August 2018 Cover

August 2018 Gunkholing: When I was a boy

Cape Cod Life  /  August 2018 / ,

Writer: Brian Shortsleeve

Sandy Neck Beach

Bonfires and campers line Sandy Neck Beach under a full moon and stars in late June. Photo by Jennifer Dow

Many an evening was spent playing touch football on Craigville Beach in Centerville. Most of the guys had summer jobs at or near the beach club. Sometimes members of the summer staff from the Craigville Inn would come down from the village of Old Craigville and join in. Frequently we would wander up the street to Four Seas Ice Cream and/or the 1856 Country Store for penny candy. When penny candy really cost a penny.

Family evening outings often included these Centerville stops, but sometimes we went the other way, to Hyannis. Mini golf on Main Street in the heart of the village was always a fun outing. Main Street was so popular that traffic flow was changed to a one-way street, but just for the summer months. Off-season it became two-way again.

One summer my older brother, Mike, got a job working in the parking lot of the Steamship Authority in Hyannis. Fringe Benefit: He got free ferry tickets to Nantucket and Martha’s Vineyard for himself, me and our friend, Steve McCafferty. On Nantucket we rode bikes from the ferry dock to Siasconset and back. A beautiful ride and a marvelous paved bike path. On the Vineyard one day we peddled round-trip from Vineyard Haven to the Gay Head Lighthouse. I just fell in love with the Menemsha fishing village and harbor.

A couple of times each summer we would organize a beach party out on Sandy Neck. We were allowed to build a bonfire, and the night sky so packed with stars lives within me to this day.

At the other end of Sandwich in Bourne, we’d catch a tour boat ride on the Cape Cod Canal. I found looking up at the height of the land from the canal water level made it mesmerizing when I think of the job of digging the canal path over and around those hills. And, of course we were lucky enough to witness the Railroad Bridge lowered for the train to cross. What a monumental structure!

In Falmouth we loved to see the Falmouth Road Race. We had to choose between the start and the finish, almost impossible to get to both ends on race day. However, both were very worthwhile—the start in Woods Hole over the drawbridge by the ferry docks, around the Nobska Lighthouse and along the coast of Falmouth to the finish line at Falmouth Heights Beach. Talk about Kodak moments!

Beyond Hyannis was a whole other world. Route 28 in Yarmouth was always busy but very popular with the likes of trampolining centers, go-cart tracks and the A&W Root Beer drive-in restaurant. As time and age allowed, I found Sundancers overlooking Bass River in Dennis, and Brax Landing on Saquatucket Harbor in Harwich Port, and of course the Chatham Bars Inn on Chatham Harbor.

My father loved the Lower and Outer Cape. At times we rented a cottage on Cape Cod Bay, where we could walk the low tide sand flats of Brewster, Orleans and Eastham, all around photogenic Rock Harbor.

Speaking of Eastham, I think of the visitors’ center for the National Seashore, and John Kennedy signing the legislation for the National Seashore in 1961. Annually we would find our way to Highland Lighthouse in Truro and the Provincetown Pilgrim Monument. Timeless!

When we became old enough to drive, my friends and I would go to the Wellfleet Drive-In movie theater. I always hoped it would not be my turn to be “Trunk Boy.”

My Best,

Brian Shortsleeve,

Brian Shortsleeve

Brian Shortsleeve is the owner, publisher, and founder of Cape Cod Life Publications. His personal column, “Gunkholing,” has appeared in all issues of Cape Cod LIFE since the very first issue in 1979.