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Author Archives: christopher j vaz

Site moving

Will be moving this site to a new “Seaside Heights Historical Society” website.

Santa’s Seaside Heights List – 1975

If you were a child who lived in Seaside Heights in 1975 your name may be on Santa’s good kid list. If not, you were probably on Santa’s naughty list that year. Click the following link…

* The list is the property of the Seaside Heights Volunteer Fire Company Museum.

Operation Santa Claus

At sunset on Christmas Eve for more than 50 years, members of the Seaside Heights Volunteer Fire Company have suited up in Santa Claus costumes and commenced the annual tradition of personally visiting all of the homes in town that are occupied by children. Santa Claus would always leave a gift for each child, such as a fresh orange, candy cane, box of chocolate, a dollar bill, or a stuffed animal. In more recent years Mrs. Claus joined in the Christmas Eve fun. Unfortunately, the ongoing impacts of Hurricane Sandy will interrupt Operation Santa Claus this year.  Here are some photos from last year’s Operation Santa Claus. I also included links to Down By The Seaside posts from 2011 and 2010 that featured Christmas themes.

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Links to 2011 and 2010 Christmas posts:

Chief Bill Polhemus Passes

Bill has been known as “Sheriff Polhemus” for many years now, but he was known as “Chief” by the Seaside Heights police department and community before he retired and moved on to county government. Bill was also a member of the Seaside Heights Volunteer Fire Company for many decades, among numerous local organizations he belonged to, and was a strong supporter of Ocean Air Support Squadron (a volunteer flight organization that I am associated with that serves the Ocean County Sheriff’s Department).  Bill’s loss is sad news for our community. Condolences from all of us to Bill’s wife “Aggie” – Councilwoman Agnes Polhemus – and to his daughter and grandchildren.

Bill was one of the town’s few remaining links to the pioneer days of Seaside Heights. His grandparents, Mr. Samual McNicholl and Helen Gallagher McNicholl, resided along what was later named Dupont Avenue even before Manhasset Realty carved the town into lots and started selling. Bill’s father was a local contractor and built many of the early homes and commercial buildings in town.

Living directly across the street from Bill and Aggie during my high school years was always interesting, especially when my sister and I threw one of our Saturday night parties when Tony & Mary Ellen were out of town. But I’m fairly sure that he never ratted me out! In later years, I enjoyed our conversations about Seaside Heights history. He had so many personal memories and great stories he loved to tell. I learned something new from him every conversation.

Viewings for Bill will be held at the Timothy Ryan Funeral Home, 145 St. Catherine Blvd. in Toms River, from 2 p.m. to 5 p.m. and 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. on Thursday.  The funeral service will be held at the same location at 11 a.m. Friday. Bill will be buried at Ocean County Memorial Park.

Here are some photos of Bill from The Terry Groffie Collection, The Dr. Anthony E. & Mary Ellen Vaz Collection, and the Seaside Heights Volunteer Fire Company Museum Collection. You can enlarge the images with your mouse.

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Nate Ready For Anything  170

Al Poane

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.

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Poane Martinez

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Al's Car Wash_2  Mom's

“Bobby D” Dionisio Obituary

“Bobby D”…father, grandfather, businessman, former councilman, and friend of the Seaside Heights community.  He will be greatly missed by many of us.

AGE: 72 • Seaside Heights and Point Pleasant

Robert N. “Bobby D” Dionisio, 72, lifelong resident of Seaside Heights and Pt. Pleasant, passed away on Monday, Dec. 3, 2012, at Jersey Shore University Medical Center, Neptune. Born in Hackensack, he lived in Seaside Heights most of his life, moving to Pt. Pleasant 15 years ago. Bob enjoyed a longtime career in the restaurant business, owning Bob’s Ranch House, Captain Hook’s Restaurant and managed Nick’s Clam Bar for his dad and Park Seafood Restaurant for his son, Nick. He also managed and worked at Martell’s Shrimp Bar, Pt. Pleasant, The Surf Club, Ortley Beach, and Yakety Yak’s in Seaside Heights and Ocean Township. He served as a councilman in Seaside Heights for 12 years. Bob was an amazing cook. He enjoyed spending time with his cherished family and will be dearly missed by all who knew him.

He was predeceased by his parents, Nicholas and Antoinette Dionisio. Surviving are his former wife, Marsha Dionisio; his children, Stacey Ann Smith and her husband Glenn, Nicholas and his wife Lauren, Robert and his wife Elena, and Rodney and his wife Augelle; and his grandchildren, Shane and Alanah Smith, Carver, Lucien, Giovanni and Sasha Dionisio.

A Memorial Gathering to celebrate Bob’s life will be held from 6 to 9 p.m. Friday, Dec. 7, 2012, with a service at 8 p.m. at Anderson and Campbell Funeral Home, 703 Main St., Toms River. Cremation will be private. Condolences may be made by visiting

Some news articles and photos I was able to find among Terry’s, Leonard’s, and Tony’s collections…
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Better Days Await Us

We have a great history behind us and even better days await us! Hurricane Sandy knocked us down, but she can’t knock us out.

