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Thursday, April 28, 2016

The "The Grocer's Picnic At Atlantic City" Story

This photograph from the local newspaper was taken one of the
years I rode the train to Atlantic City.  I can't identify any of the
passengers anymore, but perhaps one of them might have been me.
It was an ordinary day.  Telling a few of my friends about the couple of times my family would travel in the summer to Atlantic City to swim, watch the diving horse and pole sitter, and eat all sorts of stuff  on the boardwalk.  The yearly event was the Grocer's Picnic that was sponsored by various grocery stores each summer from the mid-1930s to the mid-1960s.  I was a pre-teen the times we went and had the best time of my life during the trips.  The event was open to anyone that cared to attend and get up at the crack of dawn to get on the train.  For my family, it was pretty simple, since we lived half-a-block from the train station in Lancaster, PA.  There were so many people from Lancaster County that went to Atlantic City that the Pennsylvania Railroad ran two trains to carry everyone.  
A newspaper flyer telling of the
Lancaster's Grocers' Picnic to
Atlantic City.  This was from before
I was born, but you can still see
the train schedules.  Click to enlarge.
One would leave from one station in the county while another would start at another station.  They both would make the stop at the Lancaster Station on McGovern Ave., with one arriving about a half-hour before the other.  The streets around our neighborhood were packed with cars the day the picnic was held.  I believe it was usually on a week day and one time my dad couldn't make the trip with us due to his work schedule.  We would leave about 6:30 AM and head toward the coast, arriving in Atlantic City about 8:30 AM.  The train cars were packed with parents and kids, many of them friends of mine from school and church.  For me, the train ride was as much fun as the day at the beach.  Someone would walk through each car selling discounted tickets that you could use in the bath houses to change into your bathing suit.  They also sold tickets on the train to enter the Steel Pier where we went to see the diving horse who would climb the tower with its rider and put his front hoofs over the lip of the stand and all of a sudden leap, with the rider on its back, into the water about 50 feet below.  
The Steel Pier Diving Horse.
What a splash that would make.  That was probably the highlight of my day at Atlantic City.  I can also remember the guy along the boardwalk who would climb a tall ladder and sit in a chair that was fastened to the top of a pole.  You could pay so much for the chance to talk to him.  Mostly teenage girls would stand in line to talk to him.  Don't remember much more except for buying the salt-water taffy on the boardwalk before heading home just before dark.  Exciting trip for any young kid, but especially exciting for me, since everyone came to my neighborhood to catch the train for the trip to Atlantic City.  It was another extraordinary day in the life of an ordinary guy.


  1. The Italian Village at the end of the Million Dollar Pier. The best deli sandwiches ever. There was an organ grinder with a monkey that would tip it's hat if you gave him anything more than a penny.

  2. Joe, I remember those deli sandwiches too. Delicious deli meats and cheese on a fresh well-baked chewy long italian roll. Plus a cup of tomato salad that you could dip your sandwich in. So good, old school authentic cuisine on the Million Dollar Pier. Tony