Warsaw, Poland 1968: The former au pair for Robert ‘Kool’ Bell of Jersey City’s Kool & The Gang and two of her teenage friends are at the doorstep of Egon Franke, Olympic fencing gold medalist, Tokyo, 1964. They sign up for a year’s worth of lessons even though Franke is incarcerated and presently serving out a three-year jaywalking sentence inside the Podgorze Detention Center on the outskirts of Krakow. Having relocated to Asbury Park upon Franke’s release and living on busking wages and shoplifted sandwiches, their efforts result in a three-way tie for seventh place at 1972’s Munich Olympiad.
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The skee ball universe of Asbury Park circa 1972 was one of strangeness and disrepute. Enter sisters Gussie Solomon and Jean Kabatchnick. Leaving thriving careers; Solomon as a coat check girl at the renowned West Orange, NJ discotheque, The Mushroom Farm and Kabatchnick as one of Columbia Records most in-demand session drummers; they stitched together a skee ball sisterhood whose power was rarely eclipsed during its day. Born of beauty school rendezvous and squalid apartment circumstance; the society was the most exhaustive attempt thus far to unite and document the Asbury Park skee ball sphere and developed Jayne ‘Triple X’ Essex, who fashioned an exploding slice of skee ball boogie that unfortunately never found an audience outside the Palace Amusements mirror maze. Get reintroduced to the Ocean Ave Skee Ball Society; a boardwalk creation that clawed and threatened its way to Asbury crossover glory.
Having been rejected from both the Long Branch Speedway and Wall Stadium, this fruity blend of Monte Carlo pool boys, Deal Lake lifeguards, second deck cruise ship karaoke contestants, armchair drag racers and double-dutch runner ups were led by Akron, OH transplant and 1935 Soap Box Derby champion Maurice Bale Jr. With the team assembled at the intersection of Bond and Main Streets in Asbury Park, Bale declared it the gravity racing capital of the nation, even though there was less than a 2% gradient rise. The Bond St. Boxcar Racers were a fusion of its captain’s engineering genius and their limited economic means; utilizing left over balsa from the high school wood shop, stolen rod collars and borrowed steering wheels.
Sometime between 1959 and 1963, a group of American ex-pats led by Dave Stoller brought the European native sport of road bicycle racing across the Atlantic, settling in Asbury Park for its level terrain and proximity to salt water. With 1933 Tour de Suisse program director Max Bulla on board, Stoller instilled the team with the credo of the Black Hebrew culture emanating from St. Kitts and declared the corner of Summerfield Ave and Main St, the center of the cycling spiritual universe. The famed SCC program producing 1969 Union Cycliste Internationale co-rookies of the year, twins Bumpy & Black Belt Jones. The Asbury biking gospel pedals on and their message endures – peace, salvation, love…and 100% kosher soul cycling.
Fueled by the financial drippings of Neptune number runners and boosted by the next door neighbors of Hall of Fame coach Vince Lombardi, The Cookman Ave Kickball Club offered athletic asylum for a rising crop of rogue soul men, Pine Barrens vocal ensembles and federal witness protection program members. Helmed by a friendly consortium of hustlers, parole officers and former pee wee gridiron giants – this club, led by Dr. Jerry Allen, the godfather of the South Side of Toms River kickball scene, grabbed the Asbury kickball city title for three years running circa ’68-’70.