I do not have a lot of good
memories of my childhood, but that's another story....however, I do have some
great memories of our family's yearly vacation spot....Ocean City,
this day, I have never been to a beach that I enjoyed better, and I have been to
some pretty amazing beaches.
When you're a kid, time is
forever...everything lasts so long. And anticipating a trip to Ocean City was so
exciting...like it would never get here. It was bad enough waiting for the
school year to end....then we'd have to wait for the week that we would all be
in Ocean City. And we would never be 'just us, as a family'....and for
that I am now glad...but my parents always wanted to invite along another
family. My parents were always easier to be around when other people were
near....they had to be. We loved that. It was like stepping out of our world for
a while and slipping into a TV sitcom for a week.
In December 1968
Starting from left:
Cindy, Catt (holding The Princess Christy), and Alan
We would be so excited
about the trip..., me, Cindy, and my brother Alan. This was all we would talk
about. My brother was home for a month during the summers and he and I were so
close, and so much alike. Summers were wonderful, for me... I got to see my
brother for a whole month, I was away from all the cruelty of the school kids,
mom and dad were at work and we pretty much had the house to ourselves, and then there was
that wonderful trip to Ocean City. That was a lot for me to look forward to. It
was also exciting to find out who would accompany us on our vacation. We always
hated it when it was my mom's long-time friend 'Mean-woman'. We never
liked her or her kids. And her husband, 'Mean-man', was always, well,
mean to us....always annoying us.
But on a good year, we
would have a ball with the family that went along with us. And it's those years
I want to think about. I don't remember hearing all of the planning and details
of the trip....that wasn't the sort of thing that interested us....we just
talked about Frontier Town, which was on the out-skirts of Ocean
City...and The Jolly Roger Park....and the
Boardwalk.....the Mid-way, which was the carnival that lasted all summer, and it
was at the end of the eight mile long Boardwalk. Dad would give us each $2.00 a
day to spend however we wanted. We were pretty much on our own when we were
there. Things would be so different today. The world wasn't as vicious back
A very treasured moment.
The day would finally
come...we were on our way. Dad was not a pleasant person to be around on 'trip day'...he and mom would bicker while loading the car. That's
what dad did on every holiday, every family thing...well, pretty much anytime we
were around him. Nothing made him happy. He didn't seem to be as excited as we
were....but we were thrilled to be on our way and on that day, we weren't scared
of him. Nothing could bust our bubble.
And that trip was so
long....about three and a half hours from our house, plus the traffic, if any.
And there were frequent trips to the rest rooms along the way...mom and dad
drank a lot of coffee on the way there. But I always loved hitting that famous
turn at Glasgow, Delaware...the right hand turn that said that you were really
on your way.
When we arrived we rolled
the windows all the way down...we just had to smell that wonderful salty
air...we had to listen to the radios and the general sounds of 'life at the
beach'....young tanned, half naked people were everywhere. And the summers
I really like to remember was in the late sixties. The hippies were the most
interesting things we had ever seen. We come from a tiny little town called
Perryville, Maryland....we never saw too many hippies there.
My sister Cindy and I would
have begged, borrowed or stolen a pair of bell-bottomed blue jeans....we wanted
a pair more than anything else. And there was a new kind of store now....they
were called 'Head Shops', or, as we understood them, 'Hippie
Stores'.....and we would go in there and just look around. We loved the
smell of burning incense...well, that's what we always thought it was. We
would watch the 'lava lamps' with wonderment....the black lights and
the posters...the tie-dye clothing, love- beads, leather pursers, exotic candles, and gadgets that
we never did figure out. And there was always that strange sweet smell that
wafted out from the Head Shops.....couldn't put your finger on it.....
There was one of these such
stores right across from the apartment house where we stayed every year. We
would sit outside on the porch on rainy days and just watch the hippies go in
and out of the store...envying them for their freedom, and their blue jeans.
Alan had to have his hair super-short in those days and he was envying the long
hair on the men.
Cindy was just admiring the men....she was always much more
'boy crazy' than I ever was. I was just fascinated with the hippies
and their whole 'being'. They had such interesting lives...and they
were always in the news....they were the 'hot topic' for conversation
in mom's beauty shop, too....everyone was talking about the 'hippies'....the communes, the long hair, the 'dirty' way they all
dressed, their stand against 'the establishment'......the sexual
freedom and 'shacking up' together instead of getting legally married.
