How to add a posting below . . .

To add a new posting, send an email to me at with a comment, question, story, photo, observation, etc. It will be posted below, shortly after the email is received. To comment on an existing posting, click on the "comments" command below the posting and type your comment. Your comment will show up immediately.   Pete Stemmer

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Rube Corlies and the Lock Ness Monster

Some years ago, Jackie and I visited relatives and friends in England and Scotland. A highlight of the trip was our travels through the beautiful Scotland countryside. I had always wanted to visit Loch Ness and, by chance, see Nessie, the famous Loch Ness monster. After all, not everyone has seen a real live sea monster! Unfortunately, we never made it to Loch Ness.


Little did I know that if I wanted to see a sea monster, I should have set my sights toward the Atlantic Ocean just off Surf City. It seems that Rube Corlies and his brother-in-law, Jonn Inman, spotted one while fishing for menhaden.

Rube Corlies in his yard in Manahawkin


It doesn’t happen very often. But every now and then people do run into sea monsters. They say one was sighted off Gloucester, Mass., in 1819. Another startled three fishermen near Kennebunk, Maine in 1830. And, of course, the monster of Loch Ness pops up from time to time.

But did you know that one was seen off Long Beach Island ln 1906?

A great snake rose out of the water early one July morning just off Surf City and appeared to eight men who had been fishing.

Here's the story as told by Rube Corlies of Manahawkin. Corlies, a frail but Spunky 88 year old man, is the last survivor of the serpent sighting, “My brother-in-law John Inman and I had been catching mossbunkers using a 40-fathom net a couple of hundred yards off the beach. While we were hauling in the net, he remarked that the fish were behaving in a funny way- swimming crazily as if something was chasing them.”

"Suddenly a great snake reared up about 15 to 20 feet out of the water maybe 30 or 40 feet from the stern of our boat. The animal was black on the back and had a lot of flabby white flesh on its belly. The mouth was about four feet wide and its nose was just like a snake’s. He was slick as an eel and I couldn’t see any scales or fins.”

"We couldn't believe our eyes - there it was and there we were. lt seemed to stand straight up with its great black eyes turned toward us."

Inman threw the net overboard and they started to row. The serpent sank back to the surface of the water.

"It started to come right at us, but it must have gotten all tangled up in our net – we found a huge hole in it later. As it swam past us on the surface it must have been about 60 feet long - not counting the tail and 6 feet wide."

Men in three other fishing boats which were in the area saw that Corlies seemed to be in trouble and began to row toward him and as they did, the serpent surfaced again about a half mile away. This time it locked like a large tree trunk standing about 10 feet tall.

Then it disappeared for good. And has never been seen again.

Some people think Rube Corlies was dreaming that day back in 1906. Others wonder it he might have been drinking.

But according to Corlies he had not had a drop ("Although if I had known what I was going to see that day, I might have drunk a bottle.") and he is certain of what he saw. "It was a giant sea snake and it must have been feeding on the mossbunkers."

He goes on to say that he thinks the serpent may have come in shore because of a ship that had wrecked in 1900 on Long Beach Island. The ship had been carrying animal bones and when it was broke up the bones formed a slick which on certain tides extended out to sea. Corlies thinks this slick might have lured the fish which in turn lured the serpent.

"Anyway I know what I saw and that’s all there ls to it. That big snake may still be out there some place. It was two weeks later because our nets looked like something very large had torn them."

Would he like to see the monster again?

"No," says Corlies with a mischievous grin, "but I was always disappointed I didn’t see one other creature.

I’ve anchored alongside whales and seen the serpent, but I never saw a mermaid. I guess they knew when l was coming out and they'd disappear."

Well, you can’t have everything.

The Southern Ocean County Reporter – June 30, 1971

I'm thinking of calling my Men's Breakfast buddy, Jim McAnney, who owns a boat, and asking him to take me on a sea monster hunting expedition off Surf City. Anyone out in the Blog-O-Sphere care to join us?

