The Times and Tides of Ocean City, Maryland
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The Labor Day Riots
by Carole Hitchens Quillen
2006

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Carole Hitchens Quillen remembers the Labor Day Riots.
Back when I was a pre-teen, the early 60's (yes, the dinosaurs were all gone by then!) the thing to do on Labor Day was to come to Ocean City for the big Labor Day riot.

Now don't ask me why these riots ever got started, I personally think it had something to do with the salt water leaking into the young people's brains through their ears.

My family owned a business (Horace's Seaford Market and Grocery) at 9 Philadelphia Avenue. This was just on the north side of the Route 50 Bridge. Our house had been raised and the store built under it, so we had a bird's eye view of the main entrance to Ocean City from our front porch. Where the Entry Park is now stood Dale's Esso gas station, there was a large open area at the base of the bridge made of the streets and three gas stations.

Back in those days, the place for teenagers to gather was at 9th Street and the boardwalk. A person could hardly walk through the crowd of young people; the boardwalk would be so packed there in the summer. Being a sweet little kid I listened to my father when he said, "stay away from 9th Street". You might ask, well then, how do you know Carole that the boardwalk was so crowded there? Physic powers, I am truly amazing!!! The riots always started there and proceeded south on the boardwalk. They would end up at the base of the bridge around midnight. My family would start preparing days in advance for the big show! The number one rule was that my siblings and I had to be home by 10:30 that night and you dared not be late. Soft drinks, popcorn and assorted snacks were already stacked by the front door as we gathered on our glider to await the excitement.

The Police would herd the huge crowds down the boardwalk and into this open area where less property damage was likely to occur. The fire department would be alerted to the oncoming crowd and would be in position to cool them off when they arrived. And then, the crowd of hundreds of people would arrive and fill this area to the point that it overflowed into the side streets! That I can recall, no serious destruction ever happened in these riots, it was just a huge crowd of people celebrating the end of summer (and getting a free shower thanks to the fire department). The celebration would go on for hours until everyone was soaked and tired. We had to remember to stay away from the edge of the porch because the firemen below would get nervous with people over their heads and threaten to hose the house down.

And so the summer would end, and Ocean City would return to its nine months of hibernation disturbed only by the insistent sound of the foghorn at the inlet.


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