I loved to just watch them. I don't remember ever wanting to really 'be' one of them, but they were entertaining.
We would finally pull up
into a parking spot in front of the apartment house...I remember that I loved to
lean out of the window a little and listen to the tires of our car driving
slowly atop the gravel....cracking and grinding....I could smell and feel the
heat from the car, the gravel, the air...and it was a lazy kind of comfort. The
heat was suffocating and the sun was so hot. At last....the engine was turned
off and doors were opening and slamming shut and I could feel the excited knot
in my stomach...I thought I would surely bust out of pure joy of finally being
there. We could see the Boardwalk from where we parked the car...and the
throngs of people walking to and fro...and I just wanted to get lost with them.
Dad would start unloading
the car and mom and Ms. 'Whoever for that year' would go on into the
apartment and begin to put things away. We were not allowed to go
anywhere....not yet...but we would pester everyone to the point where they would
pay us to leave....and off to the Boardwalk we'd go. We always stayed at the
same apartment house, just within yards of the Boardwalk....mom and dad owned
the apartment building and each year we'd stay on a different floor....there
were three apartments. And we were on the most 'happening' end of the
Boardwalk, too. The opposite end was mostly hotels and condominiums....more
barren area. But we were in the very best place to be......the place to be.
And nothing could compare
with going up the slant of the sidewalk and then reaching the wooden Boardwalk
itself.....it was 'nirvana'.....there it was, all the familiar places and
sounds....bells were ringing from a new winner at one of the game booths....the
smell of fresh cotton candy made your mouth water....the smell of the air....we
had to just stop and breath it in. We could not see the surf from where we were
standing....the beach was very long and even on it's busiest days, you could
always find a place on the beach.....
There were the proverbial
gift shops with 'sea-shell-anythings'.....what couldn't
be made with sea-shells? And the miles of tee-shirt stands.....there was no end
to those stores. We loved the food, too...and we would always head to the right
of the Boardwalk towards the most exciting places....we'd walk past all the
games and look at the huge stuffed animals that we all wanted, but never could
win. But our focus was on the food...and one of the first stops was the booth
where you could buy those wonderful 'Boardwalk French fries', as we
would call them....they were fried in peanut oil...and that was the big
advertisement on the sign above the booth...and the minute you got close enough
to the place you could feel the heat from the fryers...and smell the oil. And
the whole time we would be standing in line we could could hear the 'pops' and 'bell-ringing' from more winners of stuffed
If you stood close enough
to anyone you could also smell the Coppertone® that everyone used as suntan
lotion. Everyone was wearing a white tee-shirt with some kind of a saying on it,
and sun glasses. I was never fond of sunglasses....and I'm still not, they hurt
my nose, but they
looked so cool. Every year I'd buy a pair and every year I just couldn't wear
them....and I wanted to look cool so bad.
Ocean City was so big, back
then....I mean, it's a big place anyway, but when you're a kid, it's even
bigger....and our wide-eyed wonderment would just take it all in...we couldn't
get anywhere fast enough....never had enough money, never had enough time, never
was old enough, not enough hours in the day, not enough days at Ocean City. It
was always such a whirl-wind time when we were there....it took a few days just
for it all to sink in....that we were really there.
A typical day at the
beach for us....except that usually we had a crowd around us, asking questions
and taking pictures. Another reason we always had a pool at home, so we could
swim in private.
We never wanted the day to
end. Mom and dad would go and play Bingo until very late at night, and us kids had the run of the
Boardwalk. I don't remember there being any curfew....but I do remember that
late at night the three of us kids sat on the Boardwalk bench outside of The
Purple Moose, which at that time was one of the most 'happening' bars to be
at....we'd watch the drunks go in and come out....watch a scuffle or
two....listen to the conversations...and make a pact between us that when we
were old enough, we'd go in. That was the big goal...go to The Purple Moose one
day....and get bell-bottom blue jeans.
I am happy to tell you that
when I was 30 years old, Les and I went to Ocean City, when we still lived in
Maryland, and we went to The Purple Moose and had a drink together.....I can die
I don't think we ever got
much sleep there in Ocean City....time was precious and short-lived....there was
much to do. I can remember getting badly sun-burned every year.....you would
think that we would learn about sun protection....but no one paid any attention to
it. We would be burned to the point of blisters, and just wore a shirt the next
day and was right back out in the sun. We wanted to spend more time on the
Boardwalk than at the beach anyway. It was exciting just to go into the shops
and look around....mess with all the stuff.
