The Trio and Sandy the Storm of the Shore
A legacy in Ruins
I am re-posting this intimate and emotional story about the beloved town of Seaside Heights and its boardwalk. Initially, I wrote it as my feelings poured out in a fictionally based piece about the beautiful and nostalgic boardwalk of Seaside Heights NJ. Sadly recently in the weeks past the boards again came under attack. After a magnificent re-build and summer season, they succumbed to yet another storm where terrible destruction continued in a fire in September 2013.
I feel, as do so many, the sadness of this event is almost debilitating. To watch the evening news as the boards, re-built went up in flames. This news added insult to a barely healed wound. I know, however, this community is active and the love history of Seaside Heights will always live on, I also know they will rebuild once again. May all those who fought for the preservation of this fantastic boardwalk be blessed and may God smile on the future of this community.
The Trio and Sandy The Storm Of The Shore, Samson the best dog ever
Samson was a Saint Bernard, known well by the surf-side shore town of Seaside Heights, New Jersey, for many years. Samson was always at the side of a scruffy old guy named Sid. Now, Sid had also made a name for himself in this community. He would sit on a boardwalk bench with a rolling basket and work in the midst of the ocean breeze. He was an artisan that enjoyed watching the diversity of the people strolling up and down the long-standing boards. Sid was a short, slumped over, gray-haired, bearded gentleman. He donned a sports coat, regardless of the temperature. Sid was a fan of wine bottle creations; making his favorite workpieces from those bottles of cobalt blue glass. He would create various seascapes and other images he would etch in the thick blue glass with meticulous precision and adherence to detail.
Samson was a friendly and gentle giant and sat prominent almost regal by his master’s side. Samson kept watch over his keeper like an angel on duty, he was at the same time welcoming and lovable, to the people who were interested and would approach him. The beautiful white, brown and black patched coat was attractive, not to mention his size was one that caught the eye of the passerby. A young child would wander up to Samson, he would shake his head and his long generous fur would fly up in the breeze and then lay back down and in place. After a good shake, he would reach his nose for his toy ball and nudge it toward the attentive child to engage in a game of toss. It was a sweet, childlike interaction and one Samson would only engage in with the children on the boardwalk. These two amigos, Sid and Samson, never apart from one another. They were a team.
Sid had formed his affections for wine bottle art as it was a way to connect to his illustrious past. Sid had come to the New Jersey shore area as a young man looking for work. He felt his chances favorable if he could go to a vineyard and offer his skill and physical capabilities to the winery owners. Renault Winery was well known for providing labor and other positions, in the summer months. Sid felt confident he could do well in this environment as his family was Italian and his ancestors were winery workers, his grandfather even owned a small vineyard of his own, back in Italy.
Sid’s parents had come to America when he was just an infant hoping to offer their young family the American Dream. His father taught him to honor God, work hard, and respect others while humble and thankful. He often reminded Sid, “To always look back to where he came from and forwarded to where God desired him to be." He grew up in the row homes of Newark, NJ. These small Jersey towns were places where people knew everyone and secrets were minimal due to the closeness of the living situation.
Sid was familiar with the clamoring of neighborhood ladies as they hollered after one another’s children. The boy was delivered more than once to his young mother by one of the Italian grandmothers on the block. The ear of the young man was secure and held between an old woman’s wrinkled and yet strong firm fingers. Sid was one of the many boys that would finish the chores set by their fathers so that they could meet up in the alleyways for a pickup game of stickball.
This community raised their children with family values and a passionate work ethic, and they did it together. After the experience of his upbringing, it was no surprise that Sid would champ at the bit to head out on his own. At sixteen, he would get a summer position working at the Renault Winery in Egg Harbor Township, New Jersey. He knew this would be a great place to gain experience, and he also knew he could make a decent income in return for hard work.
The first summer at the winery Sid worked in many capacities. He was coming to the winery in 1966, in this year the chateau-style hospitality house was famous and known, some eighteen years earlier and now the museum became an addition to the property. The eloquent owner was Maria, Sister of John D’Agostino, who had taken over the winery after her brother's passing in 1948. This year 1966 she created a museum on the property where she displayed her collection of wine glass art, some dating back to the thirteenth century. Maria entrusted young Sid during his first summer to be the polisher of the wine glass collection.
