Atlantic City, New Jersey was the beach mecca for vacationers on the East Coast in the early 1900s. Still dressed in fancy Victorian formality, vacationers caught the salt air as they strolled along the famous board-walk at the Steer Pier, a combination theatre and amusement park: “Rain or Shine … There’s Always a Good Show on Steel Pier” the saying goes. But for most Mennonites, the Steel Pier was an elegant building to ogle only. The theatre was worldly and therefore strictly forbidden by church rules.
But Mennonite families liked the ocean, including my own. Many summers Daddy took Mother and the family to Atlantic City or Ocean City, New Jersey for a day. Mother just loved the water. From the time she pulled on her white latex bathing cap over her bun and donned her black, satin bathing suit with a fluffy skirt, she was bobbing up and down in tune with the waves.
Daddy in his maroon, scratchy-wool, full-body suit was usually at the shore line yelling to her, “Waaatch ooouut for the un-der-tow!” By the end of the day, he was sun-burned and out of sorts, insisting on taking his thirsty, sandy-toed family straight home, a 3-hour drive. In spite of our protests, there was no stopping for a meal let alone an over-night stay in a motel. Daddy was much too frugal for that. Yet he’d dutifully come back for more next year.
Uncle Leroy and Aunt Clara liked visits to Atlantic City too. I don’t remember them in bathing suits, but they liked riding the bicycle built for two on the boardwalk.
And so did my parents!
On a Bicycle Built for Two . . .
When Grandma Longenecker came to Florida the year our daughter Crista was born, she strolled Jacksonville Beach with plenty of sun-protection: black bandanna on top of her covering, caped dress, black stockings and black-heeled shoes, apparently enjoying herself.
What family vacations stand out as memorable, past or recent? The beach, the mountains, or some place else?
* * *
Coming next: Marriage to a Difficult Man: Parts I and II