If you grew up in Seaside Heights you know Al Poane. And depending on how many times you’ve circled the sun you may have even known Al’s mother and father. His family came to town sometime in the 1930s. His mother operated Mom’s Spaghetti House on Sumner Avenue and his father owned the nearby Butterfly Hotel. When Al wasn’t busy working tirelessly for the Seaside Heights Police Department he operated Al’s Car Wash on Blaine Avenue. Needless to say, Al and his family are a special part of our local history, and I can’t wait for all of you to hear Al talk about his love for Seaside Heights in the film documentary that Joe Verderosa (Greenrose Media), Peter Smith, and I have been working on. (“The Future Is In The Past” – to be released Spring 2013).
Like most residents of Seaside Heights, Al and his wife Sue have been temporarily displaced from their home by Hurricane Sandy. They’re staying at a motel until January. When I talked with them two nights ago as they were leaving Bobby D’s funeral service, I was overcome by the strangeness – surrealness – of what everybody is going through. Our vocabulary has changed since October 29th. Words like “disaster,” “FEMA,” “flood insurance,” “surge,” “water line,” “mold,” “base elevation maps,” “debris,” and “temporary shelter assistance” are a part of every conversation now. Most important though, when a guy like Al, with a small tear in the corner of his eyes, says that he’s never seen anything like this, it really hits you. No matter how many times I’ve stood on the beach since October 29th and gazed at the Star Jet roller coaster sitting on the ocean floor or Funtown in ruins, it’s a conversation with someone like Al that brings Hurricane Sandy into focus – conversations based on that invisible but very strong personal connection between locals and the town – memories from better times, today’s pain and anger, and fear and doubt about tomorrow.
Merry Christmas to Al & Sue, and all of my friends and acquaintences from town who are spending the holiday season on the mainland.
“Al’s Car Wash” and “Mom’s Spaghetti House” are from The Terry Groffie Collection. News article images are from The Dr. Anthony E. & Mary Ellen Vaz Collection. The images can be enlarged with your mouse. The first color photograph was taken by me last December at the annual POSH Christmas meeting. The second color photograph was taken by me last December at the annual Seaside Heights Volunteer Fire Company Christmas Banquet.