She shared the essential craft pieces and showed a technique of care using a soft Italian cloth with which to buff them after cleaning them. Sid connected with the stories and history behind each article in the museum. He felt a sense of pride, happy he earned the confidence of his employer to keep the collection intact. Sid was also a fast and talented grape picker. They gave Sid ample opportunity to learn the business as he was open to any job that needed doing. The young man and hard worker never complained or questioned the need for a task. His work was so diligent that at age eighteen he earned the invite to come work at the winery year round. Excitement and passion grew in Sid for the opportunity he was allowed. The winery is where his artisan passion took hold, as he began to create masterpieces, of glass art on bottles, and wine glasses alike.
Sid becomes an artist and falls in love
After Sid became established as a year-round groundskeeper and worker at the winery, he frequented the boardwalk in the summer evenings. One such night he came to the pier with a group of his buddies from Newark, they were eager to check out the rides and food on Casino Pier. It was on one of those warm summer nights that Sid was, for a brief time, separated from his crew and found himself in a line at the candy apple stand.
He took notice of the young woman who came to the line right after him he found it difficult to keep his eyes front. She was a beauty, with her dark auburn hair that wrapped in a scarf, keeping the wind from messing with her lovely curls. Her bangs fell to one side, and her eyes gleamed as she looked ahead to the candy apples behind the glass counter. She wore a casual pale pink blouse and a knee-length skirt in a dark navy shade, with a small white anchor patch on the bottom right corner. She wore a cute pair of white Ked tennis shoes with a new pair of fluffy white Bobby Socks.
Sid seemingly entranced by this young woman stammered and fumbled his order when he got to the counter. The older man waiting for him chuckled as he could see the blushing in the young man's cheeks. Sid glanced back at her, hoping she had not noticed his embarrassment. He thought to himself, how on earth could he save face in this humiliating situation. Then it popped into his head like a lightning bolt; he would purchase a candy apple for her. So, Sid added her apple to his order, as he stated to the stand owner, “and one, for the young lady, please?”
He paid the man who was now smiling and grasped the two apples, from the merchant. He turned toward the young woman and said, “I hope it is okay, I got your apple for you.” She smiled with her eyes as she reached for the apple as they walked toward the bench side of the pier. Sid, at last, got the nerve to say, “May I ask your name?” She answered, “Why yes, my name is, Isabella, Isabella Rosalina D’Agostino.” Sid knew this name; it was the family name of the Renault Winery owners. Sid was so excited to have a point of reference for his conversation.
He inquired, are you from the D’Agostino family that owns Renault Winery? Isabella grinned and also perked up at his knowledge of something having to do with her family name. She continued, well, yes in a way. They are my distant relatives, but, I am not from the immediate family that runs the winery. My family and I have been there for the occasional family wedding or special event. She went on to describe the winery in exquisite detail, as she spoke, it gave an entirely new and whimsical image, of this familiar place in Sid’s mind.
Sid felt he was seeing the winery for the first time through Isabella’s eyes, as she reminisced about frolicking in the vineyard as a young girl. The two ended up talking for hours, both equally involved and curious as to what the other would say next. Isabella intrigued with this young man, and after their first meeting, they rarely parted. After an appropriate courtship, the two married in the vineyard, they both loved so dearly.
They found a little apartment close to the boards where they could be between the two places they loved most the winery and the Casino Pier Boardwalk. Many of their nights they spent strolling the pier and talking about their life dreams. Sid continued to work at the winery, but then he became more focused on his artwork, and he wanted to be closer to the boards, which was his favorite place to work on his creations. He took a job at one of the local restaurants, working in the kitchen. The work was steady, and it allowed him time to pursue his love of art.
Isabella became Sid’s biggest fan. She would wake early in the morning and pack him a sack lunch to take with him to the boards where he would go to his spot and work away. The two desperate to start a family, and yet it evades them. They found out early into their union that Isabella had a weak heart and to burden her body with the birth of a child could be life-threatening. The couple was assuredly disappointed. Still, their love was so genuine, and they knew their life together was happy. Their trials they would face together. Isabella felt as though there were so many children frolicking on the board’s often-unattended locals as their parents were working to make a wage for their families. Isabella became the Mary Poppins of the boards, looking out for the youngin's and also being the sound advice or support that some of the pre-teens or teens needed. Sid had become a pied piper for the kids. He was a jovial and happy man when with his Isabella. She had a young and energetic spirit even though her body failed her.
