Update 8/10/18: Due to an unfavorable weather forecast, the festivities of Ocean Gate Day will be rescheduled for August 18th The 5k run will proceed as scheduled.
OCEAN GATE – It’s summer, early 1900s. You pack the family into a train heading from Philly to the New Jersey shore. You get off in Good Luck, and settle into a little bungalow. Every day, you watch the waves as the kids go up and down the slide, into the water.
Today, Ocean Gate is a family community, but people still flock there in the summer.
Louis Purcaro, president of the borough’s Historical Society, said that there are about 2,400 year-round residents, and this doubles in the summer.
According to Pauline Miller’s book “Ocean County: Four Centuries In The Making,” the area was formerly known as Good Luck. The story goes like this: In 1778, Loyalist Robert McMullen was being chased by militiamen in Island Heights. He forced his horse into the Toms River, and it swam across. When he got to the south shore, he shouted back “Good Luck!”
These days, there are still some areas nearby associated with the name Good Luck Point.
The borough started out as a farm in the 1800s. In 1909, it was purchased by the Great Eastern Building Corporation. They were the ones who named it Ocean Gate. It was a catchy name, symbolizing a way to get to the Atlantic. Hence, a gateway to the ocean. People took the Pennsylvania-Long Branch railroad across a trestle bridge to Seaside Park.
It was a busy resort town, quickly populating with summer cottages, a yacht club, and various stores and places to stay. The Pennsylvania Railroad and Route 9 brought them here, the river and amenities encouraged them to stay. Eventually, more and more people stayed year round.
During all this time, Ocean Gate was still part of Berkeley Township. (Berkeley had split off from Toms River [Dover Township] in 1875.)
As was the case in those days, it was easier to split off into a new town. A vote was held on March 26, 1918. The vote was just 26-4 to secede. Yes, 26 people decided the outcome of that election.
Berkeley lost a lot of real estate in those days. Seaside Park had left in 1898. Seaside Heights left in 1913. Beachwood left in 1917. Pine Beach would leave in 1925. Island Beach would become its own town in 1933, but then returned in 1965.
Good luck, Ocean Gate, on your next 100 years.
Celebrating Ocean Gate’s 100th Anniversary
Many events have already been held this year to commemorate the borough’s first 100 years. Many more are on the way. Most of these are on Aug. 11, with the rain date being Aug. 18.
Craft and Food Vendors – From 9 a.m. until 4 p.m.
Bus Tour – There will be a historic bus tour, lasting 45 to 60 minutes, that will point out notable locations and their significance. The tour is free, although donations for the driver would be welcome. The bus is scheduled to take off from the pavilion. The original route was established by the late James Mooney.
Concert – Join in for Ocean Gate’s 100th Anniversary Show on August 11 from 12-4 p.m. at Ocean Gate First Pier on the corner of Wildwood Ave. and East Longport. This show will feature Village Green, Shoobies, Madhavi Devi, and The Dee Bees. For more information, visit techfestmusic.com.
6th Annual Cardboard Boat Race – Aug. 11, at noon, at the Wildwood Avenue pier. This event has people of all ages racing in their home-made cardboard boats. There are three different age groups and one group for organizations.
5k Run/1 Mile Fun Walk – On the morning of Aug. 11, this event will be held. For registration, visit OceanGateDay.com.
House Signs – In the early days of the borough, many homes had names. Decorative signs out front of the home told people of its name. The Ocean Gate Arts Guild is having a fundraiser to make these signs. Forms are available in the municipal building, or contact CathyKaulfers@yahoo.com.
Fireworks – At 9 p.m. on Aug. 11. At 5 p.m., the pier will be shut down to everyone but emergency crews as the fireworks are being set up.
Light the Night – White lights are available at the municipal building. On the night of Aug. 11, a drone will be sent up to photograph the town lit up with white lights. People are encouraged to keep the lights on for the River Lady cruise on Aug. 20.
Anniversary Shirts and Hats – T-shirts with classic photos and sailor hats are available for sale. Text 732-995-1006 for more info.
Volleyball Tournament – Aug. 25, from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Two competitive brackets will be held. Applications are in the municipal building. Registration is $25, and the first prize is a $100 gift certificate to the Anchor Inn.
Buy a Board – Donating an engraved board for the Ocean Gate boardwalk will help rebuild it. The cost for each board is $250, and they can be engraved with two lines of text, 25 characters or spaces per line. (The borough has a right to reject inappropriate ones.) You might even get a chance to choose which section of the boardwalk it will be, provided that area still has spots left. Forms are available in the municipal building.
Buy a Bench – Benches along the pier can be installed. They cost $349. A $100 shipping fee can be waived if you can pick up the bench yourself. Forms are available in the municipal building.