Growing up in Atlantic City was like being on vacation every day, and the Steel Pier was the focus of my life. I was in my teens during the 1940s and Atlantic City was in its heyday with its many bars and famous restaurants and big crowds on the Boardwalk, especially Easter Sunday.
But the Steel Pier was like home to us with its three theaters, vaudeville shows, Haunted House, Water Circus and Diving Bell. The picnic deck overlooking the beaches was one of my fondest memories as I took a break from going from one movie house to another. My mother always packed a lunch ... and I loved sitting on the bench at the picnic tables and watching the bathers in the ocean. ... Those were among the best days of my life.
The love of my life was dancing and the Ballroom at the end of the Pier was the answer to a prayer with all the big bands of the day playing there. My girlfriends and I had our corner by the bandstand and we jitterbugged and straight-danced to the music of Glenn Miller, Jimmy and Tommy Dorsey, Louis Prima, Harry James and Claude Thornhill. On Easter Sundays the ballroom was so jammed with people there was little room to dance but we stomped and slow-danced anyway, and my uncle - who was an engineer - said you could see the ballroom swaying from the boardwalk. Many of the boys I danced with were from other cities like Philadelphia, New York and Washington. After dancing all night in my 3-inch heels, I had the long walk back to the Boardwalk and then home. ... My feet were sore for days, but that was quickly forgotten the next time I went dancing on The Pier with my girlfriends.
I will never forget those days and nights on The Pier and the feeling that I was on a vacation every single day and night.
But besides recreation the Steel Pier also gave me the opportunity to meet the Man of My Life. One night a handsome soldier asked me to dance, and it was love at first sight. Mike Salerno, who was from Providence, R.I., was wounded in the Battle of the Bulge and was sent to England General Hospital (Resorts Casino) for treatment and therapy. Mike was also a musician and vocalist and was a guest singer with Harry James and Louis Prima and many of the USO's in town. We were married in l947 and were blessed with five beautiful children, fifteen gorgeous grandchildren, and seven sweetheart great-grandchildren.
So I will be forever grateful to the Steel Pier for all it has given me. - Rita Daley Salerno, Margate