• July 16, 2019

History group events on tap in Somers Point - Ocean City Sentinel: News

History group events on tap in Somers Point

Rum-running, pirates, corruption on agenda

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Posted: Wednesday, July 10, 2019 10:44 am

SOMERS POINT — The real story of Enoch “Nucky” Johnson, pirates and privateers, as well as the local music scene of yesteryear, will be the subjects of the Somers Point Historical Society’s summer events. 

The series begins Tuesday, July 16, and runs through Tuesday, Aug. 27. Both events are at 7 p.m. 

The events include: Nucky Johnson’s Atlantic City — A Dramatic Presentation on July 16; a fundraising boat cruise at 5:30 p.m. Sunday, July 21, aboard the Duke O’Fluke; and the Tony Mart Experience at 7 p.m. Tuesday, Aug. 27, at the Gateway Playhouse in Somers Point. 

Members of the Somers Point Historical Society will also give presentations at the Ocean City Historical Museum this summer. 

Sally Hastings, president of the historical society, will speak Thursday, July 25. Her presentation, “Hear the Music,” will discuss the local music and bar scene, including the Under 21 club. 

Hastings said this is a “retrospect of the ’50s and ’60s nightclub era, Bay Shores nightclub, Tony Mart’s, with music through the decades.”

She said Chubby Checker, who is known for “The Twist,” recorded a record at the Under 21 Club in Somers Point. 

The presentation will also include information about the South Jersey Jazz Society, the Somers Point Beach Concert Series and current musical happenings. 

On Thursday, Aug. 8, Kirk Hastings will speak at the Ocean City Historical Museum. His presentation is Doo Wop Motels of the Wildwoods. 

According to Sally Hastings, Kirk Hastings wrote a book about Wildwood architecture, “Doo Wop Motels: Architectural Treasures of the Wildwoods.”

The three-hour-long Duke O’Fluke event will cruise the Great Egg Harbor River. The topic that night is pirates and privateers and local folklore, according to Sally Hastings. 

The Tony Mart Experience on Aug. 27 will feature Carmen Marotta, the son of the owner of the former Tony Mart’s nightclub and music venue in Somers Point. 

Marotta will talk about his father and Tony Mart’s, and the evening will include music from the ’50s to the ’70s. 

This fundraising event is also a tribute to the late Bob Campanell, a local singer and songwriter. It will benefit the Somers Point Historical Society. 

On July 16, Levi Fox, of Jersey Shore Tours, will give his presentation as Nucky Johnson, a businessman, Atlantic County sheriff and political influencer in the early 20th century.  

He said the presentation he does is “intended to reflect the actual person as much as possible.” This might be different from the character based on Johnson, Nucky Thompson, in the HBO series “Boardwalk Empire.” 

“The real Nucky Johnson was a power broker behind the scenes, who dealt with shady characters surely, and who was engaged in criminal enterprise, but also needs to be considered as a political boss in the vein of many early 20th century machine politicians in many cities in many countries,” Fox said. 

While Fox said he was “certainly corrupt as we would define it,” he said the money was often used to assist local families in a time when social services didn’t exist, such as in the event of a flood or a fire. 

According to Fox, Johnson learned from his father, an Atlantic County sheriff, and his mentor, “to make sure that a lot of the money was funded to separate projects but was also used to enrich the community as a whole,” he said. 

Johnson was seemingly committed to helping the local tourism economy succeed. 

During Prohibition, people could drink openly in Atlantic City, which Fox said was part of the “tourist economy that was set up to provide whatever the tourists wanted.”

Johnson was behind the building of Boardwalk Hall, Fox said, the World War I Memorial and a new Atlantic City High School. He was also behind the idea of doing a beauty pageant in the fall, according to Fox, which eventually became the Miss America pageant.

Johnson was also involved in a rum-running trade during Prohibition. Fox covers this in the presentation and also the “degree to which Nucky was involved in establishing an elicit network of international liquor importation and distribution.”

“Atlantic City was the place where a lot of alcohol came into the U.S. that made it all the way to the Midwest,” he said.

Fox said that 100 years ago, Johnson would have been the person most-identified with Atlantic City. 

“I would have said Atlantic City would have been the city in New Jersey that was the most famous around the world (at that time). There are a lot of reasons why he was very well known,” Fox said. 

The Somers Point Historical Museum is also open for the summer season. To learn more about the society’s events and the museum, visit somerspointhistory.org.

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