Lazy Summer Days

I was never was upset about our family vacations, or sometimes, lack of them.  I have fond memories of our times spent in Wildwood Crest at the Saratoga Inn, which was never much of a holiday for Grandma. For her, it was just a change of scenery. She not only packed our clothes and toiletries but also food to bring on the trip–and then went grocery shopping when we arrived.  We were quite cramped at that hotel, but somehow, I don’t recall that at all.  I just remember the fun.

We always had such a good time there. I remember some of my siblings casually strolling over to one of the nearby hotels for a poolside lunch, pretending they were staying there in order to grab a free hotdog.

We looked forward to the night when Grandma and Grandpa brought us to the Boardwalk for the rides, which I am sure was not nearly as entertaining for them as it was to the five of us.  It was there that I first experienced air travel, riding in a helicopter over the shoreline for $5.

Another memory was a night at Bertrand Island, which was an amusement park in nearby Lake Hopatcong. We’d pile into the station wagon, some fighting to sit in the “way back”. I was usually wedged in the front seat between Grandma and Grandpa.  Seatbelts were not invented yet, so anytime Grandpa had to stop quickly, Grandma would thrust her arm in front of me, ensuring that I would not go hurling through the front window. I still find myself doing that, on occasion, today.

I never went on the infamous rickety, wooden roller coaster at Bertrand Island, but I loved going on the Lost River, which was a boat ride that slowly meandered through a darkened tunnel. I was never very adventurous at amusement parks even as a kid.

Aunt Ar pointed out that we would set up Kool-Aid stands in front of the house to pay for the rides on nickel night at the amusement park. We’d sit at the curb for hours, yelling, “Get your iced-cold Kool-Aid”. It was an activity and a businesss–a real win-win! I suspect it wasn’t cold for long.

Thanks, Arlene, for the reminder.

Sadly, the park closed in 1983, swallowed up by bigger and better amusement parks and replaced with condominiums. I found a video, which depicts scenes from its heyday intermingled with photographs after its demise. I loved this video because of what Bertrand Island was, and hated it because of what it became.

But the best summertime activity was our backyard, above-ground pool. I always felt so lucky to have that pool which Grandpa assembled and then dismantled every year, sometimes converting the spot into a skating rink for us to use during the winter.  We were always allowed to invite our friends over for a swim, and since I had a June birthday, it was nice to sometimes have a swimming party to celebrate my special day.

I loved making “whirlpools” in it, and that is where I learned to swim and dive. On hot June days while school was still in session, Grandma would have our lunch awaiting us at the top of the pool ladder, so that we could cool down before we had to return to our stifling hot classrooms.

Another favorite activity was our slip-n-slide. While there was an element of danger involved, we all spent many happy hours playing on it and never considered the possibility of breaking an arm or a leg.

We never went on any vacations which involved air travel. No one I knew during that era ever did. The Jersey Shore was the furthest destination for our family. I have nothing but warm-hearted memories of my summers back then and only hope you all feel the same way.