Act III Episode 6 - The Ocean City Noise Ordinance Kicks In
The Ocean City Noise Ordinance, officially allocated Public Ordinance 08201965, a euphemism for the law against music on the beach and boardwalk went into effect at twelve noon on the Friday before Labor Day weekend, and was to be strictly enforced.
Some of the federal emergency public safety anti-riot funds were used to purchase, from Edmunds Scientific, a dozen electronic noise meters that registered decibel counts that were gagged by a needle reading, and distributed to the policeman paroling the boardwalk, mainly untrained summer police, wanna be cops college kids, though they did pack a 38 special, which gave them some authority.
Some of the cops walked the boardwalk patrol in pairs, while some were walking their beat alone, so the two together kept an eye on each other, and the ones walking alone could be a little looser, like the one who first approached Shriver’s Pavilion. He had his noise meter on kept an eye on it and even with three acoustic guitars playing together with a bongo and it didn’t read in the red until he was about twenty yards away, and recognized one of the guitarists, his college roommate.
They just laughed at each other, at the whole situation, and the cop let his mate check out and play the decibel measuring noise meter. They quickly figured out how it works and what the level of noise was at certain distances, and so, about a half hour later, when two more serious cops came along, they just stopped playing all together when they got around 20 yards away, so they didn’t set the meter off and the cops just kept walking and as soon as they 20 yards away started playing again.
So all was relatively quiet and cool at Ninth Street, but it was a totally different story down at 14th Street, the surfer’s beach, where Pete Carroll and the Carroll Brothers slept on the beach practically every day, and jammed when they woke up because playing music was not just a job to them, it was something they really liked to do and did it as much as possible.
They usually just bring a couple acoustic guitars, small snare drum and a sax to the beach, but because the Noise Ordinance was going into effect, the Carroll Brothers decided to hold a peaceful, non-violent musical protest of sorts, and with the cooperation of their friends the Lifeguards, put a gasoline driven electric generator under the Lifeguard stand and hung a beach blanket drape around it so it couldn’t be seen from the boardwalk. The generator powered the amplifier and two Pioneer speakers were put on top of the Lifeguard stand roof, and the band set up around the stand, and they in turn were surrounded by a legion of fans, families and friends, wall to wall so the cops couldn’t get to them.
And so it was a little after noon, when those who were crashing on the beach were just awakening, that Pete Carroll fired up the generator, itself loud enough to set off the noise meter, plugged in his guitar and strummed a loud cord that could be heard at Ninth Street, five blocks away.
The two cops who were patrolling that area immediately called in for backup, and all twelve of the boardwalk cops heard the ten our on their walki talkies, and responded, as did almost all of the people walking the boards and the shopkeepers in that area.
Among the witnesses to what was about to happen were Bob Harbough in front of his grill, Freddie the Clown selling balloons, the Old Salt from the Smuggler’s Shop, and Jiggs, an old man in a white ten gallon cowboy hat with his name – JIGGS embroidered on it, whose daily routine was to sit on the bench in front of Bob’s and the College Grill and flirt with all the teenage girls in their bikinis, who all loved Jiggs.
They were all witnesses to the first time David Brenner was arrested for driving on the boardwalk when he first got to town, and now they were being serenaded by the Carroll Brothers, one of the house bands from Bay Shores.
They were shortly joined by Tido Mambo, who was concerned about his previous announcement that he would play and perform miracles at the Ninth Street beach the following Saturday, and Lawrence Magid, a young college student who hung out with the folkies and hippies at the Ninth Street Pavilion and the Purple Dragon.
As the dozen cops gathered at the top of the boardwalk stairs that led to the beach and consulted one another and with their captain on the radio, WOND radio newsman Mike Sherman arrived, parked illegally at the end of 14th Street at the foot of the boardwalk, and after looking around at the scene – the cops in a huddle, the crowds on the boardwalk and beach, and the band playing loudly around the Lifeguard stand he jumped in the glass pay phone there, pumped in a dime and called his studio, ordering them to stand by for a live report from Ocean City’s 14th Street Beach, where the city’s noise ordinance was being severely tested within minutes of going into effect.
It wasn’t long before the KYW TV3 crew arrived in their white Chevy van with the cameraman protruding from the hole in the roof, getting it all on film. Driving real slow, Brenner drove over the curb and onto the sidewalk and inch by inch, nudging pedestrians out of the way, made it to the top and pulled off to the side next to Mike Sherman in the phone booth.
