Some things, like the sun and surf, never change.
But that’s about all I can say about Atlantic City as I knew it and as it is now.
For those of you who are transplants to this area, and for those old timers who may know of what I speak,
let me describe the Atlantic City of my youth.
It was the entertainment spot of the time.
It was also the closest available source of quality medical care, comprehensive library services and
a host of other things that helped those of us living in reasonable proximity.
The Public Service bus ran from Philadelphia to Atlantic City, stopping in all the little towns along Route 30.
We lived 18 miles away and it was our major form of transportation to and from the shore.
At age 14, I was taking the bus to the city, walking the four blocks or so to Pacific Avenue, hopping a
jitney to Chelsea Heights and reversing the process when the visit to my orthodontist was concluded.
In high school, I traveled to Atlantic City for pipe organ lessons, taught on the huge instrument housed in
the Presbyterian Church on Pacific Avenue.
Later, I would drive to Florida Avenue every day for two summers, working behind the desk of the Hotel
Roma, a family-run business that catered to Italians from New York and Philadelphia who spent their
shore vacations on the “broadawalk” or rocking peacefully on the huge wicker chairs, watching the
activities at the Convention Hall across the parking lot from the hotel’s porch.
The Roma's ground floor became the street level of the Trump World's Fair Hotel and Casino.
When that was razed, all traces of the Roma were erased.
The jitneys still run.
Few 14-year olds would dare make the trek as I did, alone and unprotected.
The boardwalk, too, has changed.
Where we once dressed to the teeth and purchased rubber heel protectors for our high heel pumps to keep
them from being caught in the spaces between the boards, it seems that no one bothers with formalities
The few couples that are found strolling the boards are usually very casually dressed; the glamour is on
the inside of the casinos, not wasted on boardwalk passersby.
The magnificent Steel Pier, where we once gasped in awe at the feats of the white diving horse,
succumbed to old age and impossible repair costs.
In its stead, farther down the boardwalk, Caesar's Shops at the Pier, feature fine restaurants and upscale
shops with pricey offerings.
We were about fourteen when The Crew Cuts made a personal appearance at the Steel Pier.
My friend Mary Lou and I sat through their show at least four times that day, waiting outside the stage
door between each performance for a glimpse of our idols.
I still have the worn, dog-eared autograph book containing the scrawled signatures of each of them.
The chance to see entertainers without paying exorbitant show prices has been lost.
In my opinion, anyway, that isn’t all that's been lost during those intervening years.
Atlantic City has been lost.
The city I loved lost its community; it lost its warmth; it lost its ability to make visitors feel at home.
Sure, it’s got flashy casinos, big name entertainment (not a diving horse among them) and high rollers.
That all extends for a block or so west from the boardwalk.
Beyond that, though, Atlantic City has become a town of day-trippers and transients, people who arrive
by the busload to give the casino tables and machines their hard-earned money and then leave shortly
thereafter, having contributed nothing nor enjoyed anything else that Atlantic City might have to offer.
I voted for casino gambling when it was put to referendum.
I had hoped it would make my Atlantic City complete … give it the economic base it needed to grow
It hasn’t worked that way, as I see it.
Atlantic City has gone the way of that gutsy white horse, its original glory drowned in the sea of glitz.