Seven Things You Might Remember if You Lived in South Jersey in the 1980s — Part One
Ahhh… the 80s. A simpler time. Folks were just starting to get online using CompuServe and Prodigy, and you were probably still hunting for change to call someone using a pay phone. Here are some fun things about the 1980s, South Jersey-style.
But first a note: we’re saying this is the first of our 1980s South Jersey blogs because I was overwhelmed with feedback when coming up with what to list here.
Please feel free to include your favorite South Jersey memories from the ’80s in the comments section below and they might be included in future blogs.
Showboat Had a Bowling Alley
Showboat Casino opened in 1987 and it had something besides slot machines and restaurants — it had a huge bowling alley (in fact, I believe the casino’s full name was “Showboat Hotel, Casino, and Bowling Center”). Up on the floor where the House of Blues was, the neighboring buffet used to be a huge bowling alley. ABC televised several national bowling events from Showboat.
Major Shopping Changes in South Jersey
While we were bowling at Showboat in 1987, our shopping habits also went through major changes. In 1987, the $100 million Hamilton Mall opened on some of the Atlantic City Race Track land. JCPenney and Sears moved from the Shore Mall (more on that below) to the new center in Mays Landing and Macy’s was originally supposed to be a Bamberger’s store. A 4th department store (the big empty area in the back of the mall where the Forever 21 entrance is now) was planned but never built.
The Death of Jim O’Brien
If you grew-up in Philly or South Jersey in the 1970s, you knew who Jim O’Brien was — an extremely popular radio air personality to moved over to Channel 6 in 1971 where he quickly became one of the most beloved weather people in town. One of O’Brien’s hobbies was skydiving — and it was a skydiving accident that claimed his life in September, 1983.
The summer of 1985 had come to an end and just a few weeks later, Hurricane Gloria — then called “the storm of the century” — plowed up the East Coast. Winds gusted as high as 101 MPH in Ocean City as the storm passed our coast before making landfall on Long Island.
Frank’s Black Cherry Wishniak Soda
“Is it Frank’s? Thanks.”
Frank’s made a bunch of different sodas from a factory in Philadelphia — grape, vanilla creme, ginger ale, and others — but it was their black cherry wishniak that made them a local legend. The 80s were huge for Frank’s, but by 1990 the company was sold and they pretty much disappeared from store shelves.
The Wildwood Twin Drive-In
There was a drive-in movie theater in Wildwood — The Wildwood Twin Drive-In — right off of Exit 4. This theater originally opened in 1950 and in the mid 70s they added a second screen to become a “twin.” For whatever reason, I remember seeing “Goonies” here as a kid in 1985. The Wildwood Twin Drive-In closed at the end of the 1986 season and any trace of it is long gone.
I recently asked people on Facebook to post their favorite 80s South Jersey memories and many people said the Shore Mall in EHT. And since we recognized the Hamilton Mall further up the page, a tip of the hat is necessary for the Shore Mall.
The Shore Mall (originally called Searstown, now known as Harbor Square) opened in 1968 and one could argue it peaked in the 1980s before the Hamilton Mall opened. Shore Mall was home to Sears, JCPenney, Foodtown, Clover, Steinbach, and others – and some great local shops.