REQUIREMENTS IN LONG BEACH TOWNSHIP
From ages 12 to 64, beach badges are required for everyone using the beach from the middle of June until Labor Day. You can be sure that if you're on the beach, you'll be checked several times a day. And the teenagers doing the checking today are not the timid, shy kids of yesteryear. They're instructed by the beach patrol to either make you show them a badge for every eligible person in your party or buy one from them on the spot.
Gone are the days when you could let it slide and tell them you left them "back at the house." They'll actually wait there and make you go back to the house and get them!
Some townships on Long Beach Island began selling beach badges as early as the 1960s. It should be noted that beach communities to the north began this practice long before any town on LBI. I've seen beach badges from Lavallette and Seaside that date back to the '40's. They were made of solid brass. Beach towns sold and enforced the use of beach badges to raise revenue to maintain the beaches. It was successfully argued that lifeguards and equipment cost money, as does trash collection and maintenance of the beach. This did not go unnoticed by town officials at some of the "entrance" communities on Long Beach Island... Ship Bottom and Surf City, to be exact. People coming off the bridge would use the first beach they came to, so these communities were taking the brunt of people availing themselves of a "free" beach, the cleanup for which was being borne by the taxpayers in those locales. Not surprisingly, Ship Bottom and Surf City were the first on LBI to start collecting fees for beach badges as early as the 1960s. Within 10 years, in 1976, Long Beach Township wanted to follow suit and put it up for public vote, creating quite an uproar in the township. Many were opposed, so the township took it upon themselves to run ads in the local newspapers listing the reasons why it had to be enacted, a copy of which is to the upper right.
Incidentally, the terms "beach badges" and "beach tags" are interchangeable. For some reason, from Atlantic City to the south, beach badges are known as "beach tags." From Atlantic City north, they're "beach badges."
On November 5, 1976, with votes of 1360 for and 1146 against, Long Beach Township Public Question IX was approved by a margin of 214 votes. Beach badges went on sale the following spring at a cost of $2 each, if memory serves, and this was not very well received by many. Many residents either refused to buy them, neglected to buy them or pretty much ignored the ordnance that said you had to have them on the beach. After all, we were taxpayers who were already shelling out enough for municipal expenditures! Many felt the beaches belonged to the citizens and should be free, that charging money to use them was a "ripoff." Property owners on LBI were more than upset, having bought their vacation homes here because they were near the ocean. Now they were going to be charged to use their own beach? Residents were reluctant to buy them for themselves, much less buy extra beach badges for their tenants to use if they had a rental property.
For these reasons and because early enforcement of the beach badge policy was weak at best (there were very few beach badge checkers on the beach that first summer of 1977), most didn't take the policy seriously. Island visitors hadn't gotten word yet that badges were necessary and, once informed, owners and residents either stubbornly refused to buy them or realized they didn't need to buy them because no one was being seriously challenged on the beach. Beach badge checkers in those early years were timid teenagers who politely asked violators, "Try to bring them with you tomorrow, okay?" Those early beach badges did not sell very well because there was no urgent need to buy them, which is one of the reasons why the 1977 beach badge and all of the early badges are the most difficult to find today. Additionally, many were discarded at the end of the season because they had no value once the season had ended. Certainly, just about no one thought about starting a collection of them. For all of the above reasons, Long Beach Township beach badges issued during the first six years of issuance are extremely difficult to find and collect, as are most early beach badge issuances along the Jersey coast.
COLLECTING BEACH BADGES... AND OTHER SERIOUS STUFF
I bought my first investment property in 1976. It was the duplex I still own at 207 E. 16th Street. From the start, I had to rent it to pay the expenses, but I always included beach badges with every rental, buying them and leaving them in each apartment as a convenience to my tenants so they wouldn't have to buy them on their first day at the beach. At the end of every season, I put them aside as a remembrance of that summer and all the fun my children and I had while on our vacation there. I didn't have the heart to throw them away because they brought back such nice memories. As the years went by, I had a drawerful of them and realized I was now collecting them! Now, each rental apartment features a shadowbox frame with a complete collection on display (above left) of every seasonal beach badge that was ever issued in Long Beach Township!
Today, beach badge "checkers" patrol the beach in T-shirts with the logo shown on the left. Senior citizens are granted relief, however. They can buy the "SC" badges shown at the right. The early ones had no serial numbers on them, like the one on the far right. Beach badges are a fact of life on LBI today, but it wasn't always that way.........
