By Kelly McElroy
Before Long Beach Island became the bustling destination that it is today, it was a quiet place with few houses and acres of open sand. Back then, with not much to do for entertainment, the children of a few families found each other and made their own fun, dubbing themselves the Loveladies Kids. They did not know then how deep their bond would run, or that they would still be making their own fun seventy years later each time they reunited to reminisce on the summers of their past.
Bud Wigmore’s family moved to Panorama Drive in Loveladies Harbor when he was just twelve years old. “There were only a few houses on our street,” recalls Wigmore. “From our kitchen you could see straight across the lagoon to the houses on the other side.”
One day while in the kitchen, Wigmore’s mother mentioned that a family with children was moving in. At her suggestion, Bud and his brother John got into their boat and went to meet the new neighbors. “It turned out they were from the same township that we were, and they were in the same school district,” said Wigmore.
These across-the-bay neighbors were the Falcones: Tony, Dick, and Carol. Next door to the Wigmores were the Barbers: Spencer, Helen, and Anne. Across the lagoon was the Leute family: Tracy, Jerry, and Jeff, and next door to them were John, Cathy, and Ruth Bent. The kids became fast friends and organized themselves into groups: the older kids, the big kids, and the little kids.
They spent their days fishing, clamming, and chasing the ice cream truck. “In a day we could get over a thousand clams,” said Wigmore. “We would sell them for a penny a piece to local merchants down on the causeway.” They spent most of their time on boats, using them as the main form of transportation between their houses. “We used to have rowboat races. We made our own fun because we did not have a lot.”
The group expanded as the years went on, and the kids later met Karin and Ramsey Ives from a few streets over, and Tom Hafkenschiel from Barnegat Light. Their adventures expanded as well, leading them to nights of dancing at Kubel’s and beach bonfires. Maisie Hodes, who lived down the road from the Wigmores and Barbers, led hootenannies at the LBI Foundation of Arts and Sciences, providing another outlet for fun.
As the kids got older, they continued spending time together at their various summer jobs. Some worked on fishing boats, some at restaurants. Many worked at Andy’s at the Light, cooking and serving food. It was there that Anne Barber and Jim Peavy’s LBI love story began.
“Anne was a waitress, and I was a cook,” recalled Jim Peavy. “She was four bells, so if I wanted to see her, I just rang four bells, whether there was an order or not.”
Today, Anne and Jim Peavy have been married for fifty-three years. Their children and grandchildren enjoy the Island almost as much as the two of them always have.
“Now our children know each other,” Anne Peavy said of the families of the other Loveladies Kids. “They played in the same lagoons where we swam. For some of us, this was the fourth generation falling in love with LBI. Now, we see our grandchildren feeling the magic, too.”
“Our little grandson, who is five, says this is his favorite place,” said Anne. “Our house is tiny, and it does not have any fancy things in it, but he loves the way the morning sun comes in. He says it makes you so happy because it’s such bright sun.”
Though all the Loveladies Kids are older now with families of their own, they still find ways to hold onto their youth and honor their memories and remember loved ones who have passed. About fifteen years ago when John Wigmore passed away, the others reunited in Barnegat Light for the funeral.
“Afterward, some of us put on our bathing suits and went to the beach, held hands, and ran into the water together like we used to. Then we got popsicles from the ice cream man. It was just all for John,” Anne Peavy said. “Our childhood never left us.”
Despite the years that have passed since their days growing up on LBI, their connections to the Island still remain.
Spencer Barber, Anne Peavy’s brother, described the feeling of returning to the Island. “As soon as we would get here, I could feel relaxed. Even when I drove up here from Atlanta this week, coming across the Causeway, it was the same feeling. The weight of the world was lifted a little bit, and I knew I would see a number of people that I had been friends with for ages.”
For Barber, the bonds he built with his Island friends are unlike any others in his life. “Bud Wigmore is probably the oldest friend I have,” he said. “We have known each other for sixty-five years.”
When they were younger, the gang would get together once a year in the off-season for a New Years Eve party, because they just could not go the whole year without seeing each other. Now, their yearly reunions serve as that opportunity, and they relish every second.
“We just come here to be with each other,” Barber said. “We have a big get together and everyone is glad to see each other. For all of us it was a unique life. It brings us back to the way we were.”
When spending time together, they cannot help but dwell on their love for the Island and the memories and relationships it gave them.
Anne and Jim Peavy recalled a road trip they took off the Island a few years ago where they visited other spots along the Jersey Shore. When they got off the Parkway and drove back onto the Island, they looked at each other and said, “There’s no place like this.”
The group is well aware of how unique their childhoods were. Instead of bikes, they boated or swam to each other’s houses. They walked straight into each other’s homes without so much as a knock. They spent much of their time at the beach, day, and night. And they were able to make the sort of friendships that transcend distance and time.
Watching them reminisce, it is easy to see not only the love they have for each other, but for the Island that brought them together.
“It has been nearly seventy years of friendship. We have taken different paths and embraced different lifestyles but growing up together on a patch of undeveloped sand, we are a pack,” Anne Peavy said. “When we are together, I think we each make a silent toast to our parents: Thank you for giving us Long Beach Island. I know they would be proud of this legacy.”