Remembering summers among Armenians in Asbury Park, N.J.

Asbury Park, NJ is a small shore town a hop, skip & a jump from North Jersey and New York City.


In its hey-day, Asbury was famous for its beaches and a boardwalk with miniature golf, arcades, shops, saltwater taffy, and Madame Marie – the fortune-teller.


The beachside convention center hosted big-name concerts, and — at the south end — the Casino housed the best, old-fashioned merry-go-round. The Ferris Wheel and Swan-shaped peddle boats were south-end attractions, too.

Van Hotel, Asbury Park, NJ

What drew Armenians to Asbury Park were the Armenian-owned, family-style hotels: the Van Hotel, Hye Hotel, and Roosevelt-Hye Hotel – all on 6th Avenue. 



My family stayed at the Van Hotel owned & operated by Sam and Varsenig Eretzian. This hotel was home-away-from-home for so many Armenians, and what a deal, too! With the price of the room (by the week, usually), a family received lodging, 3 meals a day, passes to the famous Monte Carlo swimming pool (at the time, the world’s largest outdoor, salt water pool), and entrance to the beach.


Summertime in Asbury was all we could think of all winter long.


Barbara (Minassian) Hovsepian, niece of the owners, is a dear family friend. She, my sister Dawn and I were reminiscing last month about the good-old-days in Asbury. Barbara, her sister Rose and their brothers Larry and Donald all worked in the hotel’s dining room.


Dawn was the desk clerk for several summers. The year I was old enough to work in the dining room, she joined me there, too.


The Van Hotel had two main chefs: Leonard, the breakfast cook, who made the best omelets, and “Chief,” the Greek chef, who took over after breakfast.


What food! That’s all I can say!


Breakfast: There were always 3 bowls on each table: grape jelly, Greek olives, and feta cheese. Then came eggs, bacon, toast – or- whatever your heart desired.


Lunch: Usually a variety of sandwiches, which they’d pack for guests to take to the beach.


Dinner: Served at 6 pm sharp, dinner was the highlight! Each night of the week offered a different entrée , complete with salad, a starch dish, dessert, coffee.


Barbara, Dawn & I had trouble recalling which dinner entrée was served when. It doesn’t really matter now, but here’s what we did remember:


Friday: spaghetti and meatballs or fish
Saturday: steak
Sunday: shish kebab (always!)
The other entrees were chicken, moussaka, lamb chops, roast lamb. Not a bad selection, I must say.


Unfortunately, those days are gone and can never be recaptured. The Van Hotel and its surrounding structure burned to the ground in the late 1960’s, taking the life of Mrs. Eretzian. Soon after, Asbury Park was affected by riots of that turbulent decade.


To this day, Asbury hasn’t fully recovered, but we were happy to see, recently, some signs of life as we drove down 6th Avenue and along the boardwalk where we spent so many carefree summers.

(Visited 194 times, 1 visits today)

10 Comments

  1. Unknown July 2, 2019 at 5:07 am

    Fond memories for me too. My grandmother spent her summers there and we would visit on weekends, 4th of July and Labor Day.

    Reply
  2. Christine Tashjian July 2, 2019 at 5:10 am

    We also stayed at the Hye Hotel and the Roosevelt-Hye when we visited our grandmother, Nevart Tashjian.

    Reply
    1. Robyn Kalajian July 2, 2019 at 2:07 pm

      Great, memories!

      Reply
  3. Unknown November 27, 2019 at 8:16 pm

    What great times we had there in the summer! My childhood memories of so much fun, late 50s early 60s our family used to vacation there every year 😄

    Reply
  4. Ed Yazijian January 29, 2020 at 9:26 pm

    This brings back great memories! I used to stay at the Van Hotel with my grandmother Shake (Sarian) Yazijian. The first time a girl ever kissed me was on the roof of that building! I remember her name, but I'm not telling.

    Reply
  5. Anonymous September 4, 2020 at 8:14 am

    Wow.. you guys were lucky to have had this experience. I wish places like this existed today! Sounds amazing!

    Reply
  6. Cathy Bonjukian July 4, 2021 at 10:59 pm

    I was 13 yrs old when I got my first kiss from a young 18 year old Canadian Armenian boy as we sat on the beach. He was really cute and I still have pictures of him. The old biddies there told him that he can’t go out with me or hang with me because I was too young. So he ignored me which was worse. His mother told him he would go to an American jail. It’s funny thinking about that now but at the time I was crushed. Summers were spent with my folks down at Asbury Park but I don’t remember the name of the hotel we stayed but it was Armenian. There were Armenian bands that came and played. So much fun.

    Reply
    1. Robyn Kalajian July 8, 2021 at 10:40 am

      Cathy, what a memory! From the hotel information you mentioned, you might have stayed at the Hye Hotel. The hotel had a lower level called the Hide-away where small groups of musicians performed.

      Reply
  7. Ken S. July 25, 2021 at 5:37 pm

    My name is Ken Sizian, I first visited the Van hotel in 1958, I was 3yrs.old. Then summers were spent there from 1961 till ??? My Mom and I still talk about it till this day. I still go to the beach there NOW, I will be there this Tuesday…1st Ave. lifeguard stand… I’m always there !!

    Reply
    1. Robyn Kalajian August 20, 2021 at 1:43 pm

      Hi Ken, we must have seen each other at the Van Hotel as children! It’s great that you’re still going there, although I’ve heard Asbury has changed quite a bit since the 50’s and 60’s. Enjoy it!

      Reply

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