Ozzie Ausband

Cherry Hill flashback

I was speaking with my best friend - Jim Howell the other day. He asked me about  a Cherry Hill road trip that we went on back in the summer of 1979. He told me that he remembered his mom driving us in her white Volvo & she was totally embarrassed & mad at us because we wore full pads & helmets the entire 2 hour trip there. One of us was trying to do Jay Smith laybacks on the dashboard & it kept his mother very angry the whole day. I vaguely recalled such antics… but we did that stuff all the time. I remember Jim would lay on his back on the floor doing varials  & stuff until one day his board slipped & cracked him in the face so hard that he almost cried!  I still laugh about it. I also remember that Jim did the first fakie ollies & fakie ollie to tails that I’ve ever seen…  he was ahead of his time. Jim spoke about our old friend- Jami Godfrey. “Do you ever talk with him?” - he asked. I told him that I hadn’t spoken with Jami in at least ten years…  time can get behind us as we grow older. One day becomes a month & the urgency to speak with old friends dissipates. After a decade…  what’s the point? Sadness. The next day, I phoned Tom Groholski. He spoke with Jami recently & gave me his cell number. I called Jami up & we spoke for about an hour. It was great! He was a big inspiration to Jim & I. He was inspiring for Tom Groholski as well. Tom sums it up pretty clearly-    ”Jami Godfrey is the smoothest skater I’ve ever seen–  Unreal lapped over frontside grinds, with a cool casual style yet he would blast and you wouldn’t hear him land.  A full-on inspiration. “

On the telephone, Jami & I spoke about the park, its history & impact. Jami shared the following information on Cherry Hill.   “I remember the first time I got to see the park before it was finished. Mike Jesiolowski  & I heard about it being built. At the time we rode this park called Philadelphia Skate Park– better known as P.S.P. We got to see Cherry Hill  prior to its finish coat of concrete being poured. I remember looking at the ‘Eggbowl’ and staring down into it saying - “Wow! This is big!”  The first thing that ran through my mind, was the coping they used on all  of the pools! It had this smooth hard finish on the bull nose of the coping. It looked like it was manufactured only to be skated. A few weeks later was the opening day. The list of pros was a list of legends! Tony Alva, Wally Inouye, Bobby Valdez,  Stacy Peralta, Shogo Kubo, Brad Bowman etc.  There were several waves of pros coming to ride the legendary park in NJ. “

“That park did go on to transform many persons lives. Jamie ‘Mouse’ Mosberg came down from NYC with a bunch of good riders. Jamie went on to be a great videographer in snow and skate films– most notably–Birdhouse ‘ The End’.  Evan Feen was a gnarly tall guy that drove down from north NJ and lived in his van while at Cherry Hill. Evan went on to be an accomplished Big Mountain rider &  mountaineer. The mountains he climbed and rode were the likes of Denali. Victor Perez was a close friend of mine from my earliest days skating at the young age of 11 or 12. We rode together for a skate shop called Country Skateboards with Mike Jesiolowski who was a very talented skater. Mike & Victor never really got the credit they deserved. Mike was a freestyler who was discovered by Stacy Peralta.  Ultimately, Mike introduced me to Stacy & I ended up on the Bones Brigade. Once Cherry Hill opened,  I left Philadelphia Skate Park  to make Cherry Hill my home! Thanks to my mom who devoted the time, energy and money to cross the bridge 5-7 days a week. Mike, Victor and I,  were the wave of freestylers that became the 1st generation of vert skate park riders.“ Once Cherry Hill closed, Jami went on to build a vert ramp in his back yard. Like many of us, he longed for the concrete perfection of Cherry Hill.

Glen E. Friedman remembered being shuttled from the west coast to the east coast by his parents. “ I was having trouble & my mother sent me from LA to NJ to live with my father for my 11th & 12th grade school years. Right after I arrived, Cherry Hill opened.  Shogo Kubo moved back east & rode the park for a few months.” Glen told me that sometimes he just went to the park to skate. “ I remember breaking my arm at Cherry Hill. Jami Godfrey had cut his chin open or something & his mom drove Jami & I to the Emergency Room together. I would go to the park, shoot photographs & carve the reservoirs. I recall the Bentley brothers &  Mondo being really good at Cherry Hill.  Mondo ended up moving to LA. They were all NJ local guys. Doug de Montmorency, Duane Peters, Steve Olson, Alan “Ollie” Gelfand, Pete Gifford, John Woodstock , Steve Alba, Stacy Peralta & Tony Alva  ripped there. Stacy was really good in the halfpipe!”

Tom Groholski & I rode together periodically over the years. We’ve become pool pals. We speak of our Cherry Hill memories like two old war buddies discussing furlough in a strange foreign port…  fond thoughts & reflections. Tom spoke of his discovering Cherry Hill & its impact upon him. “Cherry Hill Skateboard Park had several tentative openings.  We got rained out at Monster Bowl and my Dad decided that we should to take a ride and locate this “insane new park” that we were hearing about.  Upon arrival, we were surprised to find the crew still in full construction mode.   As we were led through the park, what laid before us were several bowls (deeper than what we were used to) carved out of dirt in various stages of completion.  I still remember a lone coping block sitting on the hip of the right kidney taunting us as to what is to come.  There were also the wooden forms for the past vert 34 pipe in place, we were completely blown away!”

“During our follow up visit we were hoping to find the park open, but it wasn’t ready for the public yet.  What we did find was that all of the concrete work had been finished and a few select skaters from the crew and a couple of local pros had been ripping some fresh lines in the virgin park.  We were lucky however, since somebody filmed the session and had the super 8 film to give us a brief preview of the ripping that would soon be underway.  I remember someone grinding sparks in the Egg bowl and –after watching the film– I went out and checked the coping to find black grind marks in long intervals in the pockets of the bowls.”

Glen E. Friedman shooting Shogo Kubo shot by Tom Groholski
“Opening day was a blur, the new park was totally crowded as one would expect.  As a grom I watched in awe as the pro’s from out west were tearing up every bit of the park.  All of the heavies were in town, it was THAT good.  We gravitated to the Dogtowners and T.A.  The Sims team really stood out. Chris Strople, Wally Inouye and Bobby Valdez also destroyed.  We ‘fanned out’ getting our boards autographed and skated some of the less- crowded runs.  Seeing the highest caliber of skating –live– really was a dream come true. It was as if we were living the dreams we had,  while staring at our old Skateboarder magazines on a snowy winter day.  I did get some rides in the left kidney and the keyhole since most of the action was focused on the egg and the right kidney.  ”Life altering”- describes the opening day of an all too short - lived incredible skatepark.  Inspired we were, and are to this day.  Some of the greatest memories of my life come from Cherry Hill Skate Park, and I know that I’m not alone.”

Jim Goodrich shot images at Cherry Hill as well. He was on a grueling coast to coast jaunt covering the Hester Series & spent some time in the area. He said that he stayed at Jami Godfrey’s house & went on a sight-seeing trip of Philadelphia.  Jami graciously showed him around. He has one surviving Cherry Hill image & it is Alan Gelfand in the half pipe.  Cherry Hill was many things for many people. A Mecca,  a training facility, a  gathering place, a Holy place, a place where our fondest memories were born and a place of heartbreak at its demise….  Thank you to Jim Goodrich, Jami Godfrey, Jim Howell, Glen E. Friedman & Tom Groholski for their thoughts & images. Skate- Ozzie

For more of Glen E. Friedman : Burning Flags