Hot, Hot, Hot!
So hot that the tar bubbles up between the stones on the road;
round, shiny, black blobs of goo.
I can smell that flip-flop sticking ooze.
An acrid gasoline smell assaults my nostrils
and I run away...
...way back in time to childhood summers.
In the heat of July, I envied my pals who spent the summer at cottages by 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, with boats and fishing and all day swimming, and all just two hours away from home. There were enchanting tales, some of them much taller than others I'm sure, of fishing derbies, water skiing, boat races, swimming competitions and campfires that lasted long into the night.
BUT then came August and our 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 in October 2012, which turned to ashes every cottage in the old original Breezy Point, including the cottage of my childhood. But memories are forever and there are photos too!
It was always an adventure every year to make the trek to 147 Oceanside. We always dressed up in our fancy duds (dresses, white gloves, and hats!) 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. 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 & Dad, 1957|
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. Sometimes a hike all the way to the jetty was on the menu.
|Mom and I, 1958|
|Mom and I, 1970|
|Mom, my older sister & I at the jetty, 1956|
|My younger sister and I at the jetty, 1970|
We had lifeguards on the beach, tall bronzed men in bright red swim trunks who sat atop blue lifeguard stands, or sometimes underneath them in the shade, whistle at the ready.
|My older sister and I, 1961|
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 jewelry 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 bread (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) 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.
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.
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 - actually Coney Island had the fireworks, but we could see them from the bayside.
|My older sister on the Staten Island Ferry, 1958|
We had the best pizza ever at a real soda fountain store that was just beside the Trunz grocery store. We had Ebinger's crumb cake! The competition for the crumbs is the stuff of family legend.
|My version of THE crumb cake|
Mom bought real butter and the steak, chicken, and fish (mackerel and flounder fresh from the Sheepshead Bay fleet) all tasted better. We had the best food ever at Breezy Point, or so it seemed.
Maybe it was the sand, maybe it was the salt air,
probably it was the love.
probably it was the love.
©2018 April Hoeller