Pete S

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Viola Pepper and the Unforgettable Chigger Attack

It's well into July and the blueberries are plentiful here in southern Jersey. Jackie and I stopped by a blueberry farm outside of Nesco the other day and brought home two flats of the delicious purple fruit. They rank high on my list of favorite fruits, as they are so versatile. They're great by the handful, on cereal, in pancakes, in pies and, my favorite, in blueberry buckle.

Blueberry Buckle

Jackie has a delicious blueberry buckle recipe that she got over 30 years ago from Minnie Shropshire who was our neighbor when we first moved to New Gretna. We first tasted Minnie's buckle when she had us over for cake and coffee, shortly after we moved in. What a delightful way to meet a new neighbor!

Minnie Mathis Shropshire
Photo courtesy of Murray & Jean Shropshire Harris

The other evening Jackie served up ample portions of Minnie's blueberry buckle recipe. I couldn't help thinking of Minnie as I attacked the large piece of buckle on my plate. Unfortunately, it also brought back a memory that is better forgotten - the episode of Viola Pepper's blueberry patch and the attack of the invisible chiggers.

You have to know what a chigger is and the torment they can cause to the unwary blueberry picker to understand my reluctance to recall Jackie and my unforgettable run-in with the invisible skin burrowing insect.

Chiggers are tiny insects that live in grassy environments such as an overgrown blueberry field. They jump on one's ankles and work their way up the legs, burrowing into the skin to feast and lay their eggs. The results are often welts and the worst itch that you can imagine. Their mayhem can last up to a few very uncomfortable weeks. There are many over the counter and home remedies to relieve the terrible itching but none that I have tried seem to work as well as I would like.

I found the following regarding chiggers on an internet site. It seems to pretty well sum up a chigger attack.

Chiggers first show up as annoying red bumps. An itch begins. It grows. More hard red welts surface. From your feet and ankles upward, and especially at those tender locations your mother told not to scratch in public, a maddening itch takes hold.

Savage scratching begins. Every welt becomes a persistent, exquisitely itching preoccupation that continues to irritate for days and even weeks. You probably recognize these symptoms of chigger bites. Yet we never see the culprits responsible for this summertime agony.

A chigger

Chigger bites around the ankle

Shortly after we moved into our North Maple Avenue home in New Gretna, Jackie and I met Minnie's daughter, Jean, and her husband, Murray Harris who visited with Minnie for the summers. Jean and Murray were the adventurous type who took us on excursions in New Gretna and throughout the Pine Barrens. One of these first adventures was a visit to Viola Pepper's blueberry patch behind the present day New Gretna Post Office.

Jean and Murray Harris in their younger days.

The blueberry patch was originally owned by Caleb Earle Cramer, known locally by his middle name, Earle, and his wife Viola whom he married in 1912. Earle died in 1948 and Viola remarried Harry Pepper, from Tabernacle, in 1956. By the time Jean and Murray had taken us to pick blueberries, Harry had passed on and the blueberry field was known simply as Viola Pepper's blueberry patch.

Viola's field was no longer a working field and had largely grown over with weeds and grass. Local people would enjoy a morning or afternoon of picking berries. We were happy to join in the local practice. The berries were delicious and the price was right. Little did we know the consequences of our blueberry picking adventure.

After an enjoyable afternoon of picking, we returned home and cleaned and sorted the berries. Some were placed in a bowl for fresh eating and some were packed in smaller containers and frozen for eating over the winter months. That evening Jackie made her first blueberry buckle and we went to bed content with our day's efforts, unaware that we would have a night that would be long remembered each time we ate blueberry buckle.

Jackie and I spent that night with little sleep as we both rubbed and scratched our ankles and legs until they were red. We couldn't seem to get any relief from the unstopable itching which we found puzzling. The next day we mentioned our uncomfortable night to Jean and Murray who told us about the dreaded chiggers and the precautions of getting out of your picking clothes as soon as you got home from the blueberry field and taking an immediate shower. I remember replying, "Now you tell us!"

We suffered through a week or so of "the chiggers" until we finally got some relief as they ran out their course. Needless to say, we learned our lesson regarding blueberry picking.

