Two Small Girls Drown in South Jersey

Swimming pool with stair

A 4-year-old girl from Levittown died on Monday after she was pulled from unguarded waters at Lake & Shore RV Resort in Ocean View, Cape May County several days prior, the Press of Atlantic City reported.

The girl’s death was the second drowning of a small child down the Shore in three short days. A 6-year-old Philadelphia girl died on Saturday after she drowned in the pool at the Nantucket Inn and Suites in Wildwood, police said. The motel has posted signs around the pool that state, “No Lifeguard on Duty” and “Swim at Your Own Risk.” Read more »

I Love My Job: Jack Morey of Morey’s Piers in Wildwood

Jack Morey in front of the WipeOut slide at Ocean Oasis Water Park and Beach Club in Wildwood (left) and testing out Morey’s Great Nor’Easter coaster (right).

Though summer doesn’t officially start until June 21st, here in the Philadelphia area, we like to think it starts this weekend. So we checked in with Jack Morey of Wildwood’s legendary and longstanding Morey’s Piers to see what’s in store this season.

I grew up in… Ft. Lauderdale, but I was born here. My dad’s from here, my mom’s from Reading. They met in Wildwood. He was a builder. She was engaged to somebody else, and he had to convince her to marry him. And we spent our time between Ft. Lauderdale and here in Wildwood.

We opened our first hotel in… 1957. My dad used to build doo-wop hotels for other people, and one day he decided to do it for himself. In 1957, he opened the Fantasy. Every other year, they’d sell a hotel and build another and move closer and closer to the beach.

Jack and his father in Wildwood.

These days, the Morey’s family owns… Morey’s piers, the water parks and resorts. There are three active amusement piers, two water parks and four hotels — the Port Royal, Blue Palms, Starlux, and the Pan-Am.

This year at Morey’s Piers we’re… doubling-down on food. We’re reinventing most of the menus, and we’ve got a new relationship with the Garces Group. They’re consulting, not running. But they’re helping us get a lot more serious about the food. But the really cool thing is the Penthouse at the Pan-Am, where our family lived in the summer in the 60s and 70s. We just redesigned it for this season, back to an awful lot of what it was originally was: an elegant showpiece born in the early 70s with a little bit of James Bond, some 60s old school glamour. It’s a helluva place.

Not Your Average Jersey Shore Motel: The Penthouse at Morey’s Pan-Am resort.

The last time I was on a roller coaster was… very recently. It was the Great Nor’Easter, our coaster that was built in 1995. We just re-tracked the entire thing at a cost of $5 million. It’s a much smoother ride now. Guests now demand a smoother experience. Shaking your brains out used to be cool.

People would be surprised to know that I can… barefoot waterski. My dad taught me years ago. I can also ride a unicycle.

The best non-Morey’s place to eat in Wildwood is… the Lobster House. There’s something about it. It’s not the finest of food, but it’s classic and just tacky enough to be fun. Here at Morey’s, you’ve gotta eat at Breakfast In the Sky, our Ferris wheel gourmet breakfast 150-feet in the air. And Joe’s Fish Company, which is super great and really fresh.

The hardest thing about my job is… that it’s a seasonal business. It takes 1,700 people to make it go around.

My role at Morey’s is basically… the planning of it all. My brother Will is the CEO. I get to travel a lot and see a lot of things that wind up shaping the environment that we’re in. I have a backlog of projects on my desk. You want to build them all, but you just can’t. I’m working on four for next year. If I’m lucky, we’ll get to do one. In the next three years, there will be a major waterpark expansion and at least one new rollercoaster. It’s a lot of fun, but it’s also really hard.

Will’s role is… lots of things. I get to think of ten things and he gets to keep me from building nine of them.

The best place I’ve traveled to was… New Zealand, three or four years ago. My son was in school in Australia and we went to visit him, because we were afraid he wasn’t going to come home. New Zealand is like a giant national park.

One crazy project I haven’t been able to do yet… is a really large rollercoaster that will connect two piers together. It’s really beautiful to look at, and it’s all designed.

Ten years from now, Morey’s will be… internationally recognized as the best seaside park in the world.

The last book I read cover to cover was… Let My People Go Surfing. That’s an excellent book. And Hillbilly Elegy is terrific as well.

The hardest decision I ever had to make in this business… was when we were considering putting up a gate for all of the facilities, meaning people would pay general admission to walk onto the piers. We were on the fence for a long time. We actually decided to do it and then got cold feet. I think it would have been a disaster. Would have changed the entire culture of the boardwalk. This is a very public place. We made the right decision.

I get most of my ideas from… public spaces in cities. I love public spaces. There is a very social thing going on in public spaces. I don’t like theme parks that much. It’s a very controlled environment. The city’s big organic thing is a better social experience.

When someone uses that spray sunscreen near me, I think… man, that is really stupid.

