Art & Writing Contest – Finalists
Art & Writing Contest Finalists
Congratulations to the Finalists in the Art & Writing Contest!
Three winners from each category will be announced at the Annual Gala on August 26th.
Best of Luck to each of you and thank you for your support!
Art Contest – 15 and Under
Art Contest – 16 and Up
Writing Contest – 15 and Under
Stone Harbor Haiku
Sleeping on the sand
You hear sounds of the ocean
The sun is shining
William Ross – Child, age 11
My Stone Harbor
I like shells.
The sea is right next to them.
I swim in it.
I love to go to Bad Kitty.
I like Bad Kitty’s hair wraps.
Bianca Gabbianelli, age 6
I was sound asleep in our cozy condo at the Leeward. My family was about halfway through our Stone Harbor vacation, and another exciting day was about to dawn. I’m sure that, in my dreams, I was planning how to spend another glorious day in the gem-of-a-town.
Suddenly, I heard noises coming from my parents’ room, and not long after, a light was flicked on in the kitchen. I was vaguely aware of someone approaching me… it was my dad.
“Girls, time to get up,” he called softly to me and my sister, who were sleeping on an air mattress in the living-room. I turned over and stretched, then glanced at the microwave clock. It read 5:48, to be exact.
5:48! What was my dad thinking, getting us all up after a not-so-good night’s sleep, at such an hour! However, as the fog cleared from my head, I remembered that, the day before, we had all agreed to go and watch the sunrise on the beach. I reluctantly swung myself out of bed at this knowledge, though I can’t say that a reason for such an early rise made anything better for me. The last time we had vacationed at Stone Harbor, we had attempted to watch a sunrise, and, although there were a few streaks of color that had been painted across the sky, there was nothing quite so special about it.
Nevertheless, we quickly got ready; by 6 o’clock, we were trotting down the sidewalk, and within five minutes, we were walking up the little, sandy ramp that led us out onto the beach. Almost immediately, I began to feel less grumpy as I gazed at the smooth, silky expense of sand before me, untrodden, for now. As we continued to approach the ocean, slowly, reverently picking our way across the sand, I glanced down at the many brittle, strikingly unique shards of shells that the ocean had tossed from her arms during last evening’s high tide. Something inside me welled with a growing excitement as we neared the ocean.
But then I glanced up at the sky. It was an odd shade of blue, looking almost like it does during a cloudless day, but dimmer, for there was no sun to be seen. In fact, the moon could still be seen high in the sky. No sunrise yet. What were we waiting for? Would this long wait be worth it?
We paced to and fro on the beach, searching for shells, chasing daring seagulls, and taking pictures of the waves. They crashed stormily onto the sand, echoing my impatient feelings. We passed horseshoe crabs, some dead and washed up pretty far, and others wiggling back towards the ocean from small, sandy puddles. The very ocean itself seemed to be urgently waiting for something… a change.
The change that came was immediate and stunning. One moment, the sky was a pasty blue, showing nothing but the sad-looking moon. The next moment, a brilliant light shot forth from over the horizon, and lit the sky up in a swirl of colors. The few, stringy clouds that had sailed listlessly across the sky were now accentuated across the sky in puffs of blush, fiery orange, and magenta. The sun’s rays blazed brilliantly on the sand, illuminating all of the shell fragments, and making the ceaseless waves summer like walls of sparkling crystals. The moon vanished, and in a moment, the sea was awake. Seagulls flew past the flaming sun, making a perfect picture. All the sights absolutely took my breath away.
I smiled to myself as the lovely breeze blew my hair, and began to blow the sacred sunrise away. Had it been worth it?
Madison Austin (age 15)
First Day of Summer
It was a normal June night, it was starting to get dark. My brothers and I were playing wiffle ball in the back yard. When suddenly, my mom opened the sliding glass door with a screech. ”Do you guys want to go to Stone Harbor?” she asked as my dad came out of the house. “What kind of a question is that?!” I asked “Of course!” we responded.
We quickly cleaned up what we were playing and ran down the basement to get our suitcases. My mom could tell how ecstatic we were to finally go down the shore. My brother, Billy, was already darting into his room to start packing. I hurriedly packed my bags and ran out the door to catch up with Billy. We got to the car and realized that my twin Ryan had already settled into his seat. We grabbed a drink as we let my dad pack the car. We didn’t argue much about who was sitting where because we were going to Stone Harbor!
