Grace Kelly won an Oscar for her dramatic portrayal in The Country Girl, opposite William Holden and Bing Crosby. She later married Prince Rainier III of the House of Grimaldi of Monaco to become the first American-born Princess in that gambling rich principality.
Before her international fame, she was our friendly beachside neighbor with her beautiful sisters Peggy and Liz in Ocean City, New Jersey.
The bestselling author Gay (Gaetano) Talese (The Kingdom And The Power, Honor Thy Father) also lived in Ocean City, as did Jimmy Stewart, and Anne Heche.
Along with other renowned residents of what is now voted the “Happiest City in the United States.”
We summered there for decades in a large grandmotherly house along the beach that was ideal for our long vacations.
We still remember our mother adding to her spiffy wardrobe from Gay Talese’s mom’s high-end apparel shop on Asbury Avenue.
Stainton’s Department Store was the go-to place for the best men’s swimwear.
An idyllic setting with white clapboard cottages and turn-of-the-century Victorian residences, Ocean City offered fresh salty air from the Atlantic Ocean, invigorating water for swimming, relaxing sailboating and windsurfing, and clean white sands for monkeying around.
Let’s not forget the Annual Baby Parade, the amusement park, the Boardwalk with it’s saltwater taffy and fudge-making shops.
Also, Ocean City’s cool evening breezes are always restorative after those long, hot sunny days.
Many sports figures received its message and relocated there, not far from what was known as the Irish Riviera surrounding Ventnor where our Marylouise Oats summered with her family.
Our parents loved Ocean City because bars were banned, a healthy environment for young people to grow up in. Although, you quickly motored across the causeway to Somers Point and ordered whatever beer and booze one needed for household entertaining.
As we often did.
Bringing to mind a birthday party for our Aunt Effie, wed to our mother’s veterinarian brother, Constantine.
We shopped that exciting day for special foods, beautiful flower arrangements, the towering birthday cake, and added music to our collection from a vintage music store. We liked the French chansons by Edith Piaf, Charles Trenet, Charles Aznavour. And our mother’s favorite Neopolitan serenades.
Visiting friends arrived to celebrate, as we partied in a fun mode, laughing gaily and savoring the delicious buffet of European delicacies our mother prepared.
Without warning, a neighbor knocked at the door, shouting in an unattractive voice that she was “fed up” with our European music, and Greek and French conversations.
“Go back to Europe, where you belong,” she screamed like a Banshee. “We are Americans here. We speak English and like American music and are sick of your funny food.”
To this day, we remember her name. We were seven or eight years old at the time, and began crying.
After her outbursts, our father politely asked her to leave our house, and showed her the door, all the while yelling at us that her family had no room for foreigners in this lovely seashore city.
Our philanthropist father gently escorted her to the porch and didn’t say a word.
She left blathering who-knows-what.
“We are hard workers, and paid with hard-earned money for this house … she has no right to disturb us, while we’re having fun, without much noise and enjoying a good time with our friends and relatives,” he said.
We didn’t stop crying, while our father sighed, “We’re kind, churchgoing citizens, who contribute generously to the community … her behavior is disturbing and offensive.”
A situation like this stays with you forever. All the same, we love Ocean City and returned year in and out to bask in the crabbing, and oom-pah-pah music on the Boardwalk Pier, and order from our favorite joint Mike’s Hole-In-The-Wall, where we were allowed a hot dog every so often.
Ocean City attracts numerous lovely Italian families from Philadelphia and its environs, as our father reminded us, but he also mentioned that our neighbor is not indicative of the Ocean City citizenry. That prejudice exists around the world, and very likely has no end.
Ocean City is a wonderful, welcoming community that we will never get enough of, no matter what took place decades ago.
See you there.