ATLANTIC CITY — It’s that time of year again.
“Awww, aren’t they precious,” women remark as we see the pee-wee squad playing football on the Dolphins’ new field turf or walking home after practice, fully uniformed. Clearly, it is a struggle to walk home with one’s helmet, shoulder pads and kneepads still on, but it’s worth it to let passersby know you’re on the team.
By game day, those little cherub-like faces inside helmets that appear much too big will be all business, and the parking situation will be about as serious as that at any NFL game. For the next few months, I will not be able to find a parking space if I try to visit my parents in Venice Park on any given Saturday or Sunday afternoon.
Game days attract some of the biggest crowds of any event in our community. Coaches, managers and boosters in the form of concession stand volunteers, cheerleader mentors, parents, families, friends, teachers and anyone who loves a good football game come out to support the Dolphins. They are the pride of the Northside.
Whether talking to today’s young players or players of yesteryear, the sentiment is the same: it’s fun; it’s great being on a team; you learn stuff.
Wilbur “Tinker” Banks, now an executive with the A.C. Department of Health and Human Services, puts it this way, “The Dolphins help build your self-esteem, respect for others and comradery amongst your peers.”
Banks was on one of the first teams and described how they were the “doormats of the league in ‘68, given other teams’ hand-me-downs and half-broken equipment, practicing on rocks and grass patches at Pop Lloyd Stadium.”
He coached Dolphin players for 17 years once he returned from college in the 1980s. As a way to give back to their community, he and a group of friends also provided funds from their athletic shoe store to buy the team’s uniforms. That’s when the Dolphins had their first championship.
Today, most funding comes from city grants, local businesses and casino donations.
According to Ronald Jordan, who volunteered with the Dolphins for 20+ years, the Atlantic County Junior Football League began creating teams in the area in 1957. The first Atlantic City teams were known as the Hurricanes, all black, and the Marlins, all white. By the middle of the 1960s, the ethnic landscape in Venice Park had changed; as more and more Blacks moved in, more and more Whites moved out. The league leadership began looking for some black men in Atlantic City to take over the city team that was comprised of youth from the area between Missouri Avenue and the Inlet.
They found John Battle, a well-known men’s clothing salesman. Ted Dobson, Casper Sadler, Joe Bair, Gordon Willis and Butch Moore joined Battle and began fundraising for the team.
They recruited Marvin Hill, a well-respected local educator, to handle the money. By 1968, the group incorporated itself as the Greater Atlantic City Youth Association. It wasn’t long before the football team became the star of the GACYA, so as far as most people know, it’s simply been referred to as “the Dolphins” ever since.
“The Dolphins are the greatest thing that ever happened to the kids of Atlantic City.” says Jordan, who led an effort to have at least a plaque placed on the clubhouse at Dolphins’ field in recognition of the founders.
The founding members always planned for the Dolphins to be a training ground for high school football and that has not changed. There are varsity, junior varsity and pee wee squads; boys must be between the ages of seven and 14 and girls as cheerleaders, must be ages six to 13. There are also weight requirements for football players.
Judy Lathan, who managed the cheerleaders for 25-plus years, recalled how in the early days, cheerleading uniforms were handmade. When her daughter, Darlene, now a counselor at Atlantic City High School, was a cheerleader, they also had to do major fundraising, but once the casinos got involved, there was no more need for fish fries and chicken dinner sales.
More than 500 children are involved each year. Practices are held almost every day of the week after school and games are on weekends. All of the adults involved are volunteers, something else that has remained consistent over the years. A poem in the players’ changing room reminds team members to listen to their coaches, follow their advice and represent the Dolphins on and off the field.
Approaching its 45th year, this solid organization remains the pride of Atlantic City's Northside.
Turiya S.A. Raheem was born and raised in Atlantic City. Currently an English teacher at Atlantic Cape Community College, she loves to describe her neighborhood as “the other Atlantic City,” because it was not the casino-resort mecca most people know today. It was a place with a “cozy, down-home feeling” as she describes in her 2010 book, Growing Up in the Other Atlantic City: Wash’s and the Northside.
It was a great turnout and Ralph Hunter was in rare form last Saturday when the African-American Heritage Museum of Southern New Jersey was honored with the U.S. Postal Service’s unveiling of the Rosa Parks commemorative stamp on the 100th anniversary of her birth.
When a car accident left him homebound in 2000, he became bored with household chores and to save his sanity, he said he began to draw again and by trial and error, taught himself how to paint people, places and things.
John Henry “Pop” Lloyd was born and raised in Florida and passed away nearly 50 years ago, but his name is still mentioned often in this area and his memory lives on, without exception, as one of Atlantic City’s most revered adopted sons.
It dawned on me the other day that I have completed my first year as an acweekly.com columnist. It’s been one of the best years of my life, a year that has forced me to challenge myself and grow as a writer.
Placed in charge of Atlantic City’s two “colored” schools by 1921, Pennsylvania native Brock succumbed the following year at the age of 42, in the thick of a battle over whether or not to integrate the local schools.
When are we going to hear more talk about the many efforts available to help parents, teen and otherwise, deal with their own lack of parenting skills, feelings of inadequacy, hopelessness, depression and outdated employability skills?
A list of Black History Month related events in the Atlantic City region.
If you’ve never been to the Civil Rights Garden in Atlantic City, you should make it a point to drop by there and sit awhile. It is a contemplative place.
"...the feeling I left with from the Kwanzaa celebration was that 'the village must look out for the village — regardless of who or where we are.'"
There was a reason why I dedicated my book, Growing Up in the Other Atlantic City: Wash’s and the Northside, to all the families in Atlantic City, in addition to my own grandparents and children — I knew they had similar stories to tell.
In 2010, Navarro wasn’t just remembered as the last player to take the field with Lloyd, on opposing teams, but was believed to be the oldest living professional baseball player anywhere.
Pop Lloyd played professional baseball in the Negro Leagues from 1906 to 1932, as a shortstop, second baseman and first baseman, including two stints with the Bacharach Giants of Atlantic City. In 1910 he out-hit Ty Cobb in a Cuban winter league series — .500 to .385.
When it comes to celebrating the life and career of John Henry “Pop” Lloyd, one of the greatest stars of the early 20th century Negro Leagues and a man who adopted Atlantic City as his home, there is never a shortage of stories.
To date, more than 400 children have come through the Art Dorrington Ice Hockey Foundation, where education, opportunity and life skills are stressed as much as the sport. In 2006, the students won the Hockey in the Hood tournament in Detroit. Mr. Dorrington has been Atlantic City’s Softball Commissioner since 2002.
It hit me right after Rex Grossman threw his second interception of the night on the rain-soaked field of the Stupor Bowl in Miami: Football season is over. Woe is me; happy is she (all the wives and girlfriends out there). So what are we supposed to do now on Saturdays and Sundays with the old HDTV? People tell me there is life after football and before March Madness. We know that pitchers and catchers will report soon, but still there is the void that only Jim Nantz and Phil Simms can fill. But wait: We do have a plan. Here are some things to do while we wait for the madness of March. • Get ready for the Atlantic 10 Conference basketball tournament in Atlantic City. It will be here before you know it, March 7-10 at Boardwalk Hall. Phil Martelli's St. Joe's Hawks could be a dark horse, but no matter who wins the tourney and gets an automatic bid to the NCAA tourney, this tournament is very special to me and to the history of special events in Atlantic City. Tickets to the four single sessions are on sale now. Said Martelli on the "Betson Connection" radio show...
Art Dorrington's daughter Judah was speechless with pride, and thanked everyone for giving her father “his flowers while he can still see them.”
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