By Laura Lawerence
My first beach was inFalmouth.
I still have a black-and-white photo of thatMassachusettssummer of 1948 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 on theConnecticutshore inMilfordwhere the far shore of our beach on The Sound lapped the North Fork of Long Island.
In a cedar shingled house with a peaked roof and sleeping porches, only half a block from the beach, we swam, biked and rode horses. My own experience with horseback riding lessons ended when I was thrown from an ex-rodeo champion who bucked. I flew through the air landing on my left arm, fracturing my wrist. (This experience wasn’t all bad-besides being in a cast for the rest of the summer. The orthopedist recommended I take piano lesson to strengthen the growth bone so for several years my sister and I studied piano at Mannes College of Music.)
We survived several hurricanes and I have a distinct memory my mother standing on the porch during the Hurricane of 1955 to experience what a hurricane felt like. The following morning we walked to the beach to discover the water had reached the top of the steep steps leading to the beach. The Sound did not overflow, saving us from the serious flooding and evacuations in several other beach towns.
By the time I was nine, my mother had tired of the long drive, the long summer and mostly fatherless weekends.
My next beach was an enormous change- a sandy stretch onRacquetteLake, where I spent eight summers learning how to play tennis, writing musicals for Color War, sail and water ski. Good training in the competitive spirit which stood me in good stead later in golf and tennis clubs in The Hamptons.
Campers were expected to clean our own bunks and hospital corner bed making rivaled any Army boot camp. We were also expected to read The New York Times. The camp owner was an attorney and toiled at her’ real job’ during the week ,leaving the camp operations to highly competent men and women. However she returned each Friday with a copy of The New York Times Sunday Edition. Each bunk was expected to report on some important story at Sunday dinner from the section they were given. Those too young to understand were tutored by their counselor. I could not comprehend why this was an important activity because my father was a well known and respected newspaper journalist in his day and brought five newspapers home each evening for nightly dinner table discussions about current events.
AtCampGreylockfor Girls I did develop a passion for sailing. I even stayed long enough to be a sailing instructor. The head of the sailing program, Captain Bob, owned a30 footCatamaran and was an avid and competitive ocean sailing racer,
I was ‘chosen’ to be his crew, probably because I weighed half of what a male crew member would be, I was knowledgeable and could not only rig the boat but raise the spinnaker in a few minutes if required. I was thrilled to warp a flimsy canvas belt around my waist attached by a small metal clip to the metal stay, control the jib and hike out in bare feet. My exhilaration reached a turning point when on a cloudy day with white caps and swells growing higher by the minute I suddenly felt the hull I was standing on lift up to the point of being perpendicular to the ocean. This of course meant I was staring down at a none too friendly ocean in a horizontal position. I was and still am known as a risk taker but this was the defining moment when I met my ocean sailing racing quotient.
Lakesidebeaches are not the same as the ocean. They were much colder but easier to swim and compete in. By 1975 my sister and brother-in-law rented a house in Amagansett nearMainBeach. At this new ocean beach I learned to swim in the ocean, 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.