"Most men lead lives of quiet desperation and go to the grave with the song still in them." - Henry David Thoreau

Wednesday, June 16, 2010


It was the best job I ever had.

It was the first job I ever had.

It was 1985.

What a great year that was. I graduated from high school that year. It was the year of Back to the Future, Live Aid, the MOVE/Police stand-off in Philadelphia and the debuts of Calvin and Hobbes, Tetris and, of course, New Coke.

It was also the year I started working at the Fun Shop. My parents had bought a house in North Wildwood, NJ back in '81. Wildwood was/is a party town on the South Jersey Shore that served as a place where teenagers from the Philadephia area learned to drink, take drugs and party themselves into a stupor. It was a kind of proving ground/training facility for future Spring Breakers who needed to perfect their drunken survival skills closer to home.

I, of course, was far too square to partake in any of it. After graduation, my folks were bugging me to get a summer job at McDonalds or some such awful place. I would rather douse myself in used french fry oil than ever work in fast food, so I stalled and stalled. Meanwhile, I was a Shore Rat, hanging out on the Boardwalk and playing videogames like Dragon's Lair, Tron, Dig Dug, Major Havoc and BurgerTime. I also hung out at the Fun Shop.

A few of the many pins I saved from my years at the Fun Shop!
I won't go into the long and fascinating history of the Fun Shop. Someone else has done an excellent job of that already. It was a Wildwood institution. As long as I can remember, my family has spent a week each year in Wildwood, staying at the King's Inn Motel. Back then, my days were spent in the motel pool, eating at one of the many Hot Spot restaurants on the boardwalk and drinking Lime Rickey's. But, the Fun Shop was an especially magical place, in more ways than one. They sold t-shirts, posters, buttons and novelties. 'Novelties,' usually meant cheap magic tricks, joy buzzers, fake poop and other assorted 'gag gifts.' There was even an 'adult' section in the back with the more risqué items.

By 1985, I had become a regular presence at the store, chewing the fat with the owner, Larry Graber. I am not sure of the sequence of events, but I guess at some point Larry figured if I was going to be there that often, he might as well put me to work. For me, it was like being selected Associate Pope or something equally exhalted. You have to understand, EVERYONE wanted to work at the Fun Shop. I guess for Larry, that was part of the problem. He wanted someone who didn't lobby for the job just because it was 'cool.' In fact, I was so uncool, that I wouldn't use the job to get stuff for my friends for free or abuse the position in other ways.

There I was...a nobody, a peon, lifted up from the primordial ooze to sit at the Round Table of Wildwood Royalty. It was a heady experience, no lie. I learned a lot. More than I ever expected from a job selling t-shirts to young Punks and Madonna-wanna-bees.

But, that was just the beginning...

Stay tuned for Part Two.

1 comment:

  1. I still have a threadbare mod target t-shirt I bought there. Zipperhead my ass, Fun Shop! Rode there on my skateboard almost every day. My first job was a wheel on the boards at 26th street, "only 6 numbers on the wheel, come on in give it a spin".