Hi, All! I am posting this on behalf of our guest blogger, Irene Peterson. Thank you, Irene!!!
The prompts I had to choose from were these:
Amy- The man with the shovel kept appearing in the same spot.
Cameron- The dog told me to do it.
Erika- Those were the days, my friend, we thought they’d never end.
Jen- I double dog dare you.
Wendy- All I really need to know I learned from a gypsy.
At first, I thought of doing all of them and seeing what kind of sense I could make of each one individually. My husband was working in the garden, shoveling manure, the dog one made me think of the serial killer Son of Sam, I saw that kid in The Christmas Story being double dog dared to stick his tongue on the flagpole and the only gypsies I ever saw were the ones who get married in those huge gowns and fight each other on the street.
You can see why I chose what I did. It made me feel good, too.
Those Were the Days, My Friend
Let’s go back a little further.
I was sixteen years old.
But that was yesterday, and yesterday’s gone. Line from one of my all-time favorite songs by either Chad and Jeremy or Peter and Gordon. That wonderful summer I had both these albums, an old stereo record player—the songs rang through the house constantly when I was awake. It was the Most Wonderful Summer of my life, full of sunshine, seashores and boys.
There. I had to start off sounding nearly sane, and as old as I am now, and the way I look now, you’d never believe the rest of my story until you were sure I was all right in the head. Well, I’ve forgotten a great deal, and lots of things have happened, good and bad, since that wonderful summer, but so much of it is written on my brain forever, tattooed in loving ink. I would want everyone to have a summer like that one.
It was the summer between my sophomore and junior year of high school. I had a terrible summer job in a discount department store where most of the people were stealing the place blind. John the pretzel maker gave me free pretzels for lunch. Ted named his ’57 Chevy after me. Gene wanted to date me badly. But I had already met three great guys on the boardwalk of Seaside Heights (the place that got wrecked in the hurricane, built back up only to have half of it burn down last year) including the man who would become my husband. They had just graduated from high school the night before, but they knew my best friend, and we were always together, especially on the boardwalk.
We’d play a game we dubbed 52 Pick-Up. Like the card game, where a nasty older brother drops a deck of cards and says, “there they are, all 52 of ‘em, now pick ‘em up”. We did that with guys who tried to get our attention and walk the boards with us, possibly make out on the beach later with them. The object was to meet them, test them out for potential boyfriends, then go on to the next group. Yes, that sounds cruel, but we were young, we didn’t just make out with anybody, and it was fun. Possibly cruel, but we didn’t think that way. We were barely sixteen!
As I think back on this, it was pretty mean of us. But we were virgins. Barely dated anyone yet. And if the guys were good looking, we didn’t mind. Creepy guys didn’t stand a chance. Yes, that really does sound cruel, but a cruel sixteen year old girl is nothing compared to an eighteen year old guy who wanted to make out and more on the beach in the dark.
There were other guys, too, met on another boardwalk that summer…one drove a sports car. I went out with him for over six years, on and off, because even though Jersey is a small state, distances could be daunting if one had to borrow the family car. And I didn’t drive yet. It sort of makes me sad to remember. This boy was the one my mother thought I’d marry. I would have wanted this except that, well, he wanted to play golf.
Back to the guys on the boardwalk. My future husband dated my best friend for the year he was away in New Hampshire at college. I dated his friend for the rest of the summer, but when he went to Missouri to college, he hooked up with his old girlfriend and had to get married. People used to marry if they had made a baby back then. That was okay with me because I dated the third guy for the following year, and he had a sports car and was at a Jersey college, so I saw him frequently.
I never stayed home in the evening…I had plenty of things to do. Weekends, I had to juggle who was around and who was on vacation. And we’d go down the shore—in New Jersey, we go down the shore, not to the beach or to the shore, but DOWN the shore—and walk the boards and get suntans. We’d go to the movies or drive-ins, go to listen to local bands, ride around with guys and just talk and talk and have fun.
You can’t do this anymore. Somehow, sex is expected. You go to get a burger, he pays, he expects some kind of reward. Not back then. Oh, a guy could hope for a reward, but nice girls didn’t do that kind of stuff and, above all, I was a nice girl.
I don’t want to preach or make myself out to be an angel, but it was easier to be a good girl. There were plenty of boys to date, plenty of places to go…if they pressed for something more, there were always other guys waiting in line.
But the shore was the place to be. The emerald green of the Atlantic Ocean, the soft grey of the sand, the squeak of the surfboards, the smell of Coppertone, the finest pizza in America and the delicious frozen custard…oh, wow. I used to slather Coppertone all over myself when I was home, just to feel good, like I wasn’t stuck home but was still down the shore.
And the music played in the cars we rode in, the radios on the beach or in the house, through those little transistor radios everybody carried. Hang On Sloopy, Beach Boys, The Byrds, The Beatles and Stones…you couldn’t get any better. I still know all the words, I still can’t hit high C without cracking, but the tunes and words bring back so many memories.
And we had it all in nine weeks. Come Labor Day, everything about the shore ended, even if the romances lingered on. My friend dropped the guy I eventually married, I went from the one who went to Missouri to the guy who went to the college I would later attend. Those other guys, particularly the one I thought I might marry, well, he lives around D.C. now, occasionally writes to me on Facebook. Old boyfriends, fond memories, sand and surf and sunshine…that was my golden summer of ’65.
I hope you have one stored away in your memory, too.
It keeps me young, at least in my head.
I have written two books that take place down the Jersey Shore. Both are available on Amazon for Kindle now along with three others and two ready to go up there. I still spend some time at the shore, with my husband now that the kids are grown up. The water is just as emerald green, the surf isn’t all that great, but it’s surf, the guys might be tattooed and creepy, but the pizza is still perfect and the frozen custard—well, everybody ought to have some of that. My girls have never had the absolute joy of going down the shore to do what we did because life is so different now, but those were the days, those were the days, my friends!