, Newburyport, MA


September 10, 2013

Summertime on 'paradise' island


People swimming would stay close to shore. There weren’t any lifeguards on duty. There was a sandbar just offshore. Sometimes people had difficulty getting back to shore when the tide came higher.

We kids had a great time diving into waves. We would line up on the side of the banking and wait for the right wave to roll in. When it did we’d all run down and dive into it. You had to be careful because if the wave broke too soon, you would end up diving into the shallow water. That could be dangerous, but we would just get a lot of sand in our suit.

When it was time to go home, we would put our pants on over our suits. Mostly we went home with a wet seat. People thumbing a ride home would line up all along the turnpike to get picked up.

Plum Island had more to offer than just swimming. For entertainment there was the large bowling alley and arcade. Up next to the parking lot there was a building where you could roller skate. The dance floor was wooden, just right for dancers. This was during the Big Band era. Good-sized bands played on weekend nights.

Fishing was big then. They were so plentiful you could go off Plum Island pier and catch a pail full of flounder in no time. Plum Island had a lot going for itself.

A few times, some of us kids would sleep over in the dunes at the south end of the beach. We would bring a rolled-up blanket and some food. Finding some driftwood for a campfire wasn’t a problem. We would sit around the fire at night and just talk. Then we would get into the dune and sleep. I must say, there were sand fleas to put up with.

Later in life, if I was with people from elsewhere and they would boast of Cape Cod, I would say, “You haven’t seen Plum Island.” To me it was just paradise!


Robert “Boots” Chouinard lives in Salisbury.

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