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Skee-Ball: The Making of a Seaside Classic

This article originally appeared in the Winter 2010 issue of Cape May Magazine

Somehow, Skee-Ball seemed easier to play when I was smaller. I didn’t have to bend over to roll the ball down the alley, and my lower line of sight made it easier to bank shots off the second set of screws on the left side of the lane. I learned last week, however, from the owner of Skee-Ball, Inc., I’d have scored higher if I’d aimed lower on the alley.

Skee-Ball cost a nickel to play from the 1930s to the 1960s. Photo courtesy Skee-Ball, Inc.

For those of you who grew up without the sound of wooden balls smacking into the ball return, Skee-Ball is a popular arcade game played up and down the Jersey coast, and, today, on every continent. There are even 10 Skee-Ball lanes in Moscow’s Gorky Park. The game started much closer to home, however, just up the parkway and across the Ben Franklin Bridge in Philadelphia, 101 years ago.

Skee-Ball is an easy game to play. You simply roll balls down an alley into holes assigned various point values. The object is to score points, which generate tickets. Tickets are redeemable for prizes. For many of us, Skee-Ball tickets were practically a form of currency when we were growing up.

I started playing Skee-Ball when I was a child spending summers at my grandparents’ house in Cape May. It cost a nickel to play in the 1950s, the same as it cost my mother to play the 1930s. My cousin and I used to earn our Skee-Ball money by asking people on Philadelphia Beach if we could have their “empties – their empty glass soda bottles – which we’d redeem at the beach stand for 2 cents apiece. Occasionally, we’d work late, past the stand’s closing time, and have to bury our bottles in the sand behind the rock pilings until we could turn them in the next day. Unfortunately, a neighbor of ours also worked the beach, and, one time, found our stash and cashed it in.

We played Skee-Ball nearly every night in the summer and didn’t have much patience waiting for family members to finish dinner so we could race down to the boardwalk. Most of the time, we saved up our tickets all season so we could buy something really good. I remember saving for a present for my mother – a ceramic butter dish with a red-and-brown rooster on its cover. I haven’t seen that dish in decades, but I know it’s in our house somewhere, just waiting to be pressed into service again.

I recall another summer when I was about 10 and I was not in a gift-giving mood. Annoyed I’d been made to try tomato aspic at dinner, I decided to run away and get a job at the Skee-Ball arcade. Rising early the next day, I pedaled off to Frank’s Playland to find Frank and ask him for work. Frank Ravese was short, solid and brusque, at least with 10-year-olds. He always had a cigar in his mouth, a straw cap on his head, and a change apron around his middle that sagged under the weight of hundreds of nickels. His response to my job request was simply, “Kid, you don’t look like you need a job.” Devastated, I pedaled home.

Child’s Play

Women flocked to the game when the lanes were shortened and the balls made lighter. Photo courtesy Skee-Ball, Inc.

Skee-ball was invented for a child, which may explain its enduring hold on children and the young-at-heart and why it tugs so strongly at our memories. Philadelphian J. Dickinson Estes built the game for his son’s birthday in 1909. His gift consisted of a 36-foot-long alley, wooden rails on the sides, and heavy metal balls you’d drop into one of three holes. The game was a hit with his son, so Estes decided to introduce it to a larger audience at the town fair. By 1911, he was manufacturing alleys for the public. but he didn’t advertise, so sales were slow.

A family in the outdoor-amusement industry, the Piesens, bought the rights to Skee-Ball in 1914, propelling the game into a wider and more lucrative market. The game was also made much more player friendly. Lanes were shortened to 14 feet to encourage their use indoors. Metal balls were replaced with heavy plastic, and two circles were added to the target board. Suddenly, women and children could lift the balls and go the distance on the alleys, so they flocked into the arcades. Skee-Ball also became a competitive sport, with an arcade in Atlantic City holding the game’s first national tournament. As the game’s popularity grew, the lanes got even smaller. Ultimately, they were cut down to an even 10 feet, which is the standard size today.

A Philadelphia Story

Skee-Ball has been a Philadelphia company ever since Estes’ son rolled his first ball. The Wurlitzer Company purchased rights to the game in 1935, and sold them a decade later to the Philadelphia Toboggan Company, which modernized the game with electronics, and officially incorporated “Skee-Ball, Inc.” Joe Sladek, a native Philadelphian and a former CPA with Price Waterhouse in New York, bought the company in 1985.

“The owners of Skee-Ball were looking to sell and I was lucky enough to be at the right place at the right time,” Sladek explained. “I wanted to come back to Philadelphia, and I wanted to start working for myself at a company I could grow old with.”

Skee-Ball became a competitive sport in 1932 when the first national tournament was held in Atlantic City. Photo courtesy Skee-Ball, Inc.

Two of Sladek’s children have since joined him in his dream. Son Michael runs operations, and daughter Eileen Graham handles marketing and HR. There’s also a grandson, four-year-old Liam, coming up in the business. Liam likes to play Skee-Ball while his mother’s working, so he’s the product “tester,” according to his grandfather. Sladek is CEO and Jeff Hudson is company president.

Today, the family business is based in Chalfont, Pennsylvania less than five miles from where Skee-Ball was created. The company currently manufactures about 2,000 games a year and estimates it has 125,000 alleys in the market today. Customers range from the Chuck E. Cheese and Dave and Buster’s chains to the Family Fun Center and Victoria arcades in Cape May. About 20 people have games in their private homes.

Starting in the 1990s, the company began to expand to a full line of ticket-redemption games, which includes Tower of Power, Super Shot and Skee Daddle, a pint-sized version of Skee-Ball for toddlers in which they simply drop the balls into holes. Ahh, were it that easy for the rest of us.

Staying current with technology is Sladek’s biggest business challenge today.

“Skee-Ball is a very old game,” he said, “and it needs to be constantly updated.”

He’s very proud of one update. A year ago, Apple added a Skee-Ball app to its iPhone offerings. Quickly climbing to Apple’s top10 list of most popular apps, Skee-Ball is still on the list.

Classic Skee-Ball, however, must be played with real balls and actual alleys. Skee-Ball, Inc. sells two models today, the “New Classic,” which sells for $4,000, and the Centennial, which goes for $5,500. The latter was launched last year to commemorate the game’s 100th anniversary. With the exception of 21st century technology, it replicates a game from the 1930s the family found in storage when it bought the company.

“It’s the oldest game we’d ever seen,” said Sladek’s daughter, “It’s made of maple. And it’s like a beautiful piece of furniture.”

