Tuesday, March 04, 2014

***Daydream Visions Of Adamsville Beach, Circa 1964-In Honor Of Elsa Alva (nee Daley), Class Of 1964

Peter Paul Markin, North Adamsville Class Of 1964, comment:

I have been dedicating some of my sketches to various people. When I first wrote this one in 2008 I had not one in particular in mind but when I recently rewrote it I did have Elsa in mind. I did not know her well at North Adamsville, and do not know her now much better now, but I felt her presence very strongly when I was rewriting this thing. So here it is.
Taffrail Road, Yardarm Lane, Captain's Walk, Quarterdeck Road, Sextant Circle, and the Adamsville Old Sailor’s Home (and cemetery about a quarter of a mile away, closed now but the final resting place for many a sea-faring man, known and unknown). Yes, those names and places from the old housing project down in South Adamsville where I came of age surely evoke imagines of the sea, of long ago sailing ships, and of desperate, high stakes battles fought off shrouded, mist-covered coasts by those hearty enough to seek fame and fortune. And agile enough to keep it. Almost from my first wobbly, halting first baby steps down at “the projects” I have been physically drawn to the sea, a seductive, foam-flecked siren call that has never left me. Moreover, ever since this writer was a toddler his imagination has been driven by the sea as well. Not so much of pirates and prizes but of the power of nature, for good or evil.

Of course, anyone with even a passing attachment to Adamsville has to have an almost instinctual love of the sea; and a fear of its furies when old Mother Nature turns her back on us. Yes, the endless sea, our homeland the sea, the mother we never knew, the sea... But enough of those imaginings. If being determines consciousness, and if you love the ocean, then it does not hurt to have been brought up in Adamsville with its ready access to the bay and water on three sides. That said, the focal point for any experience with the ocean in Adamsville centers, naturally, around its longest stretch of beach, aptly, if not ingeniously, named Adamsville Beach.

For those of us of a certain age, including this writer, one cannot discuss Adamsville Beach properly without reference to such spots such as Howard Johnson's famous landmark ice cream stand (now a woe-begotten clam shack of no repute). For those who are clueless as to what I speak of, or have only heard about it in mythological terms from older relatives, or worst, have written it off as just another ice cream joint I have provided a link to a Wikipedia entry for the establishment. That should impress you of the younger set, I am sure. Know this: many a hot, muggy, sultry, sweaty summer evening was spent in line impatiently, and perhaps, on occasion, beyond impatience, waiting for one of those 27 (or was it 28?) flavors to cool off with. In those days the prize went to cherry vanilla in a sugar cone (backup: frozen pudding). I will not bore the reader with superlative terms and the “they don’t make them like they use to” riff, especially for those who only know “HoJo’s” from the later, pale imitation franchise days out on some forsaken great American West-searching highway, but at that moment I was in very heaven.

Nor can one forget those stumbling, fumbling, fierce childish efforts, bare-footed against all motherly caution about the dreaded jellyfish, pail and shovel in hand, to dig for seemingly non-existent clams down toward the Merrymount end of the beach at the, in those days, just slightly oil-slicked, sulfuric low tide. Or the smell of charcoal-flavored hot dogs on those occasional family barbecues (when one in a series of old jalopies that my father drove worked well enough to get us there) at the then just recently constructed old barren old Treasure Island (now named after some fallen Marine, and fully-forested, such is time) that were some of the too few times when my family acted as a family. Or the memory of roasted, really burnt, sticky marshmallows sticking to the roof of my mouth. Ouch!

