Strolling the South Jersey Boardwalks and Beaches of Yesteryear

article contributed by Harlan B. Radford,
images from his collection


If it weren’t for picture postcards, think of all the local history that would be lost forever! Vintage postcards are indeed a treasure trove and those moments preserved in time offer us a glimpse into what life “down the shore” was like 75-100 years ago.

Souvenir folder of Atlantic City, NJ

Come one and all, and discover the unique and enduring aspects that lured so many folks to flock to the Jersey Shore. See the ways we got there in the early days, stroll old boardwalks and promenades, enjoy the expansive sandy beaches, and swim in the ocean surf. Various personal postcard messages written by vacationers further illustrate for us what it was like back then.

Each of New Jersey’s resort communities promotes its unique charm with an attention-getting motto and seeks to lure tourists and vacationers during the summer months. Can you match the shore towns below with its slogan?

  1. Avalon                             a. “The Seashore at its Best!”
  2. Stone Harbor                 b. “Residential Community by the Sea”
  3. Atlantic City                   c.  “The Jewel of the Jersey Coast”
  4. Margate                          d.  “The Playground of the Nation/World/America”
  5. Wildwood-by-the-Sea  e. “America’s Greatest Family Resort”
  6. Ocean City                      f. “World’s Finest and Safest Bathing Beach”


Just how did people actually get to what were then remote seashore communities in their early development? The limited methods of transportation in the late 1890s and the early 1900s were both innovative and adventuresome.

Ferry at Stone Harbor, NJ

Before the railroad, the only access to Avalon, and the neighboring beach town of Stone Harbor (which together are dubbed the Seven Mile Island) was by boat.

As demand began to increase, newly constructed roads all up and down the coast accommodated motorized vehicles. New railroads and bridges that crossed the channels and bay soon linked the mainland with the island resorts.

RR Station, Stone Harbor, NJ

In 1934, the Cape May County Bridge Commission began to build a series of toll bridges to connect the various coastal islands creating the well-known “Ocean Drive.” Trains and railway depots sprang up in the seashore towns.

Regularly scheduled seasonal rail services connected the cities of Philadelphia, Camden, and many other South Jersey towns to provide a direct link to the shore. Eventually, by the 1930s, except for those bound for the larger towns of Atlantic City and Ocean City, the trains would all but disappear.

Imagine going back in time and getting in on the ground floor of investing in Stone Harbor.

These vintage era picture postcards show some of those means of transportation for the seashore area. These early views show causeways, draw-bridges, boats, trains, omnibuses, trolleys and automobiles. Remember, there was no Atlantic City Expressway or Garden State Parkway then to facilitate travel.


Looking out to Sea, Atlantic City, NJ

Completed in 1870, Atlantic City’s boardwalk was the first in the world. When it first opened, commercial businesses were prohibited anywhere near the boardwalk.

Rebuilt bigger and better after storms in 1884 and 1889, the commercial restrictions ceased, and visitors soon enjoyed a medley of entertainments, places to shop, and food!

These open-air promenades sprang up in other shore towns and made saltwater taffy, homemade fudge, amusements, concerts, and the purchase of souvenirs synonymous with visiting the Jersey Shore.

A happy group on the boardwalk, Stone Harbor, NJ

These vintage postcards depict some of New Jersey’s boardwalks of yesteryear. All told, some 44 coastal Jersey towns once had a boardwalk.

See many more shore images displayed on our IMAGES tab, including those of Asbury Park and Ocean Grove, Avalon, Atlantic City, Cape May and Wildwood, Long Beach Island, Ocean City, Seaside Heights, and Stone Harbor.

Walking the boards with us back then; enjoy the sights and the ocean breeze.


A happy crowd on the beach, Sea Isle City, NJ

Spending time on the beach, bathing in the ocean and having fun were the primary reasons why so many ventured to the seashore.

A number of personally written messages inscribed on the backs of some of the postcards clearly convey the real reasons for vacationing at the Jersey Shore.