Before we knew it we could smell the bay! We rolled down our windows and let the breeze carry our hair in the wind. We knew we were close because my Mom turned the Beach Boys on the radio. I sat silently in my seat waiting to see the water tower. We turned the corner and…
¨I see the water tower!” I screamed first.
¨I see the water tower! ¨ my Mom yelled second.
My two brothers sighed in disappointment that they were not first to spot it this year.
As we were passing Fudge Kitchen, the Movie Theater, and Hoys it brought back so many memories from last year and the year before that. I turned the corner and could see my Uncle Bob and cousin, Bobby, on the deck. My brothers and I were already unbuckling our seatbelts.
¨Wait! ¨ my Dad told us as he parked the car.
As soon as we got out of the car my cousins, Madeline and Anna, waited at the steps jumping up and down with excitement. We ran to them as fast as we could, ignoring the fact that we had to unpack the car. We helped unpack our bags and inflated our air mattresses. It was already 9:45 but we were far from tired. Suddenly, the front door swung open and my Grandmom and Grandpop were there with their arms out. We went out to help our grandparents get their luggage in their room and stole a few caramel candies.
“All right” my aunt said slowly “I think it is time for bed” “Ok” all six of us told our parents as we slowly crept up the stairs. We brushed our teeth and slowly settled into our beds. We could still hear the parents talking and laughing. We sat up all night talking about e fun things we would do, like going to go to the beach and getting the best ice cream in the world…Springers.
We finally drifted off to sleep knowing that this was going to be the best summer ever!
Writing Contest – 16 and Up
The Grand Old Lady of the Shore
My great grandfather built a cottage on 86th, one of the first hundred on the island. It was a two story Victorian with a basement, walk-in attic and a porch around three sides of the house. On that block were only this house, the sister cottage next door, and the famous cement house.
His descendants enjoyed annual visits, including my grandmother, and as of 1932, my father. The drive from Norristown to Stone Harbor was frustration for my father, with infinite stops at roadside stands seeking Jersey corn, Jersey tomatoes, Jersey cantaloupes, Jersey everything. Eventually Uncle Charlie’s Model A would rattle into Stone Harbor. The photos are remarkable. Uncle Charlie clowning on the beach in his black “union” bathing suit. The adult women after they removed their bathing caps revealing wildly curled, bleached hair. Young cousins piled together, sand clinging to their skin, windswept hair, sunburned raccoon cheeks, and smiles. There is nobody else on the beach.
The kids were sent to the beach after breakfast. They returned with the noon whistle for lunch, and soon after were back on the beach. Rainy days meant games of Monopoly. On days when the black flies or green heads were bad, they wore pajamas to the beach, sometimes reduced to ducking beneath the waves to evade them. Great Aunt Elizabeth, a Quaker, insisted on formal language at the table. “Wouldst thou pass the salt?” Years later, she witnessed a tidal wave from the house. She said there was a boardwalk, then a wave came over it, and the boardwalk was gone. She died in the early 1960’s, before my birth, but sometimes I would stand in that bedroom, looking out the same window, imagining a boardwalk, a wave, and a terrible storm.
There are generations of front porch photos with kids shielding their eyes from the sun. The “keep your eyes closed until I count to three” trick was futile; the sun would blaze through eyelids. “One, two three, WINCE!”
The house was a time capsule with a musty, warm-wood scent. Tables, chairs, woven reed rugs, a vacuum-tube radio that didn’t work, beds, dishware, pictures on the wall; all original, all in their original locations. The clawfoot tub, stove, sinks, lighting fixtures, window shades, outdoor shower, and basement changing rooms were all original as well.
An aunt planted Bunny Ear cactus in the yard. They spread. Decades after her death, clusters could be spotted in neighboring yards. In 2019, we found one at my parents’ place across the street. It lives on, unkillable, on our kitchen counter.
The family cottage was simple, and without adornment, but the First Avenue Victorian homes were grand structures, with elaborate ornamentation. One by one these Grand Old Ladies of the Shore fell. Charming homes, razed to the naked sand in a day, are the ghosts of an era. Surviving photographs show imposing, imperial structures, absent any warmth, stilting the bright memories their walls held.
Eventually, in the 1990’s, the family cottage was sold. We knew it would be reduced to sand, front porch and all. My parents by then owned a cottage within sight of the family cottage. If there are photos of the razing I don’t want to see them. I feel them. I envision the bucket of an excavator tearing through the attic. The peak crumbles, the window shatters, and the interior is unnaturally exposed. I never see beyond that.
