Beach Memories

photos of beachcombers at the beach when they were young

Left to right:

  • Searching the beach goes way back in my family. My grandmother took this photo in 1915 at Moonstone Beach, California. She traveled by train from Indiana. I have the moonstone that she found. (Jane Kirk)
  • This is cheerful me, laughing at the sea, in Marseille, France. (Céline Valenza)
  • My mom, Peggy Simpson in 1932, hunting for treasures on Lake Erie. So this is where I get my obsession. Thanks, Mom. (Jane Kirk)
  • My siblings and I on the beach in BVI. (Anna Roche Clark)]

photos from people who were on the beach as children

Left to right:

    • My mom at the beach in Delaware around 1964. (Kirsti Scott)
    • This is me in 1970 at the beach in Santa Cruz, California. I’ve been a beachcomber ever since! (Kelly Padula)
    • My family in 1976 at Sailors Haven on Fire Island, New York, where I first started searching for sea glass and shells. Our parents taught us how to explore the beach and find treasures, and we have all been beachcombing for at least 50 years. We lost my dad last year, but we sure have so many good memories, especially beachcombing. (Kim Brooks) 
    • How cute are my grandparents at the beach in 1942? This is where my love of the ocean began. (Summer Vaughn)
    • My grandfather’s dog and I on Cape Cod. (Anna Roche Clark)
    • This is four-year-old me aboard my first boat in the Baltic Sea. I was already a pirate at the age of four. (Agnieszka Zak)

    childhood memories from the beach

    Left to right:

      • My Uncle Alan was (and still is) the most fun uncle a little girl could ever have. My cousins and I hung out on the beach with him for hours, building sandcastles, sand boats, and drawing huge pictures in the hard sand with sticks at low tide. When I was scared of what might be lurking under the waves, he took me snorkeling, so I could see for myself the underwater rocks and seaweed of my local beach, Takapuna, on the North Shore of Auckland, New Zealand. This sparked a lifelong love of the ocean and the underwater world. (Maxine Northam)
      • Our family rented a house for a week or two in Rehoboth Beach, Delaware, every summer, and I was very scared of the ocean at age 3. That is my mom with me reassuring me that I’m OK! I’m now just the happiest when I’m at the beach! (Carol Polakowski)

      childhood beach memories

      Left to right:

        • I love this picture so much! It shows three generations of beachcombing beauties on our favorite beach on Cape Cod, Massachusetts. My sister and I are the littles (I’m on the left), with my mom and her mom, my Nana, in the background, assuming the beachcomber’s bend, heads down, ready to dip down to snag treasures. I’m sure my bucket has razor clam and quahog shells ready to be washed then painted back at Nana’s house. Her house became my parents’ retirement home and hopefully mine some day. Three generations of salty girls who never leave a beach empty handed! (Amy Desmond)
        • My dad was a salesman for HJ Heinz and on many of his trips to Erie, Pennsylvania, for business (note the watch and dress shoes, lol) he’d include a family vacation. We had buckets filled with rocks and beach glass. We stored them in the attic for years, but no one knows what happened to them. Who knew this would lead to a passion for beach glass so many years later? (Chris Ann Buday)

        family beach memories from the mid-century

        Left to right:

          • This is me at Rockingham Beach around 1961. My earliest memories are going to the ocean and spending days on the beach. Living in Perth, Western Australia, as a child we were always close to a beach. Because of that I have always loved to be in, on, or near the water. Walking a beach is also the best therapy—so calming and it soothes my soul. Plus a bonus is the surprising beach treasures you can find. (Martine Prasnjak)
          • This is my beautiful mom sitting near the jetty on Long Beach Island, New Jersey. Mom is now 91. She’s the reason for my lifelong obsession with the beach. That passion has been passed down to a third generation. My children grew up exploring the tide pools, bathing in the warm Gulf waters. I’m certain my earliest experiences molded me into the beach-loving conservationist that I am today. (Lisa Foy)

          Families at the beach in the 1950s

          Left to right:

            • This photo of me with my mother and brother is from 1949 in Brant Beach, New Jersey, where I was conceived (!) and spent all summers and weekends until the 1960s. (Mary Louise “Wiesy” Lauffer)
            • My first couple of years were spent growing up in the house my parents built at Solimar Beach, California. Being a water baby—learning how to swim before I could walk—my mom actually said worked against me, since they couldn’t keep me out of the ocean! I remember the hot sand and water up my nose and my dad throwing me in the water while Mom nearly had a heart attack on the beach. Oh, those were the days! I’m the littlest one in the photo circa 1950, along with my sister, mom, dad, and my mom’s best friend. (Susie Terry)

            early memories from the beach

            Left to right:

