Wildwood's tram cars are certainly legendary, but a local legend also drives them.
They call him Gigi, and the truth is that many people who feel like they really know the 80-year-old tram car driver and supervisor may not even know his real name: John Gigliotti.
The West Deptford Township, Gloucester County, resident, who has a summer home in North Wildwood, has been driving tram cars for 17 years. His gravitation toward the cars that carry passengers along the Wildwood Boardwalk makes sense: He was a passenger conductor for the Reading and Conrail railroads for 40 years, retiring in 1992.
"This is sort of a mini version of what I did all my life," said Gigliotti, who also trains all of the tram's employees and acts as the company's safety officer. "I like what I do. I like meeting a lot of people."
Gigliotti is not just a tram car operator, he's an ambassador for the Wildwoods. Engage him in conversation, and he happily shares his knowledge about the geography and history of the area for which he has a passion.
As a retiree, Gigliotti works more than most people in their 20s, putting in 15- to 16-hour workdays on the Boardwalk seven days a week during the summer. He admits that he takes it easy in the winter, sleeping until 10 a.m. every day.
"The most common thing is when they ask me to play the recording: 'Watch the tram car please,'" Gigliotti said. "I always do it. I never get sick of it. I love answering questions. I do feel like I have to be an ambassador of the Boardwalk. You see a lot of people every year, and they always say, 'You're still here?'" And if they don't see me, they ask the other drivers, 'Is that little guy still here?' People come from all over to see these trams, and I want to make sure they enjoy the experience."
Sylvia Baker believes she "was sent" to San Diego to find Lulu.
The 60-year-old Egg Harbor Township resident and Margate native moved to the West Coast in 1990. While there, she met the "love of her life," Lulu, a brindle boxer puppy that was being abused by neighbors who locked her in their garage without food or water.
One day, a different neighbor clicked their garage door opener, which was on the same frequency as Lulu's owner's garage. Lulu ran from the garage to Baker's home. Baker kept the dog that night, but she eventually gave it back, knowing she had to eventually rescue Lulu.
Fifteen months later, after Baker's persistence, Lulu's owners realized Baker would provide a better home for the dog, who eventually died from cancer.
Baker - and Lulu's - story is told in "Life with Lulu: A Dog Lover's Story of Delight and Loss," which Baker wrote and self-published through Margate's Comteq Publishing. The story also chronicles Baker's love of animals, dating to when her father owned a dairy farm in Egg Harbor Township, where her mother would find Baker with her collie Lassie in the cow pasture.
Baker estimates that she has personally rescued more than 50 animals, and hundreds more as the regional coordinator for the Japanese Chin Care and Rescue Effort. She currently owns a horse and eight rescued Japanese chins, and 100 percent of the proceeds from her book go to the chin rescue effort and New Jersey Boxer Rescue.
"It's a story about love and loss," said Baker, who will offer book signings at Pet Pros in Somers Point from noon to 3 p.m. July 15 and Aug. 15. "I feel like I have to be their crusader. I believe all domesticated animals don't ask to be put here, … so it is our obligation to take care of them."
To order copies of the book, e-mail Baker at Queensyl1@gmail.com.
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Scott Cronick is on assignment. His Everyone Has a Story column will return Sunday, July 11.