Spending time on the beach, bathing in the ocean and having a fun time were the primary reasons why so many ventured to the seashore. In the absence of telephones, the penny postcard was the sure way to stay in touch with the folks back home and let them know just what was going on. Those simple notes indelibly recorded their authors’ splendid moments.

Reading these simple missives today, we realize that messages about kids digging and playing in the sand, bathers swimming and riding the waves, taking photos, and even complaints about mosquitos are not terribly different than those one might post today on Facebook.

  • Aug. 10, 1922 Boys are having a fine time. Uncle Eugene Mildred went fishing today. Expect fish for supper. Everybody is well. Boys dig deep holes in the sand. Bathe every day. Aunt Alice
  • Aug. 6, 1923 I am here over this week end and I am certainly having a fine time. I have even been in the ocean. I was in bathing and I got my eyes and mouth full of salt water. I came down by machine with relations and it was certainly a fine ride. I am going to Christiana next Sunday I think. Sincerely Helen Morton
  • Aug. 18, 1920 Dear Sister, This is our house. We would have room for you yet. Wish you were here. We were in bathing today. It’s great only it’s too cold. The nights are so very cool. We went to Wildwood this afternoon in a boat. The kiddies think it’s fine. Anna
  • 1917 Stone Harbor’s boardwalk built by the Borough at a cost of $35,000 is a mile and a quarter long and fully illuminated by electric lights. Dedicated July 4, 1916. A Pier, amusement and Business places are being rapidly built on this new Esplanade.
  • Sept. 1943 Tony has been having a grand time in waves and playing in sand. Susan is happier with her kiddie car so she can move around.
  • Aug. 18, 1941 Dear Friends, This is Monday morning and our last week. Time is going fast. We are having a very good time. The weather has been beautiful. I was only in bathing 3 times. But I am going in today. We were to Wildwood and Ocean City. Would like to spend a day at Atlantic City. Hope you are all well. Martins
  • June 29, 1910 Dear Florence, When I arrived down here I spent about a half a hour fighting with the skeeters. Carrie
  • Aug. 15, 1918 Eight of us are here in two bungalows. Are having a fine time. Spent yesterday at Wildwood. It is delightfully cool this morning. Hope you are both well. Lovingly, Laura Pierce
  • Aug. 8, 1922 Having a fine time in bathing. Gloria
  • Aug. 6, 1919 – Dear Friend, We arrived safely and we are enjoying the bathing although it is cool. We are going by boat to Wildwood tomorrow. Mabel
  • Aug. 12, 1915 I am in the water almost all the time. Having a nice time. George
  • Aug. 4, 1919 Stone Harbor’s matchless bathing beach, is absolutely safe, life lines being unnecessary.
  • Aug. 19, 1942 Greetings Marjorie, It is lovely down here. If you wish you could have come with me. Maybe you will next time? Gertrude

We invite your comments, recollections, and memories about the Jersey Shore of yesteryear.

Answers to shore towns and their slogans: 1-c, 2-a, 3-d, 4-b, 5-f, 6-e

For a modern perspective on what draws Philadelphia Inquirer writer, Kristen L. Graham to the Jersey Shore, see this article on

A historian adds details and corrects the record for the origin of the Seaside Heights carousel

The Seaside Heights Carousel IMAGE CREDIT

We quote below from a comment left on our Facebook page by Riverton Town Historian Paul W. Schopp that followed up on a post made here on July 29 about the historic Dentzel-Looff carousel in Seaside Heights.

In it, he further details its origin story and informs us that a photo thought to be that amusement was misidentified.

Contrary to prevailing folklore, no large fires that threatened the amusement park occurred on Burlington Island during the 1920s and certainly not in 1928. With the stock market crash of 1929 and the ensuing economic depression, coinciding with the demise of all Upper Delaware River steamboat travel, the various park rides and concessions closed down on the island.

The first fire to cause damage to the park burned with a fury on April 24, 1932, singeing support members on the Greyhound scenic railway and destroying several concession stands.

