With the microphone that Dick Clark used to introduce Ricky Nelson in 1957 in front of him, Jim Craine, of Smithville, talks about his time working on the Steel Pier.

Danny Drake

Jim Craine wanted a little more spending money. He went to his dad and asked for a raise in his allowance - and was turned down. So he did what any enterprising 9-year-old would do: he went and got a job.

"I told them I was 13," explained Crane, 57, an Atlantic City native who now lives in Galloway Township.

But Craine didn't just work your everyday, 9-to-5 job - he worked at the Steel Pier, where his duties included hanging out with visiting celebrities, painting the halls by strapping brushes to his feet and even getting in the occasional dive.

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"I worked there for 10 years straight," Craine said. "I did a little bit of everything on the pier."

He recalled sitting on a piano bench with Duke Ellington while tuning a piano - "You can't take that away," he said. He also remembers the first national tours of the Supremes, the Jackson Five and the Temptations, and even the few months when the Gemini 4 capsule was on display in a hallway.

Craine still has a vintage microphone used by Dick Clark to introduce Ricky Nelson in 1959, given to him personally by stage manager Carl Tripician and modernized for use in Craine's Pleasantville Music Shoppe.

But the pier job that he remembers most fondly is taking care of the famous Steel Pier diving horses - among them Gamal, Emir, and especially Powdered Face.

"I'm always asked, ‘Were the horses pushed or forced to do it?'" Craine said. "But they never were. They enjoyed doing it ... They loved doing their act. You never had to force them."

The treat that awaited them at the end, of course, also helped persuade them.

One dive didn't go as planned, he recalled - a Timex commercial in which actor John Cameron Swayze put on a Timex and dove with Powdered Face, to show that ‘It Takes a Licking, But Keeps on Ticking.'

"The horse dove," Craine said, "and (the watch) came off."

In the end, Craine has nothing but fond memories of his days at the pier, even when the job he was doing might not be described as glamorous.

"I shoveled horse poop," he admitted. "But I was in show business."

Contact Steven Lemongello:

609-272-7275

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