Things started to slow down
a little by our second or third day there...time lasted a little bit
longer we wanted it to last longer. I don't ever remember a bored
moment there....relaxing moments, but never bored. There was always something
going on somewhere....street entertainers...not like in New York City, of
course, but street entertainers nevertheless. And I always enjoyed listening to
the ones that sang.....you could always find a 'hippie girl' sitting
'Indian style' on the fringes of the Boardwalk....in the sand, and there would
always be a gathering of people around her. A guy or two would have an acoustic
guitar, maybe someone with a tambourine....and the girl would be singing in
Joni Mitchell or Joan Baez fashion....deep, throaty vocals with lots of
vibrato...or wispy, airy vocals that sounded like an angel, reaching a pitch
that I think only a dog could hear....but beautiful, just the same.
would always be closed and she would sway to the 'internal beat' that
she kept....wind blowing in her hair....head band on her head....long hair,
usually blonde, parted in the middle, love beads, 'Buffalo sandals'
with the leather ring for the big toe, and a wonderful pair of bell-bottom blue
jeans on. There were three things I wanted in those moments....her voice, her
clothes, and to figure out what that sweet smell was....always wafting from
small groups of people....what was that?
Then there would be the 'blind guy'.....the one with the banjo and the tin cup taped on the
end of it....and my brother would always 'test' the guy ....just to
see if he was really blind. I don't think Alan ever believed he was
blind. Alan was harmless, but annoying, and I'm sure that the man was 'onto' him. But late at night Alan would spook my sister Cindy by
telling her that he actually saw the blind man's eyes...and that he was
really Satan...there to take Cindy back to hell with him....she'd be so upset.
Cindy was too easy for her own good. We could tell her anything and she'd
believe it. To this day Cindy is somewhat neurotic...and we probably share some
of the blame for that...she made it so tempting.
We would also see whatever
'fad' was on the market that year...some little gizmo for folks to show off
with...the ever-popular 'clackers'...maybe a 'hoola hoop' or two. This
was long before skate-boards and roller-skates and other annoying things to
constantly dodge and look out for. Small crowds would gather to watch the 'masters' at their best, and cheer them on. Word of mouth is the best
advertisement....if something was popular, you couldn't find it in the
stores....and those would be the things that everyone wanted.
Ocean City was filled with
people who didn't live there....summer jobs, summer run-aways, summer vacation,
summer homes. You never knew who you were going to meet and where they may be
coming from. It was like a week-long one-night-stand....."live for today,
'cause you'll be gone tomorrow..." and we lived every moment to our
fullest. We'd meet someone on the beach for a day and never see them again. The
only familiar faces were the vendors at the booths...they were always
Even when we were being
punished, we were never bored. One time we were restricted to just the
porch...couldn't go anywhere for a few hours....Alan found a way to entertain
us. It was the year that we had the very top apartment.....waaaaaaay up there.
Alan had a fishing rod and he attached his wallet to the fishing line, and left
a $1 bill sticking out of the wallet. He lowered it onto the street and let it
sit there in full view of passers by....and when they saw it and went to reach
for it, Alan would snatch it up in the air, laughing like crazy at them.
Sometimes he'd let them get within inches of the wallet and scoot it along the
sidewalk slowly. A lot of people were not amused. At one point, Alan was
lowering the 'bait' again and Jeff, the kid whose family was with us
that year, told Alan to "hit the old lady with the big hair.....hit her
hair with it...." We could only see the tops of people's heads, from
that high up. Of course, the 'old lady' was my mom....but her hair
sure was big because back then they wore it like that....and the 'choice
do' for that year was 'the Beehive'....like the Pope's hat, or
something. Mom was not amused, either, but dad sure was....he was impressed with
the prank and talked about it for years.
In December 1969
Starting left: "The
Mom, Alan, Catt, Cindy (in front)
We were eventually 'let loose' and went back out to the Boardwalk. I can still remember
what it was like to just walk past the little stores and sidewalk
vendors....that place was so lit up at night that you could feel the heat from
the light bulbs as you walked past. It would be so hot and humid....and once in
a while you could walk in front of a vent or a fan...something that would blow
air onto you...and you just wanted to stand there and take it all in.
of fresh pop-corn and butter was heavy in the air....and you no sooner walked
past that booth and another smell would take over....candy, hot dogs, French
fries, etc. And there were always the sounds of summer
music everywhere.....songs that still put me back in Ocean City, Maryland every
time I hear them....songs from The Hollies, The Mamas and the Papas, The Fifth
Dimension, etc. No
matter where you went, someone was playing the best music of the day...music
that would be forever linked to those summers....those smells....and that beach.
