Now that it's summer, kids all over the country get to look forward to school-free days, fun in the sun, and outdoor activities from morning till night for the next couple of months. And there is perhaps no population of people more thrilled to see summer than New Jerseyites, who finally get to go down the shore again.
Snooki and her low-brow crew may have ruined our rep for a while there (nearly none of them were actually from New Jersey, mind you) but those of us who grew up in the great Garden State know how amazing our summers on the fun and fabulous Jersey Shore were. From playing boardwalk games to gorging on greasy food to proudly displaying beach badges, here are seven things you know you did down the shore.
1. You went down the shore.
While the rest of the world spent summers "going to the beach," you and your friends couldn't wait to go "down the shore" — the term us New Jersey peeps use for visiting any of our state's beach towns, from Sandy Hook to Cape May.
2. You had to pay to go to the beach.
We're still not sure how New Jersey got away with this (and still does), but you actually had to buy a "beach badge" to spend the day sitting in the sand, shelling out cash for a daily, weekly, or seasonal badge (that had an actual pin on the back). And to make sure you were legit, each town hired beach badge checkers to roam the beach doing spot checks on sun worshippers. Times haven't changed and the beach badge economy is still in full effect. A requisite badge will run you anywhere from a minimum of $5 for the day to an intense $100 for the whole season depending on the town.
3. You spent your nights on the boardwalk (aka the funnest place on earth).
Whether it was Point Pleasant, Seaside Heights, Wildwood, or somewhere in between, you made a pilgrimage to these multiple Meccas of rides, games, and a tremendous amount of food. You'd get your thrills on an old rickety wooden roller coaster that jutted over the ocean, pay a quarter to spin the wheel for a chance at winning everything from a stuffed Bart Simpson doll to a carton of Sour Patch Kids and stuff your face with big slices of gooey pizza, sky-high soft serve, and piping-hot zeppoles by the dozen all in one glorious evening.
4. You risked life and limb at water parks without a parent in sight.
They may not have the cult following of NJ's infamous Action Park, but the water parks of the Jersey Shore were full of tangled messes of steep slides that would keep you occupied all day after mom or dad dropped you off. (Yep, parents used to just leave kids to their own devices, because, you know, there were lifeguards there.) And here's a bonus memory for you '80s Seaside Heights-goers: If you showed up at WaterWorks — the water park that took up a full city block near the boardwalk — with a report card boasting an A, you got in for free. It seemed a fair trade, for sure.
5. You played a lot of mini golf.
They were on practically every corner — kitschy spots with windmills, lighthouses, murky water features, and balding Astroturf, often with seafaring names like Smuggler's Quay and Barnacle Bill's. (Bill was actually resurrected a few years back after taking a tumble during Hurricane Sandy). Somehow we never got sick of playing All. The. Time. And seriously keeping score with those little pencils. And if you play actual golf these days and have a pretty good short game, you can thank all those rounds of mini golf putts.
6. You got a sunburn. A bad one. Every summer.
Yes, sunscreen was around when we were kids (we didn't grow up in the 1800s, after all), and yes, our moms implored us to use it, going so far as to physically rub it on us if they could wrestle us down long enough, but when they weren't looking it, was dark tanning oil time. (Ugh, what were we thinking?) Hey, unlike our California counterparts who saw the sun all the time, we were trapped inside finished basements wearing turtleneck sweaters much of the year. We were going to get tan, dammit. But, inevitably, we'd always go too far and find ourselves lobster red and peeling at least once a season.
7. You kicked off the shore season prom weekend.
Almost as exciting as the prom itself was the weekend that followed the big dance, when you and all your friends would head down the shore and pile into someone's house (God bless their parents) or maybe a cheap hotel room, and spend the overcast weekend (why were those precious May weekends always filled with gloomy weather?) drinking beers, staying up all night, and hitting diners at all hours.
8. You loved a band called the Nerds.
As soon as you were old enough to get into bars, you realized that this kooky cover band — made up of four, well nerdy guys — was more or less the musical mascot of the Jersey Shore, providing the soundtrack to the summer. And they still are.
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