But those thoughts and smells are not the only ones that interest me today. No trip down memory lane would be complete without at least a passing reference to high school Adamsville Beach. The sea brings out many emotions: humankind's struggle against nature, some Zen notions of oneness with the universe, the calming effect of the thundering waves, thoughts of immortality, and so on. But it also brings out the primordial longings for companionship. And no one longs for companionship more than teenagers. So the draw of the ocean is not just in its cosmic appeal but hormonal, as well. Mind you, however, we are not discussing here the nighttime Adamsville Beach, the time of "parking" and the "submarine races." [For the heathens, or those from Kansas or some such place, going to watch the submarine races was a localism meaning going, via car, down to the beach at night, hopefully on a very dark night, with a, for a guy, girl and, well, start groping each other, and usually more, a lot more, if you were lucky and the girl was hot, while occasionally coming up for air and looking for that mythical submarine race. Many guys (and gals) had there first encounter with oral sex that way, if the Monday morning before school boys’ lav talk, and maybe girls’ lav talk too, was anything but hot air.] Our thoughts are now pure as the driven snow. We will save that discussion for another time when kids and grand-kids are not around. Here we will confine ourselves to the day-time beach.

Virtually from the day school we got out of school for summer vacation I headed for the beach. And not just any section of that beach but the section directly between the Squaw Rock and Adamsville Heights Yacht Clubs. Now was situating myself in that spot done so that I could watch all the fine boats at anchor? Or was this the best swimming location on the beach? Hell no, this is where we heard (and here I include my old running pal and classmate, Bill Bailey) all the "babes" were. We were, apparently, under the influence of Beach Blanket Bingo or some such early 1960s Frankie Avalon-Annette Funicillo (sic) teenage beach film. (For those who are again clueless this was a “boy meets girl” saga like Avatar, except on the beach...and on Earth.)

Well, for those who expected a movie-like happy ending to this piece, you know, where I meet a youthful "Ms. Right" to the strains of Sea of Love, forget it. (That is the original Sea of Love, by the way, not the one used in the movie of the same name sung by Tom Waits at the end, and an incredible cover that you should listen to on YouTube.) I will keep the gory details short, though. As fate would have it there may have been "babes" aplenty down there but not for this lad. I don't know about you but I was just too socially awkward (read: tongue-tied) to get up the nerve to talk to girls (female readers substitute boys here). And on reflection, if the truth were to be known, I would not have known what to do about it in any case. No job, no money and, most importantly, no car for a date to watch one of those legendary "submarine races" that we have all agreed that we will not discuss here. But we can hardly fault the sea for that, right?
The above piece came about as a result of a response to some correspondence, via, a manically hard-working and determined North Adamsville High School class reunion committee member who shall remain nameless (except for gender, she) concerning old-time memories of Adamsville Beach which formed one of the backdrops to our high school experiences. In the wake of my commentary everybody and their brother (or sister) who ever came within fifty miles of smelling the sulfuric-flecked sea air at that beach has felt some kind of ‘civic duty’ to bring out his or her own salt-encrusted memories of the place. Below, mainly unedited (who could edit someone’s civic duty), is the traffic in response to the above piece. No one is required to wade through all the blather but to make a New York Times-like offical record seems appropriate under the circumstances.
Betty Gilroy 1985 (view profile)
Posted: Jul 22 2008 11:00pm PST
In reply to Peter Paul Markin 1964

I grew up close to Adamsville Beach...I used to ride my bike there, runaway there... was a great bike path, I loved it as a kid. I used to hang out with friends from school, had some great jelly fish fights there. Ahhh, my friend and her boy fell asleep on the beach divider {Markin: sea-wall]with his hand on her stomach. How was she going to explain that one to mom and dad? (And, no, you dirty old man, they were not having oral sex or anything like that, although I learned later from my own experience that this was a “hot” spot for such things being so secluded and all. She, maybe they, didn’t know anything about sex then according to her, although later she told me about a couple of things, nasty-sounding things then but nice now, to do with guys. I am blushing now, and getting a little funny-feeling too, when I think about it now but the sound of the ocean in the background was a great place to do those things, those so-called nasty things. I know it got me going.)

I lived in Adamsville Central in the ‘70s to the early 80s and then moved to North Adamsville. I love the views, and the clam shack, the ice cream, all the clam diggers... the pond on the way from Marlboro Street, jumping the fence trying to catch the bull frogs going to the swamp cemetery swinging from the willow tree I think... I live in California and have a son that’s 7 (I hope he doesn't read what I wrote above, about that sex stuff I mean, but the ocean did turn me on, a lot) around the age that I would ride my bike the freedom, the safeness I had skate boarding around losing track of time, I haven't been back since my 10 year reunion I miss it, my friends, but then again I'm older with responsibilities maybe some day again I will take my son and show him Adamsville Beach and throw a few jelly fish his way??

