Atlantic City Photographer, Philadelphia Eagles Owner & Franco Harris
It’s taken me almost 50 years to figure this out.
Former long-time Atlantic City, New Jersey Press Photographer Gregg Kohl is the Forrest Gump of his era.
He’s seems to have met and covered just about “everyone.”
When you are the man with the camera in your hand, you are the quiet center of attention. That still remains true today … but, it was especially true before everyone had a high definition digital cell phone camera in their pocket.
Last year, we wrote about Kohl’s iconic color photograph of Steve Lawrence, rolling the dice at the craps table of the Resorts International Hotel & Casino … at the opening of Atlantic City’s first-ever legalized gambling casino.
It was the first color photo ever published in the Atlantic City Press, back on May 28, 1978, at the opening of Atlantic City, New Jersey’s first ever legal casino hotel.
Here is the iconic Gregg Kohl photo of Lawrence and the first second of casino gambling at Resorts International Hotel & Casino in Atlantic City, New Jersey.
Note, I said “legal,” as illegal gambling existed in Atlantic City long before being approved by the New Jersey voters in 1976.
We recently interviewed Kohl about his chance meetings in 1974 with former Philadelphia Eagles owner Leonard Tose and Pittsburgh Steelers icon … the late, great Franco Harris.
Tose died on April 15, 2003 and Harris recently died on December 20, 2022.
Before we tell the Gregg Kohl - Leonard Tose story, here is a great color photograph taken in August, 1974 at a Philadelphia eagles versus Pittsburgh Steelers preseason game.
The photography bug bit Kohl during his Junior year at Atlantic City High School.
In 1972, a relative bought Kohl his first camera, a Minolta SRT-101 from “Ozzie” at Mike and Sol’s at Ohio and Atlantic Avenues in Atlantic City.
Kohl’s family thought that he was blowing his college money on photography equipment. Kohl was undeterred and pursued his passion and became the most success professional photographer of the past nearly 50 years.
It started with that first camera and his first photo lab that he established in the bathroom of his childhood home in Margate, New Jersey.
Kohl practiced at Atlantic City’s Bader Field, where he took photos of the Atlantic City Sea Hawks semi pro football team.
That’s where Kohl met his mentor, Bob Loftus, who worked as a hot plate maker at The Atlantic City Press. Loftus was also a freelance photographer.
Loftus took Kohl “under his wing the very first day I met him,” said Kohl.
This was during the same time that another fateful, chance meeting would occur.
From here, we’re going to let Gregg Kohl tell his story:
“I was working at Casel's Supermarket during the early summer of 1974. I was a deli-man, and on Sunday's I would help out cutting smoked fish. The lines to get into that store, went 3/4ths down Gladstone Avenue on Sunday mornings at 8:00.m. that's when the doors opened at Casel's, said Kohl.
“They used the number system to wait on customers. By chance, I had called Mr. Tose's number the first week I waited on him. I knew who he was, everyone knew who he was. He only met my by chance,” said Kohl.
“So, for three weeks in a row, I was the guy who made up is very extravagant fish order, back then, he would spend about $200 on a Sunday morning. Much more than the average customer. I took really good care of him. The Casel Brothers instilled on all of the deli men, be nice, courteous, and above all, make the customers happy by giving them A-1 service. This was one of the many things I took out of that job. It stayed with me all theses years in my own photography business,” said Kohl.
“The 4th week in a row when I called Mr. Tose's number, he waived me around to the side of the deli, and pulled me aside and asked me if I knew who he was, I said absolutely, "everyone in here knows who your are!"
“He asked me if I would "help" him out by having the same order ready for him every Sunday by 8:00am so he did not have to wait in line. I expressed that I had to ask Abe or Herman Casel if this would be appropriate.”
“Abe Casel, told me to do whatever Mr. Tose wanted done, they paid me an extra hour to come in early to cut his fish!”
“This went on weekend after weekend that summer. During the middle of August 1974, the second Sunday of that month, Mr. Tose, when he picked up his fish order, he had a large manilla envelope taped shut in his hand. He waved me out to the front of the deli and handed me that envelope. He said..."don't let this out of your sight" it's a personal thank you from me to you for doing such a great job for me this summer.”
“You must remember, Lenoard Tose didn't know anything about me. At least I thought that.”
”I finished my day at the deli and rushed home to see what was in that envelope. Mr. Tose had given me a photographers field pass for each pre season and home game, with free parking in the executive lot at Veteran's Stadium for The Philadelphia Eagles.”
”I was flabbergasted. I thought, what a reward for just doing my job!”
”So I traveled up to the Vet that first Friday night, parked in the executive lot and Mr. Tose had one of his people, bring me in and up to the media room, where the like of Frank Gifford and Howard Cossell were holding court with all the TV reporters and newspaper men. By the way, the writer for The Press of Atlantic City was Harry Hoffman.”
The first professional game that Kohl photographed was between the Philadelphia Eagles and the Pittsburgh Steelers in 1974. It was also the first game that he ever had a legitimate press pass to cover a sporting event.
Kohl had to pinch himself. He thought he was dreaming.
“The best part was yet to come, when I walked onto the field and saw Bob Loftus, whose jaw dropped, seeing me on the field. I never told Bob how I got there, but a few years later, I took over the photo coverage for the Eagles, Phillies and Flyers working as a staff photographer for The Press of Atlantic City.”
”At that time, I never thought to take photos of my passes, however, I do have a couple of photos from that first night, one is Franco Harris (see above).”
Kohl met Harris in Northfield, New Jersey at Wendy’s Restaurant long ago. But, that’s a story for another day.
We will be sharing more memorable adventures with Gregg Kohl in the future.
We appreciate the opportunity to partner with Gregg Kohl, who has memorialized more iconic Atlantic City and Delaware Valley events over the past nearly five decades than anyone.
As they say … a picture is worth a thousand words.
10 Things I am Extremely Grateful For in Atlantic County
Atlantic City Area Readers Submit Favorite Winter Comfort Foods