I spent my summer youth there, playing with boats and rubbing my chest raw catching waves on an inflatable raft. My grandmother taught me how to make ball castles; a sand mound with a spiral path for a ball to go round and round. Her shovel? A clamshell. Years later, I made them with my family. My children are teenagers now, but ball castles draw the attention of little ones, so as long as I have a shovel or a shell, I have playmates on the beach.
Memories continue to be formed, and extend beyond buildings. Over the years, loved ones have been lost, and added, and annual Stone Harbor treks continue. When I first visit the beach, I allow the water to touch only my toes, and in that moment I connect generationally. 86th Street water….86th Street sand. Before me, an ocean unending, behind me, change. The same view my ancestors had. My children, fifth generation visitors, never saw the family cottage. But they can build a ball castle. They played with their grandparents on the beach. They know the feel of sand in their hair, a crashing wave, a drying sun, and the wonderful stiffness of wind-dried clothing. They know raccoon-cheek sunburns, beach smiles, and whether they sense it or not, they connect, in all those simple experiences, to their ancestors.
(16 and UP!)
She Sends the Dolphins
My Nana was unforgettable. Her giggle, which never failed to escape her lips even on the day she died, unmistakably let you know she was in the room. Her perseverance, strength and positivity are her legacy that continues to be an inspiration to all who knew her.
She was a Jersey girl, born and raised on the shore. Even if she wanted to deny it, after 70+ years in Milwaukee, her accent (especially the addition of the “w” in “cwofee”) would always give her away. My Papa was the son of a Mexican immigrant and like most young men at the time, enlisted in the Army to fight in WWII. His military commitment would take him to Iceland for training and then to Europe, following General Patton (miraculously surviving after fighting on the beaches of Normandy). Immediately before he traveled overseas, there was a random stop in a small New Jersey town.
Their first encounter was that of an epic fairy tale – a beautiful young girl meets the gaze of a handsome traveling soldier, giving way to love at first sight. They dance the night away; unfortunately, the minutes of this fateful night tick by with the understanding that the rising sun the next morning would bring only disappointment and a tearful good-bye.
All was not lost – for five long years, they kept that bond alive by writing to each other from across the globe. They held those letters so dear that the first time anyone could read them was once both had passed away. After sending money back to the states to purchase an engagement ring, they married once my Papa returned from the war unscathed. She bravely took his name and left her family…and her beloved Jersey shore.
With the world being much bigger than it is now, their trips back to New Jersey were few and far between. Nana courageously built a new life with her husband’s family, three children and many friends, but life was not easy. Their oldest child contracted polio and was bedridden for years. Money was extremely tight – my father often tells the story of the Christmas where they chose between small presents or a Christmas tree. Interracial marriages were not readily accepted in that time in our history. And yet, she remained grateful and optimistic – the epitome of grace.
I had never been to New Jersey, nor did I have any desire to; I was happily land-locked in the Midwest for 20 years. To me, the ocean was dirty and scary and, outside of knowing my Nana, the only knowledge I had of the people who lived there revolved around sketchy MTV shows. When my in-laws informed us they had purchased a home in Stone Harbor in 2012, my husband and I exchanged doubtful glances. New Jersey? THAT’S where you want a second home? But the deed was done – inevitably, they asked us to visit and we cautiously agreed, taking our three-year old daughter with us in 2013.
Ever since the moment we passed the majestic water tower downtown and set foot on the pristine beaches, we have understood the magic that is Stone Harbor. We now return every year as we continue to build treasured memories and traditions. Our daughters have grown up beautifully tan while running in the sand, standing in line while anticipating that first cool and creamy bite of Springer’s ice cream and basking in the glittery glory while shopping at Bad Kitty. It has been a blessing to see them experience the true joy and wonder of being a child in a beach-front town.
Stone Harbor has become the place where I, the girl who hated the water, am the most at peace. I believe it’s because there is Jersey Girl in my blood. I hear my Nana’s whispers in the rush of the waves and I can feel her presence in the warm sun. Each day we get to spend on the beach, I turn my eyes to the horizon, eager to catch a glimpse of the dolphins. They were elusive to us before she passed away, but each year since, I have seen their sleek bodies dancing in the waves. She sends the dolphins to tell me “I love you…welcome back home.”
Elizabeth Gabbianelli, proud granddaughter of Kathleen “Jardot” Schlemm
The Last Watch
The wooden steps creaked and groaned under the Keeper’s weight. For 20 years, first as a surfman and the past 10 as keeper, he had spent his days and nights within the wooden walls of Tatham Lifesaving Station. Tonight, he would work his last shift. Reaching the top of the ladder, he opened the hatch and found a young member of the crew with his eyes on the water.