EARLY BADGES AND THE MYSTERY OF THE "PUNCHED" BADGES
The theme of the new, first-time ever 1977 seasonal badge was in keeping with our nation's bicentennial celebration of 1976, featuring blue stars on a white background. But look closely at the badge to the left. It's been punched out! I acquired this badge and several other "punched" badges from a winter tenant I had in 2004 and this was the first time I had ever seen a badge punched out in this curious way. My tenant had been a life-long resident of the island and knew I was collecting beach badges. She told me her mother had a small collection of early beach badges. When I asked if I could see them, she gave me the collection! She told me her mother had worked in the township municipal office for many years. Her mother never mentioned why some of the badges were punched out in this manner, but my tenant offered two possible explanations.
One theory was that beach badges were sometimes worn around the neck on a chain by people who didn't want the pin to damage their bathing suits. The holes were punched to accomodate the chain. If this were the case, however, why wouldn't they have simply run the chain through the pin? Every one of the punched-out badges had a pin on it! And why were some of the badges punched out with different shaped punches and punched out several times, as is the case with the two 1978 badges to the right? And clearly if someone just wanted to punch a hole in a badge to run a chain through it, they would not go through the trouble of carefully punching out the year or around the year as is the case to the right in the 1978 badges and below left in the 1979 badges.
A second theory we discussed (and the one I thought at the time made the most sense) is that the punches were used to designate early weekly beach badges. In the 1978 examples to the right, clearly someone painstakingly punched out these beach badges in some kind of order. We surmised the double-punch in the 1978 badge on the far right was probably for the second week of the season and the rectangular punchout next to it signified another week, and so on. The 1979 badges to the left are punched out similarly, the top one being an unpunched seasonal badge and the two at the bottom probably for a specific week. Note that in all three subsequent years after 1977, all the badges are punched at, over, or around the year in various ways. We figured that in the early years of beach badge issuance, this was the most efficient way for the township to issue weekly badges - order seasonal badges and then punch out the ones that are sold as weekly badges in some sort of order. By punching near the year with some kind of order or code, beach badge checkers could easily tell which beach badges were valid for a given week or if the badge had been purchased for the entire season. Again, the 1980 badges you see on the right indicate some sort of pattern of punching. They're both seasonal badges, but the one on the right is clearly punched out over the the last two digits of the year. I have never seen any other Jersey shore badges from any other community along the coast punched out in this way.
So this second theory, the one that says that punches were used to indicated weekly badges, is what my elderly tenant and I decided was the most logical theory. We deduced this from the fact that only the early badges were this way and from the curious ways in which these early badges seemed to be carefully punched out. But as you shall see if you read on, the two of us could not have been more wrong!
Incidentally, all of the early beach badges shown here are fairly rare. The earlier they are, the more scarce they are and the harder they are to find, in any condition. I usually come across them at yard sales or occasionally in antique shops. A good friend of ours owns a great shop called Ship Bottom Antiques On The Bay and I've been lucky enough to find some in there from time to time. Give Helen Matlaga a call at (609) 361-0885 or stop by her shop at 202 W. 28th Street in Ship Bottom. If you're into beach badge collecting or other antique beachy things like penants, sand pails, etc., she's probably got the greatest accumulation of collectibles on the island and her inventory is constantly replenished.
WEEKLY BEACH BADGES
I haven't been able to determine the year in which Long Beach Township began ordering weekly beach badges. Until recently, the earliest examples I had in my collection were from 1989, although I suspected they began earlier and I just hadn't been able to find any earlier ones. In the picture to the left, the top badge with the whale is a seasonal badge and the two lower badges are weekly badges, for weeks 5 and 8 of 1989 respectively. It's interesting that the weekly badges have a different picture on them... a sandpiper in this case, to make beach-badge checking easier at a glance.
The badges to the right are from 1992. In this picture, the one on the left is the seasonal beach badge and the one on the right is for Week 7. Not only do the weekly badges have a different scene or picture on them, the weekly badges are also usually a different shape and a different color than the seasonal badge, again, in order to make the job of checking beach badges on the beach a lot easier for the kids who have to patrol the beach to enforce the code.