North Adamsville High 85
Memories Of Adamsville Beach

Peter Paul Markin, 1964
Posted: Jul 26 2008 05:31am PST
In reply to Betty Gilroy, 1985

Betty- Thanks for the reply. The glint of silver off the Treasure Island Bridge when the sun hit it at a certain time. The early morning winter sun coming up over the horizon on the bay. The Boston skyline at dusk (pre-Marina Bay times when there was an unimpeded view). Well, we could go on and on with our memories but the one thing that caught my eye in your reply was the word “escape.” In one sense I was using Adamsville Beach as a metaphor for that idea in my story. I do not know about you and your family but, to be kind, I had a very rocky time growing up and certainly by the time I got to high school I was in desperate need of a sanctuary. It is no accident that I (and my old running mate, Bill Bailey) spent a fair amount of time there.

I went back to Adamsville last year (2007) while they were doing some reconstruction and cleaning the place up. I wrote about that in a sketch entitled Do You Know Adamsville Beach? that I posted here but then deleted. My original idea was to draw a comparison between the old hazy, happy memories of Adamsville in our youth and looking at it with today's older eyes. Somehow it just didn't fit right as a discussion item with the things I was trying to write then. If you would kindly reply to this message I will place it as a reply to some of what you have mentioned in your message about 'coming home.' By the way the jellyfish are still there in all their glory and please, take mother's advice, do not step on them, they might be poisonous.

Finally, I will not let you off the hook. I won’t comment on the "dirty old man" remark as I will take it as just a cute “fresh,” maybe flirty remark on your part. Yes, and I know as well as you that this is a family-friendly site but how did your friend explain away her 'sleeping' on the old wall to mom and dad? That bit about how she (they) didn’t know anything about sex, oral or otherwise, just doesn’t wash. Everybody “knew,” including parents who probably invented the spot, you only went to that particular spot with one thing in mind. You can send me a private e-mail with the real details if you like and then you can see if I am really a dirty old man or not. Regards, Peter Paul Markin

[Markin: Betty, by the way did send me an e-mail, several in fact, and I am still blushing, blushing profusely over some of her information old and ‘mature’ as I am. Let's put it this way my temperature was rising not a little. Frankly, some of the stuff (various sexual positions) she spoke of have to defy the laws of nature, but so be it. We were young and flexible (in more that one way) then. Forward.]
Craig Wallace, North Adamsville High,1957 (view profile)
Posted: Jul 23 2008 10:34am PST
In reply to Peter Paul Markin,1964

Peter Paul: I heard from a younger friend, a woman friend (of my ex-wife’s actually) who knew you back in the day Professor Joan Murphy from over at MIT, who used to call you P.P., and that you liked it. [Markin: Tolerated it from her only because she was Frankie Riley’s ever-loving girlfriend. You remember the Riley family, the one with all the great North Adamsville raider red football players, Frankie was my corner boy chieftain up in front of Salducci’s Pizza Parlor. And she was, well, let's leave it as Frankie's ever-loving girlfriend.]

I don't have an awful lot to say about the beach, since I lived in a few other places while growing up. I do remember walking along the old sea wall and jumping across the openings trying to grab the rail to avoid falling. I once caught the rail, but hit the edge of the concrete wall with my shin. It hurt, but I didn't think it was broken.

Once a friend ran into a guy at the beach, and for some reason began to "exchange words." They were about to go at each other, but the lifeguard told them to take their dispute elsewhere. They went across the street to the grass in front of a stand where clams and other goodies were sold. The friend proceeded to tear the other guy apart. It didn't last that long. The friend was 5'-7" tall and the other guy 6'-3". I heard that some years later they ran into each other again and had a big laugh about the whole thing. Kids do grow up.

