7 Ways to Tell If You’re a Shoobie

Yes, summer's almost here, which means an invasion of Shoobies at the Shore. Are you one of them? Take my quiz

When my mother was a little girl growing up in West Philadelphia, she would take the train down the Shore with her family for a day at the beach. My grandmother would pack them all lunches, which they would carry in shoe boxes. On the train, my mother would tell me, were hundreds of other little girls and boys with shoe boxes.

Of course, the owners of restaurants and snack stands along the shore weren’t all too happy to see this herd of shoe-box-carrying kids walking right by their establishments with lunch in hand. The shoe box families got a reputation of coming to the beach for the day and not spending a dime. And so they were labeled with the derogatory nickname “shoobies.” [SIGNUP]

That was my Mom’s definition. Others claim that shoobies are people who have to walk on the beach wearing their shoes, unlike the locals, whose daily barefoot jaunts from asphalt to the boardwalk to the beach have toughened their feet. It’s like being called a tenderfoot or, more to the point, a wimp.

Either way, the term shoobie stuck. Every Memorial Day comes the sounding of the official shoobie starting gun for the Atlantic City Expressway 500. Before you nuzzle your shoobie car up to the starting line next week, let’s take a closer look at the word, its meaning and its synonyms. It’s the first day of Jersey Shore 101.

If you are a shoobie you may not know you are being called one, but you are. One day I was walking on the Ocean City boardwalk, when I saw a teenager carried off by the police for being drunk and disorderly. When I asked a student with an “Ocean City High School” sweatshirt what happened, she said, “Oh, some shoobie was mouthing off to the cops.” She said it with just a touch of disdain. I guess she didn’t realize she was talking to someone who comes from a long line of shoobies on my mother’s side.

My father grew up in Atlantic City and was even a lifeguard. So, in effect, I’m from a mixed marriage, a local and a shoobie. But since I have made more than one day trip to the shore as an adult, since I have changed out of my swimsuit in the car, since I have jumped in the ocean to avoid the beach tag militia, I am most definitely a full grown shoobie.

There are other terms for Jersey Shore tourists that are just as disparaging. North of Brigantine, shoobies are called bennies. On Labor Day, some of the natives in Ocean and Monmouth counties have big “Go Home Bennies” parties. Natives hang sheets on the front of their houses and sit on their porches, drinking beer as they watch the bumper to bumper, end of the summer traffic leaving the Shore communities. And as the cars go by they say, “Go home bennies.” It’s such a warm, neighborly tradition. A friend told me that “Benny” is an acronym for Bayonne, Elizabeth and Newark or New York, some of the common hometowns of the tourists.

But just like with shoobies, there are differing views on the origin. Here is an unofficial definition of a Benny from an Internet surfer’s dictionary:

Benny (beh’-nee) n: (Archaic) A tanless tourist on the beach. Long ago, doctors believed the sun’s rays were “beneficial” to one’s health, thus the term “Benny” was born. Synonyms: shoobie, fudgie Origin: the Jersey Shore

Your first reaction to that definition may be, “Fudgie? What’s that?” That is an epithet born on the Atlantic City boardwalk. Tourists from Philadelphia, New York and other Godforsaken inland communities were infamous for going to the boardwalk candy shops and buying fudge by the pound. And so a tourist carrying a fudge box became known as a fudgie. My family always brought a big box of fudge back from the sure. I didn’t know until recently that I was from a family of fudgies.

I am so glad fudgie didn’t stick. Given a choice, I’d rather be called a shoobie over a fudgie any day of the week.

Now I know many of you are reading this in shoobie confusion. For Shore natives, it’s easy to pick out the shoobie. Which means if you don’t know what a shoobie is, you probably are one. Let me make it easy for you with a few easy questions:

* Have you ever used wet towels as car drapes so pedestrians or other drivers can’t see you shimmy out of your bathing suit?

* Have you ever spent more than five minutes getting your towel in the perfect tanning position to the sun?

* Do you carry enough blankets, towels, coolers, umbrellas and other beach paraphernalia that your family looks more like a safari expedition when you finally get to the beach?

* Do you go in the water, dip down to your waist, wave your hands in the water and then get out?

* Do you insist on listening to a Philadelphia radio station on the beach, even when it sounds like the noise from a World War II field radio?

* Do you engage in any kind of relationship with seagulls, feeding then, chasing them, etc?

* Do you have more than three skin tones in the summer?

If you answer yes to any of the above questions, I am afraid you are a shoobie. But don’t be ashamed. I too am a shoobie and am proud of it. I will burn the bottom of my feet, display my white pasty skin, and eat a refilled bucket of Johnson’s popcorn and pile up enough sand in my car to bury a cat.

Say it with me, “I am Shoobie and I am proud.”

But call me a fudgie and we’ve got a problem.