Long Island beaches are notoriously busy when the summer season arrives. But back in 1975, fewer people were eager to take a dip in the Atlantic waters, thanks to a little film by Steven Spielberg about a menacing maneater off the coast of the fictional town of Amity. It was the summer of the shark.
Jaws was released on June 20, 1975, to much fanfare across the country. People lined up for blocks to see the Peter Benchley-penned thriller and it quickly became the highest-grossing movie of the year. Soon after, the merchandising machine rolled out millions of t-shirts, toys, posters and everything else Jaws-related. Suffice to say, in the summer of 75, the topic was sharks.
Particularly on the east coast, Jaws hit a little closer to home. Not only did Amity look similar to many of the local beaches, but the film helped to spawn numerous rumors of shark sightings in the area. Furthermore, the film was based in part on a very real series of shark attacks that occurred on the Jersey shore in 1916. This “it could happen here” mentality spread during that summer of 1975, leaving a few more parking spaces empty at the local beaches.
By the following year, all had returned to normal of course. The upcoming Bicentennial celebrations took the attention away from man-eating sharks and the beaches returned to full capacity. But, for that one brief summer in 1975, the threat of Great Whites made that backyard pool just a tad more appealing than usual.
If your family stayed away from the beach that year, or if you were just the proud owner of one of those spiffy Jaws t-shirts back in the day, we hope you’ll share your memories of the “summer of the shark” with all of us here in our comments section below.