Sun and Fun in Seaside Heights?
Seaside Heights was in trouble long before Snooki slithered into town
What a difference 51 summers can make.
A faded, pink-tinged 1960 Seaside Heights promotional film still available on YouTube bears little resemblance to the Seaside Heights of today.
The beaches and boardwalks are full of families. Women and teenagers for the most part wore one-piece bathing suits. The more daring wore modest two-piece suits. No sunburned rumps split by thongs, no men who shouldn't be wearing Speedos wearing Speedos. No gold chains.
"Everywhere young people can be see enjoying each other," the moderator chortles, as the film zeroes in on a wholesome young couple chatting on the beach.
Now fast forward to Memorial Day 2011.
"Seaside Heights| *Stabbing*| Sheridan Ave & Boardwalk| Monoc 1 is transporting a 28 y/o male to jersey shore trauma who has a large stab wound to the left chest. Victim has been intubated."
That terse message from our breaking news network flashed across Patch computer screens on that night. Others preceded it. "A large fight... pepper spray...."
But Seaside Heights has had its problems long before Snooki and her gang slithered into the land of "Sun and Fun," aka Seaside Heights, and long before the two stabbings in the last several weeks.
Back in the mid-1980s, frantic residents flocked to Borough Council meetings. They would plead with then-Mayor George E. Tompkins and council members to do something about the people urinating out of windows of rented "animal houses," fornicating on front lawns, spilling out of bars onto the Boulevard in the early morning hours and using language unfit for childrens' ears on the boardwalk.
Tompkins would listen patiently, sigh, then pretty much tell them it was the price to pay for living in a resort town.
But that never made much sense. Seaside Heights is flanked by Lavallette and Seaside Park, two tidy towns that look more like Cape Cod than Ocean County.
Granted, Seaside Heights has amusements, rides and games of chance. But it also has something the other two towns don't have. It has 22 places - including nightclubs, bars and package good stores to buy liquor in a borough little more than one square mile in area.
Current Mayor P. Kenneth Hershey has been mayor since 1990. That's the year he beat Tompkins in the mayoral race, after the state Commission of Investigation issued a scathing report on the borough's financial practices.
Hershey and the council began cracking down on absentee landlords, fining them when police calls to their properties added up. There was a concerted effort to resurrect Seaside's reputation as a family resort.
But given the events of the last few weeks, it has apparently hasn't been enough. It's not a secret that many boardwalk businesses - not just the bars - hire off-duty cops or security guards for protection.
The Seaside Tourism Bureau is still cranking out public relations announcements that sound like that long-ago 1960s promotional film.
"Seaside Heights is the perfect combination of your childhood memories and your next great family vacation. We're bring Seaside to new Heights."
What do you think could be done to change things? Send us your suggestions.