Palm Sunday is once again upon us and with it comes an upsurge of people to the Wildwoods. It’s the beginning of Easter Week and Spring break for many students, which makes it the perfect time for a trip to the shore. The beautiful sunny weather, if we’re lucky enough to have it, makes it fantastic for a stroll along the boardwalk with loved ones. There are more and more stores and restaurants opening every week as we hurtle towards summer! Got me thinking of Easter weeks past…
Growing up Easter week for me was always synonymous with Wildwood and cleaning! In 1969, when I was still a small child in diapers my father took over an apartment house that was purchased by his father years before. There were four apartments and a cottage on the property, all of which needed to be cleaned and spruced up before the rental season began in May. We lived in Philly and Easter week was the perfect time for us to head to Wildwood and get started opening up the place. My father was a school teacher who had the week off.
My siblings and I all learned to paint at a very early age! There were outside showers that needed painting as well as porch railings and fences not to mention the apartment rooms themselves. My father liked everything looking bright and shiny for the new season to come. You advanced to cleaning when you became big enough to carry chairs, beds and tables as we emptied every apartment prior to cleaning it! It definitely made us work well together and not be averse to hard work!
My parents were smart in that they had all the kids work for a few hours every day and then we could go out and play! The best part of having lots of siblings is that there’s always someone to play with! We had a ten year spread in ages so there was always someone close to you who would like to do the same things. So we spent many hours walking on the boards, riding our bikes or we headed to this great playground by the convention center. It was just off the boardwalk on the street side and it was all built on sand. There were large see-saws and swings and this awesome ride called the “witches hat”, like a large maypole but made out of chain link and it had wooden boards that you sat on as it swung around. (It resembled a witch’s hat, anyone remember that?)
Many of the Easter weeks I remember were cold and rainy and none of the apartments were insulated for year round use. The apartment that our family stayed in had only one small heater in the living room! I guess it was helpful that there were so many of us; mom, dad and seven children.(The eighth child came a few years later.) All that body heat helped keep us warm!
Seriously, it was a small, two bedroom place with bunk beds and a trundle bed and a pull out couch! My mom always brought our winter coats along and sometimes we wore them inside! Somehow we all managed though, and without a TV to boot! Of course this was also well before computers, tablets or smart phones! There was lots of reading, card playing and game playing (building forts out of sheets was a big deal).
As a kid, it was always strange and cool to be in Wildwood during this week because so many things were still closed. I mean, when my brothers and I would go out walking or bike riding, we would hardly see anyone and hotels and restaurants that would be packed with crowds during the summer just sat empty and quiet (except for Josie’s pizza!). We were used to living in a crowded city so it was a big change for us to be in this small town during it’s “off season”, which to me, at that time, was sometimes creepy in it’s desolation.
Fast forward a number of years and about half my family now live year round in Wildwood! It’s in our blood as they say. Although if you had asked my 12 year old self if I would like to live here in the winter the answer would have been a resounding NO. It’s funny how life changes a person…I love the creepy desolation in winter now! LOL