Cherry Hill. The name is legendary for skateboarders everywhere. It was perfection. Indoor perfection. Make no mistake & don’t twist it up in your head! Cherry Hill WAS the raddest skatepark in the 1970s. Fini. Shogo Kubo & TA came to visit yet ended up staying for a long while, living with the owner. These two vert pioneers loved Cherry Hill that much! It opened in Cherry Hill, NJ, just across the Ben Franklin bridge coming down from Philadelphia, Pa. It contained a halfpipe with an elbow which led into a 3/4 pipe capped with a bowl on its tail end.
Steve Anderson would do rock-n-rolls on the very top of the 3/4 pipe (see GEF sequence). I stood in awe…The park also hosted the famous ‘Egg bowl’, left & right kidneys, a keyhole which was pretty steep & didn’t see much use, and a reservoir bowl area. My friend Jim & I , coerced a ride from my dad one Saturday. He agreed to drive us down there. The journey was a bit over two hours. Jim & I spent the entire ride there, fully padded up in the back of the van, rolling around on the floor doing channel hops and riding the walls of the vehicle. We were acting like a couple of morons. I don’t think that I slept the entire night before…Once there, you pulled up to this non- descript industrial building near rail road tracks. Trash & graffiti was strewn about, but we paid that little attention. We went inside.
There was a long counter with skateboards everywhere. Caster IPS boards, G&S fiberflex decks, day-glo orange, Powell Peralta double beamers, Kryptonics Kbeams and foam core Krypto decks with green urethane edges, Alva & Dogtown boards; I saw these and more. My bulging eyes noticed Jay Adams ‘Flywaway’ helmets, neon green-fingered Sims gloves & Rector pads. I almost fainted. I had never seen so much amazing skateboard gear in my life. Being a poor kid from the farm country of PA, I saw magazine pictures of product and drooled. I would peer closely at the ads for Val Surf, checking out the completes. Powerflex wheels, Santa Cruz 5plys, Rad Pads, Lazer trucks…and on and on.
Being at Cherry Hill was intoxicating! As much as I wanted to skate the park, I also continued to linger over the glass case display of skateboard goodness….They even had skate stickers! Stacks of them. It reminded me of ‘Stuarts Stickers’ mail order ads in the magazine! I couldn’t believe it…just dumbfounded. The smell of grip tape & urethane permeated everything. The front sign- in area & skate shop was separated from the park by a huge wall. You could hear music & skating but could see nothing. The people checked you in & all that, then they scotch-taped a small blue slip of time tape on your helmet. It had the time you entered stamped on it. If you look in the photographs of me riding, you can see one taped on my helmet.
One of the searing memories of my childhood is a follows. Jim & I were signed in & told to “go skate”. We were directed to two huge aluminum swinging doors. Pushing these open was like sliding inside of a woman for the first time. Honest! Devo ‘Gates of steel’ was hammering loudly from the PA system, skateboarders were flying around everywhere. There was the smell of fresh concrete…Gods! I can still smell it in my mind!…it smelled -perfect. I knew that I was exactly where I should be. We went immediately to our left and found ourselves looking into a bowled- in 3/4 pipe connected to a 1/2 pipe about 100 foot in length. We watched a skater thread his way down the half pipe, side-to-side and slide out as he approached the 3/4 pipe area. I looked at Jim and we grinned to each other. “Lets waste no time.”
We went over to the large reservoir and carved it up for a few runs then went to the smaller left kidney. The right kidney was a hot bed of heavy action. I saw someone do a huge rock-n-roll slide and felt my pulse quicken…this was it! I later learned that particular skaters name was Mike Jesiolowski. He was a local & killed the place. There was less activity in the left kidney & keyhole so we kept to these for awhile. Jim & I rode ourselves breathless for a few hours…it was heaven. While taking a break, I peered around. Cherry Hill was like church to me! The owners allowed the visiting pros to spraypaint their names onto the walls throughout the park.
If you look through some of the photographs, you can see the following names. Mike Siegfried, Patti Hoffman, Freddie Desota, Dave Raver Andrecht, Duke Rennie, Shawn Peddie, Fred Blood, Allen Losi, Eric Grisham, Alan Ollie Gelfand & Mike McGill. There were many more names on the hallowed walls of Cherry Hill skatepark & I noticed them all. I had to pinch myself just to make sure I wasn’t dreaming. At the time, I was riding a beat up, second hand Kona surf deck with coned Bones Cubics and Lazer trucks. I had cut the board down, repainted & redrilled it so many times, it had something close to a 13 inch wheelbase! It was just junk. While riding, I noticed a really smooth and stylish skater totally decked out in Powell Peralta gear. He was absolutely amazing to watch & he dominated the Egg bowl. I found out that his name was Jami Godfrey. He had a ten year old brother, Dean, who was a ripper as well. Both rode for the Bones Brigade.
The Egg bowl session was incredible. Big, smooth and fast, the pool was perfection. Inverts, airs and long rock-n-roll slides were done by the heavies riding at the time. I got tiles and edgers….but it was enough. After riding & hanging out at the Egg bowl, I went over to the 1/2 pipe and Jami Godfrey joined me there. He & I rode together and had a blast. Jamie gave me pointers on making rock-n-rolls in the half pipe that day…sick! As usual, great things must end & my dad showed up signaling the end of the session. As I left, Jamie Godfrey came up to me with a woman who turned out to be his mother. She was nice & spoke with my dad and I a bit. Then, she walked over behind the counter & came back with one of Godfreys slightly used, purple Ray Bones snub nose decks! She also handed me a brand new set of Cubics and a set of magnesium Tracker six tracks! I was speechless. I almost cried…Elated, I gushed & thanked them immensely. They probably thought I was a goon but I didn’t care. I NEVER had skate gear that nice. I didn’t even want to ride it. I remember not taking my eyes off that stuff for -at least-three days straight. I am a goon.
Anyway, Jamie, Jim & I became fast Cherry Hill pool pals. We rode together whenever Jim & I went to the park. We rode with Shawn Peddie & many others as well. We were ecstatic every single time we went there & neither of us can admit to sleeping a full night if we were bound for Cherry Hill the next day. It is gone now and a hole continues to fester in many a skaters heart. Its probably the same way for Salba when he thinks of Pipeline, or when Tony Hawk thinks of Del Mar skate ranch. I am glad that I was a part of Cherry Hill during its reign as the ‘greatest skatepark ever’. Thanks to Glenn E Friedman for the amazing photographs, my dad & Jim Howell for the others. Skate Long/Skate Strong-Ozzie