1950 Memories of Suburban Adventures

Oceanic Inauguration

A strong memory is created when you do or see something utterly spectacular for the first time. And I was on my way to do a lot of doing and a lot of seeing.

Susan sat up front, snuggled between Mom and Dad. David and I each had window seats in the back. We were headed to Maine on a real vacation and staying in our first motel.

“Are we almost there?” I asked.

“We’re close,” said Dad. “If you roll down your windows you can smell the sea air.”

We inhaled deeply and exhaled with an aaahh sound. Glimpses of ocean peaked between the buildings.

Dad pulled into the motel parking lot and we poured out of our car.

David and I carried our child-size suitcases in to our room and gazed around. It contained a small black-and-white television, two double beds, a cot, and a private bathroom. David and I fought over the cot, he won.

My family hurried down to the ocean. This was the first ocean experience for us kids. It surpassed my uninformed expectations. It wasn’t the beauty or vastness that caught my attention; it was the unrelenting power, frightening and cold-hearted as it reached for my toes.

Green waves crashed into each other, racing up the steep shoreline, only to get pulled back and forced to start over. Ropes of slimy seaweed hitchhiked in the surf and jumped off on shore.

David and I pranced in and out of foamy ice water, ignoring our numbing feet. Evening began drifting in, covering the warmth with its nippy sea-air. Reluctantly, we returned to our room and washed our sandy feet in the tub-shower combo.

David and I shared an unspoken anticipation of tomorrow. Tomorrow we wouldn’t tip-toe around the ocean. Tomorrow, bathed in brilliant sunshine, we would conquer the waiting waves. We would truly know the ocean.

The next morning, I gobbled my breakfast. David quickly finished and we stood impatiently. Mom and Susan carefully chewed their food. Dad cleaned his plate and returned to the buffet for seconds.

“Hurry up,” said David.

“All the best spots will be gone,” I added.

After everyone finished eating, Mom insisted we use the restroom before leaving.

I jumped hurdles of abandoned seaweed on my way to the ocean. Ignoring the prickly numbing of the icy Atlantic Ocean, I slowly immersed myself with help from a few rogue waves.

I loved the ocean waves, so much stronger than the random boat ripples at Lake St. Catherine. David and I tried body-surfing, but only succeeded in sandpapering our stomachs and packing water in our noses.

“Yaaaa,” I squealed as a strand of stinky seaweed suddenly wrapped around my shoulders. I turned and beheld a laughing brother. “David!”

Seaweed was flung back and forth until Mom put a stop to it. I twined several long pieces around my head and trailed them behind me, a mermaid bridal veil.

“Hey Dad, Mom, look at us,” we yelled in unison.

Ingenious seaweed skirts hung from our waists. Our skinny hips swayed to a new version of the hula while we sang, “A loo ha loi, A loo ha loi, hula lula, loo ha loi.”

We ran back to the water where we played until our lips turned blue. Sitting in the sand beside Susan, we enlarged the shallow hole she dug. Dad joined in and carved a channel, allowing water from each wave to come spilling in.

Our swimming pool quickly warmed under the vacation sun. All four of us began by sitting with our feet submerged, then David, Susan, and I dunked our butts in with our legs hanging over the outside.

David and I alternated between flash-freezing in the ocean and slowly warming in our pool.

The endless vacation day, so perfect in every way, flowed into our memories where it truly never ended.

I didn’t see the ocean again for another fourteen years, but I knew it was waiting and I knew I would return.

Lesson learned: The time and money you spend on family vacations is long remembered.

Now it’s your turn: Do you remember your first ocean experience?

© Mary Norton-Miller and 1950s Suburban Adventures, 2012 forward. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Mary Norton-Miller and 1950s Suburban Adventures with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.


  1. Mimmy Jain says:

    My vacations as a child were spent visiting my grandparents in Kerala, which has a long coastline. Curiously enough, I have very few memories of being taken to the beach, though it was right there, under our noses. The bookshop which was my favourite haunt was across the road from the sea and I remember that. This was the Arabian Sea at its southern tip, where it meets the Indian Ocean.

  2. Sunni Morris says:

    Wow! Anoher great post. You should sign up for the A to Z challenge and include sone of this stuff. It’s the whole month of April and fun to particiate in.

    I can only remember going to Tyler TX a couple of times when we were kids and that was about 300 miles away. Our great grandmother and some second cousins lived there. We never really took family vacations. Of course, it was still an experience for us. You can only imagine all seven of us driving our parents crazy with “are we there yet?”


    • skinnyuz2b says:

      Sunni, seven kids in a car? Sounds like fun if you’re one of the kids!

      This was the only real vacation I recall, other than our camping trips. My two sisters, 9 and 15 1/2 years younger, went on more vacations with my parents. I think a vacation is in the eyes of the beholder. To me, a vacation was anywhere away from home, whether it was an overnight at someone’s house or camping.

