LACEY TOWNSHIP – It was a trip down memory lane as the sun set over the Lacey Branch Library recently. A room full of 37 residents, many whom seemed to have grown up in the town, watched a documentary about Lacey Township’s early days – when counting cars on the highway, walking barefoot in the summer and farming for oysters was the norm and Toms River was the “big city.”
It was the seventh screening of the documentary Legends of Lacey Township – A Tour Through Time. It all started when Jeremy Muermann, who teaches Television Production at Lacey Township High School, got an interesting request from three of his former students: Andy DiAngelis, Steven Krawiec and Winter Rose Barney. The three, who were interested to learn about the town they grew up in, convinced their former teacher to help them make a movie about Lacey’s history, which dates back to 1871.
“They knew that I really liked documentary filmmaking and that I hadn’t done it in a while,” said Muermann.
Soon, a movie was born. Krawiec took on the role of production manager, DiAngelis became the cinematographer/editor and Winter Rose took on social media. With help from the Lacey Historical Society, the unlikely foursome shot 10 hours of footage on a $900 budget in just two months and completed the documentary last August. Even the music was composed by former high school students.
“We produced this last year and debuted it in August down in Deerhead Lake Beach to a crowd of about 300 people, which we thought was pretty amazing,” said Muermann at the screening. “It never ceases to amaze me just how many people have been interested in this documentary since we started last year.”
Another group of people interested in Lacey Township – at least back in the good old days – were celebrities. Residents who narrated the documentary said the town was a popular stop-off on the way to Atlantic City for the rich and famous to go fishing and deer hunting.
The movie was split into eight parts, each covering a particular section of Lacey Township:
- Bay Way Church and Lanoka Harbor
- Potter’s Church, Good Luck and Farming
- Forked River Game Farm
- Eno’s Hotel and Captain’s Inn
- Greyhound Inn and the Center of Town
- Forked River State Marina
- Oyster Creek and the Garden State Parkway
Some of these landmarks, such as the Forked River Game Farm, have since closed their doors. But others, like the riverside Captain’s Inn, have stood the test of time and been a beacon for boaters traveling up and down the Barnegat Bay for 65 years.
The last segment of the movie was a turning point for Lacey, as the addition of the Oyster Creek Power Plant and the Garden State Parkway in the 1960s signaled a big financial boom for the town. In the film, former Lacey Township Mayor John Parker, who now serves as town historian, talks about using the surplus to build up the town’s school, police and park systems. With Oyster Creek now set to close, the town may be facing a future financial downfall.
Muermann opened up a Q&A session after the movie, telling the packed room that he and his fellow filmmakers have learned more from talking to people after screenings than they did while making the movie.
DVDs of the movie were also on sale for $10 after the screening, and 15 were purchased. Over 100 copies have now been sold since the movie debuted.
“We continue to be humbled by the amount of attention we’ve gotten for this,” said Muermann. He said he keeps expecting people to stop showing up for the screenings, but that hasn’t happened yet.
Muermann admitted that there’s still a lot that the movie doesn’t hit. “We did a screening at the historical society a couple weeks ago and Mr. Parker asked me when part two is.”
Another screening of Legends is scheduled for May 31 at 7 p.m. at the Lacey Branch Library, 10 East Lacey Road. Please call the library in advance to pre-register at 609-693-8556.