Having a limited amount of
money made it hard to figure out what to do. We loved the junk food...but we
also wanted to buy things that we could take back with us. We had to be 'wise' with our money. Yeah, right! The first day or two, the money
slipped through our fingers with such speed and desperation that it left us with
a barely audible whimper. We didn't see it coming....we didn't know what hit us.
It was 9:15 in the morning...and the whole day was ahead of us.....all we had to
show for it was the taste in our mouths of our first 'sugar
Now we had to find ways to eat all day and enjoy looking
around. Mom and dad always bought lots of salt water taffy and we'd load our
pockets up with it....that way we could save our own money by not having to buy
it ourselves. However, the genius plan melted, right along with the taffy that
stuck to the paper and rendered itself worthless to us.
The money......sure, we
tried to 'hit dad up' for advancements for the next day....and
sometimes he'd give in...and other times we'd have to sell him our first born
child, three ribs, and a pint of blood. Other times you just couldn't budge him. Then we would get to the desperate
begging stage....promising work...chores....we'd have to barter with him about
car washes and waxes...lawn care, extra stuff like that. But, if he had gambled
and won anything...if he had an exceptionally good day, and he was liquored up
enough, we could get a little extra money...then it was off to the Boardwalk for
another 'spend-fest'. Things haven't changed much for us through the
years...only now we do the begging with banks, credit cards and loan companies.
Oh, and 'Boardwalk
pizza'....my personal favorite, right up there with the soft pretzel. I'm a
bread freak and soft pretzels were in that family of foods. But is there
anything better than Boardwalk pizza? Something about that taste....can't get it
anywhere else. All of that wonderful 'Boardwalk food' that was loaded
with enough sugar to keep us jacked-up on a 'jet-puffed' sugar high
Another favorite pass-time
was the Haunted House ride. It was right on the Boardwalk....just a huge
stationary house that we would tour while riding in little wooden carts...like a
train. I think it cost maybe 30˘ back then, and it was me and Alan's favorite
thing to do....we'd get in that old, dark wooden cart and ....ride through those
old, dark wooden doors, and enter The Twilight Zone. We knew every turn, every
corner, every sight, but it was still a thrill. The cart would creak and squeak
and rattle and we'd go to the 'points of destination' and certain
lights would be 'tripped' and sounds would be prompted and displays
would 'do their thing'.....and each time we'd see them we wanted a
closer look at the layers of paint on the dummies and water-stained wall-paper
on the walls...the props that surrounded the main attraction....
One year Alan decided that
it would be fun for he and I to get out of the cart and stay in the house....so
we did. We had a ball. We would jump out and scare the people and walk around
the place in the dark. We had to hold hands because there were lots of wires and
cables and strange turns and inclines.....I don't know why it never occurred to
us that we would be caught...but we were. We were made to get back into an empty
cart that they sent through....and told never to do that again....blah, blah,
blah, 'safety', blah, blah, blah, 'insurance', blah, blah,
blah, 'injuries', blah, blah, blah, 'rules and
responsibilities'.....something about respect, parents, the possibility of 'never being allowed to come here again'....oh, no...not
that... we heard that
one for sure. Alan and I decided to cool off for the rest of the vacation and
didn't re-enter the haunted house again that year.
We got into all sorts of
neat things....and going down to the pier and catching 'Horse-shoe
crabs' was one of them. My brother handled those ugly things more than my
sister and I did....they looked like something from a science-fiction movie. We
got the bright idea that we could sell them and make money. An elderly man had
watched us all day ....gathering and collecting the hideous things and felt
sorry for us....he purchased three of them and gave us each a dollar for our
efforts....and it was back to the Boardwalk for us......we were rich!!
Here we are....'the
big game hunters'.
Days at the beach were
nice....I loved to swim...loved to build things in the sand....'ever-the-creator'
of 'sand things'......that was my favorite part. We especially enjoyed
the days when the waves were more aggressive. I can still taste the salty water.
