OCEAN CITY-AUDUBON MEMORIES with Ken Weaver

By TOM WILLIAMS

Ken Weaver was part of the Class of 1957 at Audubon High School. But he also had strong connections to Ocean City High School. These are some of his memories from those years. Hopefully, his words will inspire others to send their memories and thoughts about their CAL experiences. More about that at the end – here is Ken’s story.

My mother grew up in Strathmere (my grandparents ran the general store and post office) and she and her siblings (four sisters and a brother) all went to the one-room schoolhouse on Vincent Road (still there!) through eighth grade and then took the train (Pennsy) every day, along with the Sea Isle kids, to Ocean City High School. My oldest aunt went to high school at the Central Avenue School that is now the police station, but the rest went to the high school that was across the street from the current Ocean City High School.

My dad served stateside in the Army Air Corps during WWII, and we were in Santa Monica, California when the war ended. He did not have enough points to be discharged, so my mother brought my sister and me back on the train to Strathmere while he went across the Pacific to monitor and observe the A-bomb tests on various atolls. We got back around Christmas of 1945 and I went to first grade in OC (Central Avenue School) with what would become the class of ’57.

In those days, Strathmere kids in first through twelfth grade went to school in Ocean City. Sea Isle had its own school for children up to eighth grade and then they went to OCHS. There was only one bus for the Strathmere and Sea Isle kids.

When I was in first through third grades, the 1920 flat bridge over the Strathmere Bay could not support a bus, so the bus would pick up the high school kids in Sea Isle, drive up to Strathmere for our kids and then drive back through Sea Isle, over the old 44th Street hump-backed bridge out to Ocean View, north on Shore Road to Marmora and then over the 34th Street bridge. In 1948, the new Corson’s Inlet Bridge opened and our ride to and from school got much shorter.

There was a man in Strathmere named of Merritt Othello Brown, whom everyone called Brownie. He had been a Chief in the Coast Guard and ended his career in command of the Strathmere Coast Guard Station and then stayed in town. He had a son with the same name whom everyone called Brownie Boy.

Brownie loved football, and of course there was no television then. There were few kids in Strathmere, so I palled around with Brownie Boy, who was several years older. His dad asked if I would like to go to a football game with them and, of course, I accepted.

That first game was the Thanksgiving Day game at Pleasantville in 1946. I watched the game from the stands with the Browns and enjoyed it – although I have no recollection of who won. What really stands out, though, was that at the end of the game a fight broke out among fans near one end zone and they brought out a fire engine and turned the hose and water onto the fighting fans! For a kid who had never been to a football game, I was hooked!

I remember going to the Thanksgiving morning game the following year and then to Thanksgiving dinner at my Aunt Sta and Uncle Bob’s on Surf Road in the Gardens. They ran the Strand Restaurant, on the ground floor of the Strand Hotel at Ninth & Wesley and always had lines outside half a block long waiting to get in for dinner, much like Watson’s a decade later. Anyway, before dinner we listened to the Penn-Cornell game (both my parents had gone to Penn and met there) on the radio and Uncle Bob came home and showed off a hundred dollar bill he had won at the year-old Atlantic City Racetrack. I don’t remember anyone asking how much he had to bet to win that hundred! 

Mr. Brown took me to every Ocean City game, home and away, through sixth grade, with the possible exception of when I had mumps or measles (and one game that was up in Point Pleasant). He said that was just too far to drive (no Garden State Parkway then). I remember coming back from a rainy game in Millville one year and him saying, “Bill Morrow couldn’t do anything today, Andy Jernee really saved them”. I also remember Walt Buckholtz, perhaps a few years later. Then, when I was in Junior High, Bert Avis at quarterback and point guard in basketball.

Growing up in Strathmere was challenging. It was wonderful in the summer, because we lived a block from both the ocean and the bay, and there were lots of summer kids and much to do. After Labor Day, though, everything changed. There were almost no other kids. Since young Brownie and I both liked sports, we kind of bonded and did things together. We formed a two-man football team and took on those kids who still came down on weekends for a while.

