Summer of the Shark
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 kicked into gear rolling out millions of t-shirts, toys, posters, Saturday morning cartoons – and everything else even remotely Jaws-related. Suffice to say, in the summer of 75, the topic was sharks.
On the east coast, especially on Long Island, 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 Long Island and eastern coastal areas, keeping law enforcement plenty busy.
If that weren’t enough, the film was also 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. Sharks were the number one topic of conversation In New York, circa 1975.
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 above-ground pool just a tad more appealing than usual didn’t it?
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, I hope you’ll share your Long Island memories of the “summer of the shark” with all of us here in our comments section below.