Hard Sell

Photo courtesy Skee-Ball, Inc.

Sladek may make his living selling Skee-Ball now, but he wasn’t always a fan. He didn’t even like the game growing up. He preferred video games. His future wife would change that, however.

“She was a fanatic about Skee-Ball,” Sladek remembered. “She used to clean my clock when we played and she still does.” Pressed for actual scores, Sladek will only share that his wife routinely rolls between 240 and 300 points a game and he rolls “less than that.” It’s become a family joke, he said.

Sladek remained a holdout on Skee-Ball even when his kids were young and played pretend Skee-Ball on the beach in Ocean City, New Jersey. Gradually, however, he began to see the benefits of the game.

“Anyone who can pick up a ball can play,” he said. “You don’t have to be 20 and in shape. You can be four or 94. It’s also a very family-oriented experience. There’s competition but there’s also camaraderie.”

Aside from Skee-Ball’s appeal, there are more subtle cues pulling people into the arcades to play. Skee-Ball has distinct music, capable of galvanizing parents as well as their children. It’s music Sladek built into the game in 1986, and it’s music he continues to use today.

“People recognize it,” he said. “It’s like the start of a horse race.”

The Only Games in Town

You can hear those notes only in two places in Cape May today – the Family Fun Center and Victoria Arcade – on the boardwalk. Both are owned by Adele Tiburzio, whose family has been in the amusement park business for 100 years.

“My father wanted to put Skee-Ball in the 1939 World’s Fair in New York,” Tiburzio recalled, “so he applied and got permission to rent two buildings in the fair’s amusement area. We had 100 lanes in those two buildings! I remember my mother taking me to see it when I was 14. It was packed. It put my father on the map.”

Photo courtesy Skee-Ball, Inc.

A year later, Tiburzio joined her father’s business as manager of a Skee-Ball arcade in Willow Grove Park in Pennsylvania. Preferring to own, however, she bought Fun Land from the Tennenbaum family in 1975, and moved to Cape May to run it. Eight years later, she purchased her second arcade, Frank’s Playland, making her – then as now–Cape May’s reigning Skee-Ball operator.

“Everybody loves Skee-ball,” Tiburzio said, who has kept the cost of the game at a quarter so more children can play. “It’s a game of skill and you win prizes. The more you play, the more you get. It’s addictive.”

At 84, Tiburzio still rolls an admirable 300-320 points a game.

“My father taught me how to bank the ball so I could get higher scores,” she said. Bank off the right side, not the left, she advises players.

There were four Skee-Ball venues in town when Tiburzio moved here – Fun Land, now the Family Fun Center; Frank’s Playland, today the Victoria Arcade; Skee-Ball Palace, a former neighbor of the Beach Theatre; and Rickers, a concession on the boardwalk that is vacant today. While there is some debate about which store was the first to offer Skee-Ball, Rickers seems to edge out Frank’s for that distinction. Rickers had two Skee-Ball alleys at the back of the store. My mother and her friends learned to play there in the 1930s. She is candid about her lack of Skee-Ball skills, however. he sometimes over-shot the lane, she said, and her ball would go flying out of Rickers’ back door, presumably rolling into the ocean and scoring nothing.

Standing behind her counter, Tiburzio has watched several generations of families learn, play and teach Skee-Ball. orking 13-hour days over a lifetime of Skee-Ball seasons, she has gained a sort of “Skee-Ball wisdom” about why people play and how their motivation often changes over time.

“The kids play for the pleasure first and the prizes second,” she said. “The older players play purely for the joy of the game. I tell the kids to stay nearby and often people will give them their tickets.” Donna Laudeman, a lifelong resident of Cape May and hostess at the Lobster House, exudes that joy when she talks about Skee-Ball games past and present.

Photo by Macy Zhelyazkova

“I remember the thrill of dropping the nickel in, pulling back the handle, hearing the click as the balls come down one-by-one, and hearing the sound of the balls when they hit,” she said. “It was incredible.”

The game has taken on an even deeper meaning for Laudeman now that she’s an adult.

“I went to play the other day with a friend,” she said. “We were laughing and carrying on, and when we were done, we looked around the arcade for a child we could give our tickets to –someone with a cup of tickets who didn’t have as many tickets as the others. We ended up giving them to girl who was totally surprised. She couldn’t fathom people giving tickets away. The smile on her face was a beautiful thing. It was a win-win totally.”

The game changes for many of us as we grow older. Similar to life, perhaps, we scramble for empty Coke bottles to play the game to win the prize when we’re young. We play for the joy of playing now – or the smile on a child’s face – and we’re happy helping others work toward their prize when we’re older. Who knew a ball, an alley and a set of circles could impart such insights.

Now if I could just find that rooster butter dish.


Beach Tags: Collecting history the Cape May way

Collecting History the Cape May Way

Our dear friend Karl Suelke passed away April 11, 2011. He turned 91 on April 3rd. Karl was featured in Cape May Magazine‘s article “Collecting History the Cape May Way,” which we are proud to share with you.

Oh those pesky Cape May beach tags! Everyone complains about them. Some try to wrangle their way out of buying them. Still others go out of their way to buy them early. And then there are those who collect them. Beach tagcollectors can be easily spotted. Some, like octogenarian Karl Suelke, wear their collections. These are conspicuous by their attachment to baseball caps and sweatshirts loaded with as many past beach tags as space will allow. And some, like former city manager and ex-council member Fred Coldren, tuck them neatly away in one 1½-inch notebook, carefully preserved and organized according to year and type of tag and including artwork, posters and design options which were rejected at the time. He has even named his collection – How many do YOU have?, a reference to other collectors.

Beach tags, you say? What are they? For 30 years, Cape May has charged beach goers a fee for using the beaches. You can buy a seasonal tag. Many locals and cottagers make sure they buy them as soon as they go on sale in December for stocking stuffers and to save money. If purchased before March 31, they cost $15 each. After March 31, the price goes up to $25. Short term visitors can either buy a weekly or three day pass. And if you’re a day tripper, you can purchase a daily tag.

Every year, my boss walks down to city hall and buys his four beach tags. Every year I balk at the thought. I’m not going to buy a beach tag, I say. We don’t go often enough to justify the expense. Besides, I say, why should I pay to go on the beach? Wildwood is free. However, midway through the summer I find myself with four kids in town, ages ranging from 6 to 16 and I realize how perfectly ridiculous I look asking kids, chomping at the bit to hit the waves since about 7:30 a.m., to wait until 4 in the afternoon to go to the beach because that’s when the beach taggers go off duty. It takes just one instance of my lurking along the promenade scoping the sand looking for beach taggers, then looking over at angry, curious eyes of anxious kids, towels and boogie boards in hand, for me to see the error of my ways and end up buying the two seasonal beach tags anyway. I only need two because the under 12 kids go free, which yes, makes me look even more ridiculous.

