"During World War II, we didn't know if we would be bombed or not because they had submarines off the shore here." (Double click image to start video)
October 24, 2005
Frank: What were the most popular sports? Mrs. Murray: Roller-skating was probably the first. We went to the Mays Landing Skating rink. Mrs. Shaffer: That was1933…right in middle of Great Depression. We played Kick the Can and Red Light. We didn't have what you have today. Mrs. Murray: When snow came, we would bellyflop on Maryland Ave. We might have as many as 10 kids on one sled. Mrs. Shaffer: We had a lot of snow. They would barricade New York Avenue. You never knew how many kids would end up on your back.
Where the trolleys any different from today? Mrs. Murray: Quite a bit! We use to go to high school on the trolley. We would go across that old rickety trolley bridge. I use to be afraid that trolley would tip over this way or that way and we would all go into the bay. But it never happened. Mrs. Shaffer:We would have to run to catch the trolley if we were late. The next one was an hour later. Many a day we would have to run to catch it. That was running seven blocks. If you missed it you waited for the next. Gas and tires were rationed. You couldn't just get into the car and take off. There were two tunnels near the Somers Mansion where the trolley went under Shore Road.
Did you have to pay for your school supplies? That weren't too many from our class that had the advantage of going to college. Mrs. Murray: We made our own graduation dresses. I graduated 8th grade in 1934. Mrs. Shaffer in 1933. 3 or 4 girls bought their dresses but most girls made their dresses. We had an overnight trip to Washington DC in 8th grade.
What was popular back then? Mrs. Murray: Baseball and basketball. We both played basketball. Mrs. R: Did you have field hockey, street hockey, or ice hockey? Mrs. Murray: No but we did have it in high school. Were there a lot of pickup games? Yes, we had "Workies Up." That's what we called it then (baseball). You played every position. Mrs. Shaffer: We would watch our son's Little League and then play softball afterward. One time, I got the mothers out to play against the kids. We lost to the 4th, 3rd and 2nd place teams. We beat the 1st place team…the Champs. During WWII, a lot of soldiers were on R&R in Atlantic City. I played basketball on a team that played for them. (R&R was for wounded soldiers Rest and Recreation) We played games like Monopoly. Table games. Tittalewinks! Dominoes, checkers, pinochle.
(Double click to start video)"During the Depression, the banks failed and you lost everything."
Where the clothes very different then? Mrs. Murray: During WWII, my father raised chickens. When he went to get the chicken feed, he got 200 lb bags of feed. He got two of the same pattern. My mother made us dresses from that material. We were very poor during the Depression. We had four in our family. I never had a nickel for a coke. I never got an allowance because they couldn't afford it. Most of our friends were in the same situation. Mrs. Shaffer: In the Depression, if you were lucky enough to have money in the bank and the banks failed. You lost everything. My parents were buying a house and lost the house. We then rented. We had an outhouse. We kept a bucket under the bed at night. And the other thing was the spiders. I think that's why I hate spiders even today. Mrs. Murray: My father built his own house. The first house he built, on Johnson Avenue, is still standing. He lost two of the houses he built. When the Depression came along, everybody lost a lot of things. My father was forced to sell. Mrs. Shaffer: My father was a boat builder.
Did you realize how poor you were? Mrs. Murray: I think we all accepted it. My mother could make a meal out of nothing. I could never take my lunch to school because we were too poor. When I went home for lunch, guess what we had? A bowl of rice. There was a nickel under the bowel. We were allowed to buy something with that nickel on the way back to school. We bought 3 large jelly donuts for a nickel. My mother was a wonderful person and taught my a lot of good things. Good manners. I am very thankful for her. What were the prices of things back then? Mrs. Shaffer: We didn't buy many clothes then. Mostly everything was homemade. Girls didn't wear jeans then. You didn't see too many slacks either. Mostly skirts with a poodle dog on it. Bread was 5 cents a loaf and coffee as around 25 cents a pound. Butter was in a big tub and you dipped in to measure out a pound. It was like 35 cents.
