WILDWOOD — Eleven a.m. came and went Tuesday with no sign of Kate Smith’s original rendition of “God Bless America” coming from speakers along the Boardwalk.

But it will be back Wednesday, city administrators said, and will play throughout the summer. The longtime tradition isn’t going anywhere, said Mayor Ernie Troiano.

“It’s an Irving Berlin patriotic song that has nothing to do with anything but America,” Troiano said. “We have no intention of removing it, and it’s not a statement that we don’t understand what’s going on or we’re ignorant to the history. We understand the history.”

Given the dust-up last week around the resurfacing of two songs with racist lyrics Smith performed in the 1930s, his statement represented a line in the sand.

His stance was a retort to the Philadelphia Flyers and New York Yankees announcing they would no longer play Smith’s version of the song at home games, and the sudden Easter disappearance of the Smith statue at the Philadelphia sports complex. Troiano said Monday the city might see if it can secure the statue.

And many walking the boards in Wildwood on Tuesday said they stood with him.

“It’s a tradition in the sense that it’s patriotic — ‘God Bless America’ — it has nothing to do (with) any issue of racism or anything like that,” said Joseph Sakkal, 63, owner of Bobby’s Place, a T-shirt store on the Boardwalk. “Views change, and I think it’s OK.”

Sakkal, of Long Branch, Monmouth County, was hanging colorful sloganed shirts outside his shop just after 11 a.m. Tuesday. Originally from Egypt, Sakkal said he hears Smith’s voice every day when he’s opening his store, which he’s owned for 38 years. He said people are too sensitive, noting he has been criticized for hanging pro-Trump shirts in his shop.

Its streets lined with pastel-colored motels reminiscent of a bygone era, Wildwood has remained a staple of summer for Philadelphian and suburban vacationers for decades, an affordable alternative to many shore towns. It’s no wonder the people there are sticking with Smith, whose “God Bless America” has replaced “The Star Spangled Banner” at Flyers home games since December 1969. She sang live at the Spectrum four times, including in 1974 before Game 6 of the Stanley Cup, when the Flyers clinched the cup over the Boston Bruins.

Keenan’s Irish Pub in North Wildwood changed its marquee over Easter weekend in support of Smith.

“They’ve been playing it for a long time. I think it’s part of the tradition,” said co-owner Scott Keenan, 46, who splits his time between Wildwood and Philadelphia, where his house is about a mile from the stadiums.

The lyrics at issue in Smith’s other songs are despicable, Keenan said, but can serve as a teaching tool for younger generations.

“We don’t condone what those words (say),” said Keenan, adding he has two younger kids. “We have to start educating our children on the things that were wrong back in the day instead of eliminating them.”

Many stop jogging or riding their bike here when Smith’s voice rings out, or remove their hat in acknowledgment.

Alice Kobb, 49, visiting from Voorhees, Camden County, for the day with family, said “God Bless America” has nothing to do with the controversy.

“First of all, you have to look at the context of when things were written. You don’t throw away the baby with the bathwater,” Kobb said. “And I just think that people mix a little bit too much of politics with art and business.”

By the Convention Center on Tuesday, Josephine Mercantini-Bocci, 64, of Burlington, and her husband, Bob Bocci, 72, walked the boards hand in hand. But they were of separate opinions on the issue.

Josephine said it should stay, and she’d support the statue coming as well.

“I have no problem with it whatsoever,” she said.

But Bob said he heard Smith’s “God Bless America” while riding his bike Monday, and doesn’t have much of an opinion.

“It was a different time when she was singing,” he said. “And people have different attitudes today.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Contact: 609-272-7260 cshaw@pressofac.com Twitter @ACPressColtShaw

Staff Writer

I cover breaking news on the digital desk. I graduated from Temple University in Dec. 2017 and joined the Press in the fall of 2018. Previously, I freelanced, covering Pennsylvania state politics and criminal justice reform.

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