On Saturday, May 14, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., rain or shine, the Town of Ocean View, with the help of the Ocean View Historical Society, will host the town’s annual Homecoming event in John West Park.
The free event, which was started in the early 1900’s, was originally a day of celebration for those who had once lived in town but had moved away.
“Ocean View was a community of small subsistence farmers and mariners,” explained Ocean View Historical Society Vice President Richard Nippes. “Many of the men made their living on the sea, either owning schooners or working on schooners, or working on the life-saving stations, patrolling the beaches – things of that nature. Many of those men had to go to Philadelphia or other areas to get employment, so they were away a lot.”
Their return was greeted with festivities, Nippes explained.
“So people would come, and people who lived here would have all kinds of food, and there was an actual band made up of local people who would play music, and they would have things like strawberries, ice cream and other foods that people would cook. People gave speeches and did a lot of renewing friendships with people that had left and come back for a day.”
Nippes said the event stopped being held once World War II broke out, as the rationing of gasoline made it difficult for people to travel. Ocean View’s Homecoming was held again in 1976, to celebrate the country’s 200th anniversary, and subsequently put on in 1989, for the town’s 100th anniversary.
Then, last year, Homecoming was held again, after more than 20 years’ absence, with plans to make it an annual happening once more.
“Every town has some kind of unique event which sort of highlights what the town is all about,” said Nippes. “We’re trying to renew that. It’s not a money-making thing. It’s just a way of having people have fun and take a little bit of pride in their town and renewing friendships.”
The event won’t be short of entertainment. The VFW will begin the day by raising the flag, and students from Lord Baltimore Elementary School will sing patriotic songs. The Mariner’s Bethel Praise Band will also perform, as will the U.S. Navy Cruisers.
Four local food vendors will have various food items for sale, including strawberries and ice cream.
“Strawberries were a big crop here in Ocean View, along with Selbyville and various other places,” explained Nippes.
The day will also be full of activities for people of all ages. Kids will be able to participate in activities, such as building airplanes, and play games.
“I know the kids last year had a ball. They have a tire race and burlap bag races and all kinds of different games, so the kids will be well entertained.”
There will also be free horse-drawn carriage rides and a Civil War re-enactor in uniform. Various craft booths will be set up throughout the park, to showcase various skills that were in use when the original Homecoming event was established.
“There will be a number of craftsmen here to demonstrate particularly skills that were done back in the old days, to try to make this go back to the old days – you know the late 1800s, early 1900s, and how people did things. So there will be quilters and blacksmiths and people demonstrating how they do things.”
The historical society will also have their own information available for attendees, focusing on the history of the town, as well as the Shores House, which they are currently in the process of restoring to its original 1890 condition.
“The historical society will have the town hall be open, and there will be exhibits and artifacts, and they’ve prepared a lot of material for people to read about Caesar Rodney and the history of the old house that we’re restoring,” noted Nippes.
“People can actually go over and look at the old house – you can’t get in it – but you can see the renovations that are taking place. It’s really beginning to look neat at this stage of the game.”
Nippes said he hopes community members from all the local towns come out to have a great time and learn a little but about local history.
“The purpose is just for people to come and have fun, see how people did things in the old days, look at the old house,” he said. “Hopefully, next year, the house will be completely renovated and you’ll be able to take a tour of that. And, hopefully, the museum will be under construction.”
Previous Homecoming speech still resonates today
Editor’s Note: The following speech was presented by Jeanette H. Betts during the 1989 Ocean View Homecoming, and given to the Coastal Point for publication by Delores Toomey.
Ocean View has seen many changes during the years, but one thing that may be surprising to many is that, although it has grown greatly population-wise, area-wise it is much smaller, as at one time Cedar Neck was considered a part of the town.
For years, it was called Hall’s Store and letters, some few of which are still in existence, were addressed to the recipient at Hall’s Store, Sussex County, Delaware.
Legend has it that, one day, while waiting for the mail to be sorted, a boy climbed a tall tree, looked around, pointed and yelled down: “I can see the ocean” – hence, Ocean View, the name under which it was incorporated on April 2, 1889.
Religion has always been an important part of the town. The first church in the town was the Presbyterian Church, built in 1856. In 1907, a new church building was erected, in recent years more land was acquired next to the cemetery, and, in 1974, the heirs of George H. West made it possible to erect the Fellowship Hall.
The first Methodist church was dedicated on Nov. 9, 1859. In the spring of 1898, a new church building was started, and this building was dedicated in the summer of 1899. Through the years, more land has been acquired, many improvements made to the church. In 1958, a new educational structure was added to the back of the church, and, in 1966, the brick parsonage was built.
The Christian Church, or Church of Christ, was dedicated on Aug. 9, 1901. Through the years they, too, have acquired additional land and, in 1973 and 1974, the present brick sanctuary was built.
Ocean View has had four schools – the old log school; one on Atlantic Avenue; one next to the Presbyterian cemetery, which was the only high school east of Frankford; and the Lord Baltimore School, which is now used for the Indian River Elementary School.
Farming and seafaring were the main occupations of the men. Some men joined the Coast Guard when the stations were built along the coast, while others left to go to Philadelphia and New York harbors.
