35. Asbury Park

The Westside From Asbury Avenue to Deal Lake

You could find a few unexpected things hidden within the many residential blocks of the west side. When I was a child, a few "corner stores" were nestled in certain spots. These were little grocery stores where you could buy basic things. Kids liked them because they sold candy. These shops were not like the harshly-lighted, plastic-looking convenience stores that plague Main Street today (and which are rubber-stamped on the Main Streets of many another American town). These were softer, homespun creations, completely set up by their owners. The location of these stores harks back to the days before supermarkets, when you didn't have to get in the car to go food shopping. All you did was take a stroll from your house and walk down a few tree-shaded streets to the store.

I recall that there was a little store on the southeast corner of First and Central Avenues. It was called Fiori's. Another one stood on Central between Third and Fourth Avenues. It was in the middle of the block on the east side of the street. I remember that there was another little store on the southeast corner of Second Avenue and Comstock Street (I seem to recall that this one had a lunch counter; it may have not been a regular grocery store). There may have been another one tucked away that I don't recall at the moment.

Bradley School (built in '07, razed in '99) was a block from where we lived. (The school was named after James A. Bradley, the founder of Asbury Park.) The building had two different front entrances. Inscribed into the concrete work above one entrance was the word "Boys," and above the other was "Girls." In my time, however, everybody used one entrance. Actually, I don't recall using the front entrances much. We usually entered from the playground, in the rear.

Image 1.35.3. Bradley School, on Third and Pine.

I attended Bradley School from fifth to eighth grade. It was nice being able to walk home from school in a minute. There were two playgrounds, a small asphalt one right behind the building, and a large dirt one just across the alley from the first. (Wonderful old-fashioned alleys cut into certain blocks around here and gave different perspectives on the neighborhoods.)

I never liked school. Therefore I must say that my fondest memory throughout my early education was the last day of school. By that time, the weather was warm, the forsythias were yellow in bloom; and the whole wide, beautiful expanse of life lay just beyond the glowing Venetian blinds of the classroom. Then the bell rang. The teacher wished everyone a good summer and soon I was on the sidewalk, strolling home. The tear-bleeding soul's vast, breathingly free and sweetly intricate place-joy silently cried WORLD! WORLD! WORLD!

Bring on now the spice-laden ships! Earth's many towns - Paris, Saint Petersberg, Hong Kong, Cathay - all inside the gorgeous breath of Boardwalk-World's Eternal Kiss! Reader!

(Sorry, I got carried away again.)

Among the other unexpected things nestled in the West Side residential section are a church and a firehouse (the latter was removed a few years ago). The Ballard Methodist church is still nestled among residences on Fourth Avenue between Central Avenue and Dunlewy Street. It's right near the banks of Deal Lake (the quantity of numbered north-to-south streets shrinks to four over here).

The westside firehouse, known as the Enterprise Company, was on Comstock Street near Third, close to where the businesses around RR Avenue start. The firehouse was across the street from the Motor Vehicle place on Third. The firehouse was removed a few years ago and I have only the vaguest recollection of it.

Image 2.35.3. The Enterprise Company Firehouse.

Those of us who love Asbury often wish we had paid a little more attention to things when they were still around. That's why I take photos today. You never know when something is going to disappear. You wake up one morning and - Poof! - it's gone.

But now for some really beautiful views! Click on, voyager!



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