Occasionally, tongue-in-cheek articles appear in the Sandpaper written by young people who have been hired to check beach badges. One such checker recently pointed out that "I know they don't have badges when I see them all running for the water... that's probably the oldest trick in the book." Funny, but that's exactly what we used to do if we had forgotten to bring our beach badges to the beach!
For accountablity purposes, Long Beach Township began using serial numbers on beach badges in 1994. By then, beach badge sales had become a big business and were a sizeable revenue source for the township. They were now selling over 40,000 beach badges per season! With all that cash flow every summer also came the possibility that someone could misappropriate some of that cash by under-reporting the number of badges sold. The answer was to number the beach badges and thereby account for them. To the left are examples from 1994. The top badge in the picture is the front of the 1994 and the two on the bottom are the reverse sides of two other '94 badges. Someone in the township office was assigned the job of hand writing the serial numbers on each '94 badge with a marker pen! Note the wide disparity in serial numbers between them. The one on the left is one of the first issued that year and the one on the right is much later in the season. In 1995, as shown in the photo to the right, the township ordered their beach badges with serial numbers already stamped into them. This practice continues today.
If you're going to collect beach badges, you're going to find them in all kinds of condition. The salt air, the sun, the age and also the materials they were made of all play a big part in the condition in which you will find them. I've even seen the lettering on beach badges eaten away by sticky sun screen products and tanning lotions. When I find them, I wash them in a mild solution of dish detergent and warm water, then buff them with a dry rag. But even some of the materials the early beach badges were made from contributed to their later condition. Early badges were printed on thin plastic sheets which tended to warp from the sun. The 1977-1989 badges were of this material and few display perfectly flat on their pins. By 1990, they made a change to a different, stiffer plastic sheet, but these also became brittle, especially with exposure to the sun. The 1988 and 1989 badges (above left and to the right) are in unusually excellent shape.
The 1982 badge to the left is almost in new condition, as is the back of the 1992 badge next to it. The picture to the right shows the same badges, flipped over. The brass pins on these badges are still shiny, indicating they've probably never been exposed to salt water. You can see the difference in construction material of both badges in these pictures as well. The 1992 badge is printed on more durable plastic, and although they held up better than the earlier ones, even this plastic had its faults. I've often found 1990-1994 badges that were cracked or broken if they'd had too much sun exposure.
The 1993 beach badge shown at left is a good example of poor condition caused by ultraviolet sunlight turning the plastic brittle. The oval 1988 sailboat badge next to it is barely readable compared to the yellow and white example in good condition above left. The two 1981 badges to the right look like completely different badges, but they're not. The one on the left is the correct color. The one on the right has probably been bleached in a washing machine, having turned the badge brown.
These are just some examples of the way you'll find beach badges. Sometimes they are bent (or folded) for one reason or another. If this is a badge you do not have in your collection and it's one you definitely want to keep, it's possible to relax the plastic in some instances. If you apply some heat on them from a hair dryer, this can help to straighten them out. Recently I've found that very hot water relaxes the fold as well. I dip them in scalding hot water for a few seconds, then straighten the badge out and allow it to cool in its flat, original shape. It helps to remove the pin first if you're going to do this.
The two 2005 badges to the left are about as far apart in condition as possible. The badge on the far left has been run through several washing machine cycles, which is quite normal. The 2005 badge is made of even better materials than the earlier ones, but the newer badges don't take machine cycles very well. The plastic holds up better to the sun and other elements, but the painted faces of the newer badges rub off easier. The orange 2005 badge in the left picture (on the right side) is in new condition. Whenever the brass pins are shiny, as is this one, the rest of the badge is usually in excellent shape. These are two badges that I purchased in 2005 for the use of my tenants. The serial numbers are #696 and #705.
To the right is the 1999 Long Beach Township beach badge, in new condition, which commemorates the founding of Long Beach Township in 1899. This badge even shows the beginning and ending dates for when it was required on the beach.
INTERESTING AFTERTHOUGHTS... AND A POP QUIZ!
It's amazing, some of the interesting things you come across while collecting beach badges. To the left is a very rare and unusual badge. It's one that my daughter found for me while stopping at a Starbucks coffee shop that had just opened in the spring of 2006. If you purchased a cup of coffee, they handed you a 2006 beach badge that was good for the entire season! What a great deal that was, considering a seasonal badge at the time sold for $30 at the town hall! And to the right, no respectable beach badge collection is complete without a few Black Whale buttons kicking around. The pins to the right are from the 1970's, when the original Black Whale was still in Beach Haven.
