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The Cape I Remember

A look back at summertime when the living was easy… on 1930s Cape Cod.

Anticipation! That was the feeling that took over when my parents mentioned “The Cape” to me as a child growing up outside of Boston in the 1930s. At the age of nine, in 1933, I wasn’t much involved with the planning and packing that went into my family’s preparation for a vacation beyond making sure that my bathing suit was in the suitcase. After our first trip to Waquoit, I was hooked. When I thought of sun, sand, and salt water, I visualized the Cape.

After years of renting in Waquoit, my Dad bought a piece of land on Little River on which he built a small cottage. From then on, most summer Fridays found us headed for the Cape (no highways then) and making good time until we hit the Canal. Sound familiar? In those early years, the Bourne Bridge was a drawbridge that had to be raised every time a large ship or one with a tall mast came through. Traffic would be backed up for miles and we would impatiently wait for the bridge to lower so we could pass.

1930s Cape Cod

Cynthia and her dad, who cultivated her love for Cape Cod after building a family cottage for vacations in Waquoit, look out onto the distance.

Before building the cottage, Dad had bought a boat that we moored in Little River. On one memorable trip, I was driving from Sharon as Dad dozed beside me, weary from his week at work. As we were going through Wareham, I slowed down at an intersection and to my astonishment saw the boat that we’d been towing sailing right by us. My startled scream woke up Dad and we were soon able to re-hitch the errant boat back up. We joked that the boat was even more anxious than we to get to the water, as we realized what would have been a disastrous situation had there been oncoming traffic was merely an inconvenience.

With a boat we could get out to the breakwater where Waquoit Bay emptied into Martha’s Vineyard Sound. Here was a pristine beach where we were in our own world with people on passing boats the only other humans for miles. We’d pitch a tent and spend idyllic weekends swimming in those warm, crystal clear waters, fishing off the jetty, playing with hermit crabs, rowing out to the sand bars to explore, taking an occasional boat trip along the coast as far as Cotuit and on really calm days, even venturing over to the Vineyard. We didn’t even have sleeping bags but slept on blankets spread out on the sand, wiggling around to make depressions to fit our bodies. A morning ritual was a dip before breakfast with only the terns and seagulls for companions.

1930s Cape Cod

Cynthia pulls her family boat to shore. They would often use this boat to sail out past Waquoit Bay and out to the Vineyard on camping trips.

Dad did all the cooking right out on the beach on a Coleman stove. Blueberries and strawberries purchased from roadside stands on our Friday trips down were a welcome addition to our meals that usually featured Prudence Corned Beef Hash and Dinty Moore’s Stew. Another gourmet addition to our diet was blue claw crabs that abounded in the rivers and ponds. We would balance ourselves precariously in the skiff and armed with a dip net, pole silently along until we spotted our wily prey and then make a wild lunge for it. Our success rate was about 25% but the few we caught were well worth the effort. I still prefer those succulent crabs to lobster!

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