Mennonites at the Beach 1950s style

Atlantic City, New Jersey was the beach mecca for vacationers on the East Coast in the early 1900s. Still dressed in fancy Victorian formality, vacationers caught the salt air as they strolled along the famous board-walk at the Steer Pier, a combination theatre and amusement park: “Rain or Shine … There’s Always a Good Show on Steel Pier” the saying goes. But for most Mennonites, the Steel Pier was an elegant building to ogle only. The theatre was worldly and therefore strictly forbidden by church rules.


But Mennonite families liked the ocean, including my own. Many summers Daddy took Mother and the family to Atlantic City or Ocean City, New Jersey for a day. Mother just loved the water. From the time she pulled on her white latex bathing cap over her bun and donned her black, satin bathing suit with a fluffy skirt, she was bobbing up and down in tune with the waves.

Daddy in his maroon, scratchy-wool, full-body suit was usually at the shore line yelling to her, “Waaatch ooouut for the un-der-tow!” By the end of the day, he was sun-burned and out of sorts, insisting on taking his thirsty, sandy-toed family straight home, a 3-hour drive. In spite of our protests, there was no stopping for a meal let alone an over-night stay in a motel. Daddy was much too frugal for that. Yet he’d dutifully come back for more next year.

Daddy tames the undertow and gets into the water--finally!
Daddy tames the undertow and finally gets into the water!

Uncle Leroy and Aunt Clara liked visits to Atlantic City too. I don’t remember them in bathing suits, but they liked riding the bicycle built for two on the boardwalk.


LeRoy Metzler_on Boardwalk

And so did my parents!

Ray and Ruth L_Bicycle built for two

On a Bicycle Built for Two . . .

When Grandma Longenecker came to Florida the year our daughter Crista was born, she strolled Jacksonville Beach with plenty of sun-protection: black bandanna on top of her covering, caped dress, black stockings and black-heeled shoes, apparently enjoying herself.

Fannie Longenecker at beach

What family vacations stand out as memorable, past or recent? The beach, the mountains, or some place else?

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Coming next: Marriage to a Difficult Man: Parts I and II


23 thoughts on “Mennonites at the Beach 1950s style

  1. I have so many fond memories of the Jersey Shore–Atlantic City, Wildwood, and Ocean City–all at different points of my life. When our girls were little we spent several days at a B&B in Ocean City over a period of many years–until the owners retired and sold the place. Now my husband and I only go down for day trips.

    I have some old photos of my grandparents on the Atlantic City boardwalk. I love your photos, Marian! The top one with everyone in the water is wonderful–someone was a good photographer to get that close shot without the aid of present-day iPhone cameras. 🙂


    1. It would be great to see your photos. Maybe a post sometime? As I sift through the old photos, I have to wonder now who took that photo. My best guess would be Mother. If not, it would probably be me as the oldest child though I don’t remember holding an old box camera in the water at the beach.

      Interesting, we referred to these beaches as the Jersey Shore. We were going to the shore, we never used the word “beach” as I recall.


      1. Yes, we always say going “to the shore,” but true Jersey people say going “down the shore.” 🙂 When I’m writing for a larger audience, I say the beach.

        I’ve written about the shore before, but I’ve never posted those photos. I will have to see if I can get some of them.


  2. Oh oh oh! (Kid with her hand raised here.) This recalls my very first trip to the beach with Lancaster County residents, I think we went to Atlantic city with my sister’s Goshen College roommates family, the Resslers. It was awesome and so was the sun, and as Indiana farmers we thought we were used to getting sunburned etc. Wow what burns we got, no sunscreen that I recall. I also remember taking my Grandma Stauffer to the Panama City Beach when we were looking to move to North Florida (1969), and she walked the beach in her longish dress too (no covering) but oh did she complain for years about the sunburn she got on her ankles that day. No more beach for her, no siree bob. Thanks for all your memory prods, Marian.


    1. Thanks for the first laugh of the day – complaint over sunburned ankles. Ha! It’s interesting that your Grandma walked the Florida beaches about the same time mine did (about 1970 but on opposite coasts.) I always appreciate your anecdotes, Melodie.


  3. Marian, what great pictures and memories of Ocean City. It has been so many years since I seen a picture of Great Grandma Longenecker. I remember visiting with her at Aunt Ruthie’s. She was always happy and talkative. Living in Pennsylvannia for 10 years I would take my children to Ocean City, Maryland. We made great memories. We often talk about going back with all of my grand children so that they can experience the same fun their parents had as kids. It hasn’t happened due to busy lives. But every year we keep trying. Thank you for great pictures of the family. Nice song by Nat King Cole.