“Hello, sir. Is there a problem?” said the surfman on watch, reaching out his hand. “No problem, just came up to take one last look.” The Keeper grasped the hand and pulled himself through.
“Of course sir. Although I’d be running from the night watch as quickly as I could, not coming back to it.” The Keeper chuckled.
“Not me, son, I love this time of night,” he paused, “Say, why don’t you go downstairs, warm yourself up for a bit.” “Are you sure, sir?” The Keeper looked out onto the sea for a moment, “Yes, I could use a minute alone.” The surfman shrugged and began to climb down the ladder, closing the hatch as he descended.
Though he had been Keeper of the station for 10 years, it felt like forever since he had been in the tower. Breathing in the salt air, he stroked his graying beard and took a pipe out of the pocket of his weathered oilskin. He lit it, thinking back on the grounded ships and frightened sailors that had marked the passage of the years on the Seven Mile Island.
He took a step towards the window and felt the cool ocean air on his craggy face. The breeze embraced him like an old friend, enveloping him in the clear cold scent of the sea. The Atlantic churned with fury and passion tonight, showing her joy at the arrival of an old adversary here to watch over her for one last night.
The Keeper had spent many years on the shores of this island, struggling to pull men and women from the jaws of death. He had fought the ocean time and time again, yet he had never forgotten the beauty and the power that lived within her waters. His admiration for the sea had never faded.
But there still was a job that must be done. He grabbed the set of binoculars and raised them to his eyes. No ship lights, but he caught a flash of lightning far out at sea. He uttered a prayer for any ship caught in that storm. It was too far from shore, if they went down, they could only beg for mercy.
He brought his gaze back to the island, looking passed the waving grasses on the dunes to scan the beach. As he scanned the sand and surf, he tried to remember how many times he had walked it, but it was far more than he could count.
Turning his head, he now saw the flickering lights of the new town, Stone Harbor. Once just a few small cottages extending off the rail line, it now boasted a highway, a fire department, and a schoolhouse. The lights were fewer now, of course, the tourists had all caught the last train home as the summer ended. But the few lights still glowing in the night marked the little town’s place on the island.
Now he faced west, looking over the vast marsh that spread all the way back to the mainland. The sun had long since sunk into the bay, but he could still make out the pine trees of the Cape. Whenever he looked on the bay, he was reminded of a childhood spent rowing through the inlets, fishing and crabbing. Now, he looked forward to a retirement where he could relive those carefree days of his youth.
However, he still had a watch to complete. So he turned to look over Hereford Inlet to the south. Seeing no boats in the water there, he placed the binoculars down, content with his search.
He was going to miss this. The night air, the moon and stars aiding him in the watch, the sea moving slowly past the island. It made him feel alive, made him feel whole. He loved this job, loved the ocean, loved this island. But years of protecting and serving had left him tired; he was ready to take his leave, and so he did.
“Goodbye,” he whispered into the wind. He opened his mouth to speak again but no words came out. There was nothing left to say.
Suddenly, another flash of lightning and crack of thunder came from across the sea. The Keeper smiled, acknowledging the Atlantic’s fond farewell.
Then the hatch opened, and up popped the young surfman. “Everything all right here sir?” he asked. The Keeper turned away once more and looked back out upon the dark waters. “Yes, my boy, yes it is.”
Bobby Woltjen Age 16
Kids and World War II
We all knew there was a war going on because each day there was a reminder. If your Mother sent you to the store to buy some food, you had to take money as well as a paper book that had little stamps in it. When you paid the cashier, they would take a few stamps out of the book as well as the money
When we went to the beach there were Coast Guard men patrolling the beach with a German shepherd dog. They would sometimes smile, especially at girls but for the most part they were quite serious. The squad was housed at the Life Saving station on Second Ave with a guard in the tower to watch for any incoming craft. No one was ever allowed in there, because I suppose it was filled with short wave radios and other means of communication. They were also housed in the smallest home in Stone Harbor called “The Minnow.” Every once in a while, a convoy of trucks carrying men and supplies would roll through the island.