      • Sunni Morris says:


        You’re right – anywhere away from home. We were stuck on the farm except to attend school, so even scout camp trips were a vacation. It was even fun for my sister and I to go to town with daddy once in a while and look at the old 45 and 78 records in the store while he went and got what he wanted. Back in those days they had stores that had a variety of products in one place.

      • skinnyuz2b says:

        Sunni, I think we were more easily entertained back then. A vacation didn’t have to be somewhere exotic. We were more easily pleased.

  3. Elle Knowles says:

    Those must have been the years for beach vacations. The first I remember was a trip to Galveston to camp on the beach in a tent for a week! Six kids and 3 adults. There was also an air conditioned airstream for the adults! I remember a lot of sand, sunburn and jellyfish. Now I live about ten minuets away from one of the most beautiful beaches around and hardly ever go. I need to change that!

  4. absolutely wonderful! i spent my firt decade living in a seaside town and i spent countless hours just watching the ocean. when it was really stormy my grandad would drive down and park behind the harbour wall and we would sit in the car and wait for the big breakers to hit the wall and cover the car! it was a high wall so you couldn;t see them coming. it was such a thrill! i get a real longing to be there some days and a great excitement when we are on our way for a visit!

  5. manty67 says:

    I was very lucky, we lived by the sea when I was really tiny, and then when I grew up and the family moved, Nan and Grandad lived by a different part of the ocean. So a lot of school holidays where spent there. I still have a great love for visiting the sea, no matter the weather. Thank you for your lovely story 🙂

    • skinnyuz2b says:

      You’re very welcome, Manty. And thank you.
      I went to the ocean on a regular basis with my Pookie-Pie and several friends. Later, my sweetie, children, and I went. Our favorite place was a nature preserve along the ocean in New Hampshire, called Plum Island.

  6. Choosing says:

    I was 5 when we went to Spain and I saw the Mediterranean Sea … I don’t remember much of that, only that I had just learned how to swim and the waves were giving me a hard time (so I had to revert to flotation devices… what a shame!). Then years of no sea at all – and then: I was 19 when I was standing on the beach of the Atlantic for the first time. I felt overwhelmed, excited, couldn’t stop watching and listening and smelling and feeling. I have loved the ocean (any ocean) ever since.

  7. C. Suresh says:

    You have this uncanny ability to make us live through your experiences, Mary! Enjoyed the day at the beach this time 🙂

  8. kbroby2444 says:

    When I was very young, probably just six or seven, we went camping in the Santa Cruz Mountains just an hour or so south of San Francisco. It was a state park, Big Basin in the Redwoods. We camped in a tent, for the first time ever and my folks (especially my mom) didn’t really understand tent camping, they just wanted to give us a vacation and try something different. Mom brought along silverware and good china dishes, she made a nice dinner and served it up. The needles of the redwood trees got stirred up from a wind off the ocean and the dinner plates got covered by them. We all laughed, brushed the needles away, and learned that we had a lot to learn about camping out. The next day while walking in the woods, I got a tick in my neck, so we went to the ranger station for aid. The old ranger set me on the counter, took the cigar out of his mouth and placed it on my neck until that tick backed up and burnt away.

    When the next summer vacation came along a year later, my folks has another idea in mind. They rented a cabin in those same mountains from a family in Concord. We packed groceries, our clothes, and beach things into the car and away we went for Highway 17 over the pass at Loma Prieta. Back then, cars didn’t work as well as they do now, so there were places along the highway where you could pull over to put more water in the overheated radiator and let the engine cool down from the climb. We headed for the cabin in Ben Lomond, following the directions written down; they said turn onto Highway 9 and then turn again after the red house selling souvenirs alongside the road. We pulled into the driveway which was just dirt and going downhill. There was a path down the mountain towards the cabin and we followed it down to the big porch that wrapped around it. We were at the Slide Inn for the first time, but not the last time. We went back to that cabin for vacation most summers until 1975, the summer I graduated from High School.

    The cabin had a big porch and sat on a hillside covered with redwood trees, ferns, and all sort of other plants. There were two beds on the porch, one open to the sky and another one under cover. And there was a ping pong table on the deck too. Except as we learned, when the balls went astray the only way to retrieve them was to go down the steep hill while holding onto a rope tied against a tree, pick up the ball if you can find it, and then hold onto the rope as you make the climb back up to the top and the deck again. There was one bathroom and one bedroom, but there were beds in the big living room and another one in the big kitchen. I claimed the kitchen bed next to the window with a view of the big trees. The bathroom was small, no shower, just an old claw foot tub and the only way to get hot water was to light a fire in the fireplace – the water pipes went behind the fireplace.

