We drove to the water this afternoon to escape the heat; rather than going south along the ocean (where all those pesky tourists like to congregate) we went north along the bayshore and drove through what used to be mainly fishing and clamming communities. Many of the old neighborhoods have been replaced with upscale condos and in most places the commercial fishing docks have given way to recreational marinas. The bayshore’s commercial fishing industry survives in Belford however, with a fleet of some 50 boats, including 18-20 modern lobster boats, 7-8 clamming boats, and a few traditional seining boats that are part of the Belford Seafood Cooperative.

In addition to Jersey corn and Jersey tomatoes, there is also Jersey seafood! I prefer the corn and tomatoes, but the boats are pretty to look at, too. We were hoping to find a quiet creek where we could set out our crab traps, but all the places I knew from growing up in the area were either already occupied or seemingly gone. I’d guess they’re still there, but the neighborhoods have changed so much that it’s hard to get my bearings when all the familiar landmarks seem to be gone.

This area is probably the northernmost commercial fishing fleet in the state and there’s a fair amount of historical significance there, as well. Growing up, we made fun of the people who lived there and made their living on the boats. Yet it was a thriving industry and still may be. To the person speeding by on the highway on the way to the beach, one might think our only local industry now is strip malls and big-box stores.

What local industries do you recall from your childhood? Do they still exist there?

14 thoughts on “Fishing”

  1. Most of the industry has changed around here.-This is not an industry but there is an old-fashioned Homemade Italian Ice shop that has been around sice the 50’s-still there-same shop.

  2. I grew up in Las Vegas, so the casinos are obviously still there. It’s sad that the development you speak of sounds exactly like it is around us in the Carolinas. I suspect that in 5 or 10 years there will be areas around here that we won’t recognize.

  3. Laura, I’ve moved around so much that I don’t know what is old or replaced with new. I do remember an Italian deli in Maryland that was probably 50 years old. It had wooden floors and smelled of everything homemade – the food of out of this world. Then the owner became commercial and rebuilt his store in a strip mall. He lost a lot of customers and the food lost it’s flavor. It’s a shame.

  4. I grew up in the suburbs of Philly. (still here). In my hometown neighborhood of Havertown (which we called “Have No Town”, trying to be clever teenagers) we had a Swell Bubblegum factory and a huge lumberyard that used so many chemicals that it was one of the first superfund sites. It’s all paved over now with mounds of “fresh” soil and trees.

    My dad was a chemist, and we lived on a street with teachers, carpenters, plumbers, social workers, bankers (they won a $5 million lottery in the ’70s and stayed in the neighborhood until just a few years ago).

    My parents moved out of town last summer, but when I would visit with my children, I would try to tell them the stories of . . .(i’ve rewritten this sentence 3x). Of where I would hang out, play with friends, ride my bike, walk to school. The town looks so small to me now, but it was huge and expansive as a kid. We are definitely envious of all the sidewalks and the freedom that comes with them.

    Hey, I’m sometimes one of those “tourists” trying to enjoy the shore! Although the view you’ve given us of the Jersey coast has made me want to explore different places to get the water.

    Wayne, PA

  5. I grew up on the North Shore of Long Island, New York. When I was little there were corn fields for a local dairy on the street where I lived. My father took me on walks through those fields and the surrounding woods that sparked a life-long love for open spaces. When I was about 9 or 10 (ca. 1962) the corn gave way to housing developments and I experienced my first sense of loss and bitterness over development. Even the house I lived in at that time has been bulldozed for McMansions.

  6. Growing up in a rural area, the main “industry” was farming. When we were kids, many of our classmates had to do milking chores before and after school. Now most of the small family dairy farms are gone–replaced with large dairy operations. I miss driving around and seeing all those pretty Holsteins contentedly standing or laying around in fields switching their tails at insects (most of the dairy operations keep their “girls” confined in large barns for 3 milkings a day). Hopefully with the popularity of organic products, some of these small family dairy farms may come back again.

  7. I grew up in the Rio Grande Valley, so there was the farming industry (still there–citrus, pecans, sorghum, sugar cane, cotton, vegetables) and the fishing/shrimping boats (still there), but the few factories (Levi’s, Carter’s) shut down years ago and moved to Mexico, I guess. It’s been so long since I visited there that I don’t know if it looks the same or not.

  8. I grew up in Chatham, a bedroom community of Newark and/or New York. Chatham had no industry per se..just the usual Newspaper store, Bakery, Five and Dime Store, and A & P with wood floors.
    Each store had it’s own unique smell to me, as a child.
    I do recall each summer, taking a drive “down the shore” going over the Garden State Parkway Bridge in Edison..a huge lit sign on a building next to the bridge read
    “Carborundum”. I always looked for it and I wonder if it is still there.

  9. ah, the Belford fish factory. when I was a kid, you could always tell when a storm was coming, because you could smell the wonderful odor of moss bunkers from Belford. as nasty as it was, I miss it.

  10. Gregor: You remember the fish factory! There’s condos there now.

    What about IFF? Were you close enough to remember that smell in the a.m.?

    Thanks for stopping by.

    Dorothy: I remember that sign, too. I don’t get up that way very often, but I don’t think it’s there anymore.

    We didn’t have a five and dime, but there was a sweetshop we visited after church on Sundays for hard rolls and Marathon Bars.

    Delia: It’s hard to go back to the place you grew up and see how it’s changed – better to remember, I think!

    Ruthie: That sounds very pretty – what you remember from growing up. It must be something to be tied to a milking schedule twice a day!

    FC: Ugggh! Have the shrimp boats moved elsewhere? Or are the shrimp gone too?


    Mojoman: Yea – it’s the same all over – sad to see memories bulldozed and makes you wonder where kids have a place to play anymore.

    Heather: My old neighborhood looks really run down and small – must be just that I remember it differently, from the eyes of a kid, like you do.

    I take the beach for granted – and shouldn’t complain about the tourists – they bring lots of $$$ to the local economy!

    Mary: There’s an Italian deli near to where I work – they call it a *Pork Store* of all things! but the smell is wonderful and I like to buy my lunch there – they make a wonderful pasta salad with fresh mozz. and tomatoes!

    rcwbiologist: Yep – sad.

    Larry: Do you live in the same place you grew up? I do, more or less, give or take 10 miles closer to the ocean.

    Jean: A coalminer’s daughter? Where from? My dad’s family was from Shamokin PA.

  11. Laura – This was a great post. I love the comments it engendered. Seems we all have memories – some rather bittersweet – of the places we grew up. It’s all about change.

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