A second conflagration starting burning during the night of January 28-29, 1934. It brought additional devastation to the closed amusement park. Rides such as the Old Mill, the Balloon Race, and the Greyhound collapsed into piles of ashes as firemen stood by with little equipment readily available to fight the blaze except an old-fashioned bucket brigade. More than 300 firemen suffered burns and bruises. The Robert Merkle Company owned the park and a number of the amusements, while various concessionaires owned other rides and concessions. At the time of the fire, contractors had been preparing to disassemble the Merkle amusements and concessions and reconstruct them in Seaside Park, including the carousel.

original carousel pavilion – PWS

The original carousel pavilion was rectangular in design and could be completely closed up against the winter winds and elements.

A view of the second carousel house – PWS

At some point in time, management relocated the ride to a more traditional round carousel pavilion and repurposed the original pavilion as a casino for park visitors.

misidentified as Island Beach Amusement Park Carousel, may instead be the Eayerstown carousel – PWS

The carousel I first indicated as located on Burlington Island was incorrectly identified to me and I, in turn, repeated the error. I would posit that the carousel I incorrectly identified might be the carousel that operated in Eayestown for a number of years. – Paul W. Schopp

A visitor speculates about spirits at Wida’s Hotel and Restaurant

Wida’s Hotel and Restaurant, undated chrome postcard

In the late 60s, I worked as a busboy, and later as a waiter, at Surf City Hotel and Restaurant. The veteran waitstaff of prior summers liked to warn us newbies, “If you think June and July are busy, just wait until August.”

Well, August is here, and half a century later, I imagine that Long Beach Island is still jumping. Since Google searches for images of the Jersey Shore often result in folks coming here to see many of the old postcard views we display here, we also get some questions which, frankly, we can’t answer.

Gotta share this one from a reader who asks,

Hello, Can you please tell me when Wida’s Hotel was built? Was it ever used as a hospital? Are there any supernatural occurances reported? I Love and Miss Wida’s. My friend and I did encounter something like a spirit – this is why I ask. Any info is appreciated. Thank you.

If anyone can weigh in on this issue with information or additional photos, please scroll down to the end of this article and leave a comment. -JMc

Historic Seaside Heights Carousel Update

The historic Dentzel-Looff carousel in Seaside Heights. Photo Daniel Nee

Five summers ago Carol J. Mann, a reader from Arizona interested in saving the Seaside Heights carousel found us when she searched online for images.

It was she who first alerted us to the effort to save the historic 1910 Casino Pier Carousel in Seaside Heights, NJ from being dismantled and parts auctioned off.

That August we posted two stories online, “Effort to save historic Seaside Heights Carousel gaining traction” and “Will the Floyd L. Moreland Dentzel/Looff Carousel come home to Burlington?” which may provide some context for what follows.

It was in that second post that Riverton’s Town Historian Paul W. Schopp provided the undated image seen below of that same attraction and we linked to Paul’s history and rare images of Island Park on Burlington Island (scroll about halfway down the page).

Recently, we heard from Joe Verderosa, a board member of the newly formed Seaside Heights NJ Historical Society, who told us of recent developments.


Island Beach Amusement Park Carousel, IMAGE CREDIT: PWS Collection

Mr. Verderosa writes:

I am wondering if you have any photos or information about the carousel that was located on Burlington Island Park in the 1920’s?

This is the only photo I have found of it.

We are restoring it over the next 2 years and building a museum for it.

Any help is greatly appreciated.

Here is our new website:

Readers, please contact Joe thru the above website if you care to support this restoration and preservation effort or can help him secure more information about the historic carousel. -JMc


A reader’s brief Duster reference only whets the appetite for more details

We just received a comment from Mrs. Yvonne Caldwell in which she briefly revealed that her husband has “… number 5 (Martha) of the original 5” (Duster sailboats.)

Wait…what? There must be more to this.

She was responding to a post about the origin of the Duster made here last summer.

First, we’re gratified, but not too surprised, that Mrs. Caldwell found us.

As Roger Prichard, an HSR Board Member, as well as a member of Riverton Yacht Club, said, “It’s another cool connection that underscores what a great place this town is – and what a great resource the blog is!”

Her comment only served to raise more questions from Roger.