The truth of the matter is Cape May has some really great beaches and an excellent beach patrol, and that costs money. But I was still curious about how all this came about and Fred Coldren was nice enough to tell me the story of beach tags.

In 1977, the City of Cape May was second in the state to adopt a beach fee ordinance. “I was a member of City Council at the time,” he said, adding that he, along with council member Arthur “Mickey” Blomkvest and Deputy Mayor Adrian S. Capehart voted for the ordinance (two council members voted against it) to establish beach fees in the city.

“Our three goals,” he said were to (1) raise revenues from beach users to help defray the costs of beach protection and maintenance; (2) ensure public access to oceanfront bathing beaches in Cape May; and (3) begin the process to restore sand to the badly eroded Cape May beachfront. Our first goal was reached successfully in the early years of the beach fee program; the second was accomplished within 10 years by 1986; and the final goal that turned into a $50 million beachfront restoration was accomplished in 15 years in 1991, with ongoing maintenance authorized through 2040.”

But why does he collect beach tags? “Well, I designed most of them up until the summer of 1989,” when he stepped down from his position as city manager. “And I helped pass the ordinance which I think did the city a lot of good. Revenue from the sale of beach tags was a major contribution to the financial stability of the city.”

Sitting in Fred Coldren’s living room, looking over his collection, I am fascinated with the assortment of plastic tags in front of me and it dawns on me that the history of the city can be benchmarked according to some of the seasonal designs.

The first design was a tiny sailboat which Fred said he came up with very quickly to get the program started. The next year, 1978, depicts a gaslight. “This,” said Fred, “was the first of two-color tags, designed to support a Cape May priority of keeping our 120 or so historic gaslights burning despite a natural gas shortage and a state order to turn them off. The entire Cape May community mobilized to fight the ban and eventually won the right to keep them operating to the present.”

The 1980 whale logo gave the nod to whale watchers and an acknowledgement of Cape May’s original settlement by whalers from New England. The next year’s yellow ribbon celebrated the 10th anniversary of the Washington Street Mall. Tulips the following year helped to support Cape May’s fledgling spring Tulip Festival which paid homage to Dutch Sea Captain Cornelius Jacobsen Mey, whose explorations of the Delaware River in 1620 led to the peninsula on the northeast side of the bay being named Cape Mey, later changed to Cape May.

Speaking of explorers, it was English Sea Captain Henry Hudson who in 1609 originally made note of the peninsula while sailing his small yacht the Half Moon between the Atlantic Ocean and the Delaware River. To that end, Cape May’s 1984 beach tag celebrated the 375th anniversary of the discovery of Cape May. Does this mean we can look forward to another nod to Captain Hudson in 2009 when the 400th anniversary rolls around?

National events have also inspired beach tag designs. Grief over the January, 1986 destruction of the space shuttle Challenger and the death of all seven crew members reflected, according to Fred, “the hopes of the community and nation that the U.S. would continue to Explore Sea & Space Safely.” More recently, the tragic events of September 11th were remembered during the summer of 2002. The patriotic beach tag read simply: “Cape May Season 2002 Remembers Sept. 11th 2001.”

One of the most interesting beach tags, said Fred, was the 1987 limited edition Century Tag which sold for $100 apiece. The Century Tag was used to raise funds, according to city records, for the support of the Building Fund for the Cape May Beach Patrol headquarters. Fred recalls that about 600 Century beach tags were sold that summer raising nearly $60,000 to “help finance the construction, reduce the burden on the taxpayers, and give tag owners access to Cape May beaches for the entire 20th century…through the summer of the year 2000 A.D.”

“It was a bargain,” said Fred, “You got 12 years of beach access for $100, instead of paying the $10 original price (not to mention regular increase…$12, $14, etc. every year), but it also involved many residents and visitors in a worthy cause. Everybody who purchased a Century Tag got a special Certificate of Appreciation with a gold embossed city seal and an invitation to the dedication, as well as recognition.”

To celebrate the restoration of Cape May’s beachfront following completion of the Army Corps of Engineers’ beach replenishment project, the city issued a special souvenir beach tag in 1991. And, in acknowledgement of the Army Corps’ continued efforts to restore the beaches the regular seasonal pass depicted a beach scene with a sign next to the dunes which read Save Our Beach.

Fred is particularly fond of a third special beach tag issued the summer of 1986 in recognition of the Visit of Halley’s Comet, ironically the same year as the Challenger disaster. The tag reads Cape May, NJ, USA, Earth and was distributed as a souvenir to school children. “I designed,” said Fred, “distributed and personally paid for this special tag production for fun.”

So, now my question is – if I wanted to start collecting beach tags today, where would I look? Fred said he and other collectors find them at yard sales, flea markets and sometimes on eBay. Of course, I could look in the bottom of my desk drawer. I tried eBay but all I found were 11 beach tags from Cape May Point and that’ll never do because I don’t beach at Cape May Point. “I recall,” said Fred, “seeing one rare tag sell for $35.” Whew! That’s a lot of money to pay and still not be able to get on the beach. Speaking of which, I have seen the light and vow, beginning summer of 2007, to always buy a beach tag and
whine about it no more. They do seem to have done more good than not.

A passionate collector and true believer, Fred Coldren sums it up like this. “Beach tags have played a very important role in Cape May’s history as a source of revenue, a fair allocation of costs of maintaining the beaches to those [who] use them instead of just the local property taxpayers, and to make possible the highly successful beach restoration project.”

And that’s the end of the story of beach tags. Make sure to buy yours either at City Hall or down on the beach. And tell me – How many do YOU have?

*********

Beach tags are required on all persons 12 years of age and over on all city beaches from 10 am – 5:30 pm at all times Beaches are open or when lifeguards are on duty.

2011 beach tags are available for purchase, in person, at the City Hall Tax Office, located at 643 Washington Street, from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., Monday thru Friday, excluding Holidays. After April 1, a seasonal tag is $25. A maximum of five (5) seasonal tags, per season, per individual, can be purchased. Weekly (Saturday to Saturday) tags are $15. Three day tags at $10 and Daily tags are avaiable for $5. Up to five (5) Seasonal Tags, per season, per individual, can also be ordered by mail. The mail order per tag cost for a Seasonal Tag is as follows: $25.75 beginning April 1.