Where many kids unable to finish high school? Mrs. Shaffer: My husband had to quit school after 8th grade for a job chopping wood. Mrs. Murray: My husband was a clammer when there was no work at all. Everybody was at our backdoor to buy the clams. My brother and my husband also cut wood during the Depression. Mrs. Murray: I left high school to work at Murphy's in Ocean City. In October, they laid me off. I was too embarrassed to go back. It was very difficult to get a job and we didn't get paid much. I made $9.90 a week. It took $2.50 to ride the trolley to get to work. My mother saved my money for me. She gave me the money back for me to buy some new clothes. Mrs. Shaffer: We would get the little red wagon and buy several cases of food and get change out of a five-dollar bill. We shared the food with a family out of work. I worked 48 hours a week for $10.00. In the 1930s, they had CCC. My brother went in when he was 16. He went to different states to work. They would build mosquitoe ditches in the meadows.
Do you know men from Somers Point died during World War II? Mrs. Murray: Yes, Ed Isman. His father had a hardware store. Paul Clark, he was in the navy. Most of the Gold Star Mothers had something displayed in their window because they lost someone in the war. I hope the war today will end soon because already there have been a lot of boys lost.
What was rationing during WWII? Mrs. Shaffer: You had to go to City Hall to get a rationing book. It was full of stamps. You were allowed maybe 5 lbs of sugar of month depending on how many people were in the family. Gas was rationed. You could have 5 gallons for a month if you were a worker. Also, tires. When I say rationing, that mean you had to have the stamp to get it. But you still had to have the money to pay for it besides. Sugar and butter…you didn't get much!
Where did you hang out? We hung out in the Soda Pop Café. We had so much fun there. You didn't hear any bad words said. We use to jitterbug and just stand around and talk. They had hamburgers and sodas. I think half the Somers Point kids learned to dance there in the Soda Pop. It was very small. I would say not as big as this room.
What was it like when the men went to WWII? Mrs. Murray: My husband was in the war although I wasn't married to him then. I didn't know him then. He went to Germany and Japan. When he fought in Germany, he had a bomb explode right next to him. He became deaf in one ear and his buddy got killed right alongside of him. He could never hear right out of that ear again. Mrs. Shaffer: My husband…we were married and we had a child who was just 15 months old. He worked in a boatyard in Atlantic City; a shipyard. He would never have had to go to the service. Every day when he went to the post office with the mail from the company he saw this big poster, "Uncle Sam Wants You." So what did he do? He signed up? Left me home with my 15-month-old girl and went to war. He saw D-Day. He was in Normandy. Then he went to the islands. He was in both theatres of war. He was on the USS Missouri when the peace treaty was signed. So he saw every bit of it. All because he volunteered.
Thank you very much for visiting us. Both of you are a wealth of information. Mrs. Murray: I have 15 grandchildren, 13 great-grandchildren, and one great-great grandchild. Mrs. Shaffer: I have two grandchildren and 4 great-granddaughters. (Return to top of page)
Mrs. Lois Broomell and Mrs. Ruth Newsome
October 26, 2005
Interviewed by Nick F. Mrs. Broomell and Mrs. Newsome are sisters. Their maiden name was Mulford. They lived at 508 New Jersey Avenue, Somers Point. Mrs. Broomell was born February 28, 1940 and Mrs. Newsome was born January 20, 1935.
Was the Somers Point beach bigger when you were younger? Mrs. Newsome: The beach was smaller but there was more water and the water was also deeper. We went to the beach a lot and the water was so deep. There was a diving board at the end of the pier. There were two rafts at the beach. Mrs. Brommel: I don't remember a lifeguard stand. Where the play area is now, there were tennis courts. There were no bathrooms at the beach, though. We had to walk all the way to city hall. At very high tide, the boys would dive off the pavilion roof. The water was deep enough that you wouldn't get hurt.
Was there any air conditioning? Mrs. Newsome: No I don't remember any air conditioning. How did you cool down in the summer? Mrs. Newsome: We would open the windows. There were fans. Was it really hot in the buildings? Mrs. Broomell: When you were younger, you don't feel the heat like you do now. If you went into a store during the summer, it wasn't air-conditioned. I think I would really feel the heat now opposed to when I was younger. But the schools weren't air-conditioned. Open the windows! We never got out of school early because of the heat.
What do you remember about the hurricane of '44? Mrs. Newsome: The only thing I remember about the hurricane of '44, other then the storm, was my grandfather Harry Elwell, he was a janitor at New York Avenue School, and he had gone down to open the school up because people were evacuating from Ocean City. Now for those of you that don't realize the hurricane of 44 was a really big event. It was a terrible storm. One of the biggest on record Back then we didn't have all the news coverage you have today.
