for John Bailey Lloyd

Long Beach Island:

For two decades John Bailey Lloyd has fascinated, enlightened, and charmed this Island. He writes in one of his books that fifty years ago the euphonious expression "six miles at sea" was everywhere… although "it belongs to a time and way of life that grow farther from us with each year." John Bailey Lloyd revived that phrase, and fifty years from now both it — and the name John Bailey Lloyd — will continue to be an intimate part of Long Beach Island.

JBL (for that is what we all called him) and LBI are historically inseparable.

If not for John Bailey Lloyd, would the Island have the passionate interest in its past that residents and visitors share today? Without this sensibility, would the community care? Would many of the old homes remain? Would new development have a more commercial, less sensitive quality?

And, if not for a completely serendipitous call to me from John Bailey Lloyd in 1985 — who knows? — would there have been a Down The Shore Publishing or the "John Bailey Lloyd books" we know and love?

John called me that year, after I had published the first Down The Shore Calendar, suggesting a local history calendar. He had already established a following with wonderfully written essays about Island history printed in weekly bank advertisements. They may be the only ads I ever looked for and read regularly — I loved his writing, his style, and his knowledge about the past. It seemed to me that a calendar was inadequate — a limited venue for John’s great writing and growing collection of old photographs. I suggested a book. That first edition of Eighteen Miles of History on Long Beach Island was only a 64-page paperback, but it was the start of a publishing relationship and friendship that endured and blossomed.

He was the first writer we published, in 1986. His first book was our also first book. We’ve been happily entwined ever since. In a sense, we grew up together on Long Beach Island — our little publishing house, and John’s reputation and authority as a shore historian.

John was as much a part of Long Beach Island, and Down The Shore Publishing, as salt is of the sea.

Eighteen Miles
was followed four years later with a hardcover, Six Miles At Sea, then an expanded reissue of Eighteen Miles, three local videos based on John’s work (all co-published with The SandPaper), and an engaging short story called "A Strange Incident at Bond’s Hotel." Over the past year we’ve been editing John’s third book about Long Beach Island history, and planned to release it later this year. At the time of his death, he was organizing historical images for it.

John was happy to see this third LBI title nearing completion, but he was even more excited about his next project — a novel. He was thrilled, in fact, about plans to publish this historical novel, set in Beach Haven a century ago. Our sorrow is deeper because this creative work is unfinished. I wish we all had the chance to see the novelist in the historian.

Eighteen Miles was described by The Record of Hackensack as "this loving history" and that phrase — "loving history" — characterized John’s work and life. He loved this Island, and he loved it with the enlightened sensibility of one who knows its past. He knew and understood this place better than almost anyone because he was informed by its history. Like osmosis, the island’s past entered John’s being and inspired him. It inspired others, too.

I am one who was inspired. Largely because of John and producing his books, when I look at the Island from a distance today I don’t just see houses and developed shoreline; I see a wild barrier beach, spotted with a few grand old hotels. I see beamy, old catboats sailing visitors across the bay to Captain Thomas Bond’s in Holgate, or to the little community of Sea Haven on Tucker’s Island. Or I hear the whistle of the Manahawkin and Long Beach Railroad bringing passengers from Philadelphia’s summer heat to the new resort of Beach Haven — six miles at sea! On a blustery winter night, I visualize the men of the U. S. Lifesaving Service braving an Atlantic storm on the beach, watching for a wreck to come ashore. The ghosts of the Mansion of Health are present; the Barnegat Light keeper’s house has not yet collapsed into the sea; and any morning on the beach I expect the pound fishermen to give hopeful children fish from their bountiful catch …. I can’t help this. John has given me a sense of place. It’s a gift like no other, and one, sadly, that I don’t think I ever thanked him for.

I now carry this sensibility with me wherever I go; it stays with me up and down the coast.

I came to the Island in 1977, the same year John moved here permanently with his family. I arrived with little knowledge of the Island or even the Jersey Shore. But John brought with him almost four decades of summer memories — like so many others, summer on the Island was a family tradition for him; he’d been coming here every summer since he was 10. Like so many others, he married a girl he met here. We were of different generations, but we both valued good writing, quality, and the perspective of knowing what came before. Over 18 years, I learned much from John, and my respect and admiration for this warm, generous man grew. Beyond the publishing relationship, sometimes it seemed like he was an older brother (perhaps an older fraternity brother): He’d delight in telling a good story or a silly off-color joke he just heard; he’d share a vicarious thrill from an old-time local who recalled outfoxing certain authorities years ago. He loved telling bar stories ("when beer was ten cents a glass") — he even took great pleasure in telling me how to make a "keg-erator" (something I plan to make, and drink from, in his honor).

His lack of pretense, and genuine interest in all aspects of the area’s history, garnered him affection and respect from all residents. The dichotomy between summer and year-round, local and tourist, is real, but John moved easily between those realms and had equal appeal to all. John truly had joie de vivre (if I dare use that expression without pretense) and that joy was infectious. From yacht club to local bar, from Island to mainland, he loved both the rough edges and the finer qualities of this place and its history.

No one else can fill this void with such credibility and charisma. Words alone can not express how much we will miss our dear friend and colleague. My deepest condolences are with his wife, Jeanette, and son, David. I am saddened at our community’s loss — it is a profound loss for the Island, for Southern Ocean County, and for the Jersey Shore.

And, yet, John’s life continues — in his published work, in the lives and work of others he influenced, in the knowledge about shore history he imparted, in the kindness and humor he shared, in the historical sensibility he gave all of us. His greatest legacy may be the sense of place we now share. A sense of place: It is an enormous and powerful understanding that transcends lives and time.

— Ray Fisk
July 26, 2003