I also loved
watching the people. Alan and I got a big kick out of making fun of
people....not to where they could hear us....but come on....you know how it
is....some folks are just unbelievable. You never knew what you were going
to see, and when you're a kid, everything is really funny.
Mom and Ms.
for that year' not only had those 'Beehive' hair sculptures, but
they would wear these feather-like or flower-like scarf things on their heads to
'protect' the sculpture. We didn't know whether to laugh, die of
embarrassment, or get as far away from them as possible. And it must have taken
them an hour to 'prepare' themselves for sitting under an umbrella.
First there was the blanket / chair / cooler arrangement. Once that was under
control they had to re-position the umbrella because dad never got it
right....ever. Then came the bottles of lotion....one for each body part....and
something else for lips, noses, and mom's good leg, because she would get
sun-poisoning so easily. Then came the coffee, cigarettes, the make-shift
ashtray, the glass of ice-tea, the aspirin for the headache that was now
present, the box of tissues, and the novel that mom was reading.
And all of
mom's friends were also avid readers, so, everyone came to the beach to read.
And right when you think they are settled and happy....no...now dad had to make
one of many trips to the Boardwalk to get something to eat....or something that
they forgot. So, he usually just took the 8mm camera with him to film other
women. His entire trip was spent packing, unpacking, lifting, carrying, fetching
things from the Boardwalk, and looking at women through the lens of an 8mm
camera. Sometimes he'd take the Polaroid camera and take pictures of complete
strangers....women we do not know...I have a book of pictures of people that we
don't know.....and rolls of film on bikini-clad women...breast shots and butts,
butts, butts. And you could drink alcoholic beverages right on the beach,
back then.....and dad loaded up the cooler and drank all day.
See.....we have no clue
as to who these women are.
The sad day of departure
always came too soon. Back to the bickering between mom and dad....back to the
hot car...back into our own world. We were only allowed to be in this one for a
week at a time...once a year. These were the last few summers of my innocent
youth....the summers I remember most....the summers I remember best. These were
the summers of Charles Manson, Woodstock, the Vietnam war, and "Mrs.
The Supremes gave us "Love Child" in 1968....and during that year a gallon of milk only
cost $1.21 and gasoline was 34˘ a gallon...and the world's first heart
transplant took place.
Another summer in Ocean City was 1969....The Fifth
Dimension were singing "Aquarius" and Tommy Roe gave us
"Dizzy"....and 1970 brought us more understanding of the world
we were in, and a little of it followed us into our vacation. I was drifting
away from 'bubble-gum' music and getting my first taste of Led
Zeppelin and Grand Funk Railroad. Four students were killed at Kent State
University and my generation was getting restless. Cindy and Alan
were experimenting with smoking cigarettes and we were beginning to look a
little more like the hippies. We had bell-bottom blue jeans.
Back row: starting with
the left...Me (in the cool brown Poncho), Alan, and Cindy.... Front row:
Dad, Mom, and baby sister Princess Christy. December 1970 at my aunt's house.
You couldn't get away from
the war that was raging on in Vietnam and the riots and protesting that went
along with it in our own country. I stood on the Boardwalk one day and heard
hippies heckling soldiers as they walked by. I had never seen a soldier being
disrespected before...and I didn't understand it. It scared and confused me. Why
were the soldiers treated like the bad guys? I was beginning to grow up and
lose my wide-eyed innocence ....joy and excitement were now replaced by
confusion and worry.
I no longer headed to the infamous Boardwalk without a care
or worry in the world....now I had to be careful...there were murders and rapes
and kidnappings. We were beginning to understand about drugs and that people
would try to get you to take them. And that's when we finally realized what that
strange smell was....pot. We were more serious about the world, about
ourselves...and we no longer just 'blended in' with the crowds....
living our lives as giggling children racing to the nearest carnival ride.....or
laughing as we tried
on a silly hat or as we scared each other with a rubber snake. We were now beginning
to feel like prey.
Fears and the world have grown
worse during the years, for all of us, but my wonderful memories of Ocean City, Maryland are
safe and sound on film, in pictures, and in my mind.....my never-forgotten world
of when I could just be a kid at the beach.
Christywith her 'trailer
hair' and tacky make-up. I don't know what it is about the names Chris, Christy,
Christina, or Christine, but almost every one I meet ends up having that
'Princess-complex'.....they are all the same.