Nor’Easter With a Temper: Remembering the Blizzard of 1996

I’m looking out my window, seeing the melting aftermath of last week’s winter storm/Bomb Cyclone. His name? Grayson. His temper? Fierce and impactful. All told, snowfall totals were between fifteen and seventeen hard-hitting and widespread inches. But, Grayson had nothing on the Blizzard of 1996.

January 1996

January 1996 marked the halfway point of the school year. I was in seventh grade, and January meant preparing for midterm exams – the first time my classmates and I would be taking them. January would be review time for the exams.

School ended that week, and my parents took my brother and myself out for dinner (we did this every Friday), and to the video store for video game rentals. Your typical Friday night.

It Wasn’t Snowing When I Went To Bed…

January 6, 1996 was a normal Saturday for me. I got up early to go to my routine Saturday morning babysitting job, came home for lunch, and had a friend over. My parents groccery shopped for the post-Christmas family party we were hosting the next day. Until that point in my life (all thirteen years of it!), I hadn’t witnessed any huge snow storms in our area, so we weren’t worried about a little snow. It was already snowing in Washington, D.C. that evening, but we thought nothing of it.

I distinctly recall it not snowing when I went to bed that night, and this forecast isn’t exactly full of spoiler alerts…

Upload via hurricanff

January 7th and 8th, 1996: The Blizzard of 1996

Upload via hurricanff

You may remember him from Good Morning America, but for most of my life, Sam Champion was my local meteorologist. :-)

The next two days yielded heavy snow and wind. Now, a Nor’easter is common in this area (this recent storm was a Nor’easter, and we had a rain-type Nor’easter last January), but a snow event Nor’easter is a Nor’easter on steroids. I’ve always been fascinated by meteorologists saying that if a rain Nor’easter were to be a snowstorm, we’d wind up with a ridiculous amount of snow. I recall the year of Hurricane Sandy that if we’d had snow instead of rain, we would have had five feet of snow.

Can you imagine?!

The Weather Channel: (spoken with monotone) No. No I cannot. I’ll let my huge snowflake paint a picture for you.

I grew up in Southern New Jersey, in an area serviced by both the Philadelphia, PA and New York City media markets. When all was said and done, Philadelphia topped out at approximately 30.7 inches, with New York City topping out at between 20 and 30 inches (depending on where you lived). I grew up in Southern Ocean County, where we had two feet of snow (if you lived along the coast in the same county, you escaped with 10-14 inches).

The repercussions of the Blizzard of 1996 were bad for New Jersey. Roads (including the New Jersey Turnpike for the first time in history) closed, schools shut down for the entire week (including mine), and the snow stuck around for a bit. And from what I recall the roads were bad. When we’ve had snowstorms in the past (and even ones we’ve had in more recent years), life only shuts down for one day. This time, the impact was far-reaching and widespread.

I’ve never seen anything like it since.

All told, we missed five days of school, plus a sixth for the observance of Martin Luther King Jr.’s birthday.

“Extreme” Impact

The Northeast Snowfall Impact Scale rated the Blizzard of 1996 at “5,” or “Extreme.” The only other storm to receive this distinction is the March Superstorm of 1993. I didn’t recall this storm, but after looking it up, I found out we weren’t impacted by it. The storm resulted in 154 people killed, $1 billion in damage, and nine “disaster area” states.

Once my school reopened, the midterms were a week away, and were postponed due to the lost week.  I don’t recall much about that school year or week standing out, but I found out later on that the school stopped building snow days into the calendar, citing that “we didn’t use them.”

They never did build them in, at least, not while I was still going to school. We also never had a snowstorm quite like it between that time and high school graduation in 2001.

I’ll leave you with another highlight of WABC’s coverage of the storm…

Upload by hurricanff

…as well as the Weather Channel’s Local Forecast for Philadelphia.

Upload via cc17926

1969 Receipt for Wood Paneling

1969 Receipt for Wood Paneling

When I was growing up, my family home was covered in wood paneling. This process started well before I was around. Not just in the home I was raised, but in all the homes and apartments my family ever lived. They were just obsessed with wood paneling.

Sadly I don’t have a lot of photos from where I lived, especially not of the rooms. But I was lucky enough to save boxes of receipts that my Mother was throwing out in the eighties. In them, I have found lots of interesting information on the price of things from decades past. As well as stores long gone.

In 1969, my father went to J Taffaro Lumber Company in West New York and bought three 4×8 Brazilian Walnut Wood Panels and a box of nails. He paid a whopping $25.24. In today’s dollars that would be $164.76. That seems pretty pricey to me. Although admittedly, I don’t know much about the cost of paneling.

What I do see is that my family was serious about wood paneling. It also explains why well into the eighties, when people were starting to move away from wood paneling, we were still putting it up.

Looking online, it appear the J Taffaro Lumber Company is no longer in business. I have a vague recollection of driving by it as a kid on the way to some other store and my Mom pointing it out. It stuck in my head because I liked the way “Taffaro” sounds.

I did find this New York Times article that mentions Taffaro. It is about two politicians and corruption. I know what your thinking. New Jersey? Corruption? Politics? Yeah, I guess the Garden State has always had some constants.

Here is a full scan of the receipt.

1969 Receipt for Wood Paneling


1969 Receipt for Wood Paneling

New Jersey’s Own: The Short Life of Kid’s World

Kid’s World. It has a nice generic ring to it, doesn’t it?