    1. Gloria, you have an edge over many other readers because you have met the characters in my little tales and know them personally. I am happy you are making memories with your children and grand-children. Thanks for the comment today!


  4. Because we were Floridians, we struck off north for Maggie Valley. I remember the cooler weather and the winding roads and the little shops that we visited each day. Good times 🙂


    1. That’s where we’re headed in a few weeks: the mountains. And I’m looking forward to cool mountain breezes, winding roads, and little boutiques too. We spent our honeymoon in Asheville and camped in the Smokies around Maggie Valley. We did a do-over on the honeymoon without the camper a year or two later: Read between the lines, Traci!


  5. That picture of her on the beach is priceless. The first time my 88 year old grandmother came to Florida and saw the ocean we took her out to eat. Shrimp was served and she tried it for the first time. Good thing we were seated next to the kitchen. She ran in there and spit it out. She said,” If I wanted to eat a grub worm, I’d dig one up from under a stump.”


  6. Growing up our ocean was Lake Michigan. My father’s family was spread out along the east side of the state from Door County down to Kenosha. No trip was ever complete, summer…winter…rain…or shine without a trip to the beach. Sometimes the bathing beach, sometimes just a rocky bluff to look over or climb down. We swam or just dodged waves. We collected rocks and glass, both worn smooth from years of wave/sand action. We loved the foggy days when it would be hot but the fog swirled around you in a cooling, tickling blanket, often so thick you could not see half a block. The sound of the fog horn? I love it. The best ever was to sit on a blanket in the soft beach sand, bury your feet down into the cool under-layer and watch the fireworks overhead with crowds of people on July 4th. Sometimes we’d ride the car-ferry over to Michigan, a 4 hour trip each way, to visit other relatives.


    1. Thank you for your vivid descriptions of “ocean” trips. They sound almost poetic, certainly inviting. Both of our children lived in or close to Chicago for a time, so I am somewhat familiar with the area. Right now such a place seems cool to us Floridians. I’m glad this post evoked such fond memories for you, Athanasia.


  7. My Jersey Shore destination was a bit farther north than yours: Ocean Grove, Asbury Park, Sea Side. But the surf was the same, the sausage and pepper sandwiches, the cotton candy. I once loved a good hot summer. but these past few days in the 90s had convinced me I’m well past that phase now. Thanks for a lovely post. I loved the photo of your grandma walking on the shore.


    1. I agree – cool breezes in the summer beat flashes of heat.

      Artist Cliff thinks Grandma walking along the shore would be best rendered as a water-color. Thanks for offering your take on the Jersey shore, Janet.


  8. Our family also vacationed in New Jersey. When we lived in Pennsylvania, I remember our times at the shore in Wildwood and Atlantic City as being a lot of fun. I especially loved the salt water taffy we’d get from Atlantic City. My Nana would send me a box every year. Ah, good times.

    From the looks of things, your family enjoyed their outings at the shore as well. Wonderful photos, Marian, from another era. 😉


    1. Ah, your mentioning salt water taffy reminded me of the bags of confection sold along the board-walk. In my mind’s eye I see pink, yellow, and green colored candies. I somehow don’t think they were ever made in blue.

      I would never eat any taffy now–too dangerous for my crowns and onlays. Ha! Thank for jogging memories for us, Judy.


  9. I love your old photos. We used to go to a caravan in Dorset and I remember flying a kite with my Dad and visiting Corfe Castle. It’s somewhere I’d like to revisit one of these days.


    1. See, that’s what I love about England: all of those romantic destinations, caravans and castles. I hope your wish comes true. Summer is a good time for such a visit.

      Thanks for commenting. Your reading and responding keeps me going, Marie.


  10. Marian – I’m l-a-t-e to your wonderful post because my sister has been visiting from San Diego. We were busy making memories of our own (most of them hysterical, my ribs still hurt from laughing so much).

    I especially enjoyed looking at — and then RE-looking at — the photograph of your grandmother. The gleeful smile on her face is contagious. It’s abundantly clear that she’s having a total blast!


    1. Better late than never, I say. Memory-making is serious business and I’m not one to interfere. Grandma L. was the most balanced and happy person in my childhood. She and Ruthie would laugh and slap their knees until they cried over simple, funny things. And, I suspect they wet their panties too!


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