When Bernard Boris was a real estate agent in Philadelphia, a picture crossed his desk. It was a small bungalow in an unheard-of town called Strathmere. No one seemed to want the little house, so he purchased it. His wife Helen, and his two very young children came down in 1950 for the first time.
The house had two addresses at the time 17 and 19 Sumner Road. 'Old-Timers' in Strathmere told Bernie and Helen that during the 1944 hurricane, the house had been blown from the ocean side lot to the next-door neighbor's house. They also told them a bit of history, saying that the house, when first built in the late 1800s, was a bath house for those day-trippers (called 'shoobies' because of the shoe-box lunches that they carried) who came down on the train from Philly. It ran down Commonwealth, and they would walk to the bath house, rent a wool swimsuit for the day, and enjoy the surf and sun. Originally the house had a full porch from front to back, facing the ocean, and two barn-like doors at the side. The rounded walls on the left and right of the doors each had windows where the people paid to rent the bathing suits and a locker to keep their clothing. Later it was converted to a home.
Each Summer, Helen would come down with the children, and Bernie would take the bus at 13th and Filbert into Sea Isle City every Friday night to spend the weekends with his family. There was no phone in the house when they first started to come down, so Bernie would call Bill Thompkin's store on Commonwealth and Bill would send a young helper to tell Helen to come down for the call. Bill carried candy, milk, fresh butchered meats and other grocery items, plus kerosene to wipe the 'tar' from the beach off the bottom of feet.
Florence and Herman Kibler already owned the beach front house, a Spanish style, solid reinforced concrete home with inlaid Spanish tiles throughout. In the livingroom, the tiles were laid out to resemble an Oriental rug. On the other side of Helen and Bernie's house lived the Ludwig family. A few years after Helen and Bernie moved in, a Cape Cod style house was built on the beach side, next to the Kibler's home. The Heberling family moved in, with their children Pat and Don. The Ross family lived across the street on the beach. They owned a farm in Vineland and brought fresh produce every weekend to share with the neighbors. Every 'Dad' went fishing, and whoever caught some would share them with the entire street.
The beach was wide then and all of the children of Sumner Road played there every day, making drip castles in the wet sand, body surfing in the waves, and using as a sliding board, a slanted piece of concrete approximately 4x6 feet with a beautiful inlaid tile Indian head profile on it. I always wondered why no one tried to save it? It took almost an hour for us children to walk 'the point', and we would wave to the Coast Guard in the tower on the beach on our way, slide down the huge sand dunes on our bottoms, and hunt for seagull eggs at the point. (You always knew when you were near because the 'mother' would dive-bomb your head!)
As we got older, we would all walk on the beach to Sea isle, buy a fresh made doughnut on the boardwalk next to the bowling alley and walk back home. We all loved to watch the doughnuts float down the conveyor belt of oil, flip over, and finish the ride to be sugared at the end. On the boardwalk, the smell of fresh-baked doughnuts was incredible
The Easter storm of '62 changed much. Two storms met over the Atlantic and came roaring inland, taking over 200 homes from Whale Beach. Every home on Sumner Road was spared except the Ross's. The Sea Isle boardwalk was devastated, and onlookers tell of the huge wave that picked up the Madeline Theater on the ocean side of the boardwalk and carried it out to sea whole.
The Army Corps of Engineers came in and told the Heberlings they had to move their house, as the bulkhead was being built and no house would any longer be allowed on the back fill of the bulkhead. The Heberlings loved Sumner Road, so they bought a lot mid-street, and we children watched in awe as their house was jacked up, put on a truck, and moved to it's new location!
Mr. and Mrs. Ross sold their property and moved to Naples, Florida. A new modern home was built there, and we had new neighbors. Ella and Frank Dalgeish bought the Kibler's Spanish style house and brought their children down each Summer.
The house numbers on the photos are the original house numbers. The township has since changed all the house numbering in Strathmere.
The photos of the aftermath of 1944 were contributed by Ann Coleman. She and her sister vacationed in 17-19 Sumner Road in the 1930s and until 1943. They took a sentimental ride to see the house two years ago, and were taken on a tour of the house, which looks very much the same today.Ann talked about what fond memories she has of Summers in Strathmere, and how her own father took the train from Philly every night after work, and always said that the long ride was worth it, just to spend every evening and wake up in Strathmere! Ann said she had some photos and a painting of the house (done in 1939 by John Ludwig) and sent them to Elaine.
Bernie passed away in 2002 and Helen in 1994. The house is still in the family and now Helen and Bernie's great-grandaughter Meg Holsomback, plays on the same beach that has brought the Boris family so much happiness for so many years.
Contributed by Elaine Boris Holsomback
All photos Copyright © Elaine Holsomback, please do not use without permission.