    We would spend our mornings at the cabin, then load up and go to the beach and boardwalk in Santa Cruz for the day. Pass the day playing on the rides, or in the cold water of the Pacific, and having tuna sandwiches with sand in them for extra crunch for lunch. When the sun got low, we would drive back to the cabin and have a big family dinner. When everyone would go to bed, I would lay there in the kitchen and read a book until I feel asleep and wake up to breakfast being cooked twenty feet away. Those years, those vacations from 1965 until 1975 come back now like it was yesterday. So many moments and so many family stories, it was a time before we all grew up and moved onto other phases of life, when all of us would face new challenges and all the vagaries that life could throw at us. I went back to Ben Lomond and the cabin last February, it all looked different now, not so much a vacation hideaway any more, it had become more like a distant suburb of San Jose. Many of the old landmarks I remembered where no longer there. The place was not the setting of my memories but those memories live on.

    I may not ever go back again to Santa Cruz or the mountains nearby, but I’ll walk away from this special spot with a final memory. Last year, when I was living back in the CA, my youngest and I drove down the coast highway and into town, seeing the wharf and the boardwalk from the distance as we followed the road into town. We parked and had lunch on the wharf and then walked across the boardwalk to the Giant Dipper roller coaster, bought tickets and had a ride. In all the years, this was only the second time I had agreed to go on the coaster, and the first time was with his older brother just months before we left California and moved away for a long time. That week when my son was in California with me, we went to the beach for a day, and I taught him how to body surf. He was amazed and impressed that his old day could dive headlong into waves, and turn and catch one for a long ride into the sand. He was equally impressed when dad taught him to play catch with a frisbee.

    Some people live and die in the same place, and some just seem to move around and figure out how to call wherever they are at the moment is home. I guess your own true home is both where you are at now at this moment, and it is also somewhere in a memory of a place where you go in your mind in the middle of the night. I find myself going back to that cabin in Ben Lomond in the redwoods often. I have fallen asleep in places far away from my ocean, in the middle of the cornfields of Iowa, or the mesquite brush of South Texas, but when I dream I still hear the sound of the breakers.

    From the post on Justagameofcatch.com called Slide Inn

    • skinnyuz2b says:

      Kevin, you hit the nail on the head. We always have our ‘memory homes’ that live in our minds and hearts. And it’s never the way you remembered it when you go back after being away for a long time.

      I can clearly picture your camp with the sleeping porch. And not much comes close to the pleasure of waking up to breakfast smells a few feet away.

      I’m a substitute teacher, and recently subbed at Dix Avenue School. This school figures heavily in Chapters 2-5. I knew there were additions that I’d seen from the road when I passed by. But I was surprised at how much smaller the area was where we waited in our bus lines (and where I got my first kiss). It was still exhilarating to be back though.

  9. Glynis Jolly says:

    Isn’t it amazing how the ocean holds the attention of us who live in-landed and only see swimming pools and calm lakes. Did you really put the seaweed on your head and around your waist? Yuck. 😉

    • skinnyuz2b says:

      Yes, Glynis, and back in the 50s and 60s swimming pools were a rarity. And yes, we played with the seaweed. It was a novelty, so we overlooked the stinkyness. And David and I weren’t that young, we were 12 1/2 and 14! Obviously, kids mature at a younger age today.

  10. […] was Mary’s post at 1950 Memories Of Suburban Adventures, Oceanic Inauguration that stirred up the recollections I have about seeing the Pacific Ocean. Back then, being able to […]

  11. I remember early childhood days at Dawlish Warren building castles in sand that seemed to stretch for miles down to gentle shallows where my parents encouraged me to bathe. They were poor, so my first bathing costume was a knitted one which sagged when it got wet. Don’t let anyone tell you children at five are too young to be embarrassed!

    But I vividly recall Cornwall and a tiny cove where I and a friend made a holiday one teenage summer. I remember the morning of the storm, when the ocean marched in, white-capped line upon white capped line, thrashing at the seawall and launching grey spume in great flares at the sky.

    Nothing, not the reassurance of stone nor the soft rainbows in the spray could dilute the sheer awe of that morning. With the seafront closed we went up onto the headland to watch and stayed for what might have been hours getting soaked to the skin.

    I’ve seen many storms since, and I’ve seen the harm all that power can cause, but I’ll always keep that memory sacred. The place, the sound, the picture and the girl. A very special time.

  12. Ralph says:

    Hi Mary 😀 I lived inland as a kid and had an annual treat to the seaside. Loved it !! Happy Valentine’s Day my friend. Ralph xox 😀

  13. […] was Mary’s post at 1950 Memories Of Suburban Adventures, Oceanic Inauguration that stirred up the recollections I have about seeing the Pacific Ocean. Back then, being able to […]

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