In 1928, electricity came to Ocean View, but the “Neck” areas didn’t get electric until much later, when Franklin D. Roosevelt instigated his rural electrification program.
For a few brief minutes, let’s play the silent game of “Do You Remember?” This will give some a chance to sort of reminisce, while those not too familiar with the area can get insight into a bit of Ocean View’s past.
Do you remember…
? ’Bish McCabe’s Store on the corner of Atlantic and Central Avenues, with a garment factory above?
? George H. Townsend’s sawmill on Woodland Avenue, the mill road later becoming the existing street?
? Charles Taylor’s brick kiln near the Canal?
? A tomato factory near the Canal on West Avenue, which burned?
? And Sam Pennewell’s Store and Chandler’s shop on White’s Creek near the mouth of the Canal with two railways for dry-docking boats?
? Mrs. Emma McCabe’s hotel for drummers?
? Wilmer Burton’s Blacksmith Shop on Central Avenue, and Elisha Collins’ on Atlantic Avenue?
? Do you remember the many general merchandise stores and their many owners?
? Ethel Hocker’s millinery store that housed a lending library in one corner, books having come crated by train from Dover?
? Do you remember the first boat, “The Atlantic,” that hauled passengers from Pennewell’s Landing to Rehoboth? And, there was the “Helen Marie,” owned by Clifford Bishop, bringing passengers to Ocean View, and a horse-drawn bus transporting them to Bethany Beach; and “The Allie Mae,” owned by Frank Moore and Charles Evans, which brought passengers and hauled freight and tomatoes and strawberries to Millsboro for shipping?
? Do you remember when Mrs. Cecile Steel invested in a few baby chicks from which mushroomed the great chicken industry of the Delmarva Peninsula?
? How many of the varied performances did you attend in the Red Men’s Hall? Or, did you ever march to the music of the O.V. Band?
? Were you around when Luther Roberts had a livery stable and brought the mail, passengers and freight, the amount of freight being quite large at times as eggs, soft crabs, game birds in season were shipped, along with diamond-backed terrapins, which sold for $1 an inch?
? How about the Blizzard of ’88, or the Josh Burton Blizzard on Feb. 14, 1899?
? Then there was the digging by hand of the Assawoman Canal – a job well done, but, if discussed today, I’m afraid would only result in the shake of heads and the remark: “It just cannot be done by hand.”
? Remember Mr. Edwin Evans’ sawmill in Cedar Neck and his making strawberry crates when strawberries were the chief crop? And, Mr. Evans being the owner of the Fresh Pond, cutting blocks of ice in winter, storing them, and delivering the ice by wagon to the City Folks at Bethany in the summer?
? Then, there was Hocker’s Hotel on Quillen’s Point, where Mr. Hocker did a thriving business – until he acquired a liquor license.
? Can you account for your whereabouts the night the O.V. jail was blown up?
? Do you remember the ringing of the Old School House bell when there was a fire and all men grabbing a bucket and running to assist?
? Were you here when Route 26 was paved with cement?
? And how many remember the scraping of the dirt streets in town with mules, and later by Mr. Will Hickman and his motorized scraper, which never seemed to be quite well? ? ? ? And, remember when Central Avenue was tarred? Of course, it had been dusty, but by some it was considered far more healthful to eat and breathe dust than tar – for, from henceforth and forever more the people on that street would eat and breathe tar fumes.
? Remember when only two or three houses in town were vacation homes?
And, then, we all remember some of those years when from time to time dark clouds hovered over our entire land and war years were upon us. Ocean View’s young men answered the call. They were not just dog-tag numbers or part of the national statistics, they were our boys, known to us all, and how proud we were of each of them.
Yes, it was sad when some of the blue stars on the service flags in home windows and in our churches changed to gold. But, you know, these young boys – many only 17 or 18 years of age, just out of high school – didn’t have to run all over the country, trying to find themselves, trying to do their thing. They realized they were mature young men, “Our country was in danger.” They shouldered responsibility and they went forth.
Now, many newcomers have moved into the area – a great number purchased houses now only used for vacation homes, but with retirement in mind. These people are taking an active part in the town, and they have certainly done a grand job of renovating some of the older houses whose original owners had died, and the places were badly run down.
Yes, Ocean View has been, and still is, a small town, but it has always been an active, friendly, patriotic town. Years have come, years have gone, history has been made. More years will come, more years will go, and more history will be made: But today I have three hopes mulling around in the back of my mind for the future:
(1) I would like to see the Ocean View Homecoming once again become an annual, active, anticipated affair; but whether it does or whether it doesn’t, it would be kind of nice if some time, some place, somebody looked up and said: “Do you remember the year 1976 and the Bicentennial Homecoming held in Ocean View?”
(2) I would hope that O.V. would remain an active, friendly, patriotic town – and also, be an example town, looked up to by others.
(3) And finally, for those whose roots will always have been attached here, for those who have moved here and made this their permanent residence, and for those who will in the future make this their permanent home, I hope that one day they, too, will stand with head held high, and may they say, just as we do today: “I’m proud of Ocean View, and I’m proud of the part, no matter how meager, I’ve played in its existence.”
— Jeanette H. Betts
Ocean View Homecoming address, 1989