Beach Lives

Written By: Laura  Lawrence


By Laura Lawerence


Beach #1 was in Falmouth, Ma. I still have a black-and-white 1948 photo of that summer depicting me on beach towel, looking slightly bewildered and surrounded by sand. Lucky for my parents that I hated the feel of sand and would not budge off the towel! They were free for their own beach pursuits.

In the 1950’s summer scare of polio, my parents, hoping to provide a disease-free summer for their three young daughters, bought a beach house in Milford, CT on the shore. This was Beach #2.  It was here in a cedar shingled house with a peaked roof and sleeping porches that we learned to swim, ride a bike and took horseback riding lessons. My equestrian hopes were dashed when the horse reared and I flew through the air landing on my left arm, fracturing my wrist.

During our seven years in Milford, we survived several hurricanes including the Monster Hurricane of 1955. The next morning we trooped to the beach to discover the water had reached the top of the steep steps leading to the beach. The Sound did not overflow in Milford, saving us from the serious flooding unlike evacuations in nearby beach towns. By the time I was nine, my mother had tired of the long drive, the long summer, and mostly fatherless weekends.

Beach #3 was an enormous change; picture a sandy stretch on Racquette Lake, NY where I spent the next eight summers learning how to play tennis, archery, sailed and water ski. This was good training in the competitive spirit, which stood me in good stead later in The Hamptons golf and tennis club scene. I was now at my only sleep-a-way camp on the Lake.

It was at Camp Greylock for Girls where I developed a true passion for sailing. As soon as I was old enough, I became a sailing instructor. The head of the sailing program, Captain Bob, owned a 30 foot Catamaran and was an avid and competitive ocean sailing enthusiast.

Bob invited me to his second mate in ocean races after the camp season ended. I was ecstatic!  In hindsight I believe I was ‘chosen’ because I not only weighed half as much as a potential male crew member ,I was reasonably knowledgeable about sailing and could not only rig the boat but raise the spinnaker in a few minutes!

I was thrilled to wrap a flimsy canvas belt around my waist, attach it to the metal stay, control the jib and hike out in bare feet!   My exhilaration however, reached a turning point one rough sea day. The white caps and swells grew higher by the minute and suddenly I felt the hull I was standing on lift up to the point of being perpendicular to the ocean. In other words, I was in a horizontal position staring down at a none too friendly ocean.

Although a “self-confessed “ risk taker, this was the defining moment when I reached my ocean sailing racing quotient and decided the risk was not worth the reward.

In 1975 I began my Beach #4 and Ocean Experience. My sister, Linda, and brother-in-law, Seymour Hacker rented a house in Amagansett near Main Beach. At New Beach #4, I learned to swim in the ocean and look for flags announcing the state of the waves with lifeguards checking the tides and currents. After a morning in the ocean or on the beach we drove to Louse Point for an afternoon swim.

Seymour had spent many summers in Amagansett. It was a kind of extension to his New York life as an art book dealer, publisher and gallery owner. By 1978, Linda and Seymour bought a house in Lakeville, CT where the town beach edged Connecticut’s deepest lake. We did not visit a lot.

In 1976 I was introduced to a different sort of Life in the Hamptons. I was married and my husband hailed from Erie, PA. To him, a house anywhere but Dune Road might as well be in Erie! We bought a house in Westhampton Beach, on Dune Road. My Beach #6.  Our house had a panoramic view of the beach and the ocean. We enjoyed many beautiful sunsets over the bay. I even learned to cook a passable fresh clam chowder soup, which sustained us on cozy winter weekends. We loved it. I loved it.