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Wartime ‘Camp Boardwalk’ Recalled 40 Years Later

November 4, 1986

ATLANTIC CITY, N.J. (AP) _ George Jollie is impressed by Atlantic City’s new glitter and glamour, but he just spent a couple days reminiscing about a time 40 years ago when the boardwalk belonged to thousands of recuperating soldiers.

″I always said it was the best time in the service,″ the Collingswood man said. ″The entrance price was a little high, though.″

Jollie was sent to Atlantic City after losing a leg during combat in Italy during World War II. Earlier this week, he gathered with other survivors whose last assignment was America’s playground-by-the-sea, temporarily transformed into a giant military hospital.

Back then, the seaside resort was also used as a training ground for new soldiers, who did calisthenics in the convention hall, held parade marches on the boardwalk and practiced landing techniques on the beach.

The fashionable resorts of the time, the Chalfonte-Haddon Hall and Traymore hotels, became sick wards, mostly for soldiers who lost limbs.

Some of those soldiers and the volunteers who cared for them at Camp Boardwalk were among several hundred people who returned for a gala 40th anniversary reunion Sunday and Monday.

It was the first reunion, said Joseph Valenti, executive director of the event. ″It’s also probably the only time they’ll get together because these people are up in age,″ he said.

Many of those attending were on crutches or in wheelchairs. Some were leery of venturing onto the boardwalk at night, but not for fear of curfews as in wartime.

″Now we’re too afraid of getting mugged,″ said Myrtle Barnes, sitting next to her husband, Norman. The Plainfield couple mourned the loss of their favorite restaurants and nightclubs along the inlet.

″So much is gone now,″ Barnes said. ″I liked it better the way it was. It was a beautiful place, even though it was more fort than casino.″

Joseph C. Letarte of Westbrook, Maine, agreed.

″The boardwalk was much better looking back then, and much cleaner,″ he said. ″All these casinos ruined the place.″

Jollie recalled that his room was in Haddon Hall, now the Resorts International Hotel-Casino, where the reunion was held.

″It was a dandy place to recuperate,″ he said. ″The whole city turned itself over to you. You could get a Sunday dinner every day of the week.″

Plenty of time was reserved during the reunion for catching up on lost memories. But many participants also took time to participate in a nationwide survey of the top entertainers of the wartime era.

Results released late Monday showed the Andrews Sisters at the top, followed closely by Glenn Miller and his orchestra. Bob Hope finished third in the voting.

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