              • I always was a “beach babe.” Here is my family in 1962 at Big Manly Beach, Whangaparoa, New Zealand. Some of my earliest beach memories are visiting this beach with the family on our Christmas holidays. We played, fished and dug for pipis (a small, edible saltwater clam). We scattered my fathers ashes here in early 2023. (Deanna Yarrow) 
              • This is a photo of me with my grandmother Liz Hodge in 1953. It was taken on the beach at Pawleys Island, South Carolina. This is where my love of the ocean and beach started. There is a small transistor radio on the beach blanket and my grandma Liz is showing me how to snap my fingers to the music. My heart will forever be on that beach. (Elizabeth Schackow)

              mid-century beach memories for families children

              Left to right:

                • On vacation in New Smyrna Beach with my parents. (Barbara Smith) 
                • I was born in Portugal at a time when we lived slowly, where cell phones did not exist, and the television was only in black and white. In summertime, we would go to my grandparents’ holiday homes in the Portuguese Riviera. Though Estoril and Cascais were only 20km from Lisbon, life was lived at a slower pace there. There were no highways and cars did not go at the speeds reached nowadays.

                  Estoril and Cascais had beaches nearby, but my best memories are from Cascais Beach. When we would arrive at the beach, we would go first to the beach lodge, where we stored our things: a big bag with beach toys, floaters, and big pillows for the adults. There were chairs for rent, as well as awnings for shade. There was also a woman that would sell bolas de Berlim, fried balls of dough inspired by Berliner jelly doughnuts.

                  The men in my family would spend the time talking and reading the morning newspaper on their lounge chairs. The women sat in the beach chairs, talking and watching the children. We built sandcastles decorated with seashells, tiny stones, and seaweed and only went into the sea with the adults.

                  Those beach days are some of my most cherished memories. (Teresa Ogando)

                california childhood beach memories

                • Here I am around 1954 at Rio Del Mar Beach in Aptos, California. It was so fun looking back! My parents were beach people. We spent a lot of time at Santa Cruz beaches as well as beaches along the Russian River growing up. My dad, born and raised in San Francisco, spent time at the Boardwalk beaches as well. No wonder I love the beach so much today! (Laurie Rivoir)

                sister memories from childhood at the beach

                • I grew up in a small mining town on the beautiful island of Cape Breton, Nova Scotia, Canada. My father was a coal miner and my mother was a stay-at-home mom, and they raised me and my sisters and brothers on the street where our paternal grandparents lived.

                  Our father spent hours under the hood of the latest wreck to grace our driveway until the engine would purr like a kitten, and off we would go on our Sunday drive. We spent endless hours at the beach, fortunate to have our choice of spectacular beaches on the Atlantic coast or the calmer, sandy shores of the beautiful Bras D’Or Lakes. Our grandfather built a tiny cabin on a small plot of land that he rented from a local farmer on the shores of the Bras D’Or Lake. It was only a brief car ride from home but it was a whole new world for us to explore. This oasis of a cozy lakeside cabin was, to us, a thrilling getaway. We could seek treasures on the lakeshore, row a leaky old rowboat across to the local graveyard at dusk as we listened to eerie ghost stories told by our uncle, sing songs around our campfire, and cook sea snails in a rusty old tin can.

                  Some of the siblings left home, however, so trips to Cape Breton to visit family and spend time on our favorite beaches together were treasured by me and my sisters. During the years, we have met in a variety of seaside communities to spend time together, exploring local beaches, collecting treasured pieces of beach glass, talking around campfires, and supporting each other as sisters do.

                  For the last 20 years, we have booked the same cottage on our favorite beach on Nova Scotia’s Northumberland Strait. In September 2022, Hurricane Fiona completely destroyed nine of the cottages, which had stood since the early 1950s. We are devastated and have not yet visited the site to see the damage that has changed our seaside experience forever. We are, however, returning to our “sister shore” this year and will stay in one of the two remaining cottages, which withstood the wrath of the worst hurricane in our province’s history. (Marilyn A. Martell)

                This article appeared in Beachcombing Volume 36: May/June 2023.

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