Janet Robinson Bodoff compiled an anthology of stories about Atlantic City.


VENTNOR – Local resident Janet Robinson Bodoff has great memories of her early days in Atlantic City. So much so, that she has compiled an anthology of stories she and her friends have written about the fun they had in the city by the sea.

Speaking of Atlantic City: Recollections and Memories, by Janet Robinson Bodoff and Leesa Toscano.

“Speaking of Atlantic City: Recollections and Memories” includes 44 short stories and poems written by Bodoff and her friend Leesa Toscano, who spent time at Bodoff’s great aunt’s Ariel Hotel on Arkansas and Pacific avenues. Other writers, including local author Molly Golobcow, also submitted their stories for the book.

“We spent summers here and weekends in winter,” Bodoff said. “Atlantic City has been here for a long time, but it’s only 48 blocks, so anyone who lived here remembers days we spent at the Steel Pier and Chelsea beach. It was a wonderful experience for us because we had a sense of community, and those who contributed to the book are part of that history.”

Bodoff said Toscano was a great writing partner and the two have been friends for more than 20 years.

“We work well together, and it was a pleasure to work with her on this project,” Bodoff said.

Snow on the beach in Atlantic City.

Her sharpest memory is of a winter trip to the shore when she was just 6-years-old and she saw snow on the beach for the very first time. The memory prompted the former newspaper reporter to write a short story about the experience.

“When Leesa saw it, she said, ‘This looks like the start of a book,’” Bodoff said. “I said it could, if we could get other viewpoints.”

Some of those viewpoints came from those participating in a writers’ group that met at the Ventnor Library nearly seven years ago. Others were contributed by authors participating in Stockton Center for Successful Aging’s writing program, which encourages older adults to write their own memoirs.

“We asked them for submissions and picked the ones we liked the best,” she said.

In all, there are 44 submissions, including poetry, short stories and photographs.

Teens have fun on Chelsea Avenue beach in Atlantic City.

Some of the stories include memories of the Miss America Pageant, High Hat Joe’s – a hangout on the World Famous Atlantic City Boardwalk when she was a teen – and gathering with friends in the sun and surf on the beach at Chelsea Avenue.

The book contains photos of the city’s glory days that were posted on contributors’ Facebook pages or from their personal collections.

“My uncle was an excellent amateur photographer, and some of his photos are included in the book,” she said.

Others who contributed photos to the book include professional photographers Christian Gonyea, Shawn Smith, Bernie Jenkins and Inez Bloom.

“In addition to my story about the snow on the beach, my favorite memory is partying on New York Avenue in the 1970s. That’s a great memory for those who partied there,” she said.

Ariel Hotel in Atlantic City.

The book took a few years to get together and the pandemic slowed their progress.

“We had a lull in the middle,” she said.

After Toscano’s “horrible experience” publishing a book through a “vanity” publishing company, the authors sought out a traditional publisher and selected Arcadia Publishing, which is well known for publishing history anthologies, such as their “Images of America,” “Black America Series” and “Postcard History Series.”

“Arcadia provided us with sales and marketing staff, public relations, and an editor and graphic designer to get the book done,” Bodoff said.

The book includes personal recollections, but the themes are “universal,” she said.

“We wanted to give the readers an opportunity to relive those glory days of our youth and learn some of the city’s untold history,” Bodoff said. “If you want to recall some of the fun times you had and the places we went to when we were younger, you should read the book.”

Bodoff’s background is impressive. She wrote for the Philadelphia Inquirer, Bulletin and Philadelphia Journal newspapers. She also wrote for Rolling Stone magazine and other publications before she studied graphic design and started her career in the field of marketing. Later, she learned metal smithing and started making jewelry. She also writes poetry and teaches jewelry making to others who want to learn how to express themselves through art.

Leesa Toscano

Toscano, a lifelong Atlantic City resident, is an actress, poet and author, and worked in the casinos and for Atlantic City government. She has also performed stand-up comedy in New York City and Atlantic City.

Copies of the book will be available online, in book stores and can be purchased directly from the authors starting in early October.

For those who wish to speak with the authors, Bodoff and Toscano are partnering with Players and Playwrights of the Jersey Shore for a program being presented 2 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 23 at the Bloom Pavilion, Huntington Avenue at the beach in Margate. The event includes a presentation of four, one-act plays, and readings from the book. A book signing follows the event.

Janet and Leesa

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Categories: Downbeach

Nanette LoBiondo Galloway

Award winning journalist covering news, events and people of Atlantic County for more than 20 years.