The furthest I have ever driven was… from Seattle. It was a few months ago. I was leaving Colorado — it was me, my wife, and our two dogs — and I thought rather than just go home, let’s go to Seattle and Oregon. We did 8,260 miles in a small Jeep.

My second favorite shore town is… probably Cape May.

If I were the mayor of Wildwood, I would… embrace longer-term strategies in order to develop a really unique resort. Those strategies would include a beach park — a park on the beach. Only Wildwood has the opportunity to do that, because we have the widest beach. And I would focus like a hawk on public spaces, because only then would the place become a great spot to live year-round. The other thing I’d do is merge all three towns together — Wildwood, Wildwood Crest, and North Wildwood. Them being separate is a carryover of provincial thinking from 100 years ago that makes no sense whatsoever today.

The negative partying reputation that Wildwood has… is, no doubt, to some extent deserved, and it’s a very hard thing to get rid of. But I don’t think it’s a crazy party place. When I talk to people who don’t think they’ll like it, I give them some free pier tickets, and they always love it.

The best beach movie ever made was… Jaws. We played Jaws on the beach 15 years ago and 600 people showed up to watch it.

When we hear complaints about Morey’s… we consider it a learning opportunity. The customer really is often not right, but still. I would rather hear critiques than people always saying nice things. I can’t make the place better when you just say nice things. You gotta have some thick skin in this business.

Follow @VictorFiorillo on Twitter

Philly Prof’s New Book Treats Wildwood Motels Like the Works of Art They Are

The Blue Marlin Motel in Wildwood Crest -- blue beach chairs and blue walls

The Blue Marlin Motel, at Toledo and Atlantic avenues in Wildwood Crest | Photo courtesy of Mark Havens

It all started with the Garden State Parkway.

The roadway’s construction — complemented by the postwar boom period — led to the birth of the Wildwoods. The several cities that make up the five-mile island had been around since the late 1800s and early 1900s, but it wasn’t until carloads of middle-class Philadelphians trekked down the shore that the Wildwoods became the place we think of today.

And the simple L- or U-shaped motels built around that time are more than just places to sleep. “For a clientele whose out-of-reach dream vacation was Polynesia, the Caribbean or even the exotic Far East, Wildwood willingly stood in as a surrogate,” architecture critic Joseph Giovannini writes. “Blue-collar workers from as close as Philadelphia or as far away as Montreal could still enjoy a week of vacation on the sand in an environment that evoked distant lands.”

Giovannini writes that in an introdutory essay in a new book by Philadelphia University industrial design professor Mark Havens. His Out of Season: The Vanishing Architecture of the Wildwoods chronicles 10 years of Havens’ fine art photography of the famous Wildwood motel. While much Wildwood architecture hagiography focuses on kitsch, Havens’ book goes a bit deeper: The beauty of the chair placement at the Blue Marlin Motel, the wonderful doors at the Ocean Sands Motel, the hilarity of the neon sign and pirate combo at the Jolly Roger.

“These motels were very simple, built mostly from cinder block, stucco, iron railings and a few coats of paint,” New School professor Jamer Hunt writes in the book’s other essay. “Few mistook them for anything more than what they were—economical. But through the inventive and highly formalist use of decorative elements, owners, contractors, and architects were able to elevate these buildings beyond the utilitarian. They created a genuine, expressive middle-class vacation aesthetic that transcends the more saccharine pleasures of the big-budget signs and exotic names.”

I talked with Havens about his book. This conversation has been lightly edited for style and length. Read more »

Wildwood Boardwalk Shirts Update: Pokémon, Trump and Harambe

Pokemon Go, American Flag 'If this flag offends you, I'll help you pack' shirts

A store on the Wildwood boardwalk advertises Pokemon Go and American flag t-shirts | Photo: Dan McQuade

I was in Los Angeles last month, and I was on the lookout for t-shirts.

Not all over L.A., but during my visit to Santee Alley. Immediately after arriving there, I knew this would be a fertile ground for boardwalk-style t-shirts.

I was right! But Santee Alley was different than the Donald Trump-a-thon going on in Wildwood: The t-shirts on Santee Alley were mostly anti-Trump, including one that said: “Relax, Trump. I just look illegal.”

It is now August. It has been two months since my last boardwalk t-shirt column. When I went down to Wildwood this weekend, I knew it was time to research a boardwalk t-shirt update. Read more »

Donald Trump T-Shirts Have Taken Over the Wildwood Boardwalk

wildwood-t-shirts-2016-940x540

Welcome to the fifth annual edition of the Wildwood Boardwalk T-Shirt Guide!

Not a lot has changed on the boards since I did my first one of these in 2012. I probably wouldn’t have believed you four years ago if you told me that I’d still be doing this in 2016. I definitely wouldn’t have believed you if you told me Donald Trump would be the hottest item on boardwalk shirts this year.