And what about this mysterious badge below, the one with SBM on it? It's an old local badge for sure, but can you guess where it's from? Here's a hint... it's located on 24th Street and Atlantic Avenue, less than 8 blocks away from my two beach rentals! Still in a quandry? Okay... scroll over it with your pointer and you'll find the answer!
I hope you've enjoyed this page and I welcome anyone who wants to talk about collecting beach badges to contact me. They make wonderful wall decorations in your beach house or even your home away from the beach. And if you've got the time and the inclination, there are plenty of ways to frame and display them. Today, I have complete collections of Long Beach Township seasonal beach badges hanging in all four of our rental apartments and it's amazing how many of our repeat tenants comment on them and admire them.
But it's really not necessarily the collections of the little badges that attracts their attention and interests them, it's the wonderful thoughts of all the fun-filled years they've spent on Long Beach Island with their families that lights up their spirits and keeps them wanting to come back to the beach year after year. To me, they represent several generations of all the happy family gatherings we've had at the shore and a lifetime of wonderful beach memories.
THE DISCOVERY OF THE "EAST IDAHO COLLECTION"..... THE MYSTERY CONTINUES!
The collection pictured on the left is what I call my "East Idaho Collection." I purchased this collection in 2007 from a fellow who lived in Pennsylvania and who claimed they had belonged to his parents. He had spent many summers on LBI as a child with his family and his folks had apparently saved their beach badges when their summer vacation was over. Some of the badges in this collection are from 1978, 1979 and 1980. To the left and below are those badges from this collection.
But look very carefully at the picture on the left showing part of the collection. At first glance, again, some are punched and some are not. Again, these badges are from a completely different collection than the above collection given me by my elderly tenant (the tenant who's mom worked in the township office in the early years). Could the badges from this newer collection just be yet another example of seasonal badges that had been punched out to serve as weekly badges? It appeared so to me.
Look at the larger pictures from this collection on the right. Apparently, this family at one time rented or owned the house at 105 East Idaho Avenue in Haven Beach. There is a name on the badges also, but even the clearest example has been smudged so that only the beginning of the name is visible and starts with an "M." Writing an address or name or some other form of identification on beach badges is fairly common.
On the left are closeups of the punched-out badges from this collection. And again, we can see that they've been punched out at or near the year of the badge, in this case, on the very faded out 1978 badge on the left and the 1980 badge next to it. Since these two are from a collection unrelated to my first collection, are these just more examples of early "weekly" badges?
No, they are not! Because the one badge I discovered in this collection and the one badge that makes this collection so very interesting is the badge to the right!
It is a 1979 Long Beach Township WEEKLY beach badge! The discovery of this badge now completely dispels the theory that the badges were punched out to identify weekly badges. Previously, the earliest weekly badges I had in my collection were the 1989 badges above. The 1979 badge on the right was issued 10 years prior and only two years after the start of beach badges in Long Beach Township, and was issued at the same time as the other 1979 badges pictured above (from the other collection) that had also been punched out. Clearly, we know now that the punched-out badges from 1977-1980 were not punched out to designate weekly badges, as we previously thought!
And so, the mystery of the punched-out beach badges continues! If anyone reading this has an even earlier example of a weekly Long Beach Township badge, I would appreciate being emailed a picture of it. And certainly, if anyone out there has any other theory of why the early Long Beach Township beach badges (and only the early ones) were punched out in the manner pictured here, I'd certainly be interested in hearing from you!
OUR RENTALS INCLUDE BEACH BADGES
Each apartment that you rent from us contains a supply of beach badges for your use. I buy them at the beginning of the season. All that we ask is that you do not lose them. Beginning in 2008, I devised a useful clip (on the left) with a "D" ring on it so that you can clip them all to your beach bag or chair or tuck them into your beach bag.
One caveat! They now cost $35 each to replace after the season has started. So, if any are lost, you'll have to drive to the municipal building in Brant Beach to replace them so that the next set of tenants has them. No one wants to do that on the last day of their vacation, so please guard them carefully and try not to lose any! Keeping them all together in your bag is an excellent way to safeguard them.