Samson the Saint
Isabella’s funeral service was exquisite; she was lovely to her church family as she was always looking after the babies so the parents could enjoy the sermons. A God-fearing woman and she still did for others and her Sid. The always content wife, and mother of their Samson, and many of the young children on the boards called her Gram. They all felt the loss of her, yet they knew she would go straight up to heaven and Sid knew, he would see his love again one day. Sid and Samson lived broken, but their routine remained the same every day they would leave their small apartment in town and head to the boards together. Sid was retired, yet he would never withdraw from his precious artwork.
If not for Samson, his artwork would be all Sid had, now with Isabella gone. Sid would work way into the night as he did not have Isabella to make sure he would eat and return home at a decent hour. Sid found extra comfort being on the boards at night, now even more so with Isabella not present at the apartment. Often, if he imagined he could see her in his mind walking down the boards with her hair blowing in the chilly night breeze while she headed for lemonade or some cotton candy, another of her favorites from the pier. He missed her, but somehow on their piece of the boards, he felt closer to his Isabella.
Sid was now in his seventies and he was a little worse for wear. His Samson was a loyal and dedicated companion as they traveled to their spot each day bright and early and stayed late into the evening hours. Each tide that rolled in had advanced their time together, and both were showing the signs of their age. The boards were their home and Sid continued to share his creations, and Samson was always looking for a good game of toss.
When you saw the two of them sitting side by side, it almost looked like Samson had his paws in prayer position. Perhaps he did? Maybe he was speaking to Isabella asking her to help him take care of, Sid? Then one day in October, in the year 2012, a significant threat was facing the shoreline they loved so and the place Sid called home for some thirty plus years. The news was buzzing with the predictions of the impending storm a hurricane, named Sandy. Sid had concerns, but he had no intention of leaving his first-floor apartment only two blocks from the boardwalk pier. Sid knew no other place to be, and so he decided, against the advice of officials, that he would stay put.
The Sweet Couple of the Boardwalk
The couple went many years with their routine of being a staple to the boardwalk activities, but as they neared their sixties, Isabella was slowing, and she wanted a companion for her Sid. As his wife, she knew the time was nearing when going to the boards with him may be difficult. Not wanting to worry her beloved Sid, she brought up the thought of adding a family member. They both decided and after some discussion, went on a mission to find a pet to love. Sid had also been entertaining the adding of a family member, again the two were always on the same path, almost as if they were one heart feeling the same things. Thus, they adopted their beloved Samson at the nearby shelter. Samson, was just a pup at three months, although he appeared much more substantial at this early age due to his breed. When Isabella saw his sad little face and felt his slobbery affection, there were no more questions; they had found their family member. They were walking him home, and with great spontaneity, Isabella yelled out, Samson, yep, it's a great name, we will call him Samson for he was a beautiful long-haired beast. When Isabella looked at him, she thought of the long-haired, and strong Samson depicted in the stories of the Bible.
Samson was a Fun Lovin’ pup; he was a mischievous one for shoes and socks. No matter what though he loved to play, and he was a loyal servant to Sid and Isabella. The three would walk the boards at night, and Samson became quite the famous dog, as their pup was, an enormous Saint Bernard. He wore a small cowbell around his neck that jingled as he would stride past the onlookers out for the night's entertainment.
The trio’s outings slowed when Samson turned five years old. Isabella, now nearing her, later sixties had suffered from her heart condition, and she could no longer go on their long strolls. Sid found a bicycle trolley, and for a time they could continue their outings together on the four-seated contraption. It was a cumbersome unfortunate task, and he could not do that for long as his age was creeping up on him. One winter’s day, Isabella succumbed to her frail condition, and she closed her eyes and went to sleep and then there were two.
Hurricane Sandy Rolls In
Sandy rolled onto the North East Atlantic Coast, on Monday, October 29th, 2012. This devastating storm was 900 miles wide and affected the entire Northeastern United States. The shore towns in its path were unrecognizable. In some places, whole parts of the coastline changed forever.
There were, so many communities challenged by power outages and flooding besides the storms brutal slam. The surge was incomprehensible, and this hurricane was overwhelming, and for so many reasons, life-changing. Many homes washed away or had damaged beyond repair, or at least not that of a quick fix. Seaside Heights was one area hardest hit. Casino Pier destroyed.
The iconic pier ripped away, taking with it the long-standing roller coaster, which now rested in the ocean wake. It stood like a tombstone as the water washed around it, and yet it attempted to rise, representing so many memories of past days gone. Casino Pier was now a place with a spirited past, and the community vowed to put the pieces back together.
