A blog about living in Aberdeen, New Jersey.

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

History: JCP&L Ad Recommends Sun Lamps as Restorative (1934)

The 21 Dec 1934 edition of The Matawan Journal included the following advertisement by the Jersey Central Power and Light (JCP&L) company. The ad promoted the use of sun lamps as "a scientific way to make up for the real sunshine that most of us haven't the opportunity to get. These lamps are highly beneficial to men and women as well as children. Their restorative rays are not costly, either. One penny supplies them for fifteen minutes."

History: Large Prohibition-Era Still Operated for Months on South Concourse (1934)

According to the 21 Dec 1934 edition of The Matawan Journal (pg 1 col 8), two persons were arrested at a home on South Concourse in Cliffwood Beach for operating a 2,500 gallon still. The device filled the house from cellar to attic, according to officials. One of those arrested had to be smoked out of an escape tunnel built from the basement to a place behind the garage.

The article said the site was a red brick house at the entrance to South Concourse. The original property owner, who lived in New York, built the house in his spare time over a two year period in the late 1920s. The building and loan foreclosed on him when hard times hit and the house fell into disuse. A renter took the property and made significant improvements about six months prior to the raid.

This event is mentioned on pg 108 of Matawan and Aberdeen: Of Town and Field, by Helen Henderson.

Saturday, December 20, 2014

History: Green Acres Project Planned for Cliffwood Beach (1976)

The 29 Sep 1976 edition of The Matawan Journal (pg 2) contains the following article that both laments the lost glory of Cliffwood Beach as a popular beach resort and boasts of plans for a Green Acres project to make a park with tennis and basketball courts and other amenities just off the beach.

I moved to Cliffwood Beach two years after this article was published. The park project was all that was described in the article and more, with basketball courts, fenced-in tennis courts, bocci ball frames, swings, slides and climbing toys  for children, and a small recreation building for a recreation manager to provide equipment by the hour. There was a new sloping lawn, parking lot and paved pathways intersecting the property. Bird watching signs were placed along a paved shore path near Treasure Lake to encourage nature enthusiasts.

The beach area was rather isolated, though, so it became a place for people to hang out after hours. While much of the activity was innocent, being mostly out of sight led to graffiti, destruction of equipment and property, other crimes, and frequent visits from the police. The bird watching signs were defaced and torn off their posts. Eventually the recreation building had to be torn down, the tennis courts were converted into a street hockey court and then abandoned, and new swings and recreational equipment and a beach volleyball area were added. The seawall -- already in existence by 1976 -- was made into a promenade a few years ago, with formal access from the harbor end of Cliffwood Beach.

Sandy flooded the area, bringing with it a heavy coating of the dune sands pushed off the beach and onto the basketball courts. The ground in the park became spongy and alkali. The paved walks were submerged in muck and mostly unseen. The storm also changed the effect of the tides on the park -- tidal flooding began to fill the roadway and low lying parkland with frequent surges of seawater and even actual waves. The seawall promenade and the land behind it were pounded and some sections undercut, lifted and cracked by the raging Raritan Bay, but the walkway mostly survived.

The article below starts out with local residents' reminiscences and local impressions of life in Cliffwood Beach. They offer their personal theories of how the resort, built in the 1920s, had been left untended and for the most part disappeared fifty years later. The article ends with local officials discussing the planned creation of an adjoining park that rose and has mostly fallen during the ensuring 40 years.

Can Cliffwood Beach Recapture Glory of Past?


You wouldn’t know to look at it, but Cliffwood Beach was once one of the garden spots of the Jersey shore.

Now all that remains of the boardwalk is a line of forlorn black pilings poking their heads above the waves. The dance hall has vanished without a trace. And the salt water swimming pool resembles a giant concrete planter for reeds and brush mysteriously deposited in the high ground above the shoreline.

The swimming beach has been eroded away and most of the fossil-rich cliffs have fol­lowed them , blasted by storm-driven waves on one side and undermined by septic tank seepage on another.

Treasure Lake is still there, but the water is shallow, stag­nant, and slick with algae.

Some Cliffwood Beach resi­dents remember the glory days, before harsh weather and public and private neglect took their toll. Mrs. Mardell “Mardy” Edwards, Woodmere Drive, rummaged through her keepsakes to dig out a sheaf of old Cliffwood Beach postcards.

“ I ’m not really an old-tim­er," Mrs. Edwards said. “I’ve only been here 27 years. But it was beautiful, really some­thing. Now you can see what neglect can do.”

The postcards might have come from another world. Still fresh with the pastel colors of 40 years ago, they depict clean beaches, wide boardwalks, a bustling pool scene, rowboats on a tree-shaded lake, and an elegant dance hall.

