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Thursday, July 25, 2024


From the Editor – Joe Zelnik-5.17.2006

By Rick Racela

Break out the champagne.  Wildwood has been named to the National Trust for Historic Preservation’s top 11 list – of endangered historic places.
That’s because more than a hundred of its Doo Wop motels have “met the wrecking ball.” And more are slated.
We have met the wrecker and he is us.
Credit the Doo Wop Preservation League with taking advantage of the axiom, if Tony’s Produce delivers lemons, make lemonade.
This brings national attention to Wildwood, they point out, joyfully.
Executions and train wrecks bring national attention too.
Consider Wildwood’s co-endangered comrades on the list of eleven:
One of the Smithsonian buildings in D.C. “shuttered in 2004 after years of neglect and underuse.”
Blair Mountain Battlefield in West Virginia, site of an armed insurrection of unionized coal miners, “threatened by strip mining.”
Fort Snelling Upper Post in Minnesota, vacant for 30 years with its buildings “in various states of disrepair.”
A number of historic landmarks along the Mississippi Coast, victims of Katrina and “facing uncertain futures.”
Historic neighborhoods of New Orleans,  “red-tagged for demolition.”
Kenilworth, Illinois, “under siege” by developers and suffering from “a spate of teardowns” that have replaced historic homes with “hulking McMansions.”
Kootenai Lodge in Bigfork, Mont., a former summer retreat in the path of a developer.
Mission San Miguel Arcangel, California, closed since an earthquake in 2003 caused “severe structural damage,” and facing “collapse.”
Over-the-Rhine Neighborhood in Cincinnati, 500 of its 1,200 historic buildings vacant, “plagued by crime and disinvestment,” with “emergency demolition being used to combat deteriorating conditions.”
The World Trade Center Vesey Street Staircase, “a path to safety that allowed many people to escape…on Sept. 11, 2001.”  The “survivor’s staircase” is threatened with demolition for construction of the new office tower.
So the Wildwood Doo Wop motels are right in there with victims of earthquakes, hurricanes, strip mines and 9-11. The Preservation League says Wildwood Doo Wop is threatened by condo construction (preceded by demolition).
This should spark several debates:
Does new construction – once the walls are sprayed with No-Burn – attract more visitors than old Doo Wop?
Will more visitors pick lumpy beds and neon lights over Jacuzzis and internet connections? I mean, more visitors is the goal, isn’t it?
Will owners of Doo Wop-looking places be shamed into taking down their for sale signs and declining to retire in luxury?
Will developers be shamed into putting away their wallets rather than adding to the endangerment?
The National Trust for Historic Preservation seems to have about as much power as a Monarch butterfly.
Now if Doo Wop was a bald eagle or a piping plover, the state DEP would make darned sure it was protected. Laws would be passed, fences would be built, conservation measures would be enforced.
Just as you cannot “barter” any migratory bird, or even its feathers, nests or eggs, so one could not “barter” a Doo Wop motel for a couple million bucks.
This is not as ridiculous as it may sound. The causes of endangering the plover and the  Doo Wop are similar: habitat destruction and overexploitation.
How would we deal with overexploitation?  Ban all Realtors from Five-Mile Island? (Note the question mark so you will know I am not advocating it, just raising the question.)
The entire endangerment question is fascinating.
 What else is endangered on Five-Mile Island, besides Tony Totah, that is?
I’m sure every person has his own endangered list.
Mine, for example, includes:
Meat markets. I mean real ones where guys with blood-splattered aprons heave a pork loin on a butcher block and ask you, “How thick?”  Probably the most recent loss was when the Community Meat Market in Burleigh became Joe’s and Joe put away his saw for a sandwich maker.
Handymen.  Actually, can you be endangered if you never existed in the first place? A lot of men posed as handymen so they could get women to marry them.  After vows were exchanged, the truth emerged.  They couldn’t hang a picture.
Evidence of the endangered handyman abounds. There’s one with signs everywhere saying “All calls answered.”  Never answers a call. Probably too busy putting up signs.
After last week’s election, could it be that Ocean City Republicans are endangered? Naaa.
On the basis of his voting record, Congressman Frank LoBiondo should be endangered. But Democrats are too gutless and cheap to even make him threatened, just because he’s  got about $2 million in the bank.
As for Doo Wop, can anything keep it from going the way of the Dodo, extinct since about 1700?
The dodo was prey to everything from dogs and pigs to Dutch sailors (tasted like chicken?). That was because it  couldn’t  fly.  Actually, it couldn’t even walk very well.
Part of the Dodo’s problem: It ate too much because it was greedy.

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