When I hear the word BEACH, my mind automatically switches to the sea beach of my childhood. This was a peninsula an hour’s drive from my home town. As a kid, that seemed a long trip but it is nothing like the distances many Canadians travel to reach their sand and water destinations.
My memories of the beach can be divided into two parts. My paternal grandparents owned a bach (think cottage or camp or crib depending on where you live) on one side of the peninsula. It was a ramshackle affair with a central living room and four bedrooms, two on each side. These were ex-railway huts where the workers who took care of the tracks lived. The whole building smelled rather musty and mousy and the first thing done on on arrival was to open all windows and doors to let the fresh sea air in.
Washing your face and hands was was done in a tin basin and teeth cleaning in half a mug of water. A tin tank collected rainwater but in the summer we often had very little rain so all water was treated with respect. A dunny or long drop was situated in the back yard away from the house. Another tin basin of water by the front verandah cleaned sand from our feet before we came inside. We didn’t worry about baths or showers with a whole sea at our disposal. Our towels were hung along the fence to dry. We usually spent the day in our swim suits only changing them for pajamas.
As kids we weren’t worried about the lack of conveniences at the beach. Even the leaks from the roof when it rain were fun as the adults placed pots and pans to catch the drips. Cooking was done on a old stove as we were lucky enough to have electricity. Our meals were eaten at a long table by the front window. It was ideally placed to view all the comings and goings on the beach beyond us. No car or boat could leave or arrive without being noticed and drop-in guests for meals were common.
My mother and one of my aunts often took us to the beach for the summer. The men joined us at the weekends. We were quite a large crowd but somehow all fitted n. I remember sharing a bed top and tail with my mother. She complained that I was all angles and bones and I twitched all night. The bones are now well covered but I am still a restless sleeper.
We were never bored. We swam, fished from the shore, built sand castles, collected shells, dug for shellfish and took long walks when the tide was out. Our fathers took us out in boats and we fished then with more success. My greatest feat was catching a crayfish (lobster). It must have grabbed the bait as it went past and became entangled in the fishing line. I also caught a flounder from the boat which was also rather unusual. I remember the day a large shark swam underneath the boat. My mother reacted loudly and insisted we returned to shore at once. My father agreed mainly because the shark had probably scared away the other fish.
Our days at the beach changed when I was ten years old. My grandfather died and left the bach to the only son who was not interested in the beach. Episode 2 will follow next week.