Bury the Word 'Benny' in the Jersey Shore Sand
With Memorial Day around the corner, benny bashing starts in earnest. According to the members in an Ocean County Facebook group, anyone who does not live here year-round is a benny. Although some people claim it is just a harmless label, an acronym for visitors from Bayonne, Elizabeth, Newark, New York, I’ve always heard the word used in a negative way.
It implies people who litter the beaches, clog the roads, puke in driveways, and wear socks with sandals.
Never mind that my family has owned a summer cottage in Ocean Beach since 1949 and I’ve spent every summer of my life here, I am labeled a benny. Never mind that we pay taxes to Toms River Township, (which reduces their taxes), I am labeled a benny. Never mind that I’m a person who rises early and picks up beer cans left on the beach from the night before, I am labeled a benny.
Never mind that summer people — whether owners, renters, weekenders or day trippers — boost the seasonal economy, we are all bennies, who ruin life for the locals.
I find it odd that people make no distinction between those who spend three months at the Shore versus those who come for a week or a day. We are all bennies.
I don’t remember the word when I grew up in Ocean County in the 1950s and 1960s, working summer jobs in Lavallette during high school and college. I think the term got popular and acquired a negative connotation as more people moved to the Shore year- round and the beaches and roads got more crowded.
Like the locals, I’m not a fan of the beach on weekends but I accept the crowds in July and August. I don’t have a car so I don’t contribute to the dreadful traffic, which has caused me to nearly miss the train in Bay Head.
To me, the word benny is territorial and implies an us-vs-them mentality. But that seems silly. I have friends and relatives who live in Ocean County and Monmouth County year-round, including two family members who are lifeguards in Asbury Park.
I do get the classification thing because we used to distinguish between the owners and the renters but I’m smart enough to realize that the renters allow people to be owners. But that’s different than the stigma of being called a benny.
I realize some use it playfully but I have seen the signs on Labor Day “Good Riddance Bennies.” We are made to feel unwanted. I think it’s time to bury the word benny. Bury it in the sand and put it to rest once and for all.
Just call me a summer person, a beach lover.