In those days Ocean City used the single wing and a no-huddle offense. Since Brownie was the senior member of our team, he got to be the backfield and I was the line. With only two players, we could not use the single wing, but Brownie insisted on calling plays with no huddle. That meant I had to memorize about a dozen plays. He would call the signals and I had to hike the ball and we would execute the play. We were terrific!

When we ran out of weekenders to play, Brownie arranged for us to play another two-man team in Sea Isle. We got out on Commonwealth Avenue in our shoulder pads and helmets and began to hitch-hike. Unfortunately, a Strathmere resident came along and busted us. Hitch-hiking was quite common then, but apparently for a third grader it was a bridge too far. Our road trip was canceled.

I am very grateful to the Browns for introducing me to sports like that. My dad was a sports fan and great supporter when I played in high school, but they got me started.

I was always sad to get on the bus back to Strathmere after school when all my friends would get to play and I would leave. In sixth grade my father allowed me to stay in Ocean City to play and then wait at Wayne Winner’s house where Dad would pick me up on his way home from work in Atlantic City.

We moved over to Ocean City for my seventh and eighth grade years, living on Lincoln Place, where my ’57 classmate, Marlene Moncrief Murphy, lives today. I played basketball behind Doc Adams’ house on Atlantic with Tommy and the guys, played touch football on the Tabernacle grounds and rode my bike to school.

Living in Ocean City, I no longer had Mr. Brown to take me to football games, but I was still anxious to go. The Ocean City football field had no lights then, but they did play two night games each year. As I recall, Wildwood, Cape May, Middle Township and Egg Harbor City all had lights, and OC would play two of them at night each year. They played at Egg Harbor, I believe, in 1952 and I hitch-hiked out to the game. It probably took three rides, but I got dropped off on the White Horse Pike at the street that led back to the field. Growing up in Strathmere, the only trees we had were poison ivy and bayberry bushes, so walking down there under a canopy of large trees made a lasting impression. Whenever I hear the song, “Autumn Leaves”, I still think of walking down that street in Egg Harbor with the crowd to the football field with leaves coming down around us.

In January 1953, middle of eighth grade, my sister and I moved up to Runnemede in Camden County (family issues) to live with my aunt and uncle. From there I went to Audubon High School (Triton had not yet been built) still pining for Ocean City and my former classmates.

In ninth grade I had a knee problem that kept me from even taking gym class, but I had surgery that June up at Cooper Hospital and never had trouble with it again. I went out for basketball in tenth grade (having grown almost eight inches since eighth grade) and played junior varsity. There were no such things as activity buses then, so after practice we Runnemede kids had to walk from Audubon out to Mt. Ephraim where we hitch-hiked down the Black Horse Pike through Bellmawr to Runnemede and then walked home. For me that meant walking up over Irish Hill and down again almost to Barrington. Senior year, Fred Bricketto bought a car and we rode in style.

Like Ocean City, Audubon had a great basketball coach, John “Bear” Kling, but unlike OC’s domination of the Cape-Atlantic league, Audubon had been a bridesmaid in the Colonial Conference, finishing second to the Belz twins and Haddon Heights for two years and then second to the Andress twins and Haddonfield my junior year.

In the summer of 1955, a number of Audubon guys and gals worked in Ocean City because the basketball coach (Kling) and the football coach (Irv Lippe) ran an A&W luncheonette on the boardwalk between 11th and 12th. The parents trusted them to be there if the kids had any trouble. I wanted to join them, but my Aunt Jean felt that at 15 I was too young to be on my own for the summer.

The next summer (1956) I joined the Audubon group working on the boardwalk in Ocean City. Most of the guys worked at Harry Anglemyer’s Copper Kettle Fudge shop beating fudge and the girls worked at the Chatterbox. But I worked the grill at Bob Ordille’s Dunkem Inn, which was across the court from the A&W place. We (the boys) stayed in a dorm in what had been the restaurant of the Hanif Inn on Wesley just south of the old Lincoln Hotel. For $8.00 a week, we got a twin bed and half a dresser and it was great. Kling and Lippe had given up the A&W place and Kling had gone in with Tom Crowley to run a miniature golf course in Stone Harbor called the Kay-Cee Golf Course.