To order, send check, made out to City of Cape May, and mail to the following address:

Beach Tags – Tax Office
643 Washington Street
Cape May, NJ 08204


Mermaid’s Tears

This article originally appeared in the Spring 2010 issue of Cape May Magazine

Mermaid's Tears

Anita Roth arranges her sea glass collection in many different ways to capture its beauty. Photo courtesy Anita Roth.

Some of the best shorelines to find mermaid tears – sea glass – are right here in Cape May. The veteran hunters will tell you that the Delaware Bayside beaches, Sunset, Higbee, Townbank and remote seascapes off Route 47 North, produce more treasures than the oceanfront. Sea glass collectors are passionate, obsessive about searching the sand for these frosted, shimmery bits, ranging from orange and red, the most rare, to clear, the most common.  Too, they scour the edges of the sea for pottery and porcelain shards, be they relics of Staffordshire and Limoges from fancy European estates or 18th century stoneware from American Colonists’ plain kitchens.

The ideal time to find sea glass is in spring at full moon after wicked winds stir up waves that leave behind new deposits. Or, there are eroding surfs that dig deeper in the beach, removing layers of sand that have hidden mermaid tears, pottery bits and bottles for decades, perhaps even centuries.

Photo courtesy Anita Roth

Cape May Point artist Carol King Hood and her husband, Ned, can’t wait for a bad storm. As soon as it calms, they’re off to their favorite hunting grounds, losing themselves to the search, in boots, with buckets. After last year’s nasty November nor’easter they made a memorable find along a newly eroded stretch of Delaware Bay. Dressed in layers, facing stinging rain, they discovered old pottery shards, chunks of light-catching greens and ambers – and, an old brown poison bottle, considered very rare. The bay, long a shipping channel, is one of the abundant places to find sea treasures. “Each has a story to tell,” says Carol. “Each has a history.”

The search is a togetherness hobby for Carol and Ned. But once on the beach, it’s serious competition to find the best piece. Their trained eyes scan the deserted shoreline for a sparkle, perhaps pink, aqua, amethyst, jade, citron, amber, sapphire. Sometimes the jewels are in clear view glittering in the sun. Other days, they’re hidden among the pebbles, sea grass and driftwood.

Photo courtesy Anita Roth

“We have faced intense wind, rain, bitter cold, frosted fingers, wet socks and clammy feet,” says Carol. “We have hunted in steam heat and humidity, fog and snow, but no matter the elements, we scream with joy at each great find. A collector is pressed on thinking the next piece will be the greatest find. We have surprised each other at Christmas and birthdays with a special piece we pocketed and kept secret. We have found perfect shaped hearts and given them to each other for Valentine’s Day. The sea glass hobby is a really nice part of our marriage.”

Their collection is under glass atop a large indented coffee table in their quaint Amber Rose Cottage at the Point. Always the artist, Carol has arranged the results of their 15 years of searching in categories by color, type of glass or pottery, quality, history. The  display is a mosaic of sea treasures. Carol delights in telling a story of each piece, different as snowflakes, sharing what she has learned about the many types of pottery and glass: depression, opalescent, patterned, pressed, amberina, carnival, custard, hobnail.  There are to be found old doorknobs; remnants of china dolls, whiskey, bitters, ink, wine, medicine and poison bottles. Carol says collectors fantasize about the origins. Could they be from a pirate’s boat, a whaler’s cottage, a cruise liner, a battle ship?  Was the origin Asia, Europe, Africa, old Cape May?

Photo courtesy Anita Roth

Most ocean-created mermaid tears are just common bottles for beer, milk, Noxema, Vicks, Coca Cola, 7-Up.  You name it.  Add to that centuries-old art glass, tableware, pottery. Glass is substantially sand to begin with, so over the years, the salt water, the tides, washing over rocks and sand, the pounding forces of the ocean have broken and worn down the shards to unique, one-of-a-kind shapes and sizes.

“The tears are perfect for jewelry,” says Betty Hamilton, who travels from North Jersey to Cape May to search for sea jewels.  Her Mermaids’ Tears jewelry business has become so successful, “even in the recession,” she has given up her retail job to design full time. She wraps her selected tears in sterling for her line of earrings, necklaces, bracelets and wine glass markers. When searching for sea gems, she carries with her a large piece of driftwood and “rakes” the sand to find the choice pieces and stashes them by category in zip lock bags.

Adrienne Sharnikow’s sea glass jewelry

Ever since she was a little girl, Adrienne Scharnikow has been beachcombing for treasures. “I couldn’t wait to get up in the morning and find what the ocean left overnight,” she says.  Now a pharmaceutical company researcher, she has a growing jewelry business called simply Sea. Her three young sons join her at Sunset Beach looking for colorful shards with a well-frosted patina. It can take 50 to 100 years to weather the glass, round the edges and tumble pieces that are jewelry worthy. Adrienne draws designs for each beach jewel and employs silversmiths who hand-shape sterling to create her casual-chic look. Each is as unique as the person who wears it, she says. Her pieces are sold at The Whale’s Tale on the Washington Street Mall.

For photographer Anita Roth, focusing on sea glass was a happy accident. “I have four children, ages eight to 14, and we spend a lot of time together on the beach collecting shells, rocks and then – sea glass. We always compare our finds at the end of our walks and see who has the find of the day. We became enchanted with sea glass and began searching for it specifically, learning which colors were common or rare.”

Jenny Cupp's handmade sea glass jewelry.Sea glass, addictive as it seems to be, became a favorite focus for Anita as she continued studying and experimenting with photography. First she shot close-ups of flowers, then sea shells, but now she is hooked on sea glass treasures.  She shoots their brilliance on the beach rocks and sand, in cocktail glasses, loosely arranged, and in tight arty compositions.

The sea glass photographs have become Anita’s art form. She offers framed photographs for sale at the West End Garage local Artists’ Cooperative Gallery on West Perry Street in West Cape May.

Also showing her sea glass art at the West End Garage is jewelry designer Jenny Cupp.

She sets sea glass jewels in layered necklaces and wire-wrapped earrings and bracelets. A specialty are her small boxes with mosaics of sea glass and shells. She calls her art Seawings, named for her fascination with the water, the treasures it leaves and the birds that maneuver the shoreline. Jenny always has been a Cape May girl of summer, except for a brief California experience. “I couldn’t stay away from Cape May,” she says. “The sea said come home.”

