Hitchhiking to College: Early Students’ Commute from Brigantine to Stockton

By Jessica Chamberlain and Kelly Burns


When you think of the typical college experience, what are some of the images that spring to mind: exams, dorms, fraternities? Some Stockton alumni have provided details that do not fit this mold, describing unorthodox freshman admissions, hitchhiking notebooks, and on-campus engagements. Attempting to capture a more nuanced picture of Stockton through the years, the 50th Anniversary Interns have asked alumni to tell about their individual, and perhaps unique, Stockton experiences.

When I first made contact with Jeffrey Mason, an Osprey alumnus, his enthusiasm to share his Stockton story was contagious. He explained that his early association with Stockton was tumultuous, opening with a rejection letter. Believing that Stockton was the right place for him and not willing to accept such a verdict, one Sunday in spring 1978, Jeff asked a friend for a ride to Pomona from his home in Berkeley Heights. He was dropped off at a hotel on Route 30 and by the next day, Jeff stood on the side of the road, one hand gripping his rejection letter, the other hoisting a thumb to Stockton.

Arriving on campus, Jeff searched for the Office of Admissions to speak face-to-face with the person who had signed his rejection letter. He was persistent and was finally able to meet with an administrator who again told him that he could not be admitted. Undaunted, Jeff proposed a deal, asking for one semester to prove his worth. He explained that his high school records did not accurately represent his newfound appreciation for education. He was certain that, if given the chance, he would be dedicated to hitting the books.

Jeff’s determination paid off and the deal was struck. Triumphant, he hitchhiked back up the Garden State Parkway as an official Stockton student. “To this day,” Jeff says, “I believe the staff member was intrigued by my strange and unique approach to admission.”

In the 1970s, hitchhiking was pervasive and indispensable. It was Jeff’s basic mode of transportation for three years. He was not alone. Many of the 1,500 students in Brigantine were also hitchhiking. This mode of travel was so vital to campus life that the campus bookstore sold wire-bound notebooks, for note-taking, with large lettering on their covers: “BRIG” for Brigantine, “VENT” for Ventnor, “AC” for Atlantic City, and “SSC” for Stockton State College). Students displayed the appropriate cover as they stood on College Drive (now Vera King Farris Drive), waiting for someone heading their way to offer a ride.

  • Brigantine
  • Ventnor
  • Atlantic City
  • Stockton State College

The conversations that occurred while hitchhiking were often interesting and, sometimes, life-altering. Hitching to campus one day, Jeff got picked up by Ira, a fellow student in the History of the New Jersey Pine Barrens course. On the way to campus, Ira also stopped to pick up Monica, Ira’s current girlfriend. During the following week, Monica ran into Jeff a few times on campus. Before Jeff knew it, he and Monica were a couple and got engaged in upper H-wing. In many ways, his academic career redirected and improved his life.

The point of this story? Well, Jeff has a lot of stories, including the ones he writes about in his book, SimpleBiz360Timeless Business Tools, and speaks about on his podcast (linked down below). His is a Stockton story. What does your Stockton story sound like?

More on Jeff Mason's website, book, and podcast below.

SimpleBiz360™consists of a book, programs, blogs, and podcasts designed to assist solopreneurs, small businesses, and leaders.” - Jeff Mason