We didn't have uniforms. The girls weren't allowed to wear slacks or jeans. You just knew it wasn't acceptable for girls to wear pants. Our legs froze because we walked to school. There were no busses. When you were younger, you had what was called leggings. Once you got to school, you took them off and you were in a dress. Most of the town had dirt roads.
Nick: Did they have sports back then? There was the Boy's Club; they had basketball. Did the girl's have as many sports as the boys? We had basketball but not baseball. We didn't have soccer or the football league for the younger guys. If we wanted to play softball, we just rounded up a group. We just went to the recreation field. Someone had a bat and someone had a ball. We just got out there. Down where the Pit is…we called it the Pit too! It will always be the Pit!! It was actually a dump It was a big hole with old cars and stuff. The Pit was a junkyard. We would home from school through the Pit. I guess it was originally a sandpit.
We called tourists Shoobies. Did they bring lunches in shoeboxes? I don't remember but supposedly that's how they got the name. They would come down for the day by train. We used to walk along the railroad tracks. When we heard the whistle, we got off the tracks. Homes were heated by coal. Trucks would come and they would put a shoot through the basement window and the coal fell down into the coal bin. Someone had to shovel the coal into the furnace everyday. Shoveling coal was pretty dirty. Not only that, your house always had a film inside it. It was very dusty. We didn't have heat in every room. There was a grate in the living room and the heat came up from the basement. When we were young, we room out from the bedroom to the dining room. The clothes were out on the dining room chair and that's where you got dressed because the bedrooms were too cold. When we came home, we would sometimes shovel the coal with small shovels.
What is you memory of the biggest event in Somers Point? I remember the Memorial Day Parades. It was a small town and if something was going on everyone turned out.
How was healthcare different? There were a lot of home remedies. I had a lot of earaches. My grandfather would puff on his cigar and blow smoke in my ear and then put cotton in the ear. The warm air would make it feel better. There were no heating pads so you had a hot water bottle. It wasn't really a bottle…it was made of rubber. You filled it with hot water. During WWII, we didn't have a water heater. You had to heat all your water on the stove. You heated buckets, carried it from the kitchen to the bathroom for a bath. Our grandmother had very bad asthma. She would put hot water in a bowel in hold her head over it with a towel over her head. There was no medicine for asthma. When you burnt yourself, you put butter on it. The doctors would come to your house if you were sick. They made house calls. There was a doctor's office but it wasn't unusual to call the doctor to your house. He would come with his black bag and give you medicine.
What kinds of jobs did work? Babysitting and working at Murphy's (the 5 and 20) in Ocean City. There were fewer stores. There was a time there wasn't even a bank in Somers Point. There were no traffic lights. We weren't taught about traffic lights and I really didn't know how to cross. The first one was at Maryland Avenue.
Thank you very much for coming to share your experiences with us. (Return to top of page)
On November 17, 2005, Mrs. Hyatt was interviewed by Kevin and Nick. Mr. Hyatt was born on December 9, 1919. His early residence in Somers Point was at Hickory Point, an area near the Great Egg Harbor Bay and Route 9. He and his wife, Ellen, operated Hyatt's Store located on Shore Road. He was a coach and served many years on city council. He is currently employed at the Board of Elections.
What was it like during World War II? Mr. Hyatt: I think it was a great experience, frankly. Nowhere can you meet hundreds of thousands of people and work with them. As far as the problems of combat, I was in the Coast Guard. I had sea duty and ended up in Greenland for a year. Greenland was a base ceded out to us by the Danish government. The area was used as a transfer station for planes that went to Europe eventually. It was also the center for weather information. The Germans had weather people who parachuted on the icecap there. We fought back the Germans once. It was important to Europe because of D-Day; naturally they had to have all the weather information they could, constantly. Kevin: Was it really cold there? Mr. Hyatt: It was cold and very windy. There were times you had to wear cleats on your shoes because of the ice and everything. The biggest problem for the Coast Guard was keeping the fjords clear of ice for the supplies, oil and food supplies, for the base there. The Coast Guard cutters had to break the ice on a daily basis, it was constant. We had to keep breaking the ice. It had to be done to keep the supplies coming in. The Coast Guard patrols with go out into the convoy lines to England. Nick: Was there a lot of snowstorms? Mr. Hyatt: Yes, there were a lot of snowstorms. I did have the opportunity to see the Aurora Borealis because it starts up there. The dazzling lights displayed once in a while. I was there for a year. I was transferred to the Great Lakes.