Enjoy these great old b/w photos from The Terry Groffie Collection. South view toward Funtown followed by a north view toward the Casino Pier.



Sandy Auction Winner

Heidi A. Macfarlan Johnson of Rhode Island was the successful bidder.  I made a $355 donation this morning to the official Hurricane Sandy NJ Relief Fund that was formed by First Lady Mary Pat Christie. Thank you to Heidi and everybody who bid!





Heidi sent me this e-mail message. I was touched by her parents’ love story…

Hello Chris,

I am SOOOO glad I looked in my junk mail folder and found this e-mail from you.  I was actually going to buy a card and send it to you, but I will write you here in case you want to use any tidbit of this information on your website.  I could not have been happier with what I received from you.  I was happiest about the book you wrote about Seaside Heights, as illustrated in post cards over the years.  It exceeded my expectations as far as giving me information about the community in which to immerse myself.

Let me tell you why this purchase was important to me.  I think this is the first purchase I’ve ever made for myself on ebay.  Years ago, I may have bought my daughter some shoes she saw on the site, but that’s probably the last time I even looked at anything on there.  Hearing about what happened to Seaside Heights during Hurricane Sandy personally affected me, even though I have never been there.  After I bought the People magazine which showed the picture on the front cover of the rides under water, I was haunted with constant thoughts about the seaside town.  You see, my parents met in Seaside Heights, and I lost them two Christmases in a row, in 2008 and 2009.  I still miss them terribly. They were the best of parents and also became people I’d choose as friends.  My mom was born in Glen Rock and my dad, although born in NY, spent most of his years growing up in Jersey.  My dad was a Rutgers New Brunswick grad as was my mom’s brother, my brother and me.  My father was five years older than my mom, but both of them were working one summer at one of the hotels/motels in Seaside Heights (I’d say in the early 50’s, as they were married in 1953).  As they both described it, they met during nighttime activities after work (I think dad worked in the kitchen and mom waitressed), playing a game of charades (I think it was even on the beach!).  My mom had a clue to act out and didn’t know how to do it, and my dad was teasing her.  The rest was history.  They were married 55 years.  I wish there was some way I could find out what hotel or motel they worked at back then.  Before all this I happened, I remember trying to see if there were any hotels or motels that had been in Seaside that long, but I couldn’t find that kind of detail.  So I wanted the postcard package to give me information about the beach community which was the origin of my parents’ love.  I didn’t plan on spending as much money as I did, but someone had one of those “max” bids in, that kept outbidding me, and the competitive spirit my dad taught me kept me bidding until I FINALLY found the appropriate limit!

One last note…I am a believer in our loved ones speaking to us from beyond or giving us confirmation that they know what we are doing.  As I started to look through the postcards, the oddest thing happened.  First there were a few that had no writing on them.  Then came a few that had been sent to people.  The first one that was written on was signed, “Love, Maude.”  Maude was the only mother figure my father ever knew, who died when he was 12.  She “took over” for his biological mother who died of cancer in my dad’s first year of life.  My father always talked about Maude and after he passed, I found some beautiful photos of her, which I had framed.  On my dad’s last day of consciousness (he died at home), I brought him down the picture of Maude that he had on his bureau, because he was talking about the people he wanted to see in “the promised land.”  What are the chances that the first postcard I looked at with writing on it was from someone named Maude?  Oddly enough, the second one with writing on it was signed “June,” which was my father’s sister’s name.  She, too, is gone, and loved and adored my dad and me.  I think all signs say they were happy I made the contribution to such a significant cause.I am so glad you wrote that book and offered this for auction.
Heidi A. Macfarlan Johnson

Online Christmas Shopping Benefit For Fire Company

This holiday season please consider adding a brief extra step to your online Christmas shopping by visiting and making your online purchases through their website. Most major stores (Macy’s, Walmart, Lowes, Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Bass Pro, Harry & David’s, Best Buy, Discovery Store, Kohl’s, Lord & Taylor’s, Sears, Target, and many more) offer a portion of each sale (up to 5%) to participating museums. We registered the Seaside Heights Volunteer Fire Company Museum, so now you can contribute to Station 44 by only adding a brief extra step to your process. You will receive the same online deals as you would otherwise receive by visiting the retailers’ web sites directly.

You can also buy specialty items directly from the Seaside Fire Museum Online Store.  You can purchase IPad sleeves, mousepads, magnets, coffee mugs, and beer steins. Each item contains an historical photo, and the proceeds benefit the fire company.

Thank you and Happy Cyber Monday!

Sandy Auction Last Call

The third and final addition to my Sandy Relief EBay auction lot – a copy of my Seaside Heights Postcard History book.

So, the auction lot in its entirety includes 70 vintage Seaside Heights postcards, 110 “other New Jersey” vintage postcards, a copy of my book, a miniature postcard book, and a Mouse Ride postcard  with an original T-A-G Amusements Mouse Ride ticket.

All proceeds will be donated to the Hurricane Sandy NJ Relief Fund.  Thank you to everybody who visited my EBay auction and bid!