Former West Cape May Mayor Leroy Reeves is a resident of the mobile home park he designed, Westwood Mobile Estates on Stimpson Lane. At one point, this land was occupied by a farm owned by Leroy’s family, and he grew up here. Leroy is in his 80s now, but he has clear memories of being a fourth-grade boy. It was at this time Leroy met his “sweetheart,” Fay York, who lived just down the road, across from strawberry fields, in the Stimpson Lane house where Exit Zero was born and where I still live. Of Fay’s siblings — Ray, Gay and Kay — Leroy connected most with the little brother called Ray. “We spent hours and hours playing games like croquet in the backyard of that house on Stimpson,” he says. “Ray was an ornery boy; he once bit the butt of a kid who’d been picking on him on the school bus! We had some fun, I’ll tell ya.” (Note: Horticulturally, things have gone downhill since Leroy’s day — these days, my “lawn” is more suited to mountain biking than croquet.)
Unfortunately, Ray’s Coastie father was transferred shortly after Leroy’s fourth-grade year to a base in California, and Ray and Leroy lost touch. But on Leroy’s 38th year, he received his horse-racing papers in the mail — he always followed the happenings at the track closely, and even owned some race horses himself — and he saw that Ray York would be riding in Atlantic City shortly. He had his wife Rhoda call out of work, and the two of them headed to the track, where Ray was able to reconnect with his childhood friend.
In 1954, Ray won the Kentucky Derby, riding Determine, the first-ever winning gray horse, across the finish line. The jockey retired in 1992, after winning 3,082 races across a record seven decades. He lives in Santa Anita, California, but across the country, in the home of his friend Leroy, still hangs a picture from the ’54 derby signed by Ray. It reads: “Best of luck from your Cape May friend on Stimpson Lane.”
Now isn’t that a sweet, and timely story? Enjoy the derby on May 3 — it’s always a fun time around town.
~This column has never been known to sit on the fence, but I really am in two minds about the plan to add what’s essentially a promenade to the beach in North Cape May, or Town Bank, if you want to take a more local view. The environmentalist in me dislikes the idea of adding a big slab of concrete to what is a beautifully rustic, authentic slice of beach and dunes. The Cape May cheerleader in me thinks there is real merit to adding such an amenity to an area that is famous for its sunsets.
Apparently, Lower Township municipality is in two minds about it, too. After initially voting unanimously to seek $900,000 funding from the county to get the promenade built, they are now going to take some time to consider the plan, having received a less than warm welcome from locals. I hope that both sides take some time to get to know the facts, and full implications, of the plan before getting too hot and heavy with their opinions.
~Speaking of Cape May cheerleading, the city has received yet another boost from the media. Regular readers of this column will know that our beaches have been fawned over by many websites and magazines. And now our own Diane Stopyra has written a story for Out, the country’s biggest-selling (by a long way) gay magazine. Cape May is in a special feature on the world’s best honeymoon spots — also included are places like Vancouver; Lake Cuomo in Italy; Belize; a magical island lodge in Stockholm, Sweden; and Aruba. Not too shabby.
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Ramblings contributor — Diane Stopyra
BIRD IS THE WORD, By Rosemary Dery