Sometimes when we were on the beach, we could also hear a booming sound out over the ocean. It was not loud or scary. Our parents told us it was the Navy firing at targets down range. Another reminder of the War were the tar balls mixed in with seaweed. These were globs of soft black tar, some smaller than a quarter others as big as a baseball. It was rumored that the tar was a result of the diesel fuel leaking out of ships sunk by German subs. You avoided stepping on them when they were up on the beach, but when you were in the water you could not see. Since we usually had “summer feet by then, you could drag your foot on the cement on your way home to get some tar off your foot. Obviously, you could not dare go into the house with remnants of tar, so the last removal was by a gasoline soaked rag to rub it all off.
Night brought its own problems. All the streetlights were painted black on the ocean side. We were told that if the enemy was close out in the ocean it would make the land appear to totally black. The event that really brought the war to Stone Harbor were the Air Raids. At least once a week, usually at night, the fire sirens wailed and you immediately had to return to you home. Everybody was assigned the task of; 1 pulling down the heavily darken shades to the bottom of the sill and 2 turn off all of the lights. We stayed in the dark until the all-clear siren sounded. During the entire time of the War there never were any planes sighted.
One night by chance the Air Raid Sirens went off as my Father was dumping the crabs we had caught in the boiling pot, with the usual escapees. Since we had to put the lights out immediately, we had no time to hunt for the crabs on the floor. My brothers jumped up on the furniture. I spent the time hugging my Mother who just happened to have her legs off the floor. When the all clear sounded, we put on the lights and found the crabs backed into corners.
One day in August of 1945 my Mother decided to take me to the Park Movie theater where we saw the usual newsreel about how we were winning the war and the coming attractions. Soon after the main feature started the film stopped, the lights came on and the manager of the Park Movie got up on stage and announced that Japan had surrendered. People jumped up from their seats yelled for joy and exited the movie. When we got outside all of 96th Street was filled with joyous people jumping, shouting, dancing, hugging, kissing strangers and added to the noise the fire siren was sounding and car horns were honking.
What fun and a joy to behold!
An Island of Possibility
As a child, my sister and I developed a tradition of ringing in the New Year in Stone Harbor. Every December 31st, we would pile into the backseat of an SUV piloted by our grandparents and drive to their house at the heart of the island. We would eat dinner at Henny’s, making good use of the “HAPPY NEW YEAR” hats and noisemakers that adorned the tables. We would stop by the Fudge Kitchen and Hoy’s, stocking up on goodies that would ensure a sugar high long enough to propel us towards midnight. We would lounge on the couches in the family room and watch the ball drop, snuggling under blankets to ward off the winter chill that seeped through the walls.
These memories have long been some of my favorite of Stone Harbor, in part due to their uniqueness. For many, Stone Harbor is a manifestation of summertime, remembered far more often as a bustling resort than as a sleepy shore town. Their version of the island comes alive in the taste of a Springer’s ice cream cone or in the sight of a sea of orange umbrellas dotting the sand, in the sound of a bicycle bell or in the smell of freshly baked sticky buns from the Bread and Cheese Cupboard. They remember Stone Harbor as that quintessential summer getaway, a place where the days are long and the nights are magical. It’s the seashore, at its very, very best.
This perception, of course, is hardly wrong; I’ve been visiting this town for nearly every summer of my lifetime and I, too, have a lengthy bucket list of items that constitute the perfect Stone Harbor Summer. Club 18 mini-golf. A stack of pancakes at Uncle Bill’s. A bike ride across the island and a hoagie from Wawa. An evening on the deck of our family’s home, watching the sunset illuminate that iconic water tower. Still, there was something special about experiencing these beaches absent of seasonal hoi polloi, of stripping away the towels and umbrellas and instead soaking in the vast, gray horizon. It was a reminder of what, for me, Stone Harbor has always been about, regardless of the season: possibility.
Growing up, Stone Harbor acquired an almost mythical aura in my eyes, in part due to the opportunities it presented. Whenever I visited, I enjoyed a life that was unlike any I lived elsewhere; I was granted levels of independence that would be unthinkable back home, and I was encouraged to revel in the rest and relaxation that the town embraced because, at the end of the day, we would always have tomorrow. I suppose it’s not surprising that starting the year in Stone Harbor made sense to me. At a time designated for looking forward, for dreaming big, it felt right to spend it on the shores that made me believe that everything was possible.
It’s been many years since I’ve welcomed January 1st down at the shore, and things have changed. My grandfather passed away. I’ve moved to a new city and pursued new opportunities. But those days live on in my heart, sharpening into focus whenever I consider the future’s infinite potential, and reminding me that any new ventures into the unknown are the simply the continuation of steps first pondered in the comforting glow of Stone Harbor’s coastline.
-Tim Croner (age 28)