The oldest is also the longest and most infamous, the 4.5 mile stretch at Atlantic City, NJ, now more of a gambling getaway than a beach resort.
Incorporated as a city in 1854, Atlantic City built its boardwalk in 1870 to keep sand out of hotel lobbies and removed it at the end of each tourist season. The permanent 7 mile long structure that evolved was partially destroyed by the Great Atlantic Hurricane of 1944.
Up until the time of Prohibition (1920-1933), the resort could only be reached by rail. It became a haven for bootleg alcohol production and transportation, infamous as a meeting place for early mobsters from New York, Philadelphia and Chicago. Roads and highways were quickly developed that would allow automobile access.
Gambling, narcotics, prostitution were close behind. It made sense that the first legalized casinos outside of Las Vegas would show up here in the 1970’s.
Several resorts of a more family-friendly nature developed along the Atlantic shore. Wildwood, Rehoboth Beach, Cape May, and the two Ocean Cities (NJ and MD) were family favorites.
It was just not summer if we could not fry to a crisp on the beach, enjoy nightly amusements and games, rent tandem bikes in the early a.m., board the fishing or speed boats, and walk those boards.
Salt water taffy, fresh-made fudge, caramel popcorn and vinegar-soaked french fries, roasted corn on the cob, chocolate covered frozen bananas, the best pizza outside of New York City and the freshest seafood anywhere were welcome treats.
The Drifters captured a mood in their 1964 hit, a song that always elicits a smile and a memory. Time to head to the beach.