Carol King Hood uses watercolors to share her love of her sea finds.

Shopkeepers will tell you that every season, the popularity of sea glass art and jewelry is a rising tide. “Perhaps it’s because there’s not as much of it as there used to be,” says Pure Sea Glass author Richard LaMotte who searches across the bay, in Lewes, Delaware. “Now we are strict about recycling glass and so many of our containers and household wares are made of plastic. We are searching for a diminishing part of our past.”

Fellow writer C.S. Lambert describes the kaleidoscope of sea glass “whispers from the past. “And what of these broken relics we treasure?” he asks. “These salt-bleached artifacts pass by the world’s coastlines like nomads on a voyage.  Caught in a perpetual cycle, jitterbugging with the tide, heaved ashore only to creep back ocean-ward, sea glass promises a historical odyssey to those who choose to listen.”

I don’t know about you, but I am ready to “listen” and search for sea glass treasures right now as I pull on my boots and head out the door with a bucket and driftwood rake for a secluded beach on the bay.

 


Cape May Diamonds

This article originally appeared in the August 2009 issue of Cape May Magazine.

A necklace and unpolished quartz from Sunset Beach Gift Shop

My only engagement ring is a Cape May diamond. I treasure it and wear it as if it were the real deal.

Some years ago, my beau and I walked the Cape May Lighthouse beach. It was an afternoon in late May. Spring perfumed the air; the salty sea tang mingling with the smell of the first mow. We sat on a dune, lay back watching billowy clouds and fell into a deep sleep.

On waking, he said, “Let’s walk around the tip of the Cape, I want to show you some place special.” Our day ended at sunset, on Sunset Beach, overlooking Delaware Bay. There, a dozen or so beachcombers were in double-bends, peering into the sand, as though their noses were radar. Their search was for Cape May diamonds. The pebbles are quartz; the precious ones, clear as crystal, and a rare find. The more common ones appear frosted. The most desirable are tear-shaped, a beachcomber explained, are called “angel tears.” Stories were told, he said, that angels dropped tears from heaven in grief over orphan children.

Sunset Beach Gift Shop

We stopped in the Sunset Beach Gift Shop. It’s a store meant for beach lovers, with displays of sea shells, miniature lighthouses, books on shipwrecks. My beau and I went straight back to the glass cases showing a dazzling array of Cape May diamonds. “Pick whichever ring you wish,” he said. “I can’t afford a real one, but this one will be just as special until….” I was giddy as a school girl. In the trays before me, mounted on black velvet, were dozens of Cape May diamond rings. I chose a teardrop set in gold. Two carats of brilliance (even though I have to shine it up with Windex or Mr. Clean).

Still today, the gift shop remains the best place to find Cape May diamond rings, earrings, bracelets, necklaces, pins and tie tacks. The artist-in-residence, as she has been for 18 years, is Jeanette Fox Bartolomeo. The former librarian cherishes her unique fit in life. She collects the raw quartz pebbles on the beach and sifts out the sand. The best stones are selected to be sent off for three weeks of tumbling, using an abrasive to clean off residue, leaving a sparkling gem ready to be cut. At first glance, the crystals, once cut, look like real diamonds, but at a mere fraction of the cost. A genuine diamond sells for about $6,000 a carat. A Cape May diamond is $7.99 a carat!

Artist-in-residence Jeanette Fox Bartolomeo

Jeanette chooses and attaches each faceted diamond in a gold, sterling silver or platinum setting. This intricate work is accomplished in her home studio under powerful lights.

She minds the gift shop counter too, entertaining customers with the stories of Cape May diamonds while assisting the romantic and the curious in finding the gem best suited for a wedding, engagement, souvenir or gift.

“These beautiful gems we call Cape May diamonds are pure quartz crystals,” she says. “They are, in fact, semi-precious stones with a hardness of seven compared to a genuine diamond’s hardness of 10.” Like real diamonds, they are hard enough to cut glass.

Cape May diamonds are our today-connection with the Ice Age. Thousands of years ago, giant sheets of ice covered much of the East Coast. As the glaciers melted, moving northward, they deposited quartz pieces, chipped and torn from the upper reaches of the Appalachian Mountains in northeastern Pennsylvania. The Delaware was a young river then, over the millennia growing into the powerful body of water it is now, traveling 200 miles from its head waters to Delaware Bay to its rendezvous with the Atlantic Ocean. The waters sweep along the quartz pieces, breaking, buffeting, polishing the stones as they roll toward the Atlantic. Some scientists say it takes a stone 3,000 years to make the journey. The river continuously dumps quantities of the pebbles at the mouth of the bay where strong winds whip waves, tossing the stones onto the beaches. The decaying World War I Concrete Ship, the Atlantus, at Sunset Beach acts as a washing machine, the water swirling around it, and throwing up pebbles from the depths of the bay.

The swirling water around the sunken ship Atlantus helps throw pebbles up from the bay.

With luck, beachcombers find a gem dazzling in the sunlight – one that has been tumbled to the brilliance of a jewel from Tiffany’s. That is a rare find, indeed. Most appear frosted in milky white or cloudy beige. If held up to the sunlight, they are translucent. The stones range in size from a pea to an egg, though there are rare treasures that are the size of a baseball. Colors vary, but at the Sunset Beach shop, only the clear stones are available.

If the weather is right, Jeanette beachcombs a couple times a week, always for at least an hour. She runs her hand through her just-collected bucket of diamonds in the rough, and says it’s amazing how these simple stones link our ancient past and present.

The human story begins with the Kechemeche, a tribe of the Lenape of the Algonquin Nation. As the Kechemeche fished and hunted along the bay, they were the first to find the sparkling crystals on the sandy beaches from Cape May Point north to New England Creek, including areas that would later be named Higbee and Diamond beaches. The Native Americans came to believe the translucent gems possessed supernatural powers, bringing good luck and friendship. Bonds of friendship were often sealed with the best stones as gifts.

Victorian-era necklace created by Joseph Swift Hand, owned by Mrs. Clifford Newbold Large.

In the late 1600s, as the whalers from New England and Long Island came ashore, they faced little resistance from the Kechemeche, who were a curious people, not a warring tribe. They traded with the new settlers, and sometimes closed their deals with their prized beach gems as signs of peace and good will.

The greatest story told portrays King Nummy, the last chief of the local Lenape, bestowing his precious Cape May diamond on whaler Christopher Leaming as a signature of friendship. This tale has been passed down through the ages as a legend of the mystical powers of the humble pebbles found on the bay beaches.