Who was the builder?
Who was the original owner?
Where it’s been in the meantime?
Where is it now?
Do they still sail it?

We will post more details if we get any. If any reader cares to add more information, photos, or documents to our Duster story, please use the contact form below, or send an email to:

Big surprise – a heatwave in July

Brace yourself, Riverton.






Heat wave, Minneapolis 1936

Well, it is July.

According to, “…the most intense and widespread heat wave (actually a series of heat waves) ever recorded in the U.S. occurred during the summer of 1936, when 17 of the 48 contiguous U.S. states and two provinces of Canada tied or broke their all-time heat records, along with hundreds of cities. Many of these records stand today.”

Stay cool. Stay hydrated.  -JMc

19th century lunch wagons were forerunners of modern diners

Olga’s Diner, Marlton NJ c1960s

Who doesn’t love going to a good diner?

Years ago, my favorite was Olga’s Diner. Their coffee and cheesecake were the best!

I hear that construction of a new Olga’s Diner, unrelated to the former one, is underway less than a mile from the original diner.

Chuck Cherris, one of many contributors to the images shown here, generously provided these scans of his vintage postcards in 2005.

A google search for Camden images led a recent visitor to inquire if we could help him find a vintage photo of a lunch wagon in Camden, c. late 19th – early 20th centuries.

Maybe a reader out there in cyberspace can help Michael Gabriele, a Clifton, NJ author, find one.

Michael explains…

Six years ago I wrote a book about NJ diner history, published by The History Press (see attached image).

I’m in the final stages of a new project and trying to track down some material on lunch wagons (the precursors to modern diners) that operated in Camden in the 1890s and early 1900s. In particular, I’ve come across info on a Lunch wagons were the lunch wagon that operated at the Arch and Federal “triangle” intersection in downtown Camden.

If any of your colleagues has information, I would greatly appreciate it if they can share it with me. It would be super if someone has a vintage postcard collection that depicts a lunch wagon on the streets of Camden.

Let us know if you can help, or leave a comment about a Jersey diner.  -JMc

We’re positive – our fragile history is worth preserving

It took a while, but one of our articles in The Positive Press, Regina Collinsgru’s long-running free monthly community newspaper that used to be distributed to riverfront towns in Burlington County, recently resulted in the sale of a mug.

A couple of weeks ago Elizabeth from Riverside called me to ask if we still had mugs available. In preparing for a move to Florida she came across a clipping she had saved from an old issue of The Positive Press that pictured some of our mugs that feature historic scenes of the area.

Riverside mug

I just delivered her mug to her and she was delighted to have a souvenir of Riverside to take with her.

The Positive Press, June 2016

The exchange reminded me how much I have been missing that undeservedly defunct newspaper.

True to its name, The Positive Press printed news stories and human interest articles with an upbeat perspective, often with a nostalgic aspect.

“News about YOUR neighborhood” was Regina’s motto.

Will Valentino’s popular “Back In Time” articles always illuminated a little known chapter of Palmyra’s rich history with stories about Lena Blackburne, the originator of baseball’s famous rubbing mud, and Titanic survivor Adolph Weikman.

Despite increasing its circulation about four-fold from 5,000 in 1995 to 19,000 in 2013, increased costs and undercutting competition from corporate-owned periodicals caused Regina’s one-woman publishing house to close, I believe, at the end of 2015.

The demise of that fine publication and the loss of all of the history contained in it is a somber reminder of how easily local lore can be lost.

If the Society had not preserved to microfilm hundreds of old Palmyra and Riverton newspapers in the 1990s, we would not have been able to offer the digitalized files on our website in 2012. (See our Historical Newspapers tab)

Where else would one find gems like these?

Ok, so some of this did not make the national news, but these local publications chronicled the area’s everyday news, big and small, momentous to the mundane.

Imagine the irreplaceable loss to posterity if all 100 of Betty Hahle’s “Yesterday” columns appearing in back issues of the Gaslight News were deleted from our website.

Or if this website ceased to exist?

