Interested in Ocean City?
We'll send you updates with the latest deals, reviews and articles for Ocean City each week.
Chris' Restaurant and Docks- Part 2-now included
1920s-2008-Part 1-Changes in the North end of the boardwalk
Water under the boardwalk doesn't discourage a happy child.-1953
Several changes have occurred in Ocean City , which have not affected the general purpose of the town;that of a safe family haven, but have affected much of the boardwalk scenery. The Johnston family recalls the changes in the north end of the boardwalk.Original 4th St. on ramp-apartments on left.-1955
One of the most frequently asked questions is the change in the area of the boardwalk at 4th St. and Oves Restaurant and Bike rental.
The ocean was quickly invading the boardwalk -1955
The boardwalk at 4th St.. in no way resembles the boardwalk of old Ocean City. Once a busy area of the boardwalk which sprouted the first hotel; The Breakers, was located near where the Breakers II condos now exist. The beautiful Delaware Hotel, and a six store, topped with six apartments building were on the left side of the ramp leading to the boardwalk, which once went way out over the ocean. In the days before the boardwalk was cut way back to allow for expansion of the beach ,the boardwalk had some curves but went all the way down to the gardens until after the storm of 1944. The beach was pumped way out in 1953, then was washed away by Hurricance Hazel in 1954. They tried again in the late fifties, but the beach didn't go to the end of the jetty like it did before Hazel. The 1962 storm knocked that all out again. The boardwalk was then cut back at a 45 degree angle right after the apartments. The fourth street beach survived, but water would flow under the apartments at high tide. The building would actually sway. People could stand at the new ending of the boardwalk and view the beach and the north end, however they had to use the cutoff to travel any further. Next to the apartments were stairs, if you were lucky enough to live there, you could sunbathe on the porch, go down one flight to the boardwalk, and another to the beach. There have been no such apartments as close to the ocean or beach since. At least there are none with 15X15 foot porches, open to neighborly visiting. The apartments were built in the 1920s when Ocean City was known for Sunday dressing even on the beach. They were originally white and painted with gold trim. (They can be seen on pages 17-18 of Susan Miller's book Ocean City) The apartments had taken on the two day storm of 1962 with very little damage and were strong and sturdy. Refurbishment would have been extremely costly and the boardwalk needed to be moved again to preserve the beaches which were huge at one time, and are beautiful once again. People continually complained that their view had been ruined by the high-rise condominiums on third st..and they could no longer see Atlantic City at night (on a clear day, people could see it during the day from the porch).One of the store owners recently stated that they still couldn't get used to the huge condominium belonging in Ocean City. The city passed an ordinance in 1972 stating that no building could be higher than 70 ft.The porches of the apartment had been a great place to see the 4th of July fireworks, this ended with the building of the high rise.
The High rise built in 1974 dwarfs the apartments and blocks the
northern view. No more view of the fireworks from Atlantic City
In the early years the Larzelere's owned a restaurant at one end of the building and a five and dime type store at the other end.Mrs. Larzelere would do the cooking and you could get a fabulous hamburger. They sold the restaurant in the early sixties, but kept the five and dime type store. The stores under the apartments were a great gathering place for children. Between the candy, comic books, toys and skeeball , there was a child's dream at fourth street. Children could take a bucket and their penny candy would be counted at the Larzelere's checkout.
Until1985 stores could not be open on Sundays. Ocean City had Blue laws. . Only stores that sold newspapers, magazines and medications could be open, and if they sold both, other items had to be blocked from the general public. Other than church, the beach or going out to dinner, there was no entertainment, especially nothing electronic. Most homes didn't have televisions. Families entertained each other with newspapers, books, cards, board games, talking around the table, story telling, playing on the beach, or general relaxation. Sunday was a day of rest. Families spent time together and enjoyed each other's company and when they wanted to be alone they could always find something to do It was not uncommon for families to visit the boats or the trains. The north end was once busy with a bustle of shops and tourists taking in the view to the north. The first hotel on the boardwalk was The Breakers, built in 1912 was torn down in 1970. Those were the days when many of the hotels had private beaches. Those days are long gone. Behind the apartments was another Ocean City staple, Alden Park Manor, which gained an ocean view. People could spend the night for fifteen dollars in the late sixties, and a room with a bath was $35 in 1976. It is also gone and there sre condominiums.
Cutoff after 1962 storm
In order to maintain the beaches, the boardwalk was once again moved back and the stores and apartments were torn down around 1974.The beautiful early 20th century architecture which once reigned on 4th St, was forever gone. It was not unusual to see exercise classes there in the beginning of the century.People never went on the boardwalk in the evening without wearing their Sunday best .
Water is getting close to Alden Park Manor-Erosion causes more trouble
Apartment in back and original decks to reach them.
