I am Roxanna Grant Vernouski, daughter of Tony Grant Jr. and grandaughter of Tony Grant.
I came to the shore every summer with my family. My life was amazing — I went to the Steel Pier with my dad every day. “Tony Grant’s Stars of Tomorrow” was a staple for 32 year and gave more than 50,000 young people a chance to perform in front of live audiences. The Tony Grant name was a legacy and they called my grandfather “Mr. Wonderful.”
Some stars who got their start with my grandfather were Frankie Avalon, Concetta Franconero (Connie Francis), Andrea McArdle and many more. The show featured children ages 4 to 19, who came to Atlantic City to audition for a spot in that week’s show.
The performers started every show with the theme song:
“We’re stars of tomorrow — that’s who we are. In the business of show, we’re gonna go far. Broadway, movies, even TV, that’s where we’ll be, just wait and see!
“We’re stars of tomorrow, right to the top. Until we reach our goal, we’ll never stop ! We’ll practice night and day; we’re the stars of tomorrow — Today.”
Then came the introduction of my grandfather, who did the morning shows, or my dad at night.
It went: “Good Morning, ladies and gentleman, boys and girls. A most cordial welcome to the Tony Grant Theater. Now I would like to have you meet the maker of the stars. He’s our friend and he’s your friend, too. So lets bring him on with a great big round of applause. Here he is, our own Tony Grant.”
I think my grandfather and dad would have given “American Idol” some great competition. — Roxanna Grant Vernouski, Galloway Township
My entire family grew up on Steel Pier.
My mother, Patricia Louise Lippincott, (1932-2007) was Miss Atlantic City. Her nickname was “Atlantic City Pat” and she loved everything about the city, especially telling stories of the “good ole days.” Her favorite was the time she was a little girl, 8 or so, and went to Steel Pier. She loved playing pool and grew up in pool halls all over the city. This day, there was an exhibition of the greatest pool player of his day, Willie Mosconi. Mom watched in wonder as he did his show — then she went up and challenged him to a game. His answer: “I don’t play little girls, but I have someone you can play against.” He pulled the curtain back to reveal an older woman. The game started, and mom won, sinking shot after shot and lining up shots for the next one. The woman walked away without saying anything, but Mr. Mosconi said, “Kid, do you know who you just beat? That’s Ruth McGinnis, champion women’s pool player!” My mother went on to play pool and became one of the best in the city. She would sometimes take my sister and I to local pool halls and bars to show us how it was done.
Personally, some of my memories were of July 4th, sitting on the edge of The Pier, eating a hot dog and watching fireworks. The sounds of rides, kids screaming and waves roaring are still in my memory.
But most of all, I remember my mother’s face all lit up, how animated she would be telling these stories as we walked by what was left of the Steel Pier in the 1970s. These are memories that will last forever. — Donna Kracinovich, Brick, N.J.
We moved to New Jersey from Oklahoma in 1964. I have three older sisters and a younger brother. The most fun I had growing up besides the beach and playing baseball was going to the Steel Pier. We would take the bus on Shore Road to Virginia Avenue in Atlantic City, walk up to The Pier and pay a very reasonable fee for unlimited access to all the attractions. I’m pretty sure you had to stay in The Pier — if you left you couldn’t re-enter unless you paid again. But who wanted to leave?
There were two movie theaters that played all day, the Tony Grant show, the Diving Horse, the Diving Bell, the Water Circus, and when you first walked in, they had a Mercury space capsule on display. But the main thing was the live talent, the headliners of the times such as The Beach Boys, Herman’s Hermits, the Soul Survivors, The Brooklyn Bridge or Gary Puckett and the Union Gap. The stars would walk the pier between shows, they would talk to fans, sign autographs and take pictures. The Ed Hurst Show televised there, and when the kids would dance the Bristol Stomp the entire pier would shake. — Herman Doering, Egg Harbor Township