Ten things you might remember if you grew up in NJ in the ’80s
Here we are in a brand new year. We've made it all the way to 2017 and New Jersey certainly looks different as time goes on. Here's a look back for anyone who was around in the 1980's. See how many of these places, things, or events you remember.
The Haunted Mansion Long Branch Pier fire
How old were you on June 8, 1987? That was the day the Haunted Mansion and the Long Branch Pier burned. It started when a gas leak combined with an electrical glitch. It may have not been a big deal any other day, but that day there were strong winds which helped the fire spread quickly. Amazingly no one was killed or injured but the entire pier was destroyed, changing Long Branch for years to come.
Syringes on the shore
A real scare cost Jersey millions of dollars in tourism in 1987 and 1988 after an environmental disaster. Do you remember those years of medical waste washing up on the sand? Hypodermic needles everywhere. Billy Joel's song 'We Didn't Start The Fire' even paid homage to the problem with the line "hypodermics on the shore." It was eventually tied to a Staten Island land fill and led to tougher regulations regarding waste disposal.
It's old nicknames Traction Park and Class Action Park pretty much said it all. Located in Vernon, it recently re-opened in a limited way. But if you grew up in the 1980's it's that old Action Park with the reputation that your remember and miss. In 1982 two visitors died within a week of each other. Two more deaths in the summer of '84 and lots of injuries from unsafe rides started spelling the writing on the wall. According to Wikipedia, a nearby hospital claimed to treat five to ten injuries per day on the park's busier days and Action Park bought the township extra ambulances just to keep up with the crazy emergency calls.
Paying your toll on the Parkway with a token
They were ugly little metal tokens that almost looked like the end of a bullet. With the words Garden State Parkway stamped on them they came out when tolls still only cost 25 cents. Originally $10 for a roll of 40 they became a bit more of a deal when the tolls were raised to 35 cents and you could get a roll of 30 for $10. The craziest thing about the old Parkway tokens was that they didn't go away until long after we had EZ Pass technology. You could still get them up until January 1, 2002 and they were still accepted until the end of 2008. It would be scary to think how old the driver was who was still using them.
That 80's tourism ad with Tom Kean
Watching the old ad where Governor Tom Kean strolled the beach and talked about how great it is to vacation in New Jersey will bring you straight back to the 80's. It was also the last time we had a Jersey tourism slogan, "Perfect Together," that seemed like a natural. Do you remember the 90's when we tried to make a go of "New Jersey: You Should See Us Now" as a tourism slogan?
The heyday of Atlantic City
New Jersey approved casino gambling for Atlantic City in the 70's, but it was the 1980's that saw the golden age of Atlantic City gaming. Casinos were being built with lightning speed and tourism was at an all time high. Now the city has fallen into state control and the kind of bleakness found in Bruce Springsteen lyrics. I till remember the 80's being in AC and seeing the likes of Howie Mandel, Jerry Seinfeld, Natalie Cole, and Jay Leno. Hey, they were big at the time!
The Rahway movie theater
The early 80's saw the final days of the Rahway movie theater, and since I'm from there my list has to include it. On September 11, 1984 title was transferred to Rahway Landmarks, Inc. and restoration began leading to what would eventually become the Union County Performing Arts Center. I saw all my first movies as a kid in the old Rahway theater, and yes I still fondly remember the stern old lady who ruled with an iron fist working tirelessly as its manager.
Speaking of theaters, how about those great outdoor ones? The only remaining drive-in theater we have in New Jersey is the Delsea Drive-in in Vineland. In the 80's they were already going fast, but you could still catch a movie from your car in enough places. I believe the Amboy Drive-In hung in there until '82 or '83. Anyone know the exact date? There was nothing like the quirky experience of watching a movie from your car, with those bad tiny speakers you hung on your window before the stereo feed came along, and man that drive-in food left a lot to be desired yet through nostalgia now sounds like the best tasting stuff in the world!
South Jersey's vote to secede
We can have the where is North Jersey vs. South Jersey debate all day, but it was very real at one point. On Election Day in 1980 a political movement that had been brewing a few years came to a head with a non-binding referendum. The idea was to create South Jersey, the 51st state, below I-195 and the Manasquan River. Joel Jacovitz was one of the biggest voices behind it. He was gratified to see it was voted in favor of in every county where it was on the ballot except for Ocean. Atlantic, Burlington, Cape May, Cumberland, and Salem all wanted nothing to do with northerners. It was all really just a show as it would have taken the approval of the NJ Legislature and they certainly were not willing to give up 15 percent of their population and half of Jersey's land mass. Then Gov. Brendan Byrne called the organizers nothing more than "rabble-rousers."
What things used to be called
Speaking of Brendan Byrne, do you remember when his name graced that arena for fifteen years starting in 1981? Lasting well beyond the 80's it wasn't until 1996 that naming rights were bought by Continental Airlines then later by Izod. And how about the Garden State Arts Center? It lasted through the whole 80's with its name intact until 1996 (again 1996) when naming rights were sold to PNC Bank. What was it about that year that became the NASCARization of our New Jersey landmarks?
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