Thursday, March 31, 2011

Upper Township to name road after lifelong Strathmere resident Bertha Wittkamp

This story appears in the 3/31/11 edition of The Press of Atlantic City

Posted: Thursday, March 31, 2011 12:16 am

Upper Township to name road after lifelong Strathmere resident Bertha Wittkamp

By MICHAEL MILLER - Staff Writer

UPPER TOWNSHIP - The Township Committee plans to honor the late Bertha Wittkamp, one of the few people known to have been born and to have lived lifelong in Strathmere.
The committee is naming an alley off Winthrop Avenue for Wittkamp, who died in 1991 at age 89.
Local residents have been calling this road near the bay "Bertha's Alley" for decades, township resident and local historian Sam Baker said.
Wittkamp was the first known baby to be born in Strathmere in 1901. She was followed soon after by her younger brother, Harlan. Her family moved from Philadelphia to Strathmere in the 1880s because her father suffered from respiratory problems and the salt air was considered a good cure, Baker said.
Her father worked for the West Jersey Railroad, which at the time had a rail line that went to Strathmere. The family built a hotel called the West Jersey Cottage.

"He ran the hotel and worked as the railroad bridge-tender and station master for the West Jersey Railroad in Strathmere," Baker said.

In a 1988 interview, Wittkamp talked about growing up on an island without paved roads or cars, where goats grazed and she attended a one-room schoolhouse.
"We used to raise some pigs here when we were kids," she said. "And we had chickens. Oh, my heavens, did we have chickens. We had ducks and geese, too. And down toward the beach we'd go out and dig soft-shell clams."

Mayor Richard Palombo said while it is not unusual for people to grow up and settle down in Cape May County for their entire lives, this is unusual for Strathmere. About 100 people call this island their year-round home.
"To have been born and stayed in the same area is pretty amazing," Palombo said.

Wittkamp worked for 20 years at the Woodbine Developmental Center in Woodbine, a state home for developmentally disabled men, and as a nurse at a hospital in Sea Isle City.
She was a member of the Strathmere United Methodist Church, her obituary said.
Baker said living in Strathmere was not always as easy in Wittkamp's youth as it is today. The main road into town often flooded. Few businesses were open except in the summertime. To have lived there at the turn of the century through coastal storms and winter isolation is remarkable, he said.
"When winter comes, there's nothing there," Baker said. "Years ago, every store would close up. You had to travel inland to buy anything."
Baker said Wittkamp lived alone but was hardly a hermit. She loved going to parties.
"All her friends would stop in. Every day of the week, she'd have a half-dozen people stop in," she said. "People used to refer to her as Aunt Bertha."
"The Wittkamps are one of the original families who settled in Strathmere," the mayor said. "Basically people who grow up at the shore have sand in their shoes and never want to leave."
And that was the case with Wittkamp, she told a reporter in 1988.
"I love Strathmere," she said. "It's altogether different. But this is a friendly town and people always help each other. People like this town. They really do."

Press librarian Martha Zechman contributed to this report.
Contact Michael Miller:

Monday, March 28, 2011

Bertha Wittkamp Alley

A letter has been sent to the Upper Township Committee with a request to name an alley in Strathmere after  Bertha Wittkamp.
Here is a copy of the letter with details on just who Bertha was -

'Upper Township Committee - To whom it may concern,
We would like to propose that the alley that runs from Commonwealth Drive to Bayview Drive, between Winthrop Road and Seacliff Road in Strathmere be officially named ‘Bertha Wittkamp Alley’ in honor of lifelong Strathmere resident Bertha Wittkamp.

Bertha’s parents Gus and Carrie Wittkamp came to Strathmere in the late 1800s and they owned the West Jersey Cottage, a hotel that used to be bayfront on Winthrop Road. Gus was also the station manager for the West Jersey Railroad train stop in Strathmere. Their daughter Bertha was born in the West Jersey Cottage in 1901, making her the first baby born in Strathmere. Brother Harlan was also born there 2 years later. Bertha & Harlan attended the one room schoolhouse in Strathmere. The family owned and ran the West Jersey Cottage from the late 1880s to the 1940s. Bertha’s niece still lives year round in Strathmere today, making the Wittkamps the oldest family in Strathmere, having a member of the family in residence in Strathmere for over 115 years.

Bertha was a nurse who worked at the hospital in Sea Isle City. She was also a Red Cross nurse for many years. She lived her entire life in Strathmere sharing memories of her life growing up on the island, telling of when it was covered in beach plums and cows grazed freely. She also remembered when soldiers were stationed in Strathmere to patrol the beaches during both World Wars.

Bertha lived her entire life on Winthrop Road, first in the family hotel, then in the hotel annex next door, and then finally in the boathouse on the alley (which we propose to be named in her honor) behind the hotel after the boathouse was converted to living quarters. Over the years, many people in town referred to her as ‘Aunt Bertha’ and she rode in an antique car in the Strathmere 4th of July Parade, honored as being the first baby born in Strathmere.

Bertha passed away in 1991 and we would like to honor her memory and her lifelong love of her home in Strathmere by dedicating the alley to her. The alley is already maintained by the township and it is mainly used for trash collection and by the homeowners whose property is along the alley. It would be no cost to the township, just a symbolic gesture to honor a lifelong resident who meant so much to so many people. The sign for the alley would be paid for and installed by citizens in Strathmere.'

Homeowners along the alley were contacted and asked to sign the request that was sent to the township.
By 'citizens in Strathmere' -  we mean us, The Baker Family and anyone else who would like to help.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Strathmere Improvement Association Newsletter - 3/23/11

In this issue: Super Moon; Some Progress on Pedestrian Safety; SFEC Legislative Forum; Boardwalk Empire; ACE Power Outage

Here is Saturday night's "super moon" rising over the Webster Road beach...