“People who drive by this area on the highway have no idea of the resources that are available,” Mrs. Edwards said. “ The beaches around here, years ago, were poor man’s paradises.”

A neighbor, Mrs. Alex Mose, was a regular summer visitor to Cliffwood Beach before moving here 16 years ago.

“We had homes up on the cliffs, and you could see all the way to New York ,” she re­called . 

“There was dancing in the casino, bungalows every­ here. But the people at the helm were asleep at their posts, and they let the beach go to pot. You can’t imagine what we had here at one time.”

“They didn’t think too much of maintaining the area for the future as they did of develop­ing it for the present,” Mrs. Edwards said. “There was al­ways a lack of maintenance and then we had a big building boom in the 1950s.” 

The building boom, she con­tinued, brought unexpected problems. “We have clay soil around here, and most of the houses built then had septic tanks,” she said. “ Clay soil doesn’t go with septic tanks. The tanks seeped and the cliffs were washed out from under­neath.”

Over the years, Mrs. Edwards said, hurricanes caused damage to the area that was never repaired.

“The salt water pool was bulldozed over after storms cracked it ,” she said, “ and the waves carried most of the beaches out to sea. A lot of the bungalows were washed away and so was most of Cliff­wood Drive .”

Nature, however, has not been the only destroyer.

“The new sea wall is already decorated with brok­en beer bottles,” Mrs. Edwards said. “Nobody goes swimming barefoot anymore. We keep a garbage can down there by the water’s edge, but people throw the bottles any­way.

“Then there’s the eternal battle to try to save the horse­shoe crabs,” she went on. “Some people think they’re doing us a favor by killing them, and we tell them, ‘Next time bring the crabs home and let ’em decay under your windows, and you’ll see how much of a favor it is.’"

Some people believe—and they’re wrong—that you can get stung by the crab’s tail, but  nobody’s ever hurt. By broken glass, yes; but by the horseshoe crabs, no.”

Although the story of ne­glect in Cliffwood Beach is a sad one, Township Manager Donald Guiuzzy said Matawan is hopeful of doing much to restore the area.

A sea wall has already been built to protect the land against the waves, and an earthen slope has been raised behind the wall.

“We hope to finish our slope protection project by mid-Oc­tober,” Guiuzzy said. “We’re planting grass, some flowers, and crown vetch to stop ero­sion.”
The next phase of the overall project, he said, will be to install recreation facili­ties, including four tennis courts, shuffleboard and bas­ketball courts, chess and checkers tables, perhaps bocci and horseshoe pits, a parking area, walkways, and “tot lots” for small children. Guiuzzy said the phase should be finished by spring.

“The recreation phase is all funded by state and federal grants,” he said. “We went out and aggressively tried for grants, and we got them.”
Guiuzzy said projects for restoration of the beach itself “look good for approval” by the Army Corps of Engineers.

“We want to restore one mile of bathing beach,” he explained, “and we hope we can start doing it in the winter. So far, we’re four years ahead of schedule. We’ve shown some of our plans to the engineers and gotten some very favorable reactions. We think they’ll help us.” 
Half of the cost of restoring the beach, Guiuzzy said, would at first be funded by the federal government and half by the township. Ultimately, he said, the township hopes to secure 10 percent of the cost from the county and 25 percent from the state. 

“There’s a lot of potential," Guiuzzy said. “ For instance, we’d like to cooperate with Old Bridge Township to create a marina on Whale Creek, right on the county line , financed by the Corps of Engineers. I think that would be a great joint project for the two townships.”

Guiuzzy said he didn’t know if the area could be restored to all its former splendor as a resort site.

“It’s difficult to make a prediction like that,” he said, “But one thing I do know: we’re making it a lot better than it is now."

Monday, December 1, 2014

Holiday Movies Were A Disappointment

I usually have to choose among several great movies for my Thanksgiving dose of Hollywood, but, oh what a disappointing selection of flicks were offered last Thursday.

The best drama - The Imitation Game - was only playing on four screens nationally, and I wasn't heading into the city on Turkey Gridlock Day. Hopefully, this story of the breaking of the Enigma code in World War II, will reach a wider audience soon.

I'm not sure who was targeted to see Horrible Bosses, but its first name says all you need to know. The sassy penguins movie was a nice offering for kids. I wasn't up for another space adventure genre flick. And while there was considerable hunger for a rebellious young female archer, I didn't want to commit to that franchise.

NYTimes: ‘The Hunger Games’ Dominates the Holiday Weekend http://nyti.ms/1yqBzfR

I heard from several sources that Birdman was well acted but a confusing story.

I found a quiet gem called Saint Vincent. Bill Murray was great in this comedy about a grumpy neighbor with a story.

Kudos to Cinemark, the latest owner of the Hazlet multiplex. The new seating is luxurious.