Saturday, June 23
In 1940 the 154th Brethren Annual Conference was held in Ocean Grove, NJ. Attending was my father with his minister-father, and my mother, with her minister-father. They met and very quickly fell in love. I have always been anxious to visit Ocean Grove where this great romance began..
I did a little research on Ocean Grove and discovered there was much more to it than the usual little seaside community. It was founded in 1869 by a Methodist clergyman who formed the Ocean Grove Camp Meeting Association to operate a summer camp meeting site on the New Jersey seashore. By the early 20th century, the meeting ground was known as the “Queen of Religious Resorts.” Today it is a 5-star family seashore resort, and is still the headquarters for religious meetings of all denominations at the Great Auditorium that was built in 1894; it seats 10,000 people!
The Great Auditorium is also surrounded by a tent city that is comprised of 144 tents that are rented out on a seasonal basis – and are booked for the next 10 years! From here, a population settles in for a summer-long worship experience.
Noteworthy on Ocean Grove’s tree-lined streets is the largest assemblage of authentic Victorian architecture in the nation --- row after row of magnificent “painted ladies” – some appear to be boarding houses and some private residences. I wonder if one of these is where my grandpas/parents stayed 74 years ago?
A comment on the weather . . . it was crappy! The fog never lifted, the drizzle was continuous, and the temperature dipped down to 62 degrees! Even with that, people were out and about and enjoying the carnival-like atmosphere surrounding the Great Auditorium area.
The Auditorium was closed, and just as we got there the K9 Unit arrived to sniff around the massive inside – probably to get ready for an afternoon program. But, nothing stops Tom, and he navigated to the back side of the building where he found a door open up a flight of outside stairs. We risked it, stood inside an upper level of the theater, and saw for the first time how mammoth it really was. Except for the dog and his handler we were the only ones in the building, and we had plenty of time to get pictures and wonder what seats my parents had occupied as young lovers. Were they holding hands?
Beside the Great Auditorium was a smaller pavilion that was open and in full-force sermonizing mode. On the podium were several witnesses and the audience was paying close attention and interjecting quiet “amens” in agreement.
Still dribbleing, but not enough to really get us wet, we waked to an area beyond the Auditorium to the Starving Artists indoor/outdoor restaurant. The outside was under cover, and we enjoyed the sweet garden-type patio and some pretty wonderful food. We made a quick dash into the headquarters for the Auditorium to ask about records of the 1940 Brethren Conference. We were directed to the Historical Society next door, but the Curator was not available – we picked up his card and I planned to email him. All this time we had left Charlie and Jasper in the car (it was 62 degrees) and we were starting to feel a bit guilty.
The dogs were sound asleep when we returned, and we woke them for a walk on the sidewalks lining the beautiful Victorian homes . . . with the manicured lawns. Even in the slight sprinkle it was pretty. I could almost see my parents strolling the same street, heading for the beach boardwalk as they pondered their future – hopefully in beautiful sunshine.
That was almost a wrap for the day – almost! At the Silvermine we walked the dogs for a brisk march around the campground, cleaned the sand off their feet and bellies, and left them to watch a little TV while we headed out for supper. We had made the decision to head for home tomorrow, so this would be our last seafood dinner on the Atlantic. We headed back down to Seafood Alley, and settled on Carmen’s. We arrived just at the point that they were starting to busy-up, and we got seats within a few minutes on the covered outdoor deck. The menu was more expensive than we were accustomed to, and hoping that indicated big portions, we decided to share the broiled shrimp and scallops. The salad was plenty big, the onion rings were large and generous, and there were 7 shrimp and 7 scallops on the broiler plate! We left a few onion rings, a ½-loaf of bread, and one little scallop untouched!
At the Silvermine I worked on the inside, cleaning sand from the floor and rugs, and putting away loose items, while Tom worked on the outside dumping the tank and packing our paraphernalia. By 9:00 we were ready for a quick launch in the morning and settled down to read . . . and savor the wonderful memories from the past 17 days!
We don’t go camping any more . . . we go ‘streamin’ ! The “SIlvermine and His” is our 2018 25' Airstream Serenity with Salsa interior and front twin beds., and ‘streamin’ is the name we use to describe our adventures. Stream along as we document everything from weekend trips to longer summer excursions and full-blown vacations. You know what they say: if you’re not in an Airstream – you’re just camping!
Tom & Ella Brown