Richard Neill, of Cape May Court House, went to sea at 15 as a mess boy on a sea-going dredge. He never got homesick, he said.
“I had six sisters and four brothers. We were a poor family. On board ship we had three meals each day, not so at home,” he said in explanation.
The 86-year-old grew up in the Angelsea section of North Wildwood, where his grandmother had cooked for the men building the Hereford Inlet Lighthouse from 1873-74.
Neill worked on ships for eight years, then got drafted during the Korean War. He came home to be a longshoreman, then a union plumber, he said. He’s been working on his memoirs for years.
Neill has written about almost getting killed by an angry quartermaster his first day on the job, when he spilled hot soup on his neck; and about living in a brothel in Norfolk, Va., between jobs at age 16. He had to enlist the help of older sailors to retrieve his belongings when a madam demanded money for them.
He also described with fondness the taste of fried eels speared in winter in local rivers. They were the only thing his family had in enough quantity to eat until he was full, he said.
He has been part of a writing group that has met regularly since 2009, led by Eva Feeley of Sea Isle City. The group has self-published an anthology, “Storms and Sunshine: Snapshots of Life.”
Several of the writers will give a free reading at the Ocean City Free Public Library, 1735 Simpson Ave., 4 p.m. on Aug. 28. Contact Eva Feeley at email@example.com.
Helping South Africans
Linwood’s Jenna Winarick, 22, will go to South Africa in January with the International Volunteer HQ South Africa program. She will spend three weeks helping children in care centers, some of whom have lost parents to crime and diseases such as HIV/AIDS, she said.
Winarick graduated in May from the University of Maryland, and is applying to doctorate programs in clinical psychology. She is raising funds for the trip at gofundme.com/orphanagevolunteer.
Sharron Morita, of Bridgeton, has written “Bridgeton, New Jersey: City on the Cohansey,” published by The History Press in Charleston, S.C.
Morita wrote “Bridgeton Impressions: 1686–1986,” for the city’s 300th anniversary. Meet the author 6 p.m. Sept. 21 at Bogarts Book Store & Café, 210 N. High St., Millville; and 6:30 p.m. Nov. 15 at Greater Elmer Historical Society, 120 S. Main St., Elmer.