33. Asbury Park

*** Welcome to Part 3! ***

The Westside From Asbury Avenue to Deal Lake

On several occasions I've said that one of the most appealing things about Asbury Park was its districting of exotic attractions and quintessential Americana. The Westside of Asbury continues the latter theme. It's here that we find "the lawns of home" - blocks of tidy lawns and houses nestled on tree-sheltered streets.

Image 1.33.3. A spot on Third Avenue, looking west from New Street.

This part of Asbury was annexed in 1906 and further developed in the 20s and 30s. In my lifetime, it never had a "developed" look (as it must have had earlier in the century). Everything seemed to have been there for ages. The houses are as much a part of the natural landscape as the age-old maples, pines and sycamores. This was home, a place of comforting images; and I felt that it had been there since the dawn of time.

 

Railroad Avenue and Asbury Avenue

The Westside is mostly residential, but a few non-residential buildings gather near the RR tracks, on Railroad Avenue. There was a Grand Union supermarket between Second and Third, next to Smock Lumber (one of Asbury's pioneer business). Fisher's Bakery, a garage, a small used car lot, and other establishments, continue the activities of nearby Main Street. Like Railroad Avenue, Asbury Avenue (the main road into town from outside) is home to businesses - restaurants, gas stations, barbershop, carhop - are among those that are found (or used to be found) on this street. Our Lady of Mount Carmel Roman Catholic Church is on Asbury and Pine Street (my family traditionally attends this church). Unlike Railroad Avenue, Asbury Avenue mixes business and residential: a block of houses here, a block of businesses there; and sometimes both on the same block or facing each other from opposite sides of the street.

Image 2.33.3. Our Lady of Mount Carmel Church. The cornerstone of the church was laid in 1951. The parish dedicated its first church in 1904 on the corner of Springwood and Atkins Avenues (on the SW side of Asbury Park). A year later it moved to Springwood and Ridge Avenues. Starting in 1923, mass was celebrated in the basement chapel of the newly built Mount Carmel School, on Bang's Avenue.

(While I was scanning the above photo, God came to me and said, "If phone lines offend thee, cut them out." So I did. When I started to take out the traffic light too, God said, "No, leave the light!" So I did. )

One Asbury Avenue business that everybody remembers was Horner's. This was a carhop that served the finest barbecue sandwiches imaginable. It was on the northeast corner of Asbury and Dunlewy. My uncle Danny (DeVito), my cousin Fred and I used to go there a lot. After an evening at the beach, a lot of folks would drive here for a barbecue "nightcap." Again, the scene was one of typical teenage life. In retrospect, one of the things I like most about the experience was the presence of a little grove of trees behind the small parking lot (on residential Dunlewy Street). It gave a rustic feeling to the place. This may sound strange, but it's often these little things that give life such a magical appeal, whether we are aware of them or not.

Who can forget Freddie's Pizzeria! Freddie's was two short blocks north of Horner's, between Prospect and Drummond.

Image 3.33.3. Freddie's Menu. (Courtesy Fred Scialla, jr.)

Freddie's served great pizza (or "tomato pies," as they used to call them). I keep asking myself how a pizza could be so good: Was it simply that we grew up with it? Or was there really some objective platonic quality called "Pizza" that they hit upon? You could eat and eat a Freddie's pizza even if you were not hungry. It was thin, oil-moist on top and indulgently sauce-savory. The crust was very thin and charred black in spots. A little beach of cheeseless sauce used to collect just below the crust and was great when eaten along with the crust. Like Horner's barbecue, there was nothing "peculiar" about Freddie's pizza - there was no quirky taste or any (even slight) intrusion of a certain spice. You can't pin down the taste, because it was simply the perfect pizza.

The present-day Jimmy's Restaurant, in the same building, evolved from Freddies. The person "Freddie" was the father of my cousins Fred and Judy and was my uncle.

Further down on Asbury Avenue, and a few doors up Ridge Avenue, was Freda's Italian restaurant. This was very popular in its day. Many people fondly remember Freda and her establishment. Click HERE to see both.

Now lets look at the lawns of home!

 

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