When I visited Massachusetts with my wife and two kids in 1983, my brother took us through some of the "old haunts," and we roamed the beach a bit. They got a kick out of a pair of horseshoe crabs skittering along the edge of the low tide line. I also went back there in 2007 and took a few walks along the beach. I did miss the old candle pin bowling alley, which appears to have been replaced by condos as was the old Adamsville Grammar School where I went through 1st grade (Miss Gray) and most of 2nd grade (Miss Lindberg).

Oh, yeah. I believe the Adamsville East Elementary School on Huckins Avenue is still in operation. I read that there's a boundary somewhere in North Adamsville and that kids who live east of the line go to Adamsville East School and those west of that line go to Parker Elementary on Billings Road. What is now North Adamsville High School included grades 7 through 12 till 1958 or 1959. So, even though I lived in 3 or 4 places, I was able to attend all 6 years at the same school.

Overall, most memories of Adamsville Beach are pretty good.

Craig S. Warren, 1957
Peter Paul Markin reply:

Nobody has to stay on the subject at hand, all information about the old times in North Adamsville is welcome, but did you ever go to the beach? From the way you described it I thought maybe you knew about it from some picture postcard, of any beach, anywhere. Were you one of those, and there were not a few if I recall, who "rode," hot-rod rode the Adamsville Shore Boulevard and never touched down on the sand, or caught a fresh sea breeze on a hot summer day. Just kept cruising, eyes forward or left honed in on the ice cream, bowling alley, clam shack side, looking for the be-bop night, girls, or something. Like old Adamsville was Kansas or some sod town.

Peter Paul Markin,1964
Posted: Jul 23 2008 12:51pm PST
In reply to Craig Wallace, 1957

This entry started as a short sketch in this space but I deleted it because it did not fit in with what I was trying to evoke in these pages then. Now the sketch does serve as a decent reply though for Betty Gilroy's,(1985) and Craig Wallace's (1957) comments above. I, moreover, actually am writing about the old-time beach here and not everything else under the sun like hot sex spots and Adamsville school locations. Christ. Peter Paul Markin

Okay, in the sketch above(Daydream Visions Of Adamsville Beach, Circa 1964) this writer got all misty-eyed about the old days at Adamsville Beach. I went on and on about things like the various flavors of ice cream at HoJo's, the local king-of-the-hill ice cream stand, the vagaries of clam-digging in the oil-soaked flats and about the smell of charcoal- broiled hot dogs at Treasure Island. And I did not fail to mention the obligatory teenage longings for companionship and romantic adventure associated with the sea. But enough of magical realism. Today, as we are older and wiser, we will junk that memory lane business and take a look at old Adamsville in the clear bright light of day.

Last year, as part of the trip down the memory lane that I have been endlessly writing about in this space, I walked the length of Adamsville Beach from the Squaw Rock Causeway to the bridge at Adamsville Shore. At that time the beach area was in the last stages of some reconstruction work. You know, repave the road, redo the sidewalks, and put in some new streetlights. Fair enough-even the edges of Mother Nature can use a make-over once in a while. The long and short of this little trip though was to make me wonder why I was so enthralled by the lure of Adamsville Beach in my youth.

Oh sure, most of the natural landmarks are still there, as well as some of the structural ones. Those poor, weather-beaten yacht clubs that I spend many a summer gazing on in my fruitless search for teenage companionship (read: girls). And, of course, the tattered Beachcomber gin mill in much the same condition is still there as are the inevitable clam shacks with their cholesterol-laden goods. That is not what I mean-what I noticed were things like the odd smell of low-tide when the sea is calm, the tepidness of the water as it splashed, barely, to the shore-when a man craved the roar of the ocean-and the annoying gear-grinding noise caused by the constant vehicular traffic on the near-by boulevard. Things that I was, frankly, oblivious to back in the days.

There is thus something of a disconnect between the dreaminess and careless abandon of youthful Adamsville Beach and the Adamsville of purposeful old age-the different between eyes and ears observing when the world was young and there were things to conquer and now. The lesson to be learned- beware the perils of memory lane. But don't blame the sea for that, please.

