And throughout the land an all too familiar whine can be heard, "Mommeeeeeey, I'm bor ...or...ord!" It rang out in the shops and the parking lots just five days into the summer break. Twisting and turning behind grocery carts, red-faced foot-stomping kids wound up their mums who were just trying to get the weekly shopping done. Clearly for some it's going to be a very long hot summer.
When I was a kid, July heat was fertile ground for boredom. Yeah, we had that backyard pool, but you know the grass is always greener elsewhere. I envied my pals who spent the summer at cottages by cool shining lakes in Muskoka or Haliburton. It seemed to me that all the cool kids had places up north, on a lake with tall trees and big rocks and boats and fishing and all day swimming. They had non-stop fun I was sure. Come September there'd be tales of fishing derbies, water skiing, boat races, swimming competitions and campfires that lasted long into the night.
BUT then came August and the annual trip to the beach. Talk about a long commute! This one involved taxis and planes and a foreign country! My mother's family had a cottage on Long Island, New York. Perhaps you've heard of "The Hampton's" -well not there, but rather a more modest community on the southernmost tip, just east of Manhattan, called Breezy Point. Sadly the Point is now famous for the great fire spawned by Hurricane Sandy back in the Fall of 2012. The storm unleashed an inferno that turned to ashes every cottage in the wedge, the old original Breezy Point, including the cottage of my childhood. But memories are forever and there are photos too!
It was always and adventure every year to make the trek to 147 Oceanside. We always dressed up in our fancy duds because in those days air travel was fancy stuff. From Toronto we flew TCA (Trans Canada Airlines, later Air Canada) to New York's Idlewild (later JFK) airport on a Vickers Viscount or Vanguard prop job, a flight that took about ninety minutes.
The cottage was far from grand but I didn't mind. At Breezy we had the Atlantic Ocean, with waves great for body surfing contests and getting clobbered by a big one was as thrilling as it was humbling. We had the best beach in the world - white sand that stretched for miles.
|Mom & I - August 1969|
On a hot day, the walk from the end of the boardwalk to the firm sand near the water's edge was ... well hot, sole burning hot. And it's not easy to walk quickly on shifting sand carrying all the beach gear - big umbrella, chairs, tarp, food basket (containing pop tins wrapped in tin foil, sandwiches wrapped in waxed paper and all full of sand anyway), and towels.
We had life guards on the beach, tall bronzed men in bright red swim trunks who sat atop blue life guard stands, or sometimes underneath them in the shade, whistle at the ready.
We had parties - fancy hat, and card parties at Christ Community Church (Auntie Lilian always won 'The Basket of Cheer', the one full of booze), fashion jewellery parties and clothing sales (Aunt Lilian hosted and gave the profits to charity).
There were friends and neighbours who were always thrilled to welcome the 'Canadian Invasion' each August. One was president of a large bakery in Brooklyn that catered to the Jewish market. When he came to visit he always brought a huge paper sack, almost as tall as eight year old me, filled with breads (pumpernickel and light rye), rolls and chocolate donuts. He was the biggest man I'd ever seen - quite tall but also quite wide - and his shoes were the biggest shoes I'd ever seen - must have been six inches wide and fifteen long. As big as he and they were, his heart was bigger. He spoke slowly, thoughtfully and everybody listened.
We had doctors that made their rounds on motor scooters and delivery boys that rode bikes, front baskets loaded with bottles from the liquor store and prescriptions from the drug store. We had cops who drove around in jeeps equipped with big tires to get through the sand. AND, we had a volunteer fire department (Point Breeze Volunteer Fire Department), with trucks with names like 'Big Jack' and 'Sand Flea'. When the big air raid type siren went off summoning fire and/or ambulance crews, it also summoned at least half the beach residents including us.
Late one night a fire started in the hardware store off of Market Street, opposite the drug store and we all trooped out to have a look. Dad carried a big red flashlight. He managed to make himself look so official that the fire crew from Brooklyn (they had to cross the Marine Parkway Bridge to get to Breezy, so were always late on the scene) asked Dad, "Is it all right if we set up over here?" Dad mumbled something and waved his red flashlight around a bit before discreetly disappearing into the crowd.
It was more than just curiosity that got us up and out. Even in the 1960's and 70's the adults knew well the danger a fire presented in an enclave of 50+ year old clapboard cottages. But for us kids, it was just another great adventure.
We had ferries that we could ride from Rockaway Point to Breezy for free, or take to Sheepshead Bay to check out the catch from the fishing fleet then chow down cherrystone clams on the half shell at Joe's Clam Bar. From there, a subway took us into Manhattan - the United Nations, Times Square, Battery Park, the Staten Island Ferry, and the Statue of Liberty all there to behold. We had fireworks - well of course actually Coney Island had the fireworks, but we could see them from the bayside.
|Mom & Auntie Lilian, Sheepshead Bay 1967|
|Dad & I - August 1969|
And come September I'd have tales of planes, boats, ocean waves, and seashells. I'd have stories about eating lunch beside the ocean and also in the Delegate's Dining Room at the United Nations. I'd talk about chasing fire engines though the sand in middle of the night.
Boardwalks, splinters, hot sand and sunburns. My God, it was grand!
©2016 April Hoeller