It was an exciting day when researchers seeking the origins of the local diamonds at the Cape May County Historical and Genealogical Society library in Cape May Court House discovered documents deep in the archives proving the legend to be a true story.

A 1939 issue of the Philadelphia Bulletin reports that the diamond was, at that time, in the possession of Mrs. Genevieve Leaming Sheppard Stevens at 1019 New Jersey Avenue, in Cape May:

“While the fame of Cape May diamonds has spread around the world, the original cut Cape May diamond has reposed in the safekeeping of members of the Leaming family, who have passed it down from generation to generation. Since coming into Mrs. Stevens’ possession, the original Cape May Diamond has been safeguarded most of the time in a safe deposit box in a local bank.

This 1,800 carat Cape May diamond, one of the world’s largest, is on display at the Cape May County Historical and Genealogical Society

“This unique and exquisite, flawless jewel, a gem of its kind, like the family in whose possession it has remained from the earliest Colonial period, is inseparably interwoven with the history of New Jersey from the very beginning.”

King Nummy is described as presenting the diamond to Christopher Leaming on the occasion of his marriage [in the 1750s]. “The union… to Sarah, the daughter of Jacob Spicer, 2nd, was a festive occasion. According to the family tradition a great throng from far and near gathered to do honor to the contracting parties and to express by their presence and substantial and valuable gifts the affection in which they regarded the young people.” King Nummy, it is said, believed the Great Spirit was actually “tabernacled” in the stone.

Christopher Leaming, understanding the possibilities of the stone, sent it to Antwerp, Holland, where, “It came under the fashioning artistry of a famous lapidary, who set free its scintillating beauties and who returned this gem to its American owner in its present magnificent setting.”

A Cape May Diamond in the rough. Ring designed by Adrienne Elizabeth Scharnikow

In 1961, Karl Dickinson, the curator of the Cape May County Historical and Genealogical Society, was in search of the whereabouts of the famous diamond. He wrote Robert Alexander Montgomery, founder of the Montgomery, Scott & Co. financial house in Philadelphia, and received a response: “My paternal grandmother was a Leaming, and therefore, I am descended from the original Leaming settler in Cape May (Christopher). …Several years ago, I acquired from my cousins, Rev. and Mrs. Stevens, the so-called King Nummy Cape May Diamond that was given by said King to the Leamings about 1750. It is a piece of Quartz, Emerald cut, and resembles what would be about a 20 Carat Diamond. As a matter of fact, I have copies of a very extensive description of this stone setting that was written up in one of your local papers several years ago…”

Fourteen years passed, and on March 6, 1975, Mr. Montgomery answered a correspondence from Karl Dickinson saying, “You will be pleased to know that my wife wears the Leaming Cape May Diamond with great pride, and in due course it will be the property of my oldest granddaughter, who is now already sixteen!”

Oh, wonderful, we thought, for our renewed search for the Cape May Diamond in 2009! Mr. Montgomery was a famous Philadelphian, and chances are we can locate the diamond today, and take photos of it, and update the King Nummy legend.

The Ardrossan estate, the last-known whereabouts of the Leaming Cape May Diamond. Photograph courtesy Ryan Richards/Main Line Media News

Robert Alexander Montgomery had lived at Ardrossan, the 360-acre Radnor, Pennsylvania estate that inspired the movie The Philadelphia Story in which Katharine Hepburn played Tracy Lord, modeled after Montgomery’s sister, Hope Montgomery Scott. She was known as Philadelphia aristocracy’s most flamboyant best-dressed hostess, equestrian and shepherd of her beloved purebred Ayrshire cows that grazed the landscape.

The Montgomery family is legendary in its own right. Patriarch Robert Leaming Montgomery, “The Colonel,” was foxhunting one day in the undulating Radnor countryside. At the top of the rise his horse bucked, throwing Montgomery to the ground. The hunt and his horse rode on, leaving Montgomery sitting on his butt in the thick grass. He surveyed the landscape from the hilltop and vowed it would be this spot one day where he would live. He did just that. With the money made in his financial company, the Montgomery mansion – with its 50 rooms, walnut-paneling, exquisite antiques, Persian rugs and fine paintings – rose from the hilltop in 1911. Cole Porter himself played piano at parties. The Duke and Duchess of Windsor were guests. MGM producers found the mansion too grand as a set for The Philadelphia Story, and shot the movie elsewhere.

Hope Montgomery Scott. Photograph courtesy Ryan Richards/Main Line Media News

It is in this setting that R. Alexander Montgomery’s wife wore the famous 20-carat Cape May Diamond. Ah, but who is wearing it now? Mr. Montgomery died in 1997 at age 85. Among his survivors is a daughter, Alexandra Montgomery Estey. Certainly she will know of the diamond’s whereabouts. I located Mrs. Estey, and though charmed by the legend of the diamond and its special place in her family’s history, she had no memory of it, and no idea of where it might be. She checked with other family members. To her chagrin, the diamond was not to be found.

Both she and her brother indicated their father had fallen on some bad financial times, and at one point, was forced to liquidate personal treasures – sometimes with pawn brokers – to pay off debts. For his children, there was no trust fund legacy.

Alexandra Estey is pleased to know the story of the diamond, but sorry that its centuries-old link to Leaming descendants has been broken, for the time being. She does have hope that one day the famous family diamond will be found. Her faith springs from another family story.

Her son’s grandfather and namesake, Navy Lt. N. Minter Dial, was a World War II hero who was taken prisoner by the Japanese at Corregidor in the Philippines. He survived the Bataan Death March and three years in POW camps, but was wounded by U.S. fire on a Japanese prisoner ship. As he lay dying, he passed his 1932 Annapolis class ring to a fellow officer for delivery to his wife. Even Ripley’s Believe it or Not would not believe that the ring was saved as it was being melted at a Korean pawn shop 18 years later by a classmate of Dial’s, and returned to the family.

“Miracles do happen,” says Alexandra Montgomery Dial Estey. She cherishes the story of the Cape May Diamond and wishes to see it one day.

Sometimes real life is the greatest playwright.


Which beach is THE beach?

beach shots 2006 060

Originally published in Cape May Magazine, July 2006. Photographs by Erin Kirk and Sara Kornacki

Cape May has some of the best beaches in the world. Yup, in the world.

Now before you start rattling off some exotic names from far-off places, think about it: when it comes to accessibility, enjoyability, affordability, agreeability, hard-body visibility, gastro-diversity and eco-activity, Cape May is tops. Truly.