But it’s true. I spoke with five different shop owners during a trip to the Wildwood boardwalk this week. None of them wanted to be identified — perhaps because of the massive copyright infringement the Wildwood boardwalk t-shirt business thrives on, or maybe they were just shy — but they all agreed: They expect to sell a ton of Donald Trump merchandise this summer.

[ Previous Wildwood boardwalk t-shirt columns: 2012 | 2013 (’13 Update) | 2014 | 2015 (’15 Update) ]

But if the hottest shirts on the Wildwood boardwalk this summer are ones supporting Donald Trump, the number two item might be shirts opposing him.

Wildwood boardwalk t-shirts - Trump

(Yes, that’s a “We Shall Overcomb” pun on a shirt that has turned Donald Trump’s hair into a bald eagle.) Read more »

Wildwood’s Beaches Named Top 10 for Families

Wildwood beach

Photo | Dan McQuade

It is a long walk to the ocean in the Wildwoods. At the beach’s most expansive points, expect to walk about 10 minutes from the boardwalk to the Atlantic Ocean. On hot days it seems even longer. It can be a pretty tough trek when you’re carrying loads of beach gear.

But the Wildwood beaches are also pretty nice: Their size means there’s never a problem finding a spot to soak in the sun, a place to play beach games or a deserted area to dig a giant hole in the sand. They’re clean. And they stretch for five miles along North Wildwood, Wildwood and Wildwood Crest; there’s actually a lot of variety in the beach in different places. Also, it’s free.

Wildwood’s beaches do have detractors, however. An Asbury Park Press reader survey voted them the third worst. But those are North Jersey haters. A recent ranking by Family Vacation Critic put the Wildwoods in the top-10 best beaches for families in the country. Read more »

2 Brothers Admit Peddling Bootleg Jerseys on Wildwood Boardwalk

Bootleg jerseys - Wildwood - counterfeit jerseys - U.S. Department of Justice photo

The game on the Wildwood boardwalk where the Strothers brothers gave away counterfeit basketball jerseys as prizes. (Photo: U.S. Department of Justice)

As an expert in Wildwood boardwalk T-shirts, it’s time to let you readers in on a little secret: Not all of the shirts are officially licensed products. Logos are used without permission, store owners swipe T-shirt ideas from one another and — maybe because infringers can escape into the sea — the boardwalk is generally a copyright lawlessness zone.

But not always. In the past two weeks, two South Jersey brothers have pleaded guilty to purchasing at least 16,700 counterfeit basketball and football jerseys and giving them away as prizes at three outposts on the boardwalk in Wildwood and North Wildwood. To which I say: It’s actually possible to win those prizes on the Wildwood boardwalk’s basketball games?! Read more »

“I’m Not Gay” T-Shirt Makes Our Roundup of Surprising Wildwood Finds

Philly Mag‘s own Dan McQuade writes an annual column about some of the most repetitive (and, let’s just admit it, most lame) t-shirts that seem to litter souvenir stands along the Wildwood Boardwalk, but something tells me you’d find these goods at just about any Jersey beach (Atlantic City, anyone?).

Nevertheless, in this year’s list, McQuade found a shirt mixed in amongst the mountains of Minons that’s quite surprising, given that it is 2015:

gay-nuts

Yup, there with Frozen and Deez Nuts Got Em is a tank that says “I’m Not Gay But $20 is $20.” I’ve seen the shirt before, normally worn by gay dudes, but here it is being pimped along the boardwalk’s family friendly designs.

“Hey, everyone’s gotta make a living,” McQuade wrote about the tank. Now we know what’s going on behind those lifeguard stands. Am I right?

Minions Have Taken Over the Wildwood Boardwalk

Every kind of minion imaginable is on the Wildwood boardwalk. Even naked minions.

Every kind of minion imaginable is on the Wildwood boardwalk. Even naked minions.

When you’re the guy who writes an annual column about t-shirts on the Wildwood boardwalk, your friends send you a lot of texts about the latest t-shirt trends when they go down the shore. (I get a lot of weird texts from my friends.)

The past month, I’ve been getting the same texts from friends: Minions. There are minions all over the boardwalk.

I recently went down to Wildwood to investigate, and my friends’ texts were right: Every type of minion imaginable is on the Wildwood boardwalk. Regular minions. Minions with pithy inspirational sayings next to them. Ninja Turtle minions. Batman minions. Heath Ledger Joker minions. Superman minions. Spider-man minions. Even Green Lantern minions. Who likes Green Lantern? And, yes, there are naked minions.

Earlier this summer, I wrote about how minions are making Comcast millions. (The company owns Universal.) The spin-off movie in the Despicable Me franchise, Minions, has made more than $962 million worldwide since its release on July 10th. That’s almost a billion dollars in a little over a month! No wonder minions are all over the boardwalk. Too bad for t-shirt vendors another Universal/Comcast hit, Jurassic Park, isn’t so easily meme-able.

Let’s check out a few more late bloomers on the boardwalk this summer. Read more »

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