By VICTOR E. SASSON
HIGHLANDS, N.J. -- I have many fond memories of the summers my family spent at our home in Bradley Beach from the 1940s to the 1970s.
My mother's brothers and sisters would drive their families out from our neighborhood in Brooklyn, taking turns as guests in the eight-bedroom house with a wraparound porch on Third Avenue.
We'd pick up my father, who commuted by train to his dry goods store on Manhattan's Lower East Side, and before going home, drive across the tracks to shop in the farmers market in Neptune.
Jersey beefsteak tomatoes, corn, potatoes and other produce were an important part of the big meals of Sephardic Jewish specialties my mother prepared for as many as 10 people every night.
Now, when I drive to the shore, it's usually for members day at American Littoral Society headquarters in Fort Hancock, an old Army base on Sandy Hook, part of the Gateway National Recreation Area.
On Saturday, the program included hikes, seining and birding; feeding of an African penguin; and a buffet lunch under a tent with terrific live music by "an Americana-flavored music duo" called The Danjos (Dan Corboy and John O'Neill).
The American Littoral Society, founded in 1961, promotes the study and conservation of marine life and habitat, protects the coast from harm and empowers others to do the same.
At Fort Hancock, the society has powerful, like-minded partners, including a fisheries laboratory operated by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration or NOAA, and the Monmouth County Marine Academy of Science and Technology, a four-year public high school.
A major concern today is the low pH or acidity level of coastal waters that affects the ability of clams to form their shells.
That has a direct impact on New Jersey's hard-clam industry.
|A chef from The Lusty Lobster in Highlands demonstrating how to shuck a clam. American Littoral Society members day always includes clams on the half shell, washed down by cups of cold beer.|
|My lunch of fresh arugula, pasta salad, roasted clams and a fat veggie burger. My wife had a cheeseburger. Fresh watermelon slices and a fruit salad also were served.|
|We enjoyed our lunch at a picnic table on the front porch of American Littoral Society headquarters, overlooking Sandy Hook Bay.|
|At Fort Hancock, the American Littoral Society occupies a building in Officer's Row, the oldest of which dates to 1892, above. The federal government is offering free 60-year leases to anyone who uses their own funds to restore one of the buildings.|