No need for a boat or plane to get to Cape May’s beaches. Sure, everyone wants to visit Maui, or St. John, or San Tropez, but do you have an extra five grand for transportation? Beach tag fees are reasonable on Cape Island and the water is some of the cleanest around. It’s safe, well-kept and the businesses are locally-owned. There’s fishing, boating, swimming, eating, drinking, partying, and yada yada yada. Shall I continue? I think not.

But while the peripherals – the great restaurants, the historic architecture, the cool vibe –are added bonuses that can keep you occupied throughout the year, it’s the beaches – from Lower Township through Cape May Point and up to Poverty Beach  – that are the jewels in the Cape Island crown.

Cape Island is a hoof-shaped spit of land at the southern tip of New Jersey. The Delaware Bay laps the western edge of the island, Cape May City fronts the Atlantic on the southeastern side and the Cape May Canal, built around the time of World War II, cuts the island off from the rest of the mainland on the northside. And in that ten or so square miles of peninsula are beaches as divine and diverse as any coastal area in the states. Let’s start on the bayside.

higbee dog 2Higbee Wildlife Management Area

Higbee Beach is a wildlife management area owned by the state. It’s wild, there are no lifeguards or bathrooms, and it can practically disappear at high-tide. But it’s a great place to get away from the madding crowd and let the dog run loose.

To get there, turn left onto New England Road just before you cross the canal bridge on Seashore Road. Follow New England Road, and please drive slowly as there are kids about and besides, there’s some great open space that commands a slow look. The road dead-ends into the tree-lined and pothole-riddled parking lot.

higbee dog 3Higbee is a great place to take your dog. The beach is bounded by wild dunes covered in native New Jersey scrub bushes like bayberry, Ragusa roses and low pine. But as for amenities, there are none. I think there’s a port-a-john out there but I’ve never used it. And whatever you do, don’t go swimming in the water and for heaven’s sake, don’t go diving around out there. The remains of former industries and people’s past lives are close below the surface out at Higbee and you could easily swim into the remains of someone’s chimney or an old dock or something. With no lifeguards and submerged hazards Higbee’s is not the best swimming beach on the island.

You should also know that Higbee has a, um, colorful, reputation. It’s not a common occurrence, but occasionally someone is arrested on the beach for the crime of being naked. Nudists are drawn there like moths to a flame and some have taken their fight to the courts, attempting to lobby the powers that be to let them do their thing. But alas, going au natural at Higbee remains a crime and the undercover officers (no pun intended) there will make you put your clothes on. They’ll probably ticket you and if you give them cause they’ll arrest you. The rules are fewer at Higbee but don’t go nude.

Here’s the skinny. It’s a great bike ride out to the beach if you’re in the mood. It’s a couple mile ride from Cape May but it’s enjoyable (I suggest the Bayshore route). Get there and let the dog run without a leash but be prepared to meet other unleashed dogs. Expect skeeters and pee before you go there. Marvel at the rugged shoreline and watch the Cape May Lewes Ferry as it steams into port. Contemplate the mystery of the South Voodoo Tree (look for it, you’ll see it). If you go into the woods, check yourself for ticks when you leave.

sunset-beach

Sunset Beach

Sunset Beach

Adjacent to Higbee (yet a several mile trek by Bayshore Road) is Sunset Beach in Lower Township. Sunset Beach, as you might guess offers great sunsets every night and is a favorite spot for families and people who simply want to park free and park very close to the beach. There’s a nearby gift shop and the Sunset Grill offers beach fare al fresco.

“I love their crabcake sandwich,” said Jane Ashburn of Lumberville, Pa.

Sunset is a cute spot to sit (there are benches) or stare (there are coin-operated binoculars), fly a kite or take pictures. If you want photos of the S.S. Atlantus, the experimental concrete ship resting offshore (locals simply refer to it as the Concrete Ship), get there quickly, the ocean is claiming its hulking remains. And the nightly flag-lowering ceremony is stirring.

“Sunset is my favorite,” said Jane, who claims to be 70 but looks closer to 55. “I’ve been coming here all my life. I love the guy that makes everybody get up at the end of the day and salute. It’s old-fashioned, it’s patriotic and we need that.”

You might find Cape May Diamonds at Sunset, but you need to know what you’re looking for. There are no lifeguards, the sand is a little rough and it’s not one of the sexier beaches on the island, but it’s worth a look.

“My sister and I always come to Sunset,” said Alyisa Mercaldo, 20, of Green Creek. “It’s just where we like to be. I like to look for diamonds.”

A fun and easy bike ride down Sunset Boulevard to Sunset Beach should be on your list of things to do. Look for Fire Control Tower #23 in the scrub and take a tour.

Cape May Point beach

Cape May Point beach

Cape May Point

I love the point. Quaint, quiet, 99.9 percent residential, unassuming, independent, close-knit and fun loving, “The Point” is a unique spot. It reminds me of some remote seaside outpost; constantly battling with a furious ocean intent on devouring the beaches and driving residents further inland. But Point residents, all six of them (I kid), are fiercely independent and sweep the sand out of the streets every spring and carry on.

The Point, with the help of the Army Corps of Engineers, has been refurbishing its entire stretch of beach for several years. As a result, the beaches are wider and flatter than they’ve been in years. It’s a much mellower vibe than Cape May City and the beach patrol are a fun, friendly and professional bunch.

“I’m not sure I should tell you about my favorite spot,” said Jen Kopp of Lower Township. “But I like St. Peter’s in the Point. It’s quiet, there’s free parking – it’s my secret spot.”

Not much in the way of amenities in the point and that’s the way they like it out there. Pack a lunch and understand that facilities are very limited.

Cape May Point State Park

point

Cape May Point state park

A beach replenishment project meant that the park had to add new walkways across the dunes in the park. And a much-debated effort to rid the area of invasive phragmites has cleared large tracts of the park of the unsightly reeds and opened new vistas that haven’t been seen in awhile.

The concrete bunker now sits on dry land thanks to untold tons of sand pumped onto the beach. The beach is free but swimming is still prohibited due to underwater hazards, like railroad tracks and the remnants of World War II gun batteries.

The park is a great place to see dolphins and a walk east toward Cape May is an energizing stroll through the William and Jane Blair bird refuge. There are great facilities at the park as well as rangers. The park is also home to the world famous Cape May Lighthouse and hawk watching platform. It’s a nice place to bird watch or people watch and has picnic and grilling facilities. The clean bathrooms alone are worth the price of admission, which is free.

