By Louise Viggiano.
Photography supplied by Joe Grassi

Fifty-five years is a long time. For some it is a life-time. For others it is time passed too quickly. For us, it’s the number of years our unique group has been close friends and fifty-five years isn’t nearly enough time. In 1959, we were a small group of young women working in the offices at Campbell Soup in Camden, New Jersey. A few of us had attended Camden Catholic High School together. At work we took breaks together, lunched together, and enjoyed each other’s company. As we became close friends we started spending time socially outside of the office.

Young and single, we met monthly at one of our parent’s homes. Soon, our group of friends grew with the addition of friends from school, sisters, and sisters in law. From this group our friendship club was formed. In the coming years, as each of us married, our group expanded as our husbands became friends. As married couples, we hosted club meetings at our own homes.My husband Mike introduced me to LBI. As a teenager, he had enjoyed time on the island. Through the 1960s we enjoyed day trips. In 1969, we purchased a house in Ship Bottom. Over the decades we rented the house to summer visitors.

Since 1980, our friends club has gathered at our Ship; Bottom house the Saturday before Memorial Day before the rental season started. In the past our typical Saturday gathering started with a wonderful home cooked breakfast, and a trip to the Manahawkin flea market. Later, we walked to the bay to watch the boats and jet skis. Our walk home, always included a tour through CVS and the old five and dime store. Afternoons were spent enjoying the sun and sand on the Surf City beaches. Together, we attended 5 p.m. mass at St. Thomas Villanova Church in Surf City. Afterwards, we walked back to the house for dinner. I cooked, and everyone brought something special to add to the meal.

Now that we have all retired, our annual gathering is on a weekday. Early arrivals enjoy a special home cooked breakfast. When the rest of the group arrives, we go to the Barnegat Lighthouse. Together, we walk the paths of the park and enjoy the ocean views. There are always shopping excursions and time just to relax a bit. These days we dine out for dinner at one of the local restaurants. Through the course of the day, we spend a lot of time talking. Our conversation always turns to reminiscing about our time together on LBI. Sadly, in the past five-years our group has gotten smaller with the passing of four of our dearest friends.

Since retiring in 2003, we no longer rent our Surf City house. Instead summers are enjoyed there with family and friends. Over the years our grandchildren have stayed at the house while they worked on the island in the summer.

Every November before closing-up our Ship Bottom house for the winter, our family gathers for a traditional Thanksgiving dinner. Among the many things we are thankful for are lasting friendships that have spanned decades and will continue for the rest of our lives.

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