To the right of the 4t St. on ramp there was another section of stores, which attracted more people to the north end of the boards for shopping. There was a nice dress shope, the Tiki Restaurant, plus others. Next was the famous Johnson's ice cream and candy parlor. It was housed in its own building. This famous parlor gathered large crowds who could buy a cone with a sourball in the bottom, have ice cream scooped up fresh to take home or sit in the back at a table and order a variety of treats always served with a bowl of little pretzels. It was a major draw until 1969 when a fire destroyed it and took the life of their fifteen year old son. The remainder of the family survived. This area of the boards is still without stores. You'll notice the strip of beach near Playland and down to about fifth st. remains vacant. Nothing has been built since that tragic fire. This was a very sad day for Ocean City. His memorial bench is down near Oves.
There is a picture of the fire at the Historical Society
This story was researched at the Ocean City Historical Society, in town and online, Ocean City by Susan Miller, Images of America-Ocean City, N.J.Frank J. and Robert J. Esposito, The Johnston geneology and pictorial history.
CHRIS' SEAFOOD RESTAURANT AND DOCKS
Many people ask if there's a place to go for a boat ride. There are still charters and fishing boats, but nothing like Chris'. The first thing that you got excited about as you drove over the 9th St. bridge and looked to the right. The restaurant was listed as nationally famous, on the bay near 9th St. and the owner was Chris' Montagna.
The place was officially called Chris' Seafood Restaurant and Seafood Market and Bakery. In its day it was an Ocean City landmark and the Dockside Cafe now sits on part of the original site. You were guaranteed fresh seafood, caught daily by his fishing boats, and the best thrill ride in town.
Some history about the boats-
There were four surplus WWII pt boats. There were three fishing boats; The Wild Goose, The Flying Cloud, and the Gone With the Wind.
The Wild Goose was a party fishing boat and the Flying Cloud was for private charters. The Flying Cloud often ran excursions in the evening. The Gone With the Wind was anchored in the bay for a number of years before it was brought into service. Chris only ran it for one year before it was sold. It had a heated cabin and was intended for year round use. Only one can surmise why that was discontinued.
The fourth of course was the Flying Saucer. She retained the original PT boat shape. Chris claimed ninety miles and hour and many people would agreee. The first season was 1953 and it ran for seventeen years until the Coast Guard retired the wooden boat after a massive explosion that injured 28 sightseers. The explosion occured August 25th, 1970 at 7:03 PM about 100 feet off the dock of the Ocean City Yacht Club in 30 feet of water. After the blast, the skipper Chris Montagna (then 70 years old), ordered everyone overboard as flames from the engine compartment sprang up nearly 2 stories. Three passengers refused to go overboard, and were taken off by a Coast Guard boat. There was much panic and confusion as some were hit with wooden debris, and the passengers at the rear of the boat were climbing forward over and on top of people to get away from the flames. The life jackets were stored under the bench seats, however with all of the people rushing forward, it was impossible for some to get to the life jackets. Some people were actually trampled during all the panic. The incident made the headlines in the Philadelphia Inquirer Wednesday morning August 26th 1970.
This was not the only disaster involving the Flying Saucer. In August of 1964 the boat was beached in Ocean City at 31st Street, after the vessel developed a leak. Lifeguards formed a human chain in the surf to assist the 85 passengers mostly woman and children, to shore. No one was hurt in the incident.
The adventure is just beginning-1959
The other speed boat was the Flying Pony. It was a great little boat. She wasn't as fast as the Saucer but was truly fun. The sailboat was the Sweetheart, better to take a ride before dinner. There was also a cruiser called "The Ocean City Cruiser". That really went back in time. It was gone by 1953 or 1954. There was another fishing boat called the Billy C (it looked like a gulf shrimper), and two commercial fishing boats; The Netty K.. Mitchell and The Columbia. Early on there was another boat called the Louis Carlton which was sold when The Flying Cloud went into service.
Chris' boats and restaurant was one of the popular places in Ocean City and Chris was one of the most Popular men. Always dressed in his bright white uniform he always drove the speedboats. Chris would take The Saucer out into the ocean, open her up full throttle, and there's not a ride today that could ever be better.
Chris would always talk to the passengers and slowly give a little tour before heading out to the open sea. Only the truly adventurous would get there early enough to get a front row seat, one that would guarantee a thorough soaking and screaming good time.
The much beloved Chris passed away in 1987, but will always be remembered by anyone who had the pleasure of joining him for a wonderful trip and a delicious meal.
Just driving into town over that bridge brings all of that history to life for many people.
This section of the article was researched with the use of the Johnston family genealogy and pictorial history. Images of America: Ocean City, New Jersey by Frank J. and Robert Esposito