The hardworking staff was perusing Friday’s New York Times when we stumbled upon (print style) this piece by Helene Stapinski about the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy on the Jersey Shore.
And then we saw this:
It’s a Wednesday night, a month after the storm, so the moon is full again, like it was when Sandy hit. I’m out with my best friend from elementary school, Marybeth McGovern, who watched the waters rise from her second-floor bedroom in Port Monmouth, a raft and oars at her side. The $75,000 damage to her home has her a bit depressed, but she’s ready for a night out.
We go to one of her favorite places in nearby Highlands, Bahrs Landing, the seafood shrine that marks the beginning of the Jersey Shore for many people. Frank Sinatra and the cast of “The Sopranos” have all passed under its famous giant lobster sign, which miraculously survived the storm.
Bahrs, built from a beached houseboat, got its start in 1917, feeding stranded sailors after a severe northeaster. Over the years the houseboat was expanded and raised up higher and higher, which helped save it from Sandy. Though the bottom floor was flooded, the rest of the place looks as wonderfully nautical as ever. When he answers the phone, Jay Cosgrove, the owner — great-grandson of the founders — does not say hello. He says: “Bahrs Landing. We’re still standing.”
Bahrs! In Highlands!
It wasn’t exactly Proust’s madeleine, but it triggered a wave of nostalgia in the hardwaxing staff.
We were the East Side Carrolls, eight of us living in a three-room apartment at 89th & 3rd in the Big Town. The rest of the Carroll Clan lived in three-bedroom apartments in the Hell’s Kitchen projects on the West Side.
But every summer we all joyfully migrated to the Jersey Shore, where the East Side Carrolls occupied a three-room bungalow (with two porches that doubled as bedrooms) on the Sea Bright side of the Shrewsbury River, while the rest of the Carroll Clan occupied bungalows on the Highlands side.
There was a thoroughly comforting symmetry to it all.
And an additional cheerful symmetry to our summers in the bungalow colony (at upper right) alongside the Sandlass Beach Club (an oral history of which is here).
There was the Shrewsbury River on one side of us, and the Atlantic ocean on the other.
As the hardswimming staff recollects, it was always high tide somewhere during those blissful summers.
Not to get all Proustian about it.