Days, after this storm people were still evaluating and damages and it, was only then they realized the famous team of Sid and Samson had not reported for an account. The residents understand that the storm surge had flooded the first-floor apartment where Sid lived. Many homes and cottages destroyed. The clearing of downed power lines and debris was a tedious endeavor, and a cautious one at that, due to safety issues.
The day the firefighters could finally knock the door down, as an old willow tree was leaning up against it, would be a somber day for the town. They came to discover that Sid could not get out of his apartment, with no power and the cold temperatures caused by an additional snowstorm in the days following the wake of Sandy. Sid could not maintain his body temperature, and he had passed away while lying in his bed, which was at the highest point in the apartment where he could find respite from the storm. Sid made sure his beloved Samson had a warm blanket over him and food until there was none left and no means to get out and get to safety. The damage to the communities and Northeast was so severe it was days before the news got out that no one had seen the dynamic duo in at least a week.
The Town Grieves a Trio
The firefighters were locals, many had grown up on those boards, and Casino Pier was their home. They busted the door down and entered the small apartment hurrying their way inside to the bedroom area to find their very own Pied Piper Sid and his loyal companion Samson. Bobby Doyle was the first to get to the room, followed by Jim Flanagan and Chief Tony. All three men stopped in their tracks as they set their eyes on the scene before them. There in the tiny room was Sid, he was not breathing and in this state for some time, but right there by his side was old Samson, frozen like a statue, with his body almost spooning his owner, to warm him. The two rested in each other’s arms and looked so very peaceful, almost as if they were smiling in complete comfort. As the men looked at the sad yet quiet scene, they could practically see Gram, Isabella, dancing on the boards with a full cone of cotton candy and Samson, jumping up to reach it in a playful manner, and Sid right there with them smiling and happy on their pier, Casino Pier in Seaside Heights New Jersey. This somber moment tore the hearts of the firefighters as they fell to their knees in respect for the trio that so influenced their childhoods and even that of their young families. They said a prayer, each of the men humble and thankful as they remembered what Sid had taught them,
“To always look back where you came from and forwarded to where God desires you to be.” The Christmas seasons would continue to come and go, but this year a new ornament would be available to the people in this community. The ladies auxiliary would provide for its production. In honor of Sid’s love for art, a simple glass ornament called the Trio. On it would be Sid, Isabella, and Samson, strolling down the boards of their beloved Casino Pier and a bright star would present in the top corner, shining down on this faithful trio.
God's Love and the signs of vibrancy in never dies
This piece is a work of fiction with some truthful fact about the area, but so many stories like this could be about the beautiful shore towns and other communities, like in New York also affected by this devastating storm. I wrote this piece so we do not forget those that will rebuild for years to come.
Hoping we are all aware and that we have a willingness to help our neighbors where and when we can. Sid and Isabella from this story did just that for a lifetime; they were cognizant of the needs of others. They worked hard, loved and followed God’s plan for their lives to the best of their ability. Samson was a loving, loyal companion because he too was love. In every tragedy, there is a rainbow. Often the clouds must clear, tears must shed, but God is in all things.
He allows for the trials, and He also brings the healing. For every life torn apart and brought to Him, there is healing at work. It may be a seed that plants during that time of turmoil that later becomes a new vineyard of beauty and elegance. The storm was, Sandy, the name means defender of man.
We have one defender; we need to trust Him and keep loving each other as He loves us. Through every valley and every peak. Remember the reason for this Christmas Season, look for the signs of Christmas to guide you. A baby came to a humble stable to live amongst the poorest showing all are welcome in His house. The wreath is a circle symbolizing His love is eternal; candy canes are in the shape of a shepherd's crook and the colors of white and red symbolizing His most precious sacrifice and His purity. Christmas trees are evergreen that stands for perseverance in adversity. It is symbolic we take it down and then it goes back up again as a symbol of His death and resurrection.
The presents are a reminder of the first gifts brought to the Child to honor His birth. These are just a few of the signs and symbols, and it is possible that the meanings are different for you and your families. One thing remains through all the debate; God is Love. We have seen the love poured out in the wake of this terrible storm and during many of the storms in life. We must all be observant and love, show it; share it, for it is all we need. God is Love, and we must love patient and kind, as love does not envy or boast, it is not self-seeking, and it does not enjoy when others suffer or meet with difficulty. Love does not keep records of wrongs and love is forgiveness. See 1 Corinthians 13: 4-8 Prepare ye the way of the Lord.
© 2012 Kathy Henderson