Photography and text by Marvin Levitt
The summer after the Great Storm of 1962 that cut the island in half, I took my family down the shore. We always rented a large square house in Harvey Cedars from the Okurowski family.
The bay was quiet; the lisping splash of water against the dock was soothing. But the water beyond that was a ruin of garbage. The house sat atilt. Many houses were gone forever, taken by the ocean.
Jumping into the water to tie up my boat, my foot hit a concrete block and I stubbed my toe. I pulled the block from the water. I also pulled out part of a stove that had somehow been blown there during the storm. I observed detritus floating for as far as the eye could see.
Leon Okurowski and I planned to go fishing. But we had some serious work to do beforehand. We started pulling in flotsam and jetsam. Using our crab nets, we started on the smaller stuff; Coke cans, bottles, clothing, and such. Soon we were hauling in furniture, boards, batting, shingles, parts of houses; you name it, and it was in the bay sloshing past us.
Among the odd debris were a few walls of old-fashioned brass mail boxes from the local post office. In those days, everyone had a post office box. We would send our kids to the Neptune Market, which also housed the local post office, for some bread and to pick up the incoming mail.
Mr. Monk the postmaster wanted nothing to do with the old boxes, proclaiming them junk. A new post office was to be built now, along with a new municipal building.
Looking at the boxes, I admired the brass fronts and ornate construction. Being an artist with a serendipitous eye, I envisioned them as a unique item. I washed, polished, and waxed them back to beauty. When they were finished, I gave some away. One last row serves as the wine rack in my cottage by the bay. The post boxes are now a prized and beautiful piece of furniture. It stands as a relic of the past and reminds me of a bygone era on Long Beach Island.