The Cape May County Herald
COURT HOUSE — Photographs bring the past to the present. Images record history in minute detail so that today’s generation can see what it missed.
For each generation’s major events, photographers play a key role in recalling what happened over the decades and centuries.
The infamous March storm of 1962, also known as the Ash Wednesday Storm, was no different.
A young photographer lived in North Wildwood during that horrific storm. His name: Thomas J. “Tom” Kinnemand Jr.
A consummate news photographer from childhood, Kinnemand, who was raised on the Five Mile Beach, was ready with his camera that fateful day as northeast winds battered his hometown and floodwaters rose and rose again on succeeding tides.
Trapped by floodwaters in his mother’s house, Kinnemand had a bird’s eye view of a raging house fire across Otten’s Canal in North Wildwood. Flooding caused the dwelling’s electrical circuits to short out and a fire began.
Because of extremely high water, firefighters were unable to get to the structure, which was demolished.
That was not unique. On Five Mile Beach and on other barrier islands, similar fires consumed homes.
In black and white images, captured with a Mamiya medium format camera using 120-size film, Kinnemand recorded, 12 exposures at a time, the devastation dealt by the unrelenting elements.
When the storm subsided, the Wildwood Leader’s late Editor John Sparrow assigned Kinnemand to the Cape May County Airport to photograph Cape May Mayor Frank Gauvry and Senate President Charles W. Sandman as they boarded an airplane for an aerial survey of the devastated peninsula.
The small plane could not fly with them and Kinnemand, so a young Civil Air Patrol pilot asked Kinnemand if he wanted to “go up for an aerial tour.”
It was a flight that made possible many of the photos that Kinnemand shared with the Herald for this 50th anniversary of that ruinous storm.
He recalled taking photos on land along the barrier islands left in shambles and splinters with an even more cumbersome 4×5 Speed Graphic camera.
Kinnemand plied his trade for the Leader from 1960-70, and then went with the Press of Atlantic City from 1970-1998 when he retired.
Since retirement, he has worked tirelessly in his Court House residence scanning mountains of old negatives of all sizes, making computer prints and then cataloging them.
Many of those photos he recalls taking, groundbreakings and fires, although some groups remain only nameless smiling faces attired in overcoats and hats, or smiling ladies in hair styles of earlier times at luncheons or baby parades.
The Civil War had Matthew Brady to record its horrors. World War II had the likes of Joe Rosenthal to snap the raising of the flag onIwo Jima’s Mount Suribachi. Vietnam War had Eddie Adams to bring the conflict’s executions to our view.
Cape May County had Tom Kinnemand to show generations yet unborn what Mother Nature can do with wind and water.