ATLANTIC CITY — C. Catan waited patiently as the clock neared 11am in the Turnersville section of Washington Township, N.J. The Teaneck resident was poised to make history as the first motorist to travel on the Atlantic City Expressway, officially opening the road on July 31, 1964.
For Catan, the experience was nothing new as he had been the first driver to pay a toll on hundreds of highways, tunnels and bridges over the past quarter of a century. At the appointed hour, he drove his car through a ceremonial ribbon and later paid the first toll at Egg Harbor. Travel to Atlantic City and other Shore points would never be the same and the South Jersey landscape would be forever altered.
The road to the expressway was not without roadblocks. With increased congestion on the Black and White Horse pikes, a faster route from Philadelphia to the Jersey shore was proposed to ease congestion. Discussions in the 1950s had bogged down over the length, location and cost of such a project.
State Sen. Frank S. “Hap” Farley was an early advocate of the expressway when a bill authorizing the project passed both houses of the Legislature in 1961. However, N.J. Gov. Robert Meyner vetoed the legislation over a disagreement on the membership of the five-member expressway authority.
When Gov. Richard Hughes took office in January 1962, the expressway was a top item on the new Legislature’s agenda. Both the Assembly and Senate approved the bill by month’s end and Hughes signed the measure allocating $39 million for a high-speed toll road on Feb. 20.
Construction of the road, which would run through eight municipalities in Gloucester, Camden and Atlantic counties, would not begin until 1963 after the expressway authority authorized land purchases and finalized plans for the project. By the end of 1962, the anticipated cost of the 44-mile expressway had risen to $46.8 million and the authority voted to finance a bond issue for that amount.
With the preliminary work completed, construction went smoothly on the segment of the expressway between Turnersville and the Garden State Parkway in Pleasantville, opening a year ahead of schedule in the summer of 1964.
With Sen. Farley paying the first 15-cent toll, the final 6.2 miles of the expressway between Pleasantville and Atlantic City opened on July 30, 1965.
“It is now possible to travel from downtown Atlantic City to the Chicago loop without hitting a traffic light,” Gov. Hughes said in hailing the completion of the highway.
The expressway quickly became a favorite of motorists, attracting about 500,000 vehicles in its first month of operation in 1964. To offset the cost of tolls, the speed limit on the expressway was set at 70 mph, the highest of any road in South Jersey. The speed limit would be adjusted downward in the 1970s as a means of conserving gasoline.
The heavily traveled road also had its share of accidents; 11 were reported in the first four weeks. Five accidents involved deer, which once freely roamed the unpaved land before the expressway was built. Accidents would be a fact of life on the expressway with its volume of traffic and fast speeds. It was not until 1995 that the expressway went an entire year without a traffic fatality.
The salesgirl had miscalculated. She had just come on duty, and here was this black woman standing before her on the main floor of Wanamaker's Department Store in Philadelphia. The woman was nicely dressed to be sure, but she was, after all ... well, she was someone who simply would have to wait while more important customers were served. Like the blue-haired dowager ogling a sea of sable. Or the smartly tailored secretary eyeing the latest silk blouses. They took priority, the salesgirl figured. But then her supervisor appeared and the rules suddenly changed. "Mrs. Washington," the supervisor greeted the black woman, who was well into middle age. "Back so soon?" "I'd like to get one more if I may," said Mrs. Washington, whose look of mounting anger had turned to irony. "Of course." Now the supervisor flashed daggers at the salesgirl. "Bring Mrs. Washington another mink, please. The same as the one on her sales slip from half an hour ago." No cash register was big enough for the salesgirl to hide in. The year was 1946, and while Sara Spencer Washington -- founder of a cosmetics empire -- could write a pair of thousand-dollar checks to the same department store on the same day...
After the youthful fisherman had hooked the huge tiger shark, wrestled it onto the deck, and later displayed its carcass in a tent at 10 cents a gape, his appetite for showmanship was whetted. He now...
It was conceived as a limousine on rails, ushering gamblers from points north, south and west to the casinos of Atlantic City. When it began in May 1989, Amtrak's Atlantic City Express figured to serve both the resort and the railroad. When it expired on April 1, 1995, it was dead weight for a transportation company trying to lighten its load. Awash in red ink, Amtrak was cutting one quarter of its routes nationwide in an effort to match service to demand and gain a balanced budget. "[The A.C. Express] is one of the routes we have to discontinue because of low ridership," said a company spokesman. The line had lost an average $4.6 million per year since its inception, and its 1994 average daily ridership of 586 was about half of the total three years earlier. Clearly, the route had rolled snake-eyes. Company officials felt that the casino industry had not marketed the service strongly enough, but conceded that Amtrak may have misread the market -- burgeoning bus service proffering casino discounts had siphoned potential customers. Another factor may have been that the Atlantic City Express was never a true express. All trains stopped in Philadelphia, where they left the main track...
� Dancing Master�Made His Mark in AC � It was a turkey farm when a middle-aged dancer with an artificial leg purchased these seven acres in the Catskill Mountains in 1952. Brawny and gruffly sweet, his talent exceeded only by his will, there was nothing artificial about this man who was ahead of his time much the same way he always anticipated the beat. To the disappointment of its owner, the Peg Leg Bates Country Club failed to integrate the Borscht Belt, but it did provide a final showcase for an entertainment legend and his stories. And man, did he have stories to tell. Like the time he danced all day for the wounded soldiers at Atlantic City's Thomas England General Hospital, Haddon Hall's alter ego during the World War II years. He was in town for a gig at the Paradise Club when Army officials asked if he could give the guys a few minutes. He gave them five hours, dancing in every ward to the keyboard accompaniment of a man named Count Basie. The dancer had at least one crucial thing in common with his audience - some of the vets likewise were missing limbs. Like the times he danced at...
� The Black Honus Wagnerl � The school lawn sloped down to the Indiana Avenue sidewalk, the grass gangly and uneven and begging for a trim. An old man was pushing a mower, and the lumps he negotiated reminded him of some of the balky infields he'd mastered. He tugged the brim of his cap a notch lower on his forehead to seal off the late-day sun and chugged forward, severed strips of grass flying out through the churning blades. He could close his eyes and not lose his way - so sure his balance even now - and when he did, he saw chalked lines bordering a larger expanse, and grandstands that rose from the dirt beyond. The street noise vanished and he heard only the whoosh of sliding spikes and the pop of a thrown baseball speared by a leather mitt. When an embedded rock brought the mower to a rude halt, the old man woke from his reverie. He removed his cap and used the back of his hand to chase sweat from his forehead. A large hand, well-suited to gripping a pale yellow bat or pegging clothesline throws across the diamond. And at this moment, something rare...
The LP Debuted in Atlantic City
O.C.’s Four-Hour Horror
1912 Prohibition Party Convention