I’ve traveled to lovely beaches in Hawaii and the Caribbean, but my favorite is in Beach Haven, on Long Beach Island off the Jersey shore.
In the 1950s and 1960s, there was no television reception on Long Beach Island. Instead, we went out after dinner for lemon ice (made with real lemons and cane sugar), and played a round of miniature golf.
I must have been 6 or 7 years old the first time we went “down the shore.” That’s what going to the New Jersey beaches is called. We drove down the Garden State Parkway from the New York metro area and crossed a causeway over to Long Beach Island. The island was narrow, so from our simple bungalow we could almost see the ocean, where we headed each morning. In the 1950s and 1960s, there was no television reception on Long Beach Island. Instead, after dinner we went out for lemon ice (made with real lemons and cane sugar), and played a round of miniature golf. If we stayed in, we played endless games of Monopoly and cards. Occasionally we would go out for a full dinner, starting with wedges of iceberg lettuce drizzled with Russian dressing and culminating with fried flounder, crisp and crunchy on the outside, soft and sweet on the inside.
In the summer of 1963, when I’d just turned 10, we went to Long Beach Island for an entire month. It was a wonderful respite for me, escaping the social difficulties of school. Already 5 feet 4 inches and 120 pounds, I towered over my classmates and felt out of place. On the island, at least no one knew me. Swimming in the ocean every day, I felt relaxed and healthy, and ended up with skin a light golden color (my version of a tan). That summer my grandmother accompanied us to the the bungalow. One evening she stayed with my younger brother and, as a special treat, my parents took me to a see the Surf Light Summer Theater’s production of Oklahoma. My love for theater was born and has stayed with me ever since.
During the summers when I was in middle and high school, my parents joined a local swim club (the “in” thing to do), and I sorely missed the shore. A chlorinated pool and regimented day camp activities couldn’t compete with the salty breeze and mellow atmosphere of Long Beach Island. In the summer of my junior year of high school, my friend Debbie’s family rented a beach house on Long Beach Island. My parents went on a week-long trip with my brother, and told me in no uncertain terms not to take the car and drive to the beach. Of course, after a visit to the gas station (full serve, no less), I picked up two girlfriends and off we went, spending a nice couple of days at the house with Debbie and her mom.
Alas, all my friends were dark haired and tanned easily, while my complexion behaved according to its Baltic and British heritage. Absent today’s sunscreens, I was sunburned to a crisp in short order. So, when I returned home, I couldn’t conceal my lobster-red body from my parents, who quickly figured out what had happened. My father tried to be serious as I squirmed, but finally he smiled and said, “Well, I think you’ve been punished enough, but don’t do it again.”
I have recently retired from a marketing and technical writing and editing career and am thoroughly enjoying writing for myself and others.