Posts Tagged ‘If I only had a brain’

Portrait of Ralph, the Ocean Grove fisherman. December 7, 2011. By Paul Goldfinger.

On December  11, 1992, a massive noreaster hit the Jersey Shore. It was the worst storm in 30 years. The boardwalks were ripped apart from Long Branch to Spring Lake. In Ocean Grove, an eyewitness, Nicholas Maat of 14 Heck Avenue, saw the OG beachfront get clobbered by a huge wave, taking the boardwalk down. He saw the fishing club cabin fall into the ocean and then be carried by the rushing waters towards Bradley Beach.  There was nothing left but a platform at the end of the pier and some pilings.

In July 1993, two Ocean Grove friends were inspired by an American flag that was flying at the end of the pier. The town had no boardwalk;  it was a bummer, so Carol Egner Boniello and Bob Borders decided to invent Ralph the fisherman as a joke and a cheerful symbol of renewal. They were like modern-day Geppettos.

They made the dummy out of paper maché, chicken wire, 2 x 4’s and old clothes. At 3 a.m. (low tide) on July 29, 1993, they hammered rungs into a piling and climbed up to attach Ralph. The dummy became popular with kids and adults, but in 1994, during the rebuilding, Ralph was knocked into the water. Two elderly Grover ladies rescued him. Then he sat on Carol’s porch until July 4, 1994 when he fished from a makeshift pier during the big parade on Main Avenue.

Eventually he was returned to the pier. Every once in a while Carol has had to replace him with a clone. This past year Ralph was kidnapped, so Carol created another Ralph.

In 2003, Carol Egner Boniello (aka Geppetto) wrote a children’s book to tell the story of Ralph. Illustrations are by Janet Nicastro. The book is called, “The True Story of Ralph — The Ocean Grove Fisherman.”   In the story, guess what — Ralph comes to life.

Carol is a teacher who lives in the Grove with husband Mike and some dogs and cats. She tells us that Ralph dummies have traveled to Israel and other exotic places. Here are a couple of those photos.

Ralph at San Diego’s Mission Beach. Courtesy Bob Borders


Ralph watches the moon over the Pacific. Courtesy Bob Borders.

Also, there is a song called “The Ralph Song” by Mike Boniello (music) and Bob Borders (lyrics). One of the lines is, “Oh, what a wonderful life I have, sitting on the pier in my fishing hat. Ev’ry day I’m feelin’ so fine. Oh what a wonderful life is mine.”

You can see the current Ralph fishing and watching over the south beach of OG.

Here’s a song which does not exactly belong to Ralph, but it also is about a lovable dummy without a brain.  Oh — a hint: the original recording was made by a scarecrow.

This version is by the Four Freshmen who, by now, are probably members of the alumni. Actually they probably never graduated because of all their appearances in Vegas.  There is a musical interlude here where you can whistle along, tap dance or contemplate what you would do if  you only  had a brain.

The truth about having a brain is that life would be a dingaderry — a brilliant thing to be.        —Paul Goldfinger

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