Yesterday's Magazette

7 – The Boardwalk In Winter

The Boardwalk In Winter

By Nicholas Campanella


The scent of seasoned wood stands out over the smell of the salt water. The Atlantic waves crash lonely upon the empty beach. Foam. You can see the waves, gray, in the distance, heading for shore. Arriving from distant places to come to an end on this sandy beach.

The boardwalk is the most isolated place on earth in the winter. The ghosts of summer haunt this boarded-up place. The food stands, arcades, bars – they’re all closed. Looking like they’ve been given up on. Abandoned. At each end of the boardwalk the piers that reach over the ocean have all of the rides covered in thick tarpaulin. It is a cloudy day. The slightest sprinkle falls from the sky. It is cold, as New Jersey always is in the winter. The sun has retreated to the south where it keeps other places warm through the winter, places where people head, fleeing the cold.

No one is a friend to the boardwalk in the winter. The boardwalk has only summertime sunshine friends. It is discarded in the winter. Walking amongst the covered rides, Tilt A Whirl, Wild Mouse, Ferris Wheel and the swing seats that spun you around and threatened to toss you into the ocean from the end of the mighty pier. The House Of Mirrors and the Super Himalaya. They all sit quiet. Covered in tarp and mist. Beneath the pier the swells against the pylons. Making slapping sounds against the telephone pole-like supports.

With huge speakers booming in the sixties, this place, this boardwalk, took me to another realm. It was here that the fifties ended. It was here, as a six-year-old child, I heard the Rolling Stone’s Nineteenth Nervous Breakdown, Mother’s Little Helper and Paint It Black fill the hot summer air with music that sounded as if it came from another world.

Sounds of other songs echo: She Loves You, Yeah Yeah Yeah , I Want To Hold Your Hand and Yesterday. My soul cut its teeth on those sounds. And I feel fortunate to have experienced that fresh spirit at an age young enough for it to become a part of me.

The day is cloudy, cold and breezy. I feel the mist on my eyelashes. I smell the ocean, sand and wood. That time was long, long ago. Some seagulls flap about. A lone pelican skims the ocean, dips and catches a fish just off the beach.

The pictures of those summers are here now. The summers of the early sixties. The summers of my childhood. Six through twelve years of age. Those summers return. Then memories of springtime with tthe boards coming down. The covers lifted off the rides. The smell of hot dogs, French fries, salt water taffy, coffee and beer mixed with the salt of the ocean and the seasoned wood of the piers. I catch little memory whiffs of these scents. The throngs of people flash into my vision and disappear. The fireworks shooting off the beach at night and exploding over the ocean in brilliant colors on the Fourth of July. And the new music always blasting.

The fifties faded away and gave way to the next equivalent of the roaring twenties. The boardwalk was where you took that first step in letting your hair down and letting your hair grow longer. It ushered in the Flower Generation. What still stands out  in my mind is the first time I heard Nineteenth Nervous Breakdown and the way that guitar riff blasted over the boardwalk and across the beach. Who were those guys?

But now the boardwalk in winter stands quiet. Abandoned. Cold, cloudy with lonely waves from distant shores. The boardwalk in winter has no friends. Only memories of what was. I walk from one end to the other. Past every covered ride and boarded up food stand. Every silenced penny arcade and frozen fun house. Standing on the beach at the cold water’s edge the wave perishes in a quarter inch of water foaming at my feet.

The boardwalk has only sunshine friends.

But I will always be the boardwalk’s friend in the winter. And if I can’t be with the boardwalk physically then I shall travel there in my mind. And walk it’s lonely boards. Wander amongst its covered rides on its desolate piers. Walk its deserted sandy beach. Hear its lonesome waves crash to shore.

My parents owned a food stand smack in the middle of the boardwalk. From 1960 to 1966 I lived on the boardwalk. It was my home in the summertime. I would head out to the piers where the rides were just to be closer to the blaring sounds of the new music. I’d watch the sun rise over the Atlantic. I’d sleep on a cot in the basement of the concession stand until three in the morning. I watched our culture change in a manner that frightened some. I witnessed the demise of the fifties and the beginning of the sixties on these boards. And in all the worry and fuss of the changing times, perhaps because I was a child, I could see the innocence of it all.

The boardwalk in winter has no friends. So I shall come and be your friend.

After all, you were always there for me.

1 Comment »

  1. I don’t think I have seen this said in such an informative way before. You actually have made this so much clearer for me. Thanks!

    Comment by AILEEN PARK — May 31, 2010 @ 8:03 pm | Reply


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