Unfortunately, I don't have any photos of our memorable blueberry picking adventure with the Harrises; however, I do have some old photos of other New Gretna-ites and Tuckertonians picking in Viola's field in the 1940's and 1950's that I am happy to share with you.

Pete S

PS- Anyone else out in the Blog-O-Sphere have any chigger stories or stories about picking at Viola's blueberry? If so, I'd like to hear from you.

Note the South Maple Ave. houses in the background

Friday, July 8, 2011

Life 100 Years Ago

I got the following emailed to me by my friend, Jill Thieman via her mom, June, both from Toms River, and thought I would share it with you. Some of the items sure surprised me, especially the over the counter sale of marijuana, heroin, and morphine at local drug stores. Let me know what item surprised you the most.

Pete S

The year is 1911 - One hundred years ago. What a difference a century makes!

Here are some statistics for the Year 1911:

The average life expectancy for men was 47 years.

Fuel for this car was sold in drug stores only.

Only 14 percent of the homes had a bathtub.

Only 8 percent of the homes had a telephone.

There were only 8,000 cars and only 144 miles of paved roads.

The maximum speed limit in most cities was 10 mph.

The tallest structure in the world was the Eiffel Tower !

The average US wage in 1910 was 22 cents per hour.

The average US worker made between $200 and $400 per year.

A competent accountant could expect to earn $2000 per year, a dentist $2,500 per year, a veterinarian between $1,500 and $4,000 per year, and a mechanical engineer about $5,000 per year.

More than 95 percent of all births took place at home.

Ninety percent of all Doctors had NO COLLEGE EDUCATION! Instead, they attended so-called medical schools, many of which were condemned in the press and the government as "Substandard".

Sugar cost four cents a pound.

Eggs were fourteen cents a dozen.

Coffee was fifteen cents a pound.

Most women only washed their hair once a month, and used Borax or egg yolks for shampoo.

Canada passed a law that prohibited poor people from entering into their country for any reason.

The Five leading causes of death were: 1. Pneumonia and influenza; 2. Tuberculosis; 3.Diarrhea; 4.Heart disease; and 5. Stroke.

The American flag had 45 stars.

The population of Las Vegas, Nevada, was only 30.

Crossword puzzles, canned beer, and iced tea hadn't been invented yet.

There was neither a Mother's Day nor a Father's Day.

Two out of every 10 adults couldn't read or write and only 6 percent of all Americans had graduated from high school.

Marijuana, heroin, and morphine were all available over the counter at the local corner drugstores.

Back then pharmacists said, "Heroin clears the complexion, gives buoyancy to the mind, regulates the stomach and bowels, and is, in fact, a perfect guardian of health!".

Eighteen percent of households had at least one full-time servant or domestic help.

There were about 230 reported murders in the ENTIRE U.S.A. !

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Bass River Township Birthed on March 30, 1864

This past Monday, July 4th, we celebrated what is generally considered the birth date of our country. That got me thinking. Do you know the birth date of Bass River Township?

Today, Bass River Township, encompassing 78.2 square miles, lies adjacent to the more heavily populated Little Egg Harbor Township and to the more lightly populated Washington Township. Few of its residents know that the three townships were all a part of Little Egg Harbor township at one time.

Washington Township broke away from Little Egg Harbor in 1802 and Bass River Township followed suit on March 30, 1864 through an act of the New Jersey State Legislature.

Click on the "Welcome to Bass River Township" sign above to view the March 30, 1864 act of the New Jersey Legislature that created Bass River Township. Use your browsers BACK ARROW to return to the Blog.

The first township meeting (See Section 3 of 1864 act) and first township election (See Section 6 of 1864 act) were held at Franklin Adam's Inn which was located at the south-east corner of the present day Rt. 9 and South Maple Avenue where Munchies deli now stands.

Franklin Adams, in the white suit, stands in front of his Inn, the Bass River Hotel, where the first Bass River Township meeting was held. Photo courtesy of Franklin W. Gray.

I hope you find reading the actual legislative act informative. It's not as dramatic as our nation's Declaration of Independence, but it's interesting, non the less.

Pete S