Sherman, whose view of the boardwalk and beach was now blocked by the KYW van, grabbed the Anchorage 7 for 1 t-shirt, handed him the phone and said, “hold this, and keep this line open, don’t hang up!,,” and then ran around the van to join Brenner, Freddie the Clown, Jiggs and the Old Salt among the throngs now converging on the 14th Street beach, the Carroll Brothers music blaring in the background.
Each of the twelve cops had a noise meter and kept looking at it, and they all read the same – the needle was as far into the red as it could go and was bouncing against the wall.
When his superior on the radio asked where the needle was on his decibel meter, the young cop looked and said, “It’s a Harvey Wall banger.”
Assistance was on the way, the riot squad was activated. While the boardwalk cops were like summer interns, the riot squad was made up of specially equipped, year ‘round police officers who were undergoing special training with federal authorities.
They expected trouble and were on call, sitting around the fire station playing pool when they were called in, and arrived in their shinny new armored personnel carrier (APC) that was suitable for riot or combat conditions.
There were twelve officers on the riot squad, plus a Lieutenant who assumed command of the situation as soon as he arrived, commandeering Jigg’s bench as a Command Post.
Each riot squad cop had a blue motorcycle helmet and rectangular Plexiglas shields, and fell into place as soon as they jumped out of the APC, and formed two lines of six and then fanned out into a wedge with two shields in front and moved like a Roman Phalanx onto the boardwalk, pushing the crowd out of the way in front of them and reported to the Lieutenant at the park bench Command Post (CP).
The Lieutenant wasted no time evaluating the situation and the potential for catastrophe and tried to make a few public announcements over a microphone that were drowned out by the band. So he ordered the riot squad to proceed onto the beach and arrest those four crackpots playing instruments at the Lifeguard stand and they did so, much to the dismay of the crowd, who began to cheer the band and hiss the cops and began throwing things at them.
The KYW TV camera only titillated the college kids who began chanting “The whole world is watching, the whole world is watching!”
The Carroll Brothers kept playing as the riot squad made their way through the beach crowd, trampling on blankets and knocking over beach chairs, they made no friends as made it to the Lifeguard stand and put hand cuffs on Pete Carroll and his here band mates and led them away behind the riot squad’s Phalanx. They were handcuffed with their hands in front of them, and allowed to keep their instruments, and were paraded across the boardwalk past KYW’s cameraman and Mike Sherman, reporting live over the radio from the pay phone.
Once they were inside the new paddy wagon van, the Carroll Brothers, even though encumbered by the handcuffs, began to play their instruments – “Sweet Georgia Brown” could be heard by the crowd, who followed the paddy wagon all the way to the 8th Street police station. When they got to the police station, the crowd surged around the paddy wagon van and when they opened the door screamed, yelled and applauded wildly at their new heroes.
The riot squad remained at the 14th Street boardwalk and were then ordered to return to the Lifeguard stand where a hippie had plugged his radio into the amplifier and the music was being broadcast. As the riot squad made their way back to the Lifeguard stand, the pot smoking hippie surfer who volunteered to man the gas generated electric amplifier, got some wires crossed and as he lit his pot pipe, started a fire that startled him and as he stumbled backwards and fell into the sand, the gasoline generator exploded launching the Lifeguard stand into the air and onto the riot squad Phalanx and created general chaos and mayhem.
Lynda in the Shore Memorial Emergency Room began receiving casualties shortly thereafter, first the pot smoking hippie who caused the explosion, and then some of the riot squad who were under the Lifeguard stand when it landed, though the injuries were light because of their shields and helmets kept the damage low.
From the police station pay phone Pete Carroll called Norman Stern, the new Bay Shores manager, but Stern refused to pay the bail, set at $500, and when word of that reached the crowd filled alley passed a hat and in about fifteen minutes the Carroll Brothers were free, with a court date set for the following Thursday, before Labor Day weekend.
The end result was a publicity bonanza for both the Carroll Brothers and Bay Shores, as the incident at 14th Street made front page newspaper headlines throughout the country, including the New York Times and Washington Post, news articles that prominently mentioned both the Carroll Brothers and Bay Shores and making them famous, publicity that couldn’t be bought at any price.
That night the Bay Shores was so packed that they were turning people away and there was a line at the door, but they wouldn’t let someone in unless someone left, as they had reached their 1600 person capacity, and there was a Bader’s Raider in uniform at the door to make sure the legal capacity was not exceeded.