When the Circus Left Town

Our life had been on hold for a few months while we prepared for our trip to Japan, so a lot of the things we had planned to do suddenly became available to us. First and foremost for me was the Circus Drive-In in Wall Township, New Jersey, very near the shore. This location had been on my to-do list for quite a while, and when I heard they had closed for good after the season last year, I had been cursing myself ever since.

In January, the word had spread that the Circus was about to be sold to developers, and therefore, demolished just as soon as it took to get a bulldozer or two out there. By the following months, community efforts had blocked that from happening, if only temporarily. I read up to see what was going on over there, but no word since the beginning of March. As we got in the car and headed west, I couldn’t help thinking they wouldn’t tear the place down and not tell anyone, would they?

Fortunately, the building and the sign still stand, so I don’t have to bore you with pictures of a vacant lot.

Circus Drive-In, Wall Township, NJ

The weather people had predicted a terrible day for New Jersey, so of course I knew that would change. The clouds persisted across the state, which was fine by me. Bright and cheerful and sunny didn’t seem to fit the mood.

The Circus Drive-In sits next to a Jiffy Lube, which means that it will not be torn down in favor of a Jiffy Lube, so that’s at least something. We parked in the empty parking lot in front of our audience of workers, along with the car owners waiting while their oil was being changed. No one seemed particularly interested in what I was doing. Perhaps this was a daily occurrence.

Curb Service

I cursed myself once again for not making it out here while it was still running. So many questions: what was it like to eat here? How was the soft-shell crab they were known for?

Circus Drive-In, top

Did that carousel on top of the building spin around?

Circus Drive-In

There were paper hearts on the sign, which I later found out was part of a campaign around Valentine’s Day to show support for the Circus Drive-In’s preservation. Even in April, some of the hearts had remained.

I stayed for about a half and hour taking pictures. It made me sad to think of this landmark going away. Then I thought of all those other communities with all of their landmarks, places from my own childhood that I’ve taken for granted. How many signs have I taken pictures of that weren’t there the next time I drove by?

If you have a place like this in your life, visit it, show your support, enjoy it while you can. Maybe the Circus Drive-In will find a buyer who will restore it, but maybe it won’t. Let’s hang on to these great old places we hold so dear, before it ever gets to this point.

While were at it on this trip, we went over to see the ocean. The sun came out, and stayed out most of the rest of the day.

Ocean, Belmar BeachHeading north towards Asbury Park, we spotted a ghost sign on a building to our right. It was an old Thom McAn back in the day, but the building apparently has some music history connected to it. Apparently Springsteen and Southside Johnny used this place as rehearsal space back in the 70s.

Thom McAnA little farther down and we got a view of the second sign I could cross off my list that day, Home Drugs in Asbury Park.

Home Drugs, Asbury Park, NJThe next one on my list was Eatontown Televsion. I had seen pictures others had posted, and they all looked the same. I understood why when I went out there. There’s no good place to stand and get a shot of this unless a) you have a drone, or b) you’re really good at dodging heavy traffic while taking shots with a long lens. The best shot was from a restaurant parking lot a good 1500 feet away. Good thing I packed my 75-300 zoom…

Eatontown Television, Eatontown, NJFinally, one that should have been on my list was Shore Lanes. By the looks of the rusty, crusty sign, it doesn’t look like it’s still in operation, but it most certainly was.

Shore Lanes, Ocean, NJ

Shore Lanes, Ocean, NJ

It’s still not too late for the Circus, so if you know anybody or know anybody who knows anybody who can do something about this, please get involved now. Here are a couple of pages:


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