the story.

The most popular songs of the summer began with Petula Clark's “Downtown,” the Righteous Brothers' “You've Lost That Lovin' Feelin',” “Gary Lewis & the Playboy's “This Diamond Ring,” the Temps' “My Girl,” “Eight Days A Week,” by the Beatles, “Stop! In The Name of Love” by the Supremes, “Im'm Telling You Now,” by Freddie & the Dreamers” and “The Game of Love” by Wayne Fontana & the Mindbenders.

As the summer wore on, other songs being played regularly including the Herman's Hermits “Mrs. Brown You've Got A Lovely Daughter,” the Beatles' “Ticket to Ride,” Beach Boys “Help Me Rhonda” and the Four Tops' “I Can't Help Myself.”

The Byrds' cover of Dylan's “Mr. Tamborine Man” and the Stones' “(I Can't Get No) Satisfaction” were popular in the hippie camp, while “I'm Henry VII, I Am,” Sonny & Cher's “I Got You Babe,” and the Shangri-Las' “Leader of the Pack” were often heard at Fourteenth Street, with that last tune taking on more and more meaning as the summer wore on.

There was a clear social divide among the college kids of the day, with the long haired hippies commandeering the Ninth Street beach and the crew cut straight jocks and surfers taking up most of the Fourteenth Street beach.

The hippies generally congregated at Shriver's Pavilion, that isn't there anymore, but Shriver's Candy store is still there, as is the retail store where Roger Monroe had his book store, the movie theaters and Mack & Manco pizza, now infamously Manco & Manco's.

Walking south on the boardwalk, there was the bath house next to Mack & Manco’s, Joe Del's cheese steak and sub shop, Preps Pizza, the arcades and Flanders Hotel, which retained its first class status, all still there, as well as the Copper Kettle Fudge building on the corner at 11th Street and the pavilion across the street, where the old folks retreated to when the hippies took over Shriver's Pavilion. 

Until he was murdered Harry Anglemehyer lived above his boardwalk fudge shop in the beautiful second floor apartment overlooking the beach and ocean horizon. That's where the immoral act that got him arrested allegedly occurred. 

The corner building stretches on for half a block and is of the Spanish Revival design in the same style as the Flanders Hotel, the Music Pier, the Chatterbox and the John B. Kelly's family home at Twenty-Seventh Street and Wesley Avenue, all designed by the same young architect Vivian Smith.

Two blocks further along Fourteenth Street was the surfer's beach and the most popular place for the high school and college kids to hang out, making Bob's Grill and the College Grill-Varsity Inn the hippest hangouts in the Happy Days tradition. Though the Varsity Inn moved to 8th Street in the 1970s, Bob's Grill is still there and if Bob Harbough is around he can verify everything I say is true.

There were no beach tags or beach fees at the time, and most people rented an umbrella, beach chair and a raft from either Bert’s Beach service or Surf & Sand, who had contracts with the city, and at day's end paid a dollar for a shower at a boardwalk bath house before hitting the Point. At least that was the routine for the shoebees, as they were called - day trippers who came down by train with shoe box lunches and didn’t spend any money except what they had to.

Besides the hippies and the straights, there was another social divide among the college kids - between the weekend warriors and those who were down for the entire summer. If you were a weekend warrior you stayed with friends, got a hotel room or slept on the beach and were gone by Sunday afternoon, but if you were in for the duration you had a job as a waiter, waitress, bus boy, grill cook or retail clerk, lived with your family, a group rental or rooming house and were in a strict daily routine.

The two things the hippies and the straights had in common were the routine and music. Both camps listened to portable transistor radios, played the jukebox, strummed guitars, sang songs and were into the routine – the Groundhog Day recurring ritual that inevitably ended at the Point.

You worked six to eight hours a day and then you went to the beach for an hour and joined friends who were already there. Then you went back to your room for a quick shower and change of clothes and hit the Point between eight and ten, and you didn't just go to the point - you hit the Point with a vengeance.

First you went to one of the shot and beer bars – Gregory's, Charlie's, Sullivan's or the Anchorage, tanked up on a a few seven for a dollar draft beers and then go to Tony Marts or Bay Shores, where ever your favorite bands played. Sometimes between sets, you'd walk across the street to see certain bands who rotated on two stages so there was always live music constantly going on. When the music shut down at two in the morning, you went to the diner for something to eat and then to one of the after hour joints and carried on until the sun came up. Then you went to the beach and fell asleep and when you woke up you went for a dip in the ocean and then went to work. Then repeat the process.

As Peter Pan put it: “This has all happened before and it will happen again.”

Johnny Caswell – Crystal Mansion's song At the Shore 

At the Shore

School is out
Come on, let's go
Come on, baby
Let's hit that road

We're going down to the shore
Just like we did once before
Cause there's no school anymore
So, baby, meet me at the shore

Hey, there'll be lots of fun
Yeah, lying in the sun
One the boardwalk, holding hands
Beach parties in the sand

Everybody's gonna be there
The hippies, the conservatives
And even the squares
Dancing til we can't no more
Come on and meet me at the shore

We're gonna swing every single night
Everything's gonna be all right


Hey, there'll be lots of fun
Yeah, lying in the sun
One the boardwalk, holding hands
And beach parties in the sand

Everybody's gonna be there
The hippies, the conservatives
And even the squares
Dancing til we can't no more
Come on and meet me at the shore

(CHORUS) 2X to fade

Johnny Caswell At The Shore Lyrics

Listen to: At the Shore