Day at Revere Beach
"Can we go, Ma? Can we? Pul-eeze" We nagged her the minute we spotted the ad in the Boston Daily Record for "NICKEL DAY AT REVERE BEACH".
The time was the 1930's shortly after the stock market crash numbed the country and threw Americans into breadlines. My father out of work, my mother never said, yes. She said, maybe, or we'll see. I guess she never knew in advance if she would have enough money when the day arrived.
Usually, we only went to Revere Beach on extraordinarily hot days. And then only to swim. Like automobiles and single-family houses, amusement rides were not an option for us; they were for the rich. But one day in summer, parents like mine could afford to put their children on amusements, and that was Nickel Day. My two brothers and I spent days anticipating its arrival.
Weeks before, we, the three youngest in a family of eight, cleaned our rooms, emptied trash, and faced the dreaded chore of washing dishes for ten people without the usual harangue. When our mother said, "You'll have to be good," we complied. How she must have pinched pennies before Nickel Day arrived. Carfare to and from the beach and $3.00 spent for our three strips of five-cent tickets would have bought a lot of bread and milk in the thirties.
The crescent shaped beach was crowded most summer days, but my parents' priority wasn't to entertain us, it was to feed us and keep us healthy. So, our young lives were narrow. We didn't have the entertainment options children have today. For us, swimming in fluorescent waves cresting high above our heads was a rare and exhilarating experience. The waves traveled at a speed that made them deliciously frightening. We stiffened our small skinny bodies into boards; then with arms outstretched held close to our ears, we dove fearlessly. The ocean's momentum hurled us onto the sandy beach. On Nickel Day, that special treat was merely the beginning.
After we swam, we devoured a home-packed lunch. One day all my mother had to fill sandwiches with were baked beans. I can see her slapping mayonnaise on their ugly brownness.
I'm not going to eat those," I said turning up my nose.
"You don't have to. You can go without," she said.
After a couple of hours in the ocean the bean sandwiches tasted like roast beef. But food was secondary. We devoured lunch in huge bites to get across the street where the action awaited.
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