We entered the Stone Harbor summer basketball league and a former Audubon player then playing at Glassboro State, Leo Harvey, coached us and drove us from Ocean City. We did okay in the league, although I remember being crushed by the Coast Guard team from the Cape May base that was obviously made up of guys who had played together and were not new recruits. One of my vivid memories was driving back up the Parkway after a game going 70 mph or so when the hood on Leo’s ’51 Plymouth suddenly released and everything ahead of us went black except a little eyelash-shaped area at the base of the hood. Leo got off to the side with no harm done.

We played playground basketball at Sixth Street every night except Sunday, when we all had to troop up to 34th Street because somehow the Ocean City Blue Laws did not apply to the south end.

That fall, we were at a football game in Moorestown when a story went racing through our visiting crowd that the high school was on fire. It turned out that it was the stage and the gym behind it. They caught fire from costumes for plays that were stored up over the stage. I may be wrong, but I seem to remember the old OCHS having a similar fire a few years earlier.

So that meant that for our senior year, we had no home gym to practice in and nowhere to play home games. Coach Kling arranged for lots of scrimmages so we could go play in other people’s gyms to get ready for the season. Jack McCloskey had been the coach at Collingswood before he went to coach Penn, and he was a poker buddy of Kling. So we went over to the Palestra several times to scrimmage the Penn freshmen team. One team we scrimmaged was Moorestown, and we barely held our own against them. I vividly remember Coach’s anger after the scrimmage, telling us, “Those are just kids, and you could not do better than that against them?”. Of course, those “kids” included freshman Leroy Peacock, sophomores Eddie Douglas, Mel Collins and Dave (Lefty) Robinson (yes, THAT Dave Robinson – the future Penn State football star, Packers’ No. 1 draft pick and two-time Super Bowl champion) and junior Bob Meredith. But we had no idea at the time who they were going to become.

Besides our scrimmages with other teams, we found a place to practice at the Mt. Ephraim Police Reserve Institute (MEPRI) Hall gym. It was actually fine for practice but when we played a home game there, against Woodbury, the body heat of the crowd caused moisture from below to condense on what I remember as kind of a tile floor and turned it into a skating rink. Al (Kap) Kapczynski was one of our best players, and his dad was a member of MEPRI and had arranged for us to use it. As the floor got more and more slippery, Kap’s dad (“Mr. Kap”) got some Comet cleanser to sprinkle on the floor to provide some traction. Of course, all that did was make it muddy and more slippery, but the crowd loved it and at every timeout he would run onto the floor to sprinkle more powder and the crowd would serenade him with “Mr. Sandman…”.

We beat Haddonfield and Collingswood in the Collingswood Christmas Tournament to go to 5-0 and I think Coach Kling started to get optimistic about our chances.

We got to 8-0 before being brought up short with a loss to Woodrow Wilson of Camden and later a one-point loss to Haddon Heights, who had been the pre-season favorite to win the conference. We lost to Collingswood (Group 4) but ended up beating Haddon Heights the second time we played them to finish with only one conference loss and Coach Kling’s first Colonial Conference championship. We finished the regular season by crushing Woodrow Wilson, who was without Gary Morrison, their best player.

In the Group 3 tournament we beat Haddon Heights again, and then, in probably our finest hour, beat Moorestown by two points. We then fell apart against Wilson, who had Morrison back and was playing in Camden Convention Hall, but that was no excuse for our play that night. Now, almost 64 years later, I can still see Morrison driving down the middle through our zone, which we never allowed.

I was not there, so I can’t swear this is true, but supposedly when Pete Monska retired, he said that the loss to Audubon was the most disappointing thing in his career, because he felt that if they had won that game, they would have won three state championships. As it was, Moorestown went 22-0 each of the next two years, winning Group 3 state championships each year.

