, Newburyport, MA

February 11, 2014

Homage to Salisbury Beach

Janice Elizabeth Berte

---- — Who can resist the crashing waves at the beach, Willey’s fudge or playing the arcades at Joe’s Playland? How about those bumper cars? I swear to my doctor that my neck pain is still from the impact from those fun rides. And wasn’t the pain all worth it just for those memories? Can anyone pass up to this day a Kristy’s or Tripoli’s pizza? Absolutely not, or you are not from Massachusetts. Those are just some of the wonderful things that you can still eat and do at Salisbury Beach. Now before anyone sends me scathing emails about Salisbury’s “other” issues, just let me explain my love for Salisbury Beach.

Growing up in Berlin, a very small rural town that is noted for its apple orchards and farms, my family and I needed our summer fix of seeing the mesmerizing ocean that we New Englanders are blessed to have on the East Coast. My family vacationed on the Cape, spent days at Nantasket and Hampton Beach, but the one beach that stole my heart was Salisbury. Don’t get me wrong, there are a plethora of stunning beaches in Massachusetts, but Salisbury is the apple of my eye. As a chubby young girl, I and my parents and my siblings would take weekend trips up to Salisbury since the drive was a little over an hour away from Berlin. Back then, you didn’t hit major traffic problems, perhaps an occasional accident, but it was clear sailing and right up Interstate 495 north. Sitting in the back seat of my parent’s car at 10 years old felt like days going by. There was no air conditioning, and my anticipation and joy for the beach, fried dough, pizza and arcades was overwhelming for me.

I remember this one ride that you sat in with one or two other people and you sped quickly around, swerving up to waving upgrades with some of the best music you have ever heard. It was one of the most notable and popular rides at Salisbury beach. Sorry, people, I can’t remember the exact name of this ride.

As I swerved around with loud screams weaving in and out, I could hear songs by the Jackson 5, the Dramatics, the 5th Dimension, Gladys Knight and the Pips, Chaka Kahn and many other talented groups. It was simply a magical time.

In addition to the music, I remember the men who worked at this ride dressed in fancy polyester, bright blue suits. Not only did they look professional and cool, but they danced on the sides of this joyride, which added to this spectacular event. I loved to dance and to see these grown men jiving to these tunes was truly a treat for all who watched. There was always a large crowd observing their children having fun and gazing at these talented amusement park attendants.

Can anyone remember the fake statue of the psychic lady with the turban on her head sitting in the glass booth where you would drop a quarter in the slot and out came your reading for the month? I still have those cards, and, no, they are not accurate at all, if you are wondering.

What about those tiny photo booths in the arcades where you could barely fit two people in, but somehow your family of five seemed to cram in the booth and you all made funny faces or got someone’s hand or leg in your face by accident.

Unfortunately, we all know at this point that Salisbury Beach has changed over the years, and not for the better, but it is hanging in there and trying to revive itself. Developers have put in some nice homes, condos and some other dubious establishments, but there are fabulous sites such as: the Seaglass restaurant and lounge coupled with the Blue Ocean Music Hall at the Pavilion, the Caprice restaurant, and the old establishments that have hung in there for decades such as: Kristy’s and Tripoli’s pizza, Willey’s candy store, Joe’s arcades and a few others.

Decades have gone by and I still go to Salisbury for the beach, the pizza, the fudge and now yesterday, my husband and I saw a white snowy owl at the Salisbury Beach State Reservation where a gathering of people huddled in packs with their high-tech cameras and binoculars to see this unique species.

Yes, it was 10 degrees outside, and my husband and I walked on the beach freezing and picking up seashells for three minutes, but there is nothing like sharing stories of your childhood to your best friend enjoying a time that once was.


Janice Elizabeth Berte lives in Framingham.