During WWII, did any of your relatives fight in it? My brother was in the army. He passed away last year. He was stationed on the island of Malta and in the invasions of Italy. He had a sense of humor. There were problems with the landing barges. The government does something ludicrous at times.
Kevin: Did the war affect the Great Depression in anyway? Mr. Hyatt: It would have to! I'm not an authority but prior to WWII we were in a Depression. WWII took us out of the Depression, naturally, because money had to be spent. That money transferred from the government down to the individual in the workplace. After that, the changes that occurred in technology and so forth I think were for the good as we have changed since WWII. We have been progressing in so many ways. Yes, the Depression has something to do with it. It is our lifestyle to keep moving ahead anyhow. You wouldn't want to stay back in the Depression. Everyone was poor than. Nobody cared because everyone was poor. There was no difference in anybody.
Could you tell us about the difficulty of getting jobs during the Depression? Mr. Hyatt: It was menial. You were glad to get anything. I worked in a bowling ally and on the roads. We had 6-7 people at home and we had to work. I think it was one of the greatest character builders was to have responsibility and do without. There is nothing wrong with that. In today's world the government provides everything for everybody but then you had to provide for yourself. Mrs. Rydzewski: Your generation was born at the end of WWI, you lived during the Great Depression and then went through WWII and the Cold War. You went through a lot. Mr. Hyatt: You accepted responsibility. You don't look for someone to do it for you.
Nick: How did the Great Depression affect you and your family? Mr. Hyatt: I think we were all in the same boat. I never looked at it affecting anyone individually. We went to school. None of us ended up with a college education, unfortunately. College was a dream at that time because of the money involved. The emphasis was you had to get a job. You had to survive! Going to high school was the end objective. I graduated high school when I was 16. It made it tough to get a job when you graduated early because you had to be 18 because of insurance rules. Did you work in the WPA? Mr. Hyatt: I was on that for awhile. It was the only thing. You had to have something. I was in it for about a year. We would do roadwork in the WPA. We worked at High Banks (JFK Park) taking the trees out and so forth. I don't recall finding any arrowheads.
At that time there was no unemployment, welfare or Social Security for elderly. What did they do? Mr. Hyatt: You take a lesson from the Amish and the Dutch Country people. The family takes care of each other. If there was no family, they had the Old Age Home in Pleasantville. So they did take care of things locally as best as they could. It was in the Roosevelt era that started the government intervention and sustenance. It's good in a lot ways but in a lot of ways not so good.
How has the world improved since the Great Depression? Mr. Hyatt: Rapidly!! There are so many elements come into it. Technology is here and it constantly is competitive with other countries. It is fabulous with technology and we've been able to keep ahead. It does something to your everyday life. You have x-rays for cancer and flights to the moon. It's ongoing. The technology you have with your cell phones and ipods all emanated from the technology of World War II.
What was your perspective of the Holocaust? Mr.Hyatt: I wasn't directly involved in it but I think it was terrible, there shouldn't have been anything happening like that. Were you aware that it was happening during World War II? Mr.Hyatt: No, no, not where I was at the time. The troops in Germany would be more up on that. I think the New York Times was accused of hiding their articles on Holocaust on page 18. We didn't get the information we should have maybe. I think that was brought out later during Congressional hearings.
Kevin: Did you know FDR was handicapped? Mr. Hyatt: Oh, Yes! We didn't see any photos of him but it came out by world of mouth that he was in a wheelchair most of the time. He went for treatments but that had no affect on his mentality. People did not think less of him. Mrs. Rydzewski: Franklin Roosevelt suffered from polio. Did people in the 1930s and 40s worry about catching polio? Mr. Hyatt: We didn't feel threatened by it or an onslaught of it. entered our mines. There was a treatment using an iron lung back then. I didn't know anyone is school who caught it. Nick: Did you like Franklin D. Roosevelt back then? Mr. Hyatt: I think he was the right man for the right time. Your country has to have a leader at certain times for certain things. All Presidents are called on during times of strife. Right now you have a President who is being bumped around during a time of trouble. FDR served for 4 terms. Do you think that was a good thing? Mr. Hyatt: I think so. It's good and bad. Again, the times are what create the problems. We are reactive and respond to the problems.
What did you do during the wintertime? Some people picked up extra money clamming. It's hard work! I never bothered with it. Kevin: Were there Shoobies, tourists, then? Mr. Hyatt: Oh, yes. We relied on the summer tourists for business. Kevin: Did it help you get out of the Depression? Mr. Hyatt: We didn't think too much about the Depression. That's the good part of the American philosophy. You don't dwell on the past that much. You always have to keep moving on. If not, someone will move ahead of you.
