My father worked for the Hamid family for many years on Steel Pier, and managed a garage they owned in Atlantic City. When Ricky Nelson came to the Pier, my Dad offered to take me to meet him at a press conference behind the Ballroom stage. The Pier was packed with people, and as we entered the windowless room, I remember wall-to-wall people laughing and talking, but no Ricky Nelson to be seen. Wait, there he was, sitting on a chair in the corner all by himself, staring down at the floor. My knees were shaking as my father walked me up to him. and introduced me. He looked up and with a sullen look on his face and said, “Hi,” or, “How are ya?” — or something I don’t remember. What I do remember is that he didn’t even smile and how sad he looked sitting by himself, and how he just looked like he wished he was somewhere else. In my 10-year-old mind, I felt very sorry for him, and was certain that if I ever got to meet my real idol, Elvis, he would never behave that way to a fan. — Marion Haas, Somers Point
I saw Burt Bacharach conducting the live “pit” orchestra while Dionne Warwick sang her first hit songs, “Don’t Make Me Over” and “Anyone Who Had A Heart.” I saw The Rascals, The Supremes, when they only had four hits, the Rolling Stones in the Ballroom at the end of The Pier. Mick wore a white sports jacket with a yellow tree on the back. They did two shows and I stayed for both.
I saw “A Hard Day’s Night” at Steel Pier ... and The Beach Boys, Chubby Checker, The Byrds, The Animals, and Ricky Nelson. I heard Sgt. Barry Sadler start to sing “The Ballad of The Green Beret.” He started on the wrong note and was way off from the band. He stopped and started the song over.
Later, I started a small record company — and named it High Diving Horse Records! Growing up in Atlantic City and going to Steel Pier allowed me to be part of a historic musical experience. These are special, rare memories I continue to cherish. — Mark Josephs, Los Angeles (Originally from Atlantic City)
Working on The Pier was a dream job for a teenager and every day was a new adventure. There were so many people to meet but the most interesting ones were the performers — Paul Anka, Bobby Rydell, Frankie Avalon and Fabian. Then there were their back-up singers and musicians, each nicer than the next.
I worked at one of three food fountains, the “The Music Hall Fountain.” In my summers there, one memory in particular stands out. This was the year that Ricky Nelson played there, and so many people were lined up that the show was moved to the ocean end of The Pier, where young girls were passing out from the heat — and the excitement of seeing Ricky.
All of this took place at a great time to be living in this area — the late 1950s. Thinking back to that time, we were so lucky to have a place where young teens and their families could spend an entire day having fun, seeing live entertainment, watching two movies and a children’s talent show, and the water circus with the Diving Collegians, led by Joe Hackney (no relation), and of course, the Diving Horse. All this for one small fee.
Not only was this a great place to work, but we were lucky to have great bosses who treated all the employees kindly, even though we were so young. Yes, working at The Pier was the dream job for any teen in the ’50s. — Kathryn Hackney Fenwick, Absecon
My father was a beat cop, “Downsey,” on the Atlantic City Boardwalk. He knew everyone on the boards. When I was between 8 and 12 years old, I would take the bus from Brigantine, sometimes with my sister Regina or friend Janice, sometimes alone. Dad would take us from the bus station to Steel Pier and leave us there while he walked his beat. Sometimes he stopped in to see us, but most of the time we were left there with my Steel Pier “family” — who would give us all the ice cream we wanted. Dad told us all the ticket takers and other workers were his cousins, friends, and schoolmates.
We had strict instructions that if a stranger came up to us, we were to run to anyone who worked there, although that never happened. I got to feed the Diving Horses in the morning. I knew everyone’s name and felt like they were all my aunts and uncles. It was a great place to be. I met The Supremes, Herman’s Hermits, The Four Seasons, and Gary Lewis and the Playboys, just to name a few. There were two rules I had to follow: NEVER leave The Pier and never go in the Diving Bell. — Deb D. Reilly, Absecon