I grew up on the South Shore in the 1950s and ’60s. In the summer, it was all about the beach. Jones Beach and Lido were our go-to places, although we also ventured to Gilgo (for fishing with my friend’s dad) and, of course, Fire Island.
As youngsters, we rode down the breezy, swamp grass-lined Wantagh Parkway, excited to arrive at the shore and see the “needle” at the traffic circle pointing skyward. We went to Field 4. After Mom parked, we walked through the tunnel from parking lot to boardwalk — and yelled and screamed to hear the annoying echoes. My mother’s friend held us in her arms as we jumped the waves. Mom brought a picnic lunch from home, and we ate tuna sandwiches on white bread on the sandy sheet, with Charles Chips and soda. We waited an obligatory hour to go back in the water, lest we drown from cramps. We always got Mello-Roll ice cream cones at the concession.
In the early to mid 1960s, my family belonged to Malibu Beach Club in Lido. We kids went to day camp, while the mothers lounged by the oceanfront cabanas, playing mah-jongg. The fathers worked all week and joined their families at the beach on weekends. Sometimes on a Sunday night, a bunch of the families would drive to Oceanside, and dinner would consist of crunchy Nathan’s hot dogs and thick-cut fries.
Malibu held teen-night concerts. Groups included The Cowsills, Jay and the Americans and I’ve forgotten who else. We would shower at the cabana and pull on our best bell-bottoms, hang out, listen to the music and dance. (Our parents went home, and drove back to pick us up at the end of the evening.)
So, I may as well brag about something now, my only claim to near-fame.
While a camper at Malibu in 1966, my counselor was Billy Crystal. He was every bit as funny and decent to us campers as the comedian the world would know later. I was sick that summer with pneumonia. Billy signed a get-well card from the group.
Just as I would have been old enough to be a junior counselor, around 15, my family no longer joined the beach club, and into my teen years, the Jones Beach visits resumed. We kids hopped on a bus from Verity Plaza in Seaford for the quick trip. When we got a little older and more brazen and defiant, we hitchhiked — towels and ice cream money and baby oil in hand. (Sunscreen? Never. Our intention seemed to be to fry ourselves, even utilizing aluminum foil over cardboard to intensify the rays.)
Into the early 1970s, our beach visits included group and evening excursions. (Yes, there was often Boone’s Farm Apple Wine in our coolers.)
The Boardwalk restaurant at Jones Beach came and went. The food wasn’t all that terrific, but you could not beat the view of the sand and ocean.
Now old enough to qualify for Medicare, we stroll the boardwalk at Jones Beach. Our glorious state park has a deserved and admirable face-lift.
Last summer, I had a pencil dot-sized early stage melanoma removed from my thigh. While healing this sutured wound and considering a justifiable caution toward sun exposure, I did not make it to the beach at all.
Summer’s here. Enjoy our beaches. I’m telling anyone who will listen, I’m glad I went to my dermatologist for a yearly full-body scan. The beach and saltwater may save my soul, but the doctor visit might have saved my life.
Reader Linda G. Maryanov lives in Port Washington.