What did you do for fun as a kid? Mr. Hyatt: I guess sports mostly. I use to referee the basketball games. We would take in a movie occasionally. There wasn't any television so we listened to the radio. Basically working was what we did. People held more than one job.
Kevin: Did anything important happen historically? Mr. Hyatt: The big Gateway Casino located near the bridge and circle burned down. Would you tell the students about the marathon dancing there… Mr. Hyatt: They danced endlessly day after day until the last one was standing. They had prizes of a monetary nature. They would go for 3 or 4 days. They had short rest periods. I remember that going on. It was a way to make a buck during the Depression and it attracted people to watch.
Thank you for coming to visit us and sharing your memories.(Return to top of page)
Mr. James Foreman and Mrs. Peggy Eckbold
October 20, 2005
Mr. Foreman: I was born during WWII. I remember my house was heated by coal.Mrs. Eckbold: The coal truck would deliver the coal down a shoot through the window. Dad took care of the coal furnace. Dad was thrilled to get an oil furnace." Mr. Foreman: I still find arrowheads in the basement coal bin. I remember going to Dawes Avenue School when the oil burner had problems. We were often sent home early from school, around 1 pm, because the burner was having problems and put out a bad smell. Home Economics were for girls and Industrial Technology was for the boys.
Mrs. Eckbold: I lived the furthest away from school in an area called Hickory Point. It was named that because it was part of James Somers' farm. This is the area along Rt. 9 just before you cross the bridge. There was no school bus. We would be picked up for school in the police car. Sometimes Police Chief Bill Morrow had as many as 13 children in one car. This was in the 1940s and 1950s.
Mrs. Eckbold: Many high school kids would go muskrat and mud hen hunting (with guns). They would sell the muskrat fur. We got our Christmas tree from the meadows (wetlands). I remember Mom made a wreath from a vine she found. Later she had a bad reaction to it becaue it was poison oak.
Mr. Foreman: We would go blackberry picking. I remember we would find wild asparagus growing near Cedar Avenue. There was a sailmaker's shop owned by Benny Louis on the corner of Cedar Avenue and Shore Road. I remember seeing the gigantic sewing machines.
Mrs. Eckbold: My grandfather was a bayman who owned a catboat. He would live on the boat. The cabin could be lifted off and put on the dock. In addition to fishing, catboats were used to ferry tourists to Ocean City and Atlantic City. We used the word Shoobies differently back then. It meant tourists who only visited for the day. They packed their lunch and didn't buy anything here. Today Shoobies means any tourist. My grandfather also had a sneakbox. A sneakbox is a one man boat that is about six feet long and is used for duck hunting.
Mr. Foreman; We had summer residents who were people who owned homes and stayed here for the summer. Bay Avenue was a big attraction. Ocean City was a "dry town" where no liquor was sold. We had "the joints" where underage drinking would occur. Anyone caught would have to report to the Court House on Monday to pay a fine of $100. I remember long lines of people at the police station waiting to pay their fine. (Return to top of page)
Interviewed by emailMany times I ran the Cricks between Steelman Bay and Scull Bay and also Broad Thorofare and Sod Thorofare. Mostly in the winter cause back them I worked the Bay and when I needed a day's pay and it was blowing I could always get out of the wind there. Looking back on it all now, things were tough. I remember one day I had to go out to make enough to have dinner that night. It was so cold that I took wash tubs out and filled them with water so the clams would not freeze, I thought it would be OK. Well it froze from the bottom up and it was a block of ice when I got in. I sold the clams anyway and no one said a word. I remember trying to race cars at Rainbow Channel. It was a pretty good run and we would parallel the bridge and go at it. I never beat one though. I never had a boat that fast. And I have watched the sun come up over Longport Bridge and a lot of other places. When you work the bay, you have to beat the sun and the wind. I've watched the sun come up and down on all our rivers too. That is the place to be. I remember the duck hunters taking their house boats into the Tuckahoe River for the winter, and the clamers' houseboats at Brick Kiln Crick, Ya, I guess I should write a book. We hulled the river in the winter and caught pirch and catfish, and sometimes stripers, and also set a large fike net at Champion place just above English Crick. It was a great life and I loved it. But I had a growing family and I had to get a job to take care of them, So I went to work for the State and stayed there thirty-five years and I now sneak around all them places with a camera. (Return to top of page)