In the long run, the Historical Society of Riverton will only survive if it has the active support of the community which it serves or it will suffer the same fate that befell The Positive Press.

Even though The Positive Press is no longer in business, I found only 24 issues (about ten percent of the 20-year run) still alive on the world wide web. Better look sooner rather than later in case they disappear.

The Positive Press: November 2013

The Positive Press:    October 2013 

The Positive Press: September 2013

The Positive Press:      August 2013 

The Positive Press:          July 2013

The Positive Press:        June 2013 

The Positive Press:          May 2013

The Positive Press:        April 2013

The Positive Press:      March 2013

The Positive Press: February 2013 

The Positive Press:  January 2013 

The Positive Press: December 2012 

The Positive Press: November 2012

The Positive Press:  October 2012

The Positive Press: September 2012

The Positive Press:      August 2012

The Positive Press:          July 2012

The Positive Press:        June 2012

The Positive Press:          May 2012

The Positive Press:        April 2012

The Positive Press:      March 2012

The Positive Press: February 2012

The Positive Press:  January 2012

The Positive Press: December 2011

Your membership in the Society or donation will ensure the survival of this growing virtual repository of our treasured past.



Old newsletters reveal early work of the Historical Society that almost did not survive

Scroll down to see links for each issue

Here are the very first eight newsletters (1974-1977) of the Historical Society of Riverton.  Then-president Marilyn Colozzi probably wrote most or all of the single-page issues (Secretary Mary Jane Wittmeyer signed #8)

Incidentally, the names listed for the members of the Board of Directors are exclusively female.

So, thanks for the history, ladies!

RYC float, July 4, 1976 PHOTO CREDIT: Bill McDermott

In existence since June 1970, the young band of history enthusiasts struggled earnestly those first years to offer activities and programs, sponsor trips and tours to places of interest, recruit more members, and engage public interest in Riverton history.

The subject of Gaslight News #6, dated October 28, 1976, tells of a meeting that almost led to the undoing of the fledgling association.

A special meeting of the board was held October 5th to discuss the continuation of the Historical Society. After much discussion pro and con it was recommended, by those present, that the Historical Society should be dissolved. A motion was made to that effect. On October 20th the board met again. It was decided at this time to continue holding our programs, as planned, for this coming year.

Whew! We almost didn’t make it.

So here we are in 2019, approaching the Fiftieth Anniversary of our founding (June 2020), and we still strive to engage a community to understand and preserve local history.

Currently, only about 68 of 997 Riverton households support the Society with their membership. “Likes” on social media do little to materially advance our mission to “…create an awareness of our heritage, to discover, restore, and preserve local objects and landmarks, and to continue to expand our knowledge of the history of the area.”

What does move the Society’s agenda forward?

Gifts of time and money, and contributions of images, documents, artifacts, and other such evidence of our past by countless persons have made this online archive possible. Please join this group of ardent lovers of local history or donate at any time so that we may continue this worthy undertaking.

Gaslight News:
001 GN Dec 1974 
002 GN Feb 1975  
003 GN Apr 1975       
004 GN Fall 1975
005 GN Mar 1976         
006 GN Oct 1976
007 GN Nov 1976         
008 GN Oct 1977

Click here to see all back issues of the Gaslight News.

These early issues provide a glimpse into a HSR under Betty Hahle’s leadership

In October 1976, the Historical Society of Riverton almost dissolved.  Starting in December 1977, under President and Editor Betty Hahle’s leadership, the Society continued to offer activities and programs, expanded the newsletter from its previous one-page format, and pursued historic preservation projects.

In these issues follow the organization’s efforts to save the gaslights from extinction and preserve the film “Romance of Riverton.”  Read the first of Betty Hahle’s informative “Yesterday” articles. She went on to produce over 100 of her signature historical essays from 1977 – 2001.

Gaslight News:
December 1977
May 1978
September 1978
December 1978

Click here to see more back issues of the Gaslight News.

Editor’s Note: If I can locate it, I will post that Charles Stonaker interview mentioned in the Dec. ’77 issue.  Is there anything mentioned in these early issues about which you would like to know more? -JMc