Seaside Heights Boardwalk lost a shining star on December 5, 2016, but Heaven gained a new angel. Ironically enough, my dear, beautiful, strong, cousin Robin had also been born on December 5th, some 50-ish years ago.
I remember when I was little, my sister Yvette and I would accompany our parents to Toms River to visit with Granny (Dad’s Mom). My great-aunt Rea (Dad’s Dad’s sister) and cousins, Robin and Doug, also lived in Toms River.
During the summer, no trip to Toms River was complete without a walk on the Seaside Heights Boardwalk, a tradition I continued until my Granny passed away in 2002, after which we skipped Toms River and went straight to the Boardwalk.
Robin and Doug were the owners of Playday Amusements, which in lay terms means that they owned the games located on Casino Pier. They owned the games from May 1973 until September 2010, after which they owned and ran a store on the Boardwalk, Twisted Fish (https://www.facebook.com/Twisted-fish-180447492009689/).
My clearest memory is from when I was around 9 or 10 years old, maybe a little earlier, but definitely not later.
On that day, we met Robin and Doug for dinner at a restaurant that was on the second floor and overlooked the boardwalk and ocean. Do not ask me where that restaurant was exactly, or what its name was, or even what I ate, because those details are long lost in the dusty archives of my brain.
After dinner, Yvette and I were allowed to play their games until we won. If it took us one try or 100+ tries, we played until we won. That particular evening we each walked away with a pink elephant. It wasn’t soft and cuddly, but it was amazing.
At my Granny’s house, she had a small, soft, cuddly bear on her bed. She told me that she had won that at the Boardwalk. I wanted one. I do not remember what game I played, how old I was, or anything else except I won a brown bear that slept with me until I was in high school when he graduated to the top of my dresser. I still have him somewhere in the boxes that I packed when we moved from North Caldwell to Parsippany in 2009. One day maybe I’ll get to unpack.
As Yvette and I grew up and got our own licenses, we continued to drive to Toms River to visit with Granny and to walk on the Boardwalk. Even when we were going down with our friends, we stopped and saw Granny and took her to the Boardwalk with us. Her favorite game was the Frog Bog, one of Robin and Doug’s games.
No trip to Seaside Heights was complete without stopping to see Robin and Doug.
When my children were small, I brought them to visit Granny as often as I could, and each trip included a walk on the Boardwalk. Although it was never expected and always appreciated, Robin and Doug gave us books of ride tickets and a chance to play their games until each child won something. With five children, that is a big undertaking!
They were generous, loving, and appreciated on every level. As a single Mom with five children, I couldn’t afford to let the children play the games and ride all of the rides. My amazing cousins did that for me. I will never forget their generosity and love.
I remember one year when we stopped in their office upstairs (near the carousal), and Derek and Michael were eating ice cream cones. Their dog, whose name escapes me, relieved Derek of the burden of finishing his ice cream. Derek took it all in stride and said that the pup must just have been hungry.
I am a practicing family law attorney, and, on occasion, I get a case that brings me to Ocean County. About three years ago, sometime in late 2013 or early 2014, I had an appearance in Toms River and met Robin for lunch, after which she took me to the Boardwalk to see the devastation left by the fire than ravaged Seaside Park in September 2013. We walked the boards and she told me stories of the different vendors who after having rebuilt from Superstorm Sandy, lost everything in the fire. The fire stopped about 100 yards from Twisted Fish’s new location. The building that had housed Twisted Fish initially was destroyed by Sandy, so they moved further down the Boardwalk.
This past summer, August 2016, I rented a cottage in Seaside Park for a week. That week I was able to see Robin almost every day. In spite of her ongoing chemo treatments, she continued to work full-time, six days each week, taking off only one day, the day she had chemo. She was such a strong, loving woman. I am very glad that I was able to spend that time with her, although I do regret not getting down there in the Fall of 2016.
Robin was an amazing person. She was loving, kind, generous, and compassionate. Her absence will be greatly felt by all of us, but especially by her wonderful husband, Doug.
Robin, rest in the sweetest peace. You lived well and fought hard. You will be forever missed. No walk on the Boardwalk will ever be taken where you are not part of our thoughts and heart. I love you.
To Doug: You are family. We love you. We are only a phone call away if you need anything.