Bay Reflection

Vol. 8, No. 17
April 26-May 3, 2000
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Summer 1920:
A Week at North Beach

by Norma Carpenter

Back in the early 1920s, people didn’t take vacations the way we do now. Those were the days when there was no radio or television, and very few people had telephones. If you were able to take a vacation, it was usually to visit relatives. If you were really lucky, you went to the beach.

I grew up in Brentwood, just outside Washington, D.C., so we were not very far from the many beaches along Chesapeake Bay. But I was also the oldest of seven children, so my parents could not afford to take us on a vacation away from home.

One summer we were lucky. One of our neighbors had a cottage at North Beach, and we rented it for a week.

What a time we had preparing for our trip! We all had to buy bathing suits, which at the time were usually one piece in dark blue wool with straps on the shoulders. If you had one made by the Jantzen Company, you had the best. But no young lady (which I thought I was at the time) wanted to get her hair wet, so you wore a bathing cap. It was made of rubber, was tight fitting and had a strap that fit under your chin. It was also supposed to keep the water out of your ears.

The great day finally arrived. We all piled in our Chevrolet and headed for the beach. There was only one road that led to the beach, and it was a two-lane highway with many twists and turns, so my mother had to drive carefully. We didn’t mind the windy road because it was shady: There were maple, oak and pine trees on both sides.

We had traveled about half of the distance when we noticed that the air was crisp, refreshing and about 10 degrees cooler than it had been when we left home. We all breathed deeply because the air at home had been hot, humid and very oppressive.

Finally at the beach, we drove through the tiny community, searching for our cottage. Tall pines surrounded the cottages, which were huddled together. They all looked the same: Small white clapboard with shutters and large screened porches. The yards were mostly sand, with a few patches of grass here and there.

How impressed we were when we walked inside that cottage that was ours! Everything looked so nice and clean. The furniture was painted white, and there were crisp white curtains at the windows. But best of all, there were lots of beds in the bedrooms and on the huge screened porch. We couldn’t believe that we could each have our own bed. These, too, were painted white and had white spreads.

We couldn’t wait to put on our bathing suits and caps. My young brother teased us about our caps. He said we put them on at the last minute because we were afraid we wouldn’t look pretty wearing them.

Oh, how delightful to finally take the plunge into the cooling waters, to feel the salt air blow over our bodies. Sometimes we ran along the warm, almost-white sand. Sometimes we just lay on it and sometimes we made sand castles. It was all new to us.

But nothing is ever perfect. When we were all enjoying a dip in the Bay, we noticed small, gray slimy creatures in the water. When my sister let out a scream, we all gathered around her and helped her to shore. Neighbors offered advice and some soothing salve to apply to the stings left by the jellyfish.
The week ended all too soon, but we all felt refreshed and rested. More than that, we had many happy memories that we would recall for the rest of our lives.

Norma R. Carpenter reflects from Davidsonville

Copyright 2000
Bay Weekly