.....and the tin can bended, and the story ended (title from the late folksinger/folk historian Dave Van Ronk's last album). That seems about right.
On Our 'Code Of Honor'

Peter Paul Markin, 1964
Posted: Jul 26 2008 05:42am PST
In reply to Craig Wallace, 1957

Craig- I am very interested in having you fill out this story about the fight between your friend and the other guy down at Adamsville Beach that you mentioned before (see above). I do not need to know the gory details nor what happened years later. What I am looking for is your take on what the whole incident meant at the time. This was hardly an unusual event at then(or now for that matter), right?

I am trying to put together an entry based on our working class “code of honor”- male version- at the time before women's liberation and other social phenomena helped us to expand our sense of the world and how we should act in it. Even “loner” types like me would not back down on certain 'turf' issues (girls, giving way while walking on the street, who you "hung" with, where your locker was, which “lav” you used, etc.) and took a beating rather than concede the point. Enough for now but give this some thought.

Regards, Peter Paul
Fight . . . ?

Craig Wallace,1957 (view profile)
Posted: Jul 28 2008 09:09am PST
In reply to Peter Paul Markin,1964

Peter Paul (I won’t call you P.P., okay). [Markin: Watch it old man. The days of the bogus 'code of honor' may be long gone but every working-class corner boy still has a slight edge on, even fifty years later, okay.]

The scuffle between a friend of mine and a much bigger guy at Adamsville Beach was not really "earth shaking." It started a couple days before when the friend and I were walking along one of the streets leading to the beach, Bayfield Road, perhaps. The "other guy" passed by in a car with some of his friends, including a couple girls. That guy yelled some insult at my friend in reference to his "eye-wear." He probably was trying to impress the girls by showing them he could insult anyone and all could get a good laugh out of it. Of course, my friend yelled something equally offensive at those in the passing car, which kept going. The "incident" appeared to have terminated.

A few days later the friend and I crossed the road to the beach near one of the yacht clubs and there was the guy who had yelled the insulting remarks. Apparently, he thought he could continue the verbal abuse without suffering the consequences, because he yelled something similar again. My friend went after the kid, but was informed by the lifeguard that they better take their "dispute" elsewhere. They went across the road to a grassy area and, encouraged by a small crowd that was gathering around them, proceeded to "get it on." My friend was usually a fairly pacific person, but when "pushed," he was like a cornered wolverine that would take on anybody or anything. The scuffle didn't last long, and the bigger kid got the worst of it. That time was the end of the dispute. Apparently nobody was seriously hurt, but maybe some had a bit more respect for the smaller kids after that. Some years later the two met, and remembering the incident, shared a good laugh over the whole thing.

Then, as now, I saw no esoteric meaning to the "battle." It didn't seem like the medieval days when one would "defend his honor" or that of a "damsel in distress." It was just an exchange of words that developed into a short round of what may be referred to these days as "ultimate fighting" where no rules are observed. I had a couple scuffles in elementary school and my son did in middle school, but we more-or-less outgrew such things. Sadly, nowadays those "scuffles" can become more deadly and end with somebody paying the "ultimate price." Are we reverting to the "Dark Ages." I hope not.

Anyway, enough said of a "juvenile incident."

Craig, 1957
The "Code of Honor"

Peter Paul Markin, 1964
Posted: Aug 03 2008 11:31am PST
In reply to Craig Wallace, 1957

Craig, thanks for story. It gives me an angle for a story that I will write about on our youthful sense of “honor.” This story that you related, especially the part about impressing the girls, etc. really says something about that code.

Regards, Peter Paul
Day and Night At Adamsville Beach

Peter Paul Markin, 1964
Posted: Aug 02 2008 06:21am PST
In reply to Betty Gilroy, 1985

I mentioned in my original story that all of us would talk about daytime Adamsville Beach (although once the kids are out of sight-the nighttime is the right time- can come into play). I hope that at some point Betty Gilroy will expand on her comment about her girlfriend down at the day time beach and the incident alluded in her comment about her falling asleep. Ms. Gilroy is more than capable of telling her own version of the story. [Markin: She did via e-mail, private e-mail, and it would take a civil war to get the information out of me, or a few bucks. Let me put it this way. I was blushing for days, maybe now even, as I mentioned above]. The only point I want to make here is that some of these day time remembrances are as funny as what might have happened at night. Funny now, that is.