We followed up on Butch's letter to the County Freeholders by attending yesterday's Freeholders' Meeting and followed that up with a telephone discussion with County Engineer Dale Foster this morning. Here's where we are:

Crosswalks: There is work about to start around the blinker on the bridge approach to solve a "ponding" problem at the base of the bridge. A painted crosswalk at Williard will be provided as soon as that work completes (within a month). That will give us three crosswalks and they will try to fill in with additional crosswalks over time. The crosswalks use a special plastic paint (so it doesn't have to be re-done every year) that is prepared at the county facility in the southern part of the county, and the most they can do up here is two in one day. We believe we'll actually get some additional crosswalks in time for the summer season. Unfortunately, it does not appear that we will be able to get crosswalks painted in Whale Beach where there are only "paper streets" (beach access points). These would be categorized as "mid-block" crosswalks and are extemely hard to justify against the engineering criteria.

Speed Limits: The County has engaged a traffic engineering consultant to do a study to justify lowering the speed limit. The preliminary indications are that a 30 mph limit in Strathmere can perhaps be justified but 25 mph is unlikely. We asked about the 25 mph limit from 22nd to 26th Street in SIC and it was explained that it is much easier to justify extending an existing (25 mph) limit than creating a new one.
At their February 28 meeting the Township Committee passed a resolution supporting our requests for marked crosswalks and a 25 mph speed limit, and offered some manpower help for installing the crosswalks. The county may reach out to them for help with traffic control.


On March 19, the Strathmere Fishing and Environmental Club  held its annual Legislative Forum on fishing issues at the Firehouse.
Congressman Frank LoBiondo attended and offered input and answered questions, but had to leave early.

Shown below, left to right, are SFEC Vice-President Rob Coffey, State Senator Jeff Van Drew, Assemblyman Nelson Albano, Assemblyman Matt Milam, Captain Tony Bogan, Member of Executive Committee of the Save the Summer Flounder Fishery Fund (SSFFF), Captain Adam Nowalsky, Chairman of the Recreational Fishing Alliance (RFA) of New Jersey, Ed Goldman, Member of the Marine Fisheries Council of the NJ Division of Fish, Game, and Wildlife, and Executive Director Jim Donofrio of the RFA.

Once again, there was an excellent turnout

Of particular note was the discussion on the increase this year in the quota for summer flounder (Thanks, SSFFF!). How that increase will be allocated ("keeper" size, bag limit and length of season) will be determined next month.


Did you know that Atlantic City was the largest gambling center in the country during the first half of the 20th Century?
This and many other fascinating facts are covered in the non-fiction book, Boardwalk Empire, which relates the history of Atlantic City from an island covered with dunes to the advent of gambling competition from surrounding states. A slice of the book (the Prohibition Era) was adapted into the hit HBO series. It's a fascinating read for anyone who loves the South Jersey shore. The Schiavo Library has it if you'd like to borrow it.


Below is a pretty amazing picture, taken by Lynn Fayter.
Since Atlantic City Electric built the new highline from Sea Isle (see the 12/17/09 Newsletter), we have had almost no power outages in Strathmere.
On Friday evening, February 25, however, the whole town lost power (in the middle of a very strong windstorm) from just after 6:00 pm until just after 6:00 am Saturday morning.
Winter residents and those folks in town for the SFEC Winter Social the next night had a long, cold, dark night!
Here's why! The wind snapped two power poles at 21st Street in SIC and brought down the wires.
Lynn was driving by and snapped this through her windshield while moving (the police would not let her stop).

The Strathmere Improvement Association includes all owners in Strathmere and Whale Beach and many visitors. It was founded over 50 years ago as a community organization with the simple objective of making Strathmere a better place. We are proud of the organization's many accomplishments over the years.

Once again, thanks for your continuing support!

Butch Vandegrift - President
Linda Bateman -Vice-President
Donna Diefenderfer - Treasurer
Dorothy Addario - Recording Secretary
Ken Weaver - Corresponding Secretary

Friday, March 04, 2011

Schiavo Library: March 2011 Newsletter

March Events:

Movie Matinees: March means “Musicals” - Thursday afternoons at 1:00pm
  • March 3: Nunsense
  • March 10: Fiddler on the Roof
  • March 17: Hair
  • March 24: Hello, Dolly!
  • March 31: CATS

Food Bank Collection:

Thank you for your food donations. We will wrap up our food collections this month and deliver everything to the local food bank.

Love Your Library Winners:

The winner of our raffle is Jim March.

The two winning entries for our “I love my library because…” contest:
• I love the Schiavo Library because we have the most amazing books, beautiful library, and amazingly helpful and loving librarians! Alice Froyo

• I love my library because Strathmere needed a good home for all of its "Lonely Hearts" books, magazines, videos, etc. to be stored for visitors to come and share in the joy of exchanging these wonderful resources! It was hard to imagine Strathmere with a library before ours came along...such a tiny little town! Where will we put it?! And now, it's impossible to imagine it without one! I make it a point to visit every summer while I am in town. Kami Griffin

Great job! Winners: stop into the library anytime and pick up your “library goodies” prize packages.

Coming just in time for spring – something new in our front display case!!! Look for it soon!

Library Director’s Note:

Thanks to Jessica and Marion, everything ran smoothly here at the library while I was away.

While on vacation in Florida, my husband and I stopped in the local library as we often do when we travel. Sometimes the libraries we visit are quaint, but this time the library was just large and impersonal. I hope when people vacation in Strathmere, they stop in our library and think “Wow, what a charming and friendly place.”

See you soon!
Christine Rohrman, Library Director