Celebrating the Red, White, and Blue

Today is the Fourth of July, and I am recalling the year we traveled to Kiawah Island in South Carolina with Aunt El and the kids. As you recall, for several summers previous to that year, we rented the beach house on Long Beach Island from Mona from Verona. We had a great time hanging at the beach, swimming in the cold New Jersey ocean, and meeting that famous crab on the beach. (Remember Part of Your World?)

We changed our vacation venue after reports of medical waste washing up on the beaches surfaced in the news. Based on some articles in the “Asbury Park Press” and the ages of all of you in my old photos, I believe 1996 was the year of our first migration south to avoid the medical beach trash.

The journey was not uneventful. Chris got carsick—I believe hurling the contents of his stomach into the radio. I remember being car-bound twice because of those typical South Carolina afternoon sudden monsoons—once at a rest stop outside of Charleston and the second time on the island.

Kiawah has bike trails winding throughout the island. On the 4th, we all met at the Town Center, where we were given materials to decorate our bikes. You all had a wonderful time adorning your bikes with crepe paper and flags and then riding in the Kiawah Island parade.

We returned many times after that Independence Day vacation, but never, during the thirteen years since we have lived in the South, have we ever returned to Kiawah for a beach vacation.

What is wrong with us!

Part of Your World

You all loved watching The Little Mermaid and saw the video over and over and over. One Halloween, Jamie asked to be Ariel, so out came my beloved sewing machine so I could make the costume for her. She even had red hair in a can.

I remember the three of you and Carly dancing and twirling and belting out the tunes in our living room. Clearly you were all fans.

I wanna be where the people are
I wanna see, wanna see them dancing’
Walking around on those – what do you call ’em?
Oh – feet!

Now let me change the subject to a related one—vacations at the Jersey Shore. For several summers, prior to medical wastes washing up on the beaches (relocating our vacations to the South Carolina beaches), we rented that great beach house on Long Beach Island owned by Mona from Verona.

I am not certain of the exact time, but at least one year was 1995, because I distinctly recall the O.J. Simpson trial being broadcast. Most of our days were spent lounging on the beach, burying each other in the sand and swimming in the ocean.

There is no question that you all remember the story I am about to tell you, but this will be news to your children, who I hope will one day be familiar with The Little Mermaid. What I believe happened was that Aunt El and Uncle Jim were on the beach with the kids. A man nearby was busily creating a sand mermaid. When he spoke, his very deep voice sparked a certain familiarity with Aunt El. In Aunt Ellen style, she told Uncle Jim that he must speak with him. Uncle Jim clearly loves her, because he did it. He said something to the effect, “My wife thinks you are a crab.”  The man responded, “I am.”

It turned out the man was Sam Wright, who was the voice of Sebastian the crab in The Little Mermaid movie (Incidentally, girls, Mr. Wright was born in nearby Camden, South Carolina). He very graciously gave each child a personalized  autographed picture of himself. Maybe that was the beginning of Jamie’s hobby of meeting celebrities.

Mermaid 1        Mermaid 2

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. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ivh2igct274

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.