Regards, Peter Paul
Anyone Remember Adamsville Beach?

Robina Moore, 1978 (view profile)
Posted: Aug 15 2008 04:35pm PST
In reply to Peter Paul Markin, 1964

Totally agree that growing up on Adamsville Beach was an experience. So natural at the time, but looking back I now see how fortunate I was. I don’t remember the HoJo’s but I do remember the 19 cent hotdogs sold on the beach that was a few blocks from my house. What a treat for the neighborhood kids to get together and go get a dog.

As far the beach was concerned as kids, we followed the tides. Some parent would parade a group us kids and watch over us. Generally for two hours before high tide, and two hours after, and they always had snacks and drinks in tow…just gotta love the moms for that! Swim, dig in the sand, play catch in the water and when finally tired, lay on a towel and listen to WRKO or WMEX on the transistor radio.

Once I hit teenage years, I choose not to venture near the beach. I think my parents knew about the cosmic and hormonal appeal as well as primordial longings going on there. I was taught at a young age, the beach is not a good place at night. I totally thank them for instilling this and letting Adamsville Beach be filled with wonderful childhood memories. With that said, I am thrilled at the revitalization, and hope this generation of children will have a chance to create memories that they can cherished forever.
Back In The Days

Peter Paul Markin, 1964
Posted: Aug 18 2008 02:49pm PST
In reply to Robina Moore, 1978

Robina-Very nicely told memories. That is the thing that I was trying to evoke in writing this particular commentary. A few points.

*The reason for the boxes in your entry [Markin:since deleted] is that when you transfer from a word processor to the message space here the apostrophes and quotation marks turn into some Serbo-Croatian dialect in the process. It happens to me all the time. You have to change them in this space to avoid that.

* Do you, or anyone else, know when HoJo's left the Adamsville Beach site?

* Did you mean 19 dollars for a hot dog? You put 19 cents but that can't be right. Nothing ever cost 19 cents.

• You realize, of course, that this is a generic North Adamsville site and therefore members of generations X, Y or Z may not be familiar with the term “transistor radio.” For their benefit, that was a little battery-powered gizmo that allowed you to listen to music, the 'devil's music,' rock 'n' roll, without your parents going nuts. And no, sorry, you could not download whatever you wanted. Yes, I know, the Stone Age.

Regards, Peter Paul Markin
The Nighttime Is The Right Time....

Peter Paul Markin, 1964
Posted: Aug 21 2008 08:08am PST
In reply to Robina Moore, 1978

...to be with the one you love. Yes, that classic Ray Charles tune (covered by many, including a steamy tribute version by The Rolling Stones in their 2005 Fenway Park concert) is a good lead in to what I want to mention here. Most of the comments on this entry have concerned day time Adamsville Beach but I have been thinking that it is time to open up to the night time episodes. Here are my reasons:

• Hey, it is entirely possible that some of our fellow alumni never went to Adamsville Beach during the day. They might have a legitimate grip against us for that. Remember we are using this cyberspace so that everyone has their "15 minutes of fame."

• The heck with protecting the kids and grandkids. They know this stuff already. Let's face it, as well, no self-respecting member of the hip-hop/iPod/Sidekick/texting generations (or younger) would dream of reading this far down into the entry. Ugh!

• Frankly, there is only so far we can go with the day-time Adamsville Beach. While there have been some nice comments there is only so far you can go with jellyfish, 19 cent hot dogs, teenage romantic longings and getting sand kicked in your face. We need to spice this up. In short, sex, or the hint of it, sells.

These are all good and sufficient reasons but, as usual, my real reason for arguing inclusion here is personal curiosity. I have been waiting some forty-four years to ask this simple question. Why, while we were driving down Adamsville Shore Boulevard on those cold October nights, let's say, were most of the cars all fogged up? What, were their defrosters not working? Come on, please, tell me.

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