"Happy birthday Big Daddy,
Happy birthday to you!
You look like a monkey
And you act like one too!"
Is “Happy Birthday” the greatest song ever written or what? The very first time I remember hearing that song was my fifth birthday. Cake, candles, singing and presents. What a fantastic day. As I got into my teens the song took on even more of a special meaning because my birthday is on May 29, near Memorial Day weekend. And that’s when we always celebrated it.
Starting with the summer before my senior year, my birthday was always celebrated down the Shore with my gang of high school buddies. That first one was held right on the beach at 45th Street in Sea Isle City. Some of the girls who hung with us even brought a cake down to the beach.
Then there was the jam that rocked Club Fifty One, which was this really cool, modern house that was located at 51st and Landis. (How they ever rented to us is a mystery still unsolved to this day.) Many a wild party were thrown there. How outrageous?
We checked in on Memorial Day weekend and spent Friday night running around town tacking up posters announcing my birthday party and that all were invited. The ads even included our address. Can you imagine? And it worked. Complete strangers showed up and this was our first Sea Isle party of the summer. There must have been 100 people there and the party flowed out of the house onto the front lawn. The previous summer we got thrown out of our rental in Wildwood so for this summer we decided to give Sea Isle a try.
So, this was risky to say the least. About two hours into the party the police showed up and told us to keep it down. “Keep it down?” We would have been locked up in Wildwood. Right then and there our lifelong love affair with Sea Isle began. I would bet you that at least 20 of the 100 partygoers that night eventually became homeowners. However, there were first many summers of rentals to go.
Then there was the summer we rented this tiny two-bedroom, one-story house on Central Avenue. Again, we were throwing yet another big
birthday party for me on Memorial Day weekend. There must have been 37 people jammed into this tiny house when the police showed up. Then they asked us, “Who is on the lease?” And all 37 of us put our eyes down and muttered, “On the lease? Geez, I don’t know. Lefty, are you on the lease?”
Then there was the summer where for some strange reason our rental did not begin until June 1. So, we had to think outside of the box. We rented one room—yes, one room—at the Sea Isle Inn. How we got the room, I’ll never, ever know. And we sang the loudest “Happy Birthday” ever record-ed on the planet Earth. I mean every
single word, every single syllable was screamed at the top of everyone’s lungs. I’m telling you they heard us in Avalon. Mayor Lenny Desiderio laughs about it to this day. Yet, he did not kick us out, either, and three more people
became homeowners eventually. So maybe there was a method to the madness. We all fell in love with the town and eventually wanted to acquire real estate there. Hmmm. Just saying.
So next winter we started our search for our summer rental much too late and all the good properties were gone. We ended up in Strathmere in this bizarre triplex with three bathrooms and, get this, three kitchens—one on every floor. The fact that Strathmere has no police and if there’s any loud party the state police must be called in to break it up is also a very nice selling point in Strathmere’s favor.
And wouldn’t you know it? They were called in the very first weekend. My birthday fell on a Sunday and my party was held late afternoon because everyone was going home that evening. That is, everybody but me, who was staying down for the entire summer. A real plus for an unemployed college dropout. When everyone left, I ended up at the Deauville Inn where I tied another one on. (It was my birthday, after all.) Then I walked back to our Strathmere abode where I ended up standing on our makeshift coffee table, air guitaring to Led Zeppelin at volume 11.
The next thing I knew, I was seeing these strange white lights hovering above me on the ceiling. Geez, how drunk was I? It turned out these white lights were being shined from the flashlights of state troopers in my living room. Apparently, Led Zeppelin at volume 11 can be heard in Ocean City and hence the state police were called expecting to discover a wild party instead of one doofus all by himself. What a night.
I now have quiet, fun get-togethers at home with my wife Debbie, daughters Keely and Ava, grandkids Jameson and Lucy, and sons-in-law Matt and Bill. I am waiting for a group of young maniacs to rent the house right next to me any minute.
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To read the digital edition of South Jersey Magazine, click here.Published and copyrighted in South Jersey Magazine, Volume 18, Issue 2 (May 2021).