Anyone see the weird news about lightning bugs? Maybe you called them fireflies as a kid. They are apparently in trouble.

“I have qualitatively noticed fewer fireflies in New Jersey,” Matthew Aardema, an entomologist who is an assistant biology professor at Montclair State University, said.

He’s not alone. Nearly one in three firefly species (there are more than 100 species in the country — who knew?) might be threatened with extinction.

The Garden State is home to 26 of those lightning bug species and currently three of them are on the International Union for Conservation of Nature threatened species list.

Fireflies flying over a grass field at night

This made me sad. And nostalgic. As a kid my summers were filled with magical fireflies that we would catch gently in our hands and if we were lucky our fingers would glow yellow before letting them go. Of course we would keep them in jars for a bit, but would always soon release them back to their rightful summer nights.

Sad to think there could be fewer and one day possibly none. This got me thinking about summers back then and things some of us no doubt miss.

Just off the top of my head…

Drive-in movies

Synonymous with Jersey summers at one point. I was still just a kid when they went away. (Yes, I know there’s one remaining in Vineland.) What summer memories, camping in the back of dad’s station wagon as the heat of the day cooled and the sounds of the first of a double feature came crackling across those tinny speakers.

Drive-in Movie

Drinking from a hose

It’s what we all did. Long before kids were practically bubble-wrapped and moms would only allow their kids to drink bottled water and never tap, we never heard of such a concern. And we wouldn’t dare bother a mom by asking to use their kitchen faucet. The garden house was the community water fountain as we went from house to house. Speaking of which…

Being outdoors all day long

You left the house after breakfast to find your friends and choose that day’s adventures. You stopped back for a quick lunch, then didn’t come home for dinner until street lights were turning on. And by the way…

The freedom

Your parents didn’t question much about where you were or what you were doing all summer. Kids were given rules and given freedom. You could wander the neighborhood as long as you stayed out of trouble and didn’t talk to strangers. After that it was pretty much no questions asked. They just assumed you were in the woods or at a friend’s house or buying a comic book at the corner store, etc.


Action Park

What would summers in the 80s be without a compound fracture or a degloved hand? Action Park was total anarchy with teenagers supervising other teenagers and rules going out the window faster than empty beer cans from underage drinkers.

The smell of cap guns

Another thing I miss about summer from when we were kids, the smell of those just-fired red strips in cap guns. Remember that slight smell? You’d associate it with the heat of battle and the adventure of summer. Kids today are lucky if their parents even let them have a Nerf gun.

WABC music playing on every New Jersey beach

When I was a kid, WABC-AM was a juggernaut of Top 40 radio. So much so it was literally not possible to walk a New Jersey beach and not hear it coming from at least every other portable radio on the sand. The closest feel to those days is if you’ll listen to NJ101.5 on the weekends when Big Joe Henry is on.

Party time on the beach

Back-to-school sales starting in mid-August

I was shocked the other day to hear Staples was already advertising back-to-school supplies on July 5. Do you know how that depresses a kid? Back then the summers lasted 10 months and back-to-school ads were a mortal enemy.

We miss a lot. Embrace what’s still good left of summers in New Jersey.

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