Even though we both skated Cherry Hill Skate Park during its heyday, Tom & I didn’t really ride together until one cold winter day in 1984. I was home in Pennsylvania –on leave–from the military. Jim Howell & I were drinking beers at a pool hall late one Friday night. He looked out at the snow & windblown streets & tossed back his fourth Heineken. Placing the bottle on the table, Jim lit a cigarette & blew a bluish cloud of smoke toward the ceiling.
He glanced over at me and stated, “We are going to drive to the ‘Kanes’ barn ramp in Basking Ridge.” I shrugged, finished my brew & we grabbed our coats. That is how Jim & I did things back then. We stopped at his house, grabbed a few blankets, our skate gear & some sweaters, then drove the three hours to Basking Ridge, NJ.
We arrived at about 2am. We crept inside the barn & with a flashlight, found a piece of plastic tarp. We duct taped the blankets & plastic to the flat bottom of the ramp & crawled inside.One side of the half pipe had steel coping & the other… pool coping. There were ‘Zorlac- Shut Up & Skate’ & ‘Vision Street Wear’ stickers everywhere. Spray paint was on the walls. Fortified by man-beverages, we fell asleep, completely stoked!
When we awoke, snow had fallen & drifted through the roof shingles covering us in a thin layer. We climbed out & went to a 7-11 for coffee & a ‘whores bath’ in the public restroom. Later, back at the barn, ‘Backwards’ Bernie O’Dowd & Tom Groholski showed up. We all rode together.Tom pulled some of the raddest grinds & crail slides the entire lip of the ramp at warp speed. I was dumbfounded at his lip tricks & board control. We made contact recently & I asked him to write a bit about his history. What Tom wrote, stands alone as a perfect description of how things were & where he came from. Thanks to Chicken at Pocket Pistols & to Tom Groholski for taking the time to do this. Skate- Ozzie
“Like most kids I started skateboarding in my single digit years for fun and transportation. Skateboarding felt better than riding a bike, I think what captured me was the the glide. The act of standing and leaning and turning with the wind in my face really resonated with me. When I’m on my board, it really takes me away. It’s as if I’m in my own world.
Once I discovered the heavier side (vertical bowlriding) I really got sucked in. I was fascinated by what I saw in the early ‘Skateboarder’ magazine. How did he get there? What did he look like in motion? Thankfully, there were a couple of sequences that helped me to understand what was going on. Coming from suburban New Jersey, it wasn’t like there were a whole lot of skateboarders around.
A friends brother did have a Fibreflex with Bennetts and Roadrider fours. I thought that board was the coolest thing. He was the one who had the ‘Skateboarder’ magazine. I toyed around with various Roller Derby’s and Grentec’s trying to keep a board together. It was on a cold December day that I went with my mom to ‘Grog’s Surf Palace’ to pick out an early Christmas gift. Grog himself set me up with a Sims Taperkick with Tracker mids and some Parkrider fours. Grog also gave us directions to the first skateboard park that I’ve ever seen in person.
The park was called “Monster Bowl” and with good reason. Seeing the park from the road was sort-of scary; it was steep, deep and covered in snow. Since the park was at the beach, mom said that we’d return when it thawed in the spring. Up until this point, a couple of neighborhood kids and I, only had a quarter pipe and some hills to get radical on. The first skatepark that I actually got to ride was called ‘Fybre Ryder’.
‘Fybre Ryder’ consisted of blue modular transitions of varying heights and configurations. The sections were set up to make different runs. Mostly halfpipes, a fullpipe and a couple of dishes. The park was indoor/outdoor and was a whole lot better than our quarter pipe! New Jersey did have a few concrete parks that were commonly found near the shore. The first concrete park that I rode was “Off the Wall” which was probably named after the infamous shoe, since it’s design did not lend itself to any type of surf-style skating.
Off the Wall (we called it “Often Fall”) was a series of lumps bumps and humps with a few pockets that bowled it all together. The park was fun since I didn’t know any better. It was where I made my first attempts at catching some air. I would roll down a bank toward a mogul and bunny-hop my way– to freedom– over a block of foam from an old couch. The sky was the limit! My parents have always been more than cool about me skateboarding.
Sweeper- Groholski family ramp NJ- photo- R. Groholski
One day my dad showed up at home with a bunch of wooden arches on top of his work van. He was driving past an old restaurant that was getting demolished when he spotted the arches.
Tom w sis & half pipe in his yard
Apparently the arches were an overhang that he envisioned turning into a skateboard ramp. Little did he know that he’d be turning our backyard into a skatepark for the next fifteen years. While away at a friends house, dad and mom, (yes I said mom!) assembled the restaurant overhang into a perfect halfpipe. The ramp was eight feet wide and eight feet high right to vert. It was the first version of four ramps to take over the yard. Once I had that ramp, I spent every waking hour –when not in school– trying to learn how to deal with the art of riding a skateboard. Back to the steep and deep inclines of Monster Bowl. I would love to go back and ride that park now. Monster Bowl was a maze of steep runs that backed up to each other and had green and red mesh fencing separating them. The novice area had two small bowls connected by a rollover. The bowl was four feet at it’s deepest and tipped out at vert.
This was a bowl where a little kid could catch their first grind. Older surfers probably in their mid to late teens ruled the rest of the place. They would show us the way and kept us young ‘uns in line. Picture seventies style rippage—edgers, carve grinds, lipslides, airs, tailblocks, and a favorite of mine to see and later do was an early version of a frontside disaster. We called this version a “slap air”, and when done properly was audible across the park.
There was a strong buzz going around Monster Bowl of a new “mega-park” being built in south Jersey across the river from Philadelphia. Vague details and rumors were circulating about the new ‘Cherry Hill Skatepark’. The year was nineteen seventy nine and Cherry Hill was a dream come true. Four pools and a halfpipe with an over vert three quarter pipe into a bowl and a couple of bank runs. It was all indoors. This was the east coast version of what was already out west.
Cherry Hill-egg bowl- photo- R. Groholski
For opening day at Cherry Hill, pros came from all over to celebrate and to break in the park properly. For all who witnessed the skating that day, and had partaken in what the park had to offer…for the next three short years, could not have been more profoundly affected. It was a chapter in skateboarding’s history that bridged the coasts of America. Cherry Hill changed countless lives– including my own– and continues to remain a high point in many skaters memories.
BS Air- Groholski family ramp. photo- R. Groholski
Through the seventies to the present, I feel extremely grateful to have seen something that I love so much evolve and grow, I have to thank my family and my friends for all of their sacrifice, love, and support. It truly has been a priceless experience. –Tom Groholski
FS 5-0 Ralphs pool, MD– photo- D. Kane
‘Combi’ tail block on the finger. photo- Geoff Graham
‘lien air’ while Jeff Phillips watches. Arlington Tx. photo- Allen Guimond
BS Air Pier 62 -photo-Squindo