All Those Amusement Parks…

I thought I’d heard of all the known amusement parks in the Delaware Valley and Jersey shore regions. I even worked for one (Fantasy Island Amusement Park in Beach Haven, NJ).

However, when you grow up hearing about/watching a steady stream of commercials for Six Flags Great Adventure, Dorney Park, Hershey Park, Sesame Place, and the infamous Action (Traction) Park, it is easy to miss the smaller amusement parks.

Uploaded by WeirdNJTV

Admit it, we watched these commercials just to see if someone ate it or broke their neck in the background. Half the fun of Action Park wasn’t actually going, but also learning about their spectacularly infamous history.

There are amusement parks (some local to my area), that I have never heard of, but no longer exist. For instance, a “castle” haunted house in one of the shore communities off Atlantic City, a whole Dinosaur-themed pier in the famous Wildwoods (that didn’t last long), and a park in Long Branch that I only heard of when I spotted two commercials on an old tape.

Previously, On Allison’s Written Words…

Last week, I spotted a commercial for an amusement park in Long Branch, NJ called Kid’s World. Aside from the obvious belief that the name was a tad generic, I’d never heard of this place.

Naturally, it became Throwback Thursday on my blog!

Lo and behold, I was looking through the tape for my Flashback Friday commercial (it wound up being about Slip n’ Slide), and I found I missed out on a second commercial for the same amusement park.

This park, my friends, is Kid’s World, and it was a victim of circumstance.

Kid’s World

In 1985, Pat Cicalese and his business partner, Carmen Ricci, re-themed the pier, pool, waterslide, and Bumper Boats on the Ocean Avenue Long Branch Pier. They purchased the pier six years earlier (and leased it the year prior to that), and called it Kid’s World.

Their inspiration came from Langhorne, PA’s more famous amusement park, Sesame Place.

Kid’s World: It’s a Do-Be!

See what I did there!

Oh, wait, a bee.

Kid’s World was a child/family-friendly amusement park that not only had a rides, but a Romper Room-themed area. Sesame Place had Big Bird and all his friends, and Kid’s World…had Mr. Do-Be. Who may or may not have stolen souls.

It was Mr. Do-Be’s MO for getting you to come there!

It also had all this!

And also in live action!

But seriously, this was the best part!

“Honey, get the kids in the car!  They have SHADOW PUPPETS!!!!”

While Kid’s World had water slides and kid-friendly stuff, it also had a Haunted Mansion right there for the adults. Not exactly their target audience, don’t ya think?

Uploaded by clarkkent1367

Also not wanted? Doobies that aren’t Do-Be’s! (How could I make that plural?)

Unfortunately, fate had other plans for Kid’s World, and didn’t involve Shadow Puppets or Mr. Do-Be.

The Fire…And The End

On the afternoon of June 8, 1987, a fire broke out at the McDonald’s on the pier, sparing only the water attractions across the street. Couple that with slowing business, and Kid’s World closed for good at the end of the season.

Both videos uploaded by Ted M

The story only gets more depressing, as Cicalese’s plans to rebuild the pier were dashed by insurance that didn’t cover the cost, and Long Branch Township’s unwillingness to fund a rebuilding, resulting in Kid’s World’s abandonment until the pier and water park were demolished in 2001 and 2002, respectively.

But From Those Ashes And Abandonment…

For that depressing story, there actually is a happy one!

Pier Village (opened in 2005) was built on the former site of Kid’s World, and is a mixed-use community of 100,000 square feet of 536 rental residences, retail space, a grassy area for events, shops, restaurants, a salon, and a gym.

Incredible!

The Commercial!

Oh, and I’d be remiss if I didn’t share one more VERY important thing!

The commercial for the other  Kid’s world commercial I found on my tape…taped from WNYW in June 1987!

Wow, back when Monmouth County had “201” numbers.

And there you have it, one of those lesser-known amusement parks (because of its lack of longevity), and the mixed-use community that succeeded its charred remains.

Not every sad defunct amusement park has a sad ending, folks.

Kite Packaging Art

Beautiful Kite Packaging Art

If you are ever in a beach town, one place you should always stop is the local pharmacy. Better yet, if they have one, a Five and Ten store. They are filled with wondrous beach related items, which are sometime available outside of that world, but usually not in such numbers. Recently I was lucky enough to visit a small town and spied a Five and Ten and was not disappointed with what I found. Innumerable cheap plastic toys and games, plus a kite section as dense as a breakfast cereal aisle. While looking a these kites, I started to fixate on the kite packaging art.

A lot of this work reminds me of the packaging on fireworks. Which is another type of packaging that I have always adored. Something I also tend to look for or associate with beach towns. Or as we say in New Jersey, Shore Towns.

It is colorful and creative, so I thought I would snap a few photos and share it here on the site. A lot of these are not technically retro, but I don’t think that kite packaging art changes all that often. If you bought kites as a kid, I think you might be have seen a few of these Gayla and Krazy Kite packages before.

Colorful Kite Packaging Art


Beautiful stuff right? Besides the apparent timelessness of the style, what really pleases me about this art, is that it is just being made at all. Somewhere a company exists that needs to sell colorful kites. They have artists, who they pay money to create delightfully colorful kites and then perhaps another person who is designing the label to help sell that kite. Each of these kites is nearly identical in style, so the only selling point is the design.

If I met one of these designers, I would have so many questions. How often do they release a new kite? What is the design process like? Do they try to fight the trends? If you work at Gayla, or Krazy, can you go in and pitch a new kite concept? What do those presentations look like?