From the edge of Sandy Hook, where the ocean liners turn in toward New York with the flavor of Sandy Hook still in their rigging, to the tip of Cape May, where reminiscent sighs echo through the Victorian houses whenever the citizens think of General Grant, the Jersey Shore is a 150-mile stretch of sand, sunburn and salt water taffy.
Its oft-challenged but undismayed capital is Atlantic City (opposite), a burnished sandbar that is celebrating its 100th anniversary this year. In its more genteel moments, Atlantic City has entertained more celebrities than Perle Mesta. In its less genteel interludes it is, like the rest of the Shore, a popcorn and pokerino world where babies, beauties and fashion plates parade the sun-beaten, ocean-sprayed boardwalks in search of momentary distinction and a silver cup.
The tub thumpers of the Jersey Shore annually crown more heads and bestow more titles than all the Archbishops of Canterbury in history. Besides the laurels awarded to Miss America each September, there is the investiture of such royalty as the New Jersey State Seafood Princess, the National Clam-and-Oyster-Opening Champion and the King of Marbles. Asbury Park, which itself holds the title of the "King of Crowners," stages yearly coronations for Miss Salt Water Taffy, Miss Sun Tan and Miss Dreamboat; and it likes to point out that its Queen of Fashion, selected each Easter, is the one Jersey Shore queen who is crowned with all her clothes on.
In addition to this charged atmosphere, artificially invoked, it has been well known since the early days of the Republic that the natural air of the Jersey Shore is possessed of a special salubrity both therapeutic and inspirational, not to mention cool. Back in 1847 Henry Clay, relaxing on the beach at Cape May, was set upon by a horde of female admirers who cut snips of his hair for souvenirs, a fate such as might befall Eddie Fisher today. Cape May and its main rival, Long Branch, have given air-conditioned relief from the Washington summer to Presidents Lincoln, Grant, Pierce, Buchanan, Harrison, Hayes, James Garfield and Woodrow Wilson.
Latter-day show biz chose Atlantic City as a prime place to perform, to rest or to wait for an idea. Its special air seems to have a higher idea count than any ozone you can name. Irving Berlin reportedly composed All Alone in a rolling chair and rushed back to his hotel to write it down.
Although it is a wellspring of immortal melodies, the town's favorite number is On the Boardwalk, a sort of local anthem written by Mack Gordon and Joe Myrow. The boardwalk, now as necessary to any self-respecting seaside resort as frontage on the sea, was first installed at Atlantic City in 1870 because a hotel owner got tired of dusting the sand off lobby carpets.
Almost any stretch of sand along the Jersey Shore where you can send out a fishing line without fear of hooking a bather will prove good for surf casting. There is crabbing, eeling and yachting on the Navesink River at Red Bank, and ice boating in the winter. Besides giving you a chance at tuna and marlin, the Atlantic City offshore fishing boats will provide a view of "Lucy, the Elephant," one of the few inactive inns among the city's many hotels. "Lucy" is actually a tin elephant 65 feet high, built as a hotel in 1882 on the beach at nearby Margate. Aside from looking like an elephant, "Lucy" bears certain resemblances to a house. She has windows all around and is said to be the only elephant on the continent with two panes in the rear.