Calling All Keanburg Boardwalk Kids! We Want Your Photos

Share your old and new Keansburg Boardwalk Photos with us to add to a large, public art display.

Thank you for the time you are spending to read what may start off a bit rough. People say I tell a good story, but I take a minute to get going. So here is my apology in advance!

I am working on a project that up until a few days ago was a small ‘pay it forward’ idea and it has blossomed into a little more than that and it has taken on a bigger meaning to so many people. I hope that a few more people would like to get on board before the close of the project in the next coming weeks.

My story has 3 beginnings, one long ago, one 4 months ago and one 8 weeks ago and I will try to get all three to translate on paper as well as they do in story telling.

I am Carly. I am a songwriter and that may be why it’s easier for me to say than write.

Ok- 3 beginnings:

110 years ago a Boardwalk was built in the town of Keansburg, NJ. My family owned some rides there. Specifically, the kiddie rides.

4 months ago Hurricane Sandy devastated New Jersey, Keansburg and the boardwalk.

8 weeks ago I started a project called “Keansburg Boardwalk Kids”

And here is how it all ties together: I am a single mother, a homeowner in Middletown and a NYC commuter. I take the bus to New York daily and we ride past this boardwalk each day. I live near the devastation, I’ve been rebuilding with my friends and family, donating, collecting donations, cleaning beaches, restoring, and doing everything I can for my town and community. This is not the story I am trying to tell. We’ve all done it and we are all still doing it.  It’s ongoing and it won’t end any time soon. It’s our ‘new normal’.

      At my company Christmas party in December, I won the $100 Visa gift card door prize. I can’t tell you how much I needed it. At that point, I hadn’t even bought a present for my son for Christmas. I had no money. But I got a small bonus and things worked out and I tucked the gift card away with the intention of using it when I really needed it.

My mom then told me about a “Pay it forward” thing she did after I took her to a concert with tickets that were given to me. And it got me thinking about the gift card and that little boardwalk that I am so very impressed with.

I had read that Mr. William Gehlhaus and Mr. Hank Gehlhaus, the brothers who own the Keansburg boardwalk are going to rebuild. They were not going to throw all the old stuff away and put new rides up. They went and collected all of the rides and put them back together again. Some of them were a quarter of a mile away. My great grandparents built some of those rides. I have photos of my son on those rides.

And then it got me to thinking on how much it all means to me. And how much the photos of my son on those rides mean to me. I thought, “I bet I am not the only one who thinks that.” So I decided that I wanted to thank the Gehlhaus brothers for the generations of good times and great photos at the boardwalk. Not just the photos we have, but the photos we are going to be able to have because of the amazing decision they made to rebuild. It was a huge decision and they didn’t have to do it. And to hear William speak of it as if it the single most normal thing to do, it is humbling. Of course they will rebuild. Of course it will be open by Easter Sunday like it is every year. They will not disappoint. The statements seem so very small to some people. But the traditions built at Keansburg Amusement Park go back generations. And it is so very important to so many people.

It is an impressive, meaningful, important thing they are doing for the people. Keansburg is 1 square mile. There are only 10,000 residents. But at one time, it was the destination spot for New Yorkers. The ferryboats stopped right at the pier and dropped off the day-trippers. I, as well as many other folks from the neighboring towns find ourselves at the boardwalk each year, meeting up with our cousins, siblings and friends to get our kids together for a day at the amusement park.

Now, with way fewer words than that, I conveyed what I wanted to do to my family and friends on a small Facebook group called Keansburg Boardwalk Kids. I asked for photos of kids on the rides to make a public art display and I told them that I would figure out where to put it by Easter Sunday. And this was all just to thank these folks for restoring the boardwalk. I asked for 500 photos because that’s what $100 will buy on average with shipping. I got 300 photos in 6 days. I got the 500 photos I asked for in less than 4 weeks.

I now have over 1,000 photos collected. And these photos span 78 years. Many of the rides are shown throughout the decades. Each decade is graced with the smiling face of kids happy to be entertained at the friendly, neighborhood mom-n-pop amusement park.

People are so very happy to share the photos of their children on the rides with these owners. They are giving us back this unbelievable gift and we can only thank them with the pictures of our smiling kids. And the more we are all talking about it, the more people join and post photos. Each and every photo will melt your heart, I promise. I encourage you to join the group to see (you don’t have to become ‘Facebook ‘friends’ with anyone to join-just join. Your personal page will still remain private). If you are not on Facebook, email is great too. All of the photos will be displayed. I am currently working with a couple of manufacturers and it looks like the balance of the photos will be printed with a sponsorship. All I am asking for is for the most participants possible. As many different smiling faces all in one collective art display as possible would make the biggest impact.

I close with a description of the photo attached. This is on the left- my mother, Marie McGowan on the carousel horse at Keansburg Amusement Park as a baby in 1957. On the right is her granddaughter, Julia my niece, in 2012. That is the same horse. To further the impact, my mother’s grandfather owned that carousel. That is 5 generations represented.

Please consider joining Keansburg Boardwalk Kids on Facebook. And please share your photos with us. I am in no way an agent for the Amusement Park. I don't work for them. I simply wanted to say thank you. And now, so do a lot of other folks. Except, we want to say thank you- VERY BIG!


Thank you,

Carly Vena


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christine February 27, 2013 at 03:09 PM
What a great idea!! Good job Ms.Vena.
Liss February 27, 2013 at 03:27 PM
You're the best cuz <3 you
Dana February 28, 2013 at 09:28 PM
Your story brought me to tears! Thank you Carly :)
Carl March 10, 2013 at 07:35 PM
Hi Carly - I'd love to see all your photos. I spent many a summer day/night running the Kiddie Rides (Paul's) and the Flying Scooter (Ronnie). Sorry I don't have any pics of the rides to contribute but I'll try to send you some of the people and kids from there long ago. Cousin Carl
Carly Vena March 15, 2013 at 05:39 PM
Hi Cousin Carl, I would love to see the photos you have and use them in the project! It's not all about the rides. There are photos of kids at the stands, and in the arcades, and some just sitting on the benches. The project developed quite nicely with a continuing theme. Are you on Facebook? Find me there or through email and I would love to show you the photos we have collected from everyone else- friends, family and everyone! Over 1400 now!


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