Jim Craine was just 9 years old when, in 1963, he forged his working papers so he could become part of the biggest thing going in pre-casino Atlantic City: the famous Steel Pier.
He did every odd job over the years, from working shows as an usher and staffing games and concession stands to caring for the iconic diving horses. He saw the Temptations and the Supremes on their first tours, and the Rolling Stones at the height of their fame.
Craine left the Steel Pier in 1973, when owner George Hamid sold the property - but if he had his way, he'd still be there today. Now, with the inaugural Steel Pier Alumni Reunion planned for July 20, he'll get that chance, at least for a night.
Craine, who is organizing the reunion, said his love for the pier is shared by hundreds of area alumni, with whom he remains close.
"When you worked at the pier, it was like one big family," Craine said. "You knew everybody."
The reunion starts at 8 p.m. and will feature a musical set by Craine and his Atlantic City All Star Band, who will perform hits by several of the biggest acts to play Steel Pier, such as Herman's Hermits and the Monkees. Up-and-comer Riley Biederer, daughter of alumnus Frank Biederer, will perform, and many Steel Pier fixtures such as Summertime at the Pier host Ed Hurst and diving horse lady Sara Hart will make appearances.
The event is free and open to the public, and will be broadcast live on WOND 1400 AM and online at wondradio.com as part of the Jim Craine Show, which celebrates its first anniversary that night.
Proceeds from the event will go to the Marine Mammal Stranding Center, run by alumni Bob Schoelkopf and Sheila Dean, who will be on hand to tell guests about their Adopt-a-Seal program.
The nostalgia trip won't be limited to music and people, but also will include memorabilia from the Steel Pier's heyday. Marty Morley, who worked at the Pier in the mid-1970s, will bring his collection of programs and pictures of old-time Atlantic City for visitors to browse.
Morley, who will serve as producer of the broadcast, said that while it has been decades since his time at the pier, it remains a big part of who he is.
"I am Steel Pier; the Steel pier was our life," Morley said. "There's so many of us from 40 years ago that are still friends today, it's still a family."
While this will be the first reunion open to the public, it's not the first overall. Many Steel Pier alumni have remained close since its initial closing, and have met a few times in recent years.
The original Steel Pier burned down in 1982, and Hamid, who presided over its heyday, died in February, but many of those who made the place what it was are still around, and should ensure the reunion is a good time.
"There's so many people that live in Atlantic City, live in Margate, live everywhere that worked there or went there," Craine said. "We want anybody who enjoys the Steel Pier to come to it."
Contact Braden Campbell:
If you go
Steel Pier Alumni Reunion
8 p.m. July 20
Steel Pier, Atlantic City
Call Jim Craine at 609-641-4600