About 1939, 1940, I worked as an usher in the Steel Pier Music Hall for 25 cents an hour. I decided to rope off an area up front where the premium seats were and started selling them for 25 cents a seat. I was making a killing when the manager finally got wise to me. He couldn’t keep me in the position, but he liked my “marketing ability” and ambition, so he gave me a raise to 35 cents an hour and put me out front with a microphone in the role of “barker,” drawing people into The Pier.
I was born and raised in the Inlet, so Steel Pier was our playground. My friends and I never paid to go on — we knew where the trap door to the Haunted Castle was and used that to sneak in. On hot summer days, we swam around The Pier several times a day and would often go up to the windows of the Diving Bell as it descended to scare the people inside who were surprised to see ornery young boys, instead of the expected marine life.
Later, my first date with my wife was actually a blind date to the Steel Pier, to dance in the Marine Ballroom on Easter Sunday.
But back when I was a boy, my father was an engineer with a steel business who did a lot of work on The Pier. He built the cage for “Gargantua,” a gorilla that lived there. I accompanied Dad sometimes when he went to The Pier to adjust things in the cage. One day was particularly memorable when Gargantua, unhappy about all the workers around, started throwing banana peels and excrement at us. From then on, I stayed away from Gargantua. — Henry Speed, Vineland
I spent 16 years of my 32-year broadcasting career with WFPG-AM and FM as news director of South Jersey’s No. 1 station, a CBS Radio affiliate based on Steel Pier and owned by George Hamid Sr., and after his death, by George Hamid Jr.
We interviewed Hamid Jr. every day of the season, allowing him to announce the events on The Pier. I also interviewed the top entertainers playing there, and famous people appearing in Atlantic City. Our station provided the Pier with widespread publicity since every station break declared, “WFPG-AM and FM, Steel Pier Atlantic City.”
I have many fond memories of my experience with a talented staff of music hosts and journalists. They included the iconic dean of South Jersey radio — the legendary Ed Davis, with his live broadcasts on CBS from Steel Pier’s Marine Ballroom during the big-band era. His voice was heard all over the country on these outstanding broadcasts, as was coverage of the campaign to legalize casino gambling in Atlantic City and the grand opening of the city’s first casino, Resorts International.
I’m proud to have headed our news department. It was the highlight of my Steel Pier career, and it has left unforgettable memories. — Howard Berger, Margate
When I was 10 years old, we relocated from Philadelphia to Atlantic City and then moved to Ventnor.
I have fond memories of the Atlantic City Boardwalk and all the piers — Million Dollar, Central, Steeplechase and of course Steel Pier.
The best memories are from the “Ed Hurst Steel Pier Show.” In the beginning of the summer, a group of friends and I would take a bus from Ventnor to Virginia Avenue and walk the two long blocks to the Boardwalk. We had our change of clothes, makeup, etc. for the two tapings, in hand.
Once we paid our admission fee, we would walk past the “Tony Grant’s Stars of Tomorrow” show auditorium and head to the theater upstairs.
Jim O’Brien was the co-host with Ed Hurst on the stage. They would introduce some of the regular dancers.
My friends and I never made it up on the stage, but we became friendly with the two cameramen on the floor. We had so much fun! We danced for about four hours, with breaks of course. We taped two shows, back to back. Back then we had to break for commercials, refreshing makeup, hair, song changes, etc.
The Ed Hurst show was similiar to the Dick Clark “American Bandstand” when it was filmed in Philadelphia. Ironically my father danced on that show a few times.
The Steel Pier in the mid ’60s, early ’70s was a blast! — Bambi Cannuscio, Galloway Township
Once a week, as a young girl, I would happily participate in local tap dancing lessons taught by a teacher I called “Miss Lucille.” I always liked Miss Lucille and I really loved dancing. I voluntarily spent most of the cold weather months indoors, perfecting my craft. My dedication was natural since I knew I would be rewarded sweetly for all of my hard work and discipline. When the weather turned warm again, my accolade came in the form of an annual visit to Steel Pier. This magical journey included the unique opportunity to participate in a unique showcase known as “Tony Grant’s Stars of Tomorrow.” After hearing the immense applause from the audience, I was of course pleased and eager for more thrills. My senses were further indulged with a ride or two or three on the fantastical double-decker carousel as well as the much-anticipated ingestion of cotton candy, a food with red dye, which was forbidden the other 364 days of the year! Steel Pier will always have a special place in my mind as well as my heart! — Joy Kanter, Margate