Nobody ever threatened to call us Audubon’s “Team of the Century”, like the ’57 OCHS team, but we finally took the lid off for Coach Kling and he won quite a few championships after that, including a state championship. The new gym at Audubon is named for him, as the OCHS gym is named for Dixie Howell.

We did not have great players (that we knew about) that year, but we played very well as a team. I don’t think anyone averaged over 13 or 14 points a game. We used a 1-2-2 zone and fast broke every time we could. We did get three players named to the All-Colonial Conference first team.

Coach Kling was also our Driver Ed instructor, so he had to get birthdates to know when to take kids to the DMV for their licenses. He got mildly upset with me when he learned that I had only turned 17 in mid-October of senior year. If I had started school in New Jersey instead of California I could have played for him another year (and not been in the Class of ’57!).

Kap had no intention of going to college, but Leo and coach Kling talked him into going to Glassboro State, against his father’s wishes. Kap proceeded to set just about every scoring record they had, and went on to get his doctorate and become a reading specialist and then a principal.

I went on to play three years of very lackluster basketball for some not-so-successful teams at Lehigh University. Our coach was Tony Packer, father of Billy Packer of Wake Forest and announcing fame. Billy was a better player than his father was a coach.

Interestingly, I was in the army in Germany in 1963-1964 and got some TDY time to play battalion level basketball (the coach was another lieutenant and buddy of mine). While there I ran into Wayne Hudson – I think at a tournament in Hanau – and he brought me up to date on the class.

I’ve often wondered if I had stayed at Ocean City how much playing time I would have gotten. Tommy Adams and Wayne Hudson were fixtures, with Mike Varano out front, so I would have had to get some time from Mike Fadden or Larry Harrison. Actually, I’m not sure why I think I know who the starting five was back then for Ocean City, since I only ever saw them play in the summer league. Tim DeBaufre, Charlie Bowman and Wayne Winner were all very good players also and no doubt played a lot. Tim ended up going down to Duke and played on the freshman team there, before he turned to the dark side and made golf his life, spending many years as the Head Pro at the Philadelphia Country Club and still Pro Emeritus at Greate Bay.

The 1957 OCHS basketball team – the best of the Raiders in the 20th century

Since I went to school with that crew for almost eight years, they’ve made me an honorary member of the OCHS Class of ’57 and I go to their reunions and annual luncheons, organized by Class Secretary Joan Sampson Weigel. Don Eisenhardt is class president. Mike Varano (Class VP), Charlie Bowman and Tim DeBaufre come to the luncheons. Wayne Hudson is in Auburn, Alabama, but comes back up for the five-year reunions. Sadly, we’ve lost Tom Adams and Wayne Winner in the last few years.

My wife Jessica and I went to lunch at Josie Kelly’s with Kap and Sandy back before the pandemic hit. At lunch, I asked him, “Kap, when did you find out you were so good?”, because that had always puzzled me. He said it was in his first game at Glassboro State when he scored 22 points. Corky Henson, from Atlantic City, came up to him after the game and said, “Hey, Man, I’m the star of this team!”. Kap said, “You’re right, Corky, you scored 23 points and I only scored 22!’. Henson did not stay at Glassboro after their freshman year. Kap was inducted into Glassboro’s Hall of Fame in 1988.

Things have sort of come full circle. We’re living in Egg Harbor Township now, and although we’re only half an hour away we rent for two weeks each summer in Strathmere. I’ve given up hitch-hiking(!).  My son Dan teaches Astronomy and Calculus-Based Physics at OCHS – where I never got to go!

(If you’re interested in how train service came to Ocean City and how that involved Strathmere’s Deauville Inn, you may be interested in my video, “Early Strathmere History”. Go to YouTube on your smart TV and search for that title. When you see a large locomotive with two buildings (both still there) you’ve found the right place. If you just want to watch it on a PC or device, a link is here (but it’s better on a TV screen).

These memories and observations by Ken from almost 65 years ago are of interest to those from both Ocean City and Audubon. If you have memories of high school sports when you played, please send them along to TomW@primeevents.net. If you have photos, feel free to attach them.

It is important to keep the past alive.

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