What is August to you? For many, this month invites them to their annual vacations. Washington, New York City and many other cities and venues swarm with tourists, both from the United States and abroad. For those involved and affected, August is great. For others, not so much. Young children know that their carefree days of summer fun are numbered. Haircuts, new shoes and backpacks lurk within sight. August is hot and humid. Things slow down in August.
I have loved August for most of my life, certainly from adolescence forward. Until those late childhood years, the reality of our family economics limited our vacation possibilities. That changed after World War II ended. Our former pastor, a family friend, suggested Ocean Grove, New Jersey, to our parents as a potentially affordable destination. He and his family had been going there for years.
Known informally as “God’s Square Mile,” Ocean Grove offered an environment that included a mile of beachfront boardwalk, affordable rentals and a quiet peacefulness not found in other oceanfront resort towns, like Asbury Park, its next-door neighbor. The wide boardwalk led uninterrupted from Ocean Grove’s controlled serenity into its neighbor’s neon-infested garden of such earthly delights as carnival rides, fast-food vendors and seductive game arcades.
Ocean Grove wrapped itself around a large auditorium and a few related side buildings where religious services took place. During Camp Meeting, two weeks in late August, preachers and evangelists of renown, a young, blond-haired Billy Graham among them, came to deliver their messages and mingle with ordinary folks such as us. So yes, we tried to time our family visits to “O.G.” to coincide with Camp Meeting. No cars were permitted in Ocean Grove on Sundays, except for those belonging to physicians. There were a few businesses, a Kohr’s frozen custard stand on one end of the boardwalk was popular, and a family-owned bakery on Pilgrim Pathway, where my parents would send me to buy some of its fluffy powdered dinner rolls.
Later in life, as a university professor, I always looked forward to August, which promised a new crop of students, whom I was eager to get to know and befriend, in some cases, for life.
August is when choirs resume rehearsals and prepare with excitement for the church year ahead, a wonderful, looking-ahead time. August is the month of my birth and the month in which Betsy and I married. What could be better than that?
I love August.