Forty years. It seems like just yesterday.
It’s been 40 years since my parents, Bob and Doris Carroll, who lived on Sunset Avenue in Asbury Park, put together the eight-page Coaster and sent it to our printer.
At the time I remember my dad said he believed this area was under-served by newspapers. There was only the daily, The Asbury Park Press. But never a weekly newspaper. Even so, in the beginning he would frequently say, “What are we going to write about; what are we going to put in this newspaper?”
We discovered there was plenty to write about. The Coaster covered all the meetings in Asbury Park, Ocean Township, Allenhurst, Interlaken, Deal, Loch Arbour and Neptune. There were stories that were not being covered by any other media. Stories about environmental issues involving the lakes, there were stories about beach access and replenishment, about the plans to open an aquarium on the Asbury Park boardwalk and to install a high-end restaurant on top of the Palace (now gone) and even a story about an idea (by a would-be developer) to turn the Casino on the Asbury Park boardwalk into a casino.
The front page of the first edition of The Coaster (above).
For the first few years The Coaster was published every other week and it was free. It was in 1986 we began to publish every week and charged a quarter a copy. And news coverage was expanded to Bradley Beach, Neptune City and Tinton Falls.
In the 1980s you could buy beautiful multi-bedroom homes for $20,000 in Asbury Park, the city beaches were mostly empty on hot, sunny days in the summer and there was not much to do on the city boardwalk. What a difference a few years makes.
So much has happened in the last 40 years. In the late 1980s and early 1990s you could walk down Cookman Avenue in Asbury Park and not see anyone. Now, you can’t see an empty parking space. You could still take your family to the boat show in Convention Hall. Now it’s closed due to safety issues.
If there was a chicken dinner fundraiser, a card party, a garage sale, a resident turning 100, a new mayor or fire chief, a bocce tournament or a club brunch or tea chances are we were there.
Our staff when we started numbered three; today we have 17 staffers helping to put together and get it out to you.
In the first edition the welcome message to readers said “Our special interest will be the environment. We believe the protection of our natural resources is one of the most important tasks of both government and the individual. Nowhere is this more evident than in our community. Deal Lake, the subject of our lead story in this first issue, is suffering the effects of environmental neglect. So are our beaches, our coastline and our coastal waterways. We hope you share our concerns.”
Forty years later much has been done to improve our lakes and beaches thanks in large part to an army of volunteers at the various commissions who are working to keep our waterways cleaner.
One of the last lines in our message back in 1983 was “We would like to hear from you. Drop us a line.”
We still look forward to hearing from you and to 40 more years.