By DON STINE
A July 28 Time Warps photograph published in The Coaster of a glassed-in booth atop Convention Hall in Asbury Park during and after World War II brought in several comments from former city residents.
“What was this strange structure used for?” asked Time Warps columnist Kate Mellina.
Walter Mischler, who now lives in the West Allenhurst section of Ocean Township, said he used to be able to go up onto the roof of Convention Hall since his father, Sherman, was Asbury Park’s assistant city manager during the 1950s and 1960s.
“The station on the roof was used to spot German submarines and other maritime activities off the coast during World War II and I went into it many times. I used to have free run of the rooftop,” he said.
Mischler said he is not sure which branch of the military built the lookout station but they eventually abandoned it after the war and that is when he went into it.
“The inside was very plain and simple and by the time I went in there was no equipment. It had really big glass windows and on a clear day you could see up to Sandy Hook and down to Belmar. It was a strange place for me when I was young,” he said.
Mischler said he is not sure when the lookout station was taken down but it was up there for a number of years.
Jan Reece, who grew up in Ocean Grove during World War II, said there were similar observation stations and towers along the Jersey coast during the war, including ones in Deal, Asbury Park, Avon, and Sea Girt. She said the stations were manned with volunteers, not enlisted military personnel.
“Soldiers also constantly walked along the beaches and there were black-out curtains along the eastern side of the boardwalk,” she said.
Reece said her parents walked the boardwalk every Sunday and that there was a police substation at the northern end of the Ocean Grove boardwalk.
“The policeman told my parents about the bombing of Pearl Harbor one Sunday. I was a child so it meant little to me but that is how we found out about it,” she said.
She said people had to have dark shades on their windows in their homes and there were a lot of black outs and air raid drills.
“The fire horns would blow a certain signal during a black out and the shades had to be down so no light came out. You could walk out onto your porch only. Any cars had to have black tape over half of their headlights so only the lower half showed,” she said.
“It was all an eerie experience and all of these memories have stuck with me. Most people don’t even realize all of this went on. It had an impact on residents and they made evervbody do it,” she said.
Reece said that there was also rationing of staples, like gas, meat and sugar.
“We would recycle metals and even bacon grease was bought back by the local grocery stores,” she said.