411

all images, Kevin Sprouls

As promised, Dear Reader, some tales from my early years as a journeyman in the professional field.

There once was a house called “411”. The venerable old structure still stands, barely, in the luxuriant beachfront sands of Long Beach Island, New Jersey. At the time I first encountered her, in 1978 I’m guessing, she was already a probable “teardown”. My best friend’s girlfriend’s folks owned the pile, and were kind enough to let us and our comrads invade their space on a rather regular basis.
As described in the previous post, I executed my Vietnam Wall Memorial Illustration (for Readers Digest) whilst sitting at the kitchen table here.

It was at 411 that I met my Wife.

The Island of Long Beach has its hold on me. I maintain that it has the fairest surf, sand, and “vibe” of any New Jersey Shore locale. This would explain why the price of admission is absurdly high.

Back in the summer of ’80, my gang and I were justifying our occupation of the establishment by painting the house. This was, I must confess, a somewhat “party” situation: the beer started flowing early, and the nights were usually late, indeed. What we, the guests of 411, shorted ourselves on in domestic slumbers, we made up for lying under the bountiful, midsummer sunshine on the beach.

My crowd were seriously into music. To the utter point of snobbery! We were mostly into Prog Rock, this being the threshold time before Punk became Pop. Top faves included the Kinks, Ian Drury and the Blockheads (dinner prep/cocktail music) and a strange, wonderful 70’s band called “Blodwyn Pig”.


This is art that was produced at 411, at the kitchen table, as a tee-shirt design that I had printed– we were big fans of this band!

As I write this, I am fortunate enough to be residing on LBI, in my alternate studio. This will explain why some of the early photos you see above are a little streaked, with red. My “beach scanner”, it would seem, is biting the dust!
So much history for me and mine here… While our kids were school aged, we used to rent beach dwellings– at first on a weekly basis, then monthly, then, wtf, seasonally. Ultimately, my wife and I sold the sailboat and bought a small shack here. Four years later, we had to sell, due to a myriad of factors including sending #1 Son to college, the killing off of business that resulted from the 9/11 attacks, and the fact that the summer of 2001 was a season dearth of work for yours truly. After we sold our tiny cottage, real estate prices doubled in two years here. It was sad to see a dream existence become utterly lost and irredeemable. So we thought.

Fate decreed that we were to return to another, beautiful heap on LBI, just last year. Miracles do happen!


There were poets around me at 411, including my wife, Rosemarie Sonye Sprouls. Her professor at Fairleigh Dickenson University, Michael O’Brien, used to grace us with his presence frequently. Along with fellow Prof Jim Klien, Michael and the school’s poets were publishing a literary magazine called “Lunch”. The Conch image was produced for the cover of one of the issues.

My friend, Bob Pastore, from the Workbook, recently hosted us at the famed Surf City Hotel Clam Bar. We had a fantastic afternoon– a little business, mostly laughter and pleasure. Bob was nice enough to snag a few photos of me and mine at the beloved wreck, still standing today…

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