It was the summer of my 13th year. My father's cousin, Alberta, asked me if I would like to spend a week at the shore (Ocean City, NJ) with her and my friend Linda Speer. Linda was Alberta's neighbor in north Philly, and a pen-pal of mine.
I know you all are thinking, "Why a pen-pal? She only lived in N. Philly, just a hop, skip, and a jump from Runnemede." That's correct, but I had been writing letters to Linda for several years, and north Philly was a long trip for a child of 9 or 10 to go alone. I did, however, see Linda occasionally when my dad visited Alberta at her home. I probably should have said rarely, because we didn't go see Alberta very often.
Moving along. Of course I wanted to go to the shore for a week. What 13-year-old girl wouldn't, especially when that 13-year-old was in a family that didn't take vacations?
So we went to the shore in early August. We stayed in someone's house in a rented unit. This unit was in the basement, and the kitchen was under the front porch. That's about all I remember about where we stayed. I know it was a one-bedroom place, and the under-the-porch kitchen is still vivid.
This all came back to me a few days ago when I bought a huge cantaloupe from a local farmer. You see, Albert was quite fond of cantaloupes so when she told Linda and me on that first morning we were having cantaloupe, Linda and I laughed. I mean, who ever heard of having cantaloupe for breakfast? Cantaloupe was a dessert in our house! We overcame our laughter and ate the cantaloupe, which was delicious, I might add. We also added a bowl of some cereal to go with the fruit.
I know that in this day and age cantaloupe is a common breakfast fruit, but back then, I lived the sheltered life of a preacher's kid and we didn't get much cantaloupe, so mom used the fruit for dessert.
I recall one day we went to a very large hotel on the boardwalk. I was in awe of the place. And the pool....it was huge. The Flanders Hotel is still there and is still a beautiful, elegant hotel.
Well, after a week at the beach I had acquired quite a tan and I was, I admit, so proud of that tan. I had tans before, but this was the best. And I didn't use any tanning lotion. And I didn't burn. I rarely got a sun burn. Must have been those Mediterranean genes.
I have to say that back-yard tans never come close to week-at-the-shore tans. I never had a week at the shore again, just day trips. Thank you, Alberta, for a great week!