City Of Cape May

The Cove

The Cove

The City of Cape May has the kind of beaches that the Jersey Shore is famous for: lots of bikinis, plenty of nearby bars, restaurants and shopping, and a long history of beach culture. The nuances of each beach require years of study to fully appreciate. Cape May beaches – the slope, the size, the crowd, the waves – change from year to year. But the surf, sand and sun are the constants that have attracted people from far and wide for centuries.

Cape May requires beach tags and has more rules than other beaches on the island. Go to capemaycity.org for a complete schedule of beach times, guard schedules, fees and ordinances. Locals mix with tourists on all the beaches although lots of people tend to return to the same spot throughout a summer season. Don’t worry about anything, just layout your blanket and chill.

The Cove is the king of the Cape May beaches. The gentle slope has made the Cove a family-friendly spot recently and the surfing there is always popular. The Cove is an ever-changing place and the shape of the beach changes from year to year. Some folks think it’s getting a little crowded, but the view is spectacular and the flag lowering ceremony is inspirational. Good sand too. Weekend weddings can be a nuisance, but it’s still a happening spot. Locals – the ones who have a free moment in the summer – often arrive after 5.

Grant Street Beach and CMBP headquarters

Grant Street Beach and CMBP headquarters

“The Cove is my favorite spot, hands down,” said Sue Lotozo, owner of the Flying Fish Studio on Park Boulevard in West Cape May, and a local beach connoisseur. “I like to get there after four when everyone’s leaving and stay until the last shred of daylight is gone from the sky. I like the way it’s ever-changing. One year there’s a giant tide pool and the next there’s an exposed jetty.”

The Cove is a laid-back place.

I like the community of surfers at the Cove,” added Sue. “It’s a nice long ride heading’ down toward the lighthouse. There are a lot of regulars there, just a wide range of people. You wind up getting to know these people just because you like to surf the Cove.

And the Cove offers plenty of natural attractions as well. Sue describes her walks along the water edge as a “science experiment.”

“You can find all kinds of unusual beach artifacts. It’s not groomed and it’s very natural,” said Sue.

As you move east (or north, depending on whom you’re talking to) Broadway is next. Broadway is the beginning of what’s locally regarded as the locals’ beaches. A lot of the West Cape May kids follow Broadway right to the beach. The locals all know that Broadway is where the younger kids hang. The unspoken pecking order that rules adolescent life ensures that the local grade and middle-schoolers have their own space at Broadway.

But Broadway also attracts a diverse crowd, including long-timers like Dan Anderson, 60, who hangs at Broadway, well, “because it’s where my wife goes.”

Smart man. Seriously though, want to know why Dan lives at the beach?

Congress Beach

Congress Beach

“So I can sea (see) level,” he claims. Get it? “There’s bathrooms, good lifeguards (I was a lifeguard on that beach for about a month many years ago) and there’s a place to get food.”

As you move east Patterson is where you’ll find the legendary Rusty Nail restaurant and bar. It’s a beach patrol hangout, boasts the coldest beer in town and is recommended for a visit.

Grant Street is home to the world famous Cape May Beach Patrol headquarters (but they don’t sell beach tags). Plenty of eye candy though. Then there’s Windsor, a favorite neighborhood beach.

“I’ve been coming to Windsor Beach since 1948, because, well, I’ve always lived on Windsor,” said Sandy Thomson, who relocated to Cape May in the 1990s after a career as a teacher.

Congress Street has been host to the fireworks display on July 4. It’s also the location of Congress Hall, which some consider the city’s “living room.” Congress Hall does things right and the personalized beach chair and towel service is a great example. If you’ve had the pleasure of staying at Congress Hall take advantage man, take advantage.

stegers

Steger’s Beach

When you hit Perry Street, you’re in the thick of. This is the start of Steger’s Beach and it’s where you’ll find many of the young locals, including Kelsey Herchenrider, from Lower Township. You might find Kelsey with a large group of her friends right in front of the South End Surf Shop.

“I like hanging out with all my friends,” said Kelsey.

The Perry Street side of Steger’s is mainly high schoolers, it gets older as you move east and it’s been that way for a long time. Freshman might get to hang at Stegers, but they’re also probably going to get some lectures on taking care of their beaches and all that stuff.

“It’s a chill place,” said Sean Peterson. “All the good food places are there.”

conventionNext up is Decatur Street, which is a magnificent spot. There are plenty of nearby restaurants and bars in case you need a break from the sun. Cabana’s, Carney’s, Martini Beach and the Fin Bar are all located just steps from the Decatur Street beach. It’s also a favorite spot for some of the twenty-something locals, like Megan Magill who can be found with a few of her close friends right in front of Cabana’s.

“You can see everything that’s going on from here,” said Megan. “You can see Beach Drive (actually, it’s Beach Avenue – but most locals refer to it as Beach Drive), you can see the Boardwalk. Plus you know when it’s time to head up for happy hour.”

If you’re wondering how to score one of those beach boxes or cabanas, call Steger’s Beach Service. They’ve got the franchise on those babies and the word on them is that they get passed down from generation to generation.

“Yeah, some of the names on those cabanas have been there a long time,” said Sandy Thomson.

Howard is the beginning of East Cape May. The shopping and bars are replaced by giant beachfront inns and houses.  I think the beaches just don’t seem to get enough of the beach groomer’s attention out here, but families return to these beaches out here like the swallows to San Capistrano. East Cape May runs for a mile or so and includes Jefferson Street, Queen Street (say hi to local photographer Don Merwin), Madison, Philadelphia (get a hotdog at the little hotdog stand there. I guarantee it’s worth the price), Reading (Peter Shields Inn), Pittsburgh, (home to the La Mer Inn), Baltimore, Brooklyn and finally Poverty Beach at Wilmington.

poverty

Poverty Beach

Poverty Beach has a long history. Legend has it that in the old days the “help” frequented poverty beach. The entrance to the beach has changed a bit, but there are showers there now. Free parking is a plus and the crowd includes many people from the nearby neighborhood.

“I love Poverty,” said Samantha Lapp of North Cape May. “It’s quiet and there are no parking meters.”

From Higbee Beach to Poverty Beach, Cape May is a beach-lovers’ paradise. Pick the beach that suits you best and put your best suit on (swimsuit that is). Whether you’re interested in seeing friends, returning to a traditional spot, convenient food and beverage, solitude, or nearby shopping, there’s beach that’s just right for you in Cape May.