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Thoughts on ‘summah’

PETER O’CONNOR
Guest Columnist
opinion@lbknews.com

That’s ‘summah,’ as we say in New England. I like to think of myself as a New Englander, if not a true Bostonian in spite of my native New Yorker status. I served in both Connecticut and Rhode Island before my later years in Massachusetts.

I consider Cohasset, that beautiful town of 7,000 on the Massachusetts south shore, to be home. I can’t quite see Longboat Key as my hometown. My family has been here since the ’70s, I since the ’90s. Our fine island home lacks that sense of place that I think marks one’s hometown. We have no institutions, no schools to graduate from, no industry. Maybe these are some of the reasons we all like it here?

But I digress.

The heat of summer brings memories of days long ago. We all can relate to this.

As a boy on the streets of New York (Queens that is) we liked the summer months for the days free from school. School was right down the street. I remember that our game was stick ball, played with a broom handle and a pink rubber ball. The cars parked along the street were the bases. A manhole cover in the street served as home plate. In the heat of the afternoon my grandmother called me in for rest in the relative cool of the house on Ithaca Street in Elmhurst. There I learned about baseball. She listened each day. She, and I, listened to the Brooklyn Dodgers on radio. Red Barber related the exploits of our team. As afternoon waned we were again permitted out to the street. Trips to the beach (Rockaway or Jones Beach) were rare — there was a war on you’ll recall.

The post-war years brought renewed activity. My mother, who worked in the city even bought a car, a 1946 Mercury convertible I recall. This meant freedom. Trips to relatives on Long Island and in Connecticut broadened my horizons. The Long Island beaches were now accessible. Jones Beach, that marvel by Robert Moses, was my favorite. The dunes there are high, the surf rough.

Each summer I remember my trip to Boston, the home of the O’Connors. I’d take the train, later on even by myself. The train left Grand Central Station in New York at 1 p.m. for the trip up the coast to Boston’s South Station arriving at 5 p.m. That’s faster than the trip takes today. I’d be met by my aunts for a visit with the O’Connors, the Reillys, the Keiths. New Yorkers were Ryans, Maloneys, Duggans, an occasional Ross. I remember that it looked much more rural in Boston those days, at least to a boy from New York.

As I advanced to high school, summer still was the season I looked forward to. It meant freedom from the daily commute from Queens to the Bronx. We learned early the intricacies of the subway. Summer meant work. I loved it. We were fortunate to spend most summers on Fire Island, that barrier beach off Long Island’s south shore. Those were at first endless summer days swimming in the ocean or the bay. There were, and still are, no cars on Fire Island. Life was easy.

It was there that I got my first real job. I worked from high school almost through college for a real grocer, Bill Adie, who ran a real grocery store serving the summer population in the Village of Ocean Beach. Some of you have been there. We met the freight boat each day to push the cases on hand trucks through the village to the store. We stocked shelves, waited on customers. Mr. Adie sent us to the beach most afternoons. He took us fishing at the Fire Island Inlet, driving along the beach in his Model A Ford. What a life! He had a boat too from which we water-skied the Great South Bay. Did I say, what a life? Autumn meant return to the subways and the Bronx for high school with the Christian Brothers of Ireland at All Hallows.

Later autumn meant return to Indiana and The University of Notre Dame. I learned soon that summer lasted longer out in the Midwest, to be followed of course by more severe winters. After my sophomore year I, as a Civil Engineering student, had to spend part of a summer in that right of passage for all civils nationwide known as Surveying Camp. This meant full days, and nights, spent on campus in the classroom and in the field. We surveyed the campus, the farms, the stadium.

We got our first taste of our profession, a valuable experience. I wonder if the boys, and girls, get this opportunity anymore. After that short camp I got to return to my island grocery. Another college summer I was lucky to work in highway construction for the state of New York; I remember it as hot and dusty. I went on cruise on a Navy Destroyer one partial summer, the prelude to my career. We went down the St. Lawrence to Quebec.

Summer is still my favorite. I’ve spent some in exotic places. I guess it is the slower pace that I like. You certainly get that slower pace around here in summer.

I like it. You should enjoy it.

The autumn and winter crowds will be back here soon enough — we hope.

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