As I’ve written before, “growing up in Canton” doesn’t mean that every formative experience happened in Canton.
During the summer months, my brother Art and I were lucky enough to have our Aunt Edna and Uncle Roland take us either down to the ocean, or sometimes to Wildwood, N.J. Our parents did not have a car, but that didn’t matter, because my brother and I were as much a part of our aunt’s family as we were our own.
I remember we would leave before sunup in my uncle’s car—always a Packard. I could stand up in the back until I was about 9 years old. No seat belts, no A/C—just the world to look at as it went by, and that world was nothing like Canton.
What an education on those long drives! When we made stops, it was often at dairy farm roadside stands with REAL milk shakes and ice cream treats. To tell the truth, I do not actually remember any other foods. What does a kid really remember?
I remember that my uncle would ask us, over and over again, “How does a brown cow eat green grass and give white milk?”
He would laugh, and Art and I never got it. Anyway, I digress.
Once we got to our destination, we would always stay at the Breakers Hotel on 3rd St. in Ocean City. The smell of the place was the best; that’s all I can say. As I grew into adulthood, I continued to go there, and I would often try to capture that aroma, but I couldn’t quite get it. I guess that is why today I stay at the old Harrison Hall on 15th, to try to relive that ambiance. I’m sure it was just a mixture of the salt air and the old wood, but I loved it.
Once on the beach, it was fantastic, and photos were taken every time we went. I have a photo of my brother and I standing under the boardwalk at about ages 7 or 8—amazing. We had our own umbrella, chairs and blanket.
As I remember, you could rent these coated canvas air mattresses and ride the waves. They were amazingly stiff and hard for air mattresses.
After a full day on the beach and lots of baby oil and iodine lotion (remember that?) we would get a bath and walk the boards to go and eat.
After dinner we would walk forever and then back to the Breakers, where we slept soundly. We did this routine for about a week, and we even sent postcards home—can you imagine?
At the end of the week, we piled back into the car and headed home. This was before the Bay Bridge existed, so it was a trek up through Delaware—I know this now, but back then, of course, I was oblivious to the entire route.
Once home on Fait Ave., we had our “far away tans” and the smugness of world travelers. Little did we know that 50 years later, we would be making that trip in under 2 1/2 hours.
I don’t think my experience was unique; my aunt used to say that we would see half of Canton and Highlandtown “down the ocean.”