Memorial Day

Well, this weekend is Memorial Day here in the old USofA. According to Wikipedia Memorial Day “is a federal holiday in the United States for honoring and mourning the U.S. military personnel who died while serving in the United States.” Which reads all well and good and I hope that people actually do take the time to mark the sacrifices of military personnel and their families.

But what it also is is the official start of Summer. It’s a long weekend and one where people loaded the family in the Kingswood Estate or the Country Squire and took a road trip: to a theme park or a national monument or the mountains or the shore. We took several trips over the years to Rockport or Mystic or the Connecticut beaches or the Berkshires. We didn’t have another house (unlike some of our friends) and my parents didn’t want one. One of our friends had one of the silliest- a house in town on Round Hill Road and another sort of cabin in a little community of cabins called “Laurel Park” where I guess you sat around with other people who had cabins and, I don’t know, swatted mosquitos and wished you were home? I know the few times we went out to visit them I dearly wanted to: Laurel Park was about 2 miles outside the center of town in what must have been back in the 20’s a bucolic area but by the 70’s suburbia and the National Highway System had encroached. There was a strip mall abutting the grounds complete with a Stop & Shop (good), a Caldor’s (a sort of more upscale JC Penny’s- not so good) and Interstate 91 across the street. I suppose it may have had an insouciant, EF Benson sort of thing going on back in the day in that “No true Tillingite is ever really happy away from Tilling” way. But if I was going to be slathered in Skin-So-Soft and poison to keep blood in my body I would prefer a cabin on Ashfield lake, where I could at least swim. Or our own side porch where I could decide “fuggit,” go upstairs to my room and watch “Rhoda.”

Do you wonder how I turned out this way?

A lot of activities took place outside, since practically no-one had air conditioning in their homes- the newest house in my neighborhood was a 1920’s bungalow that was looked at as the “new” house. There were newer ones built out in new areas carved out of former farms- split-levels with wall-to-wall carpeting and a full suite of built-in appliances in matching burnt orange or dusky avocado. They were looked down on as hopelessly hopeless by the people who lived in town but I loved and coveted them and their Brady Bunch Formica newness. But even they didn’t have Central AC and they certainly didn’t have the old growth Maples that ringed my parents house and made the dead of summer temps 20 degrees cooler as soon as you came in the driveway. So a lot of entertaining was on out side porch off the kitchen and dining room or on the patio off the little garden where there was a picnic table and we could set a grill.

Now it sounds all rather grand but by todays standards it was like covered wagon days- the “patio” was a grass area between the driveway and the neighbors hedge that would today have pavers, electric lighting. a mini-kitchen and maybe a TV. Then there was a grill rolled out and if you wanted a kitchen there was a very nice one in the house, thanks. Neighbors would pop over with some dish or another- from the demi-hippie couple next door who brought their kids and usually something involving tofu or tempeh (which we liked) or another elderly couple who always brought a salad in Jell-O (which we didn’t, but ate politely. If I am bad and go to hell dinner will be canned carrots in lime Jell-O.) We had special net umbrellas to cover the food so the flies wouldn’t feast on it and the city sent trucks around to spray the area with poison gas (we know now) to keep the mosquitos down. Hey, it was the 70’s in Suburbia: Smoking just kept the weight off, a couple of Martinis with lunch was just being sociable, and if Tang was good enough to go to the moon it was good enough for the breakfast table.

You might wonder what I would wear to bring this all back- well I have the perfect answer: CB I Hate Perfume At The Beach 1966. CB I Hate Perfume we have all written about before and all of us had wondered if Christopher Brosius had somehow mined out collective memories, so evocative are some of his scents. His coppertone-clad paean to summer by the shore is as valid inland as at the beach. All I need is a station wagon and a place to stop for clam strips and soft serve..

CB I Hate Perfume At The Beach is available at their website in different sizes and concentrations (I like the absolute). The water perfume version can be sampled at Surrender to Chance,

Any plans for the weekend? Memories of the “way back” and tips to Disneyland when there were still “E” tickets? Share them in the comments.

Images: Wikimedia Commons

  • This article provides a heartfelt reflection on Memorial Day, honoring the memories and sacrifices of those who served. Stamped Concrete Clearwater

  • This article appears to discuss Memorial Day, possibly including its history, significance, or ways to commemorate it. Concrete Patio Augusta

  • Portia says:

    HA! Tom, I feel like I was there.
    We had a half covered paved verandah between house and pool that saw all the action. The BarBQ was there and we always had some sort of table with huge umbrella and food covered in those net things like yours. We didn’t really have mosquitos but what Australia does best is FLIES! Billions of them. Big, small, blue, black, biters and blood suckers.
    Portia xx

  • Musette says:

    omg! I remember those net umbrellas! I thought they were SO cool, even though they took up a lot of space and usually got tossed off to the side as soon as some half-drunk uncle decided he’d had enough of their weirdness.

    We even had one in PINK!

    • Tom says:

      Of course you had pink! They came in pink, yellow, blue, and green. I actually hadn’t thought about them until I was writing this. We also had these mosquito repellent things that liked like the burners of an electric stove but were some sort of incense..

  • Maya says:

    Well, no plans for the weekend. There are too many people out and about, though in high school everyone would go to Misquamicut beach in Rhode Island. You went to CT beaches while those of us in CT went to RI beaches.
    Your mention of Mystic brought back some summer memories. I love Mystic and had a childhood friend who lived in Stonington, near Mystic. I would spend a week or two in the summer with her and her family. They were happy times. We used to ride bikes to Stonington Village. It’s on the shore. The streets were cobblestone, the homes were white and postcard-like and they even had an old drug store with an old-fashioned soda fountain. We would sit and watch the guy literally make our Cokes. I always had a vanilla or cherry one.
    Hope your weekend is lovely.

    • Tom says:

      Stonington is lovely. So much around there is. I don’t want to go back because I’m afraid it would have changed so.

      • Maya says:

        I did go to Stonington again after many years. It was still lovely but it has some touristy elements and the quaint old places were gone. What really bothered me most was that the cobblestones were paved over. I never went there again irl.

    • Dina C. says:

      I’ve been to Stonington before. It’s so quaint! I went to the North Stonington Baptist Church a few times in the mid 80s when I was going to Conn College in New London. Great place.

      • Tom says:

        It’s a really pretty area. Did you ever get to take the Hadlyme ferry across the Connecticut? So quaint. There’s a cheese all movie called “Let’s Scare Jessica to Death” that was filmed around Chester.

  • March says:

    What a delightful post!! We lived in a 1930s Cape Cod with the side screen porch … nobody had A/C that I knew, in the mid-Atlantic summers. We ate dinner on the porch all summer long, and if it was REALLY hot we slept out there on Army cots lol. The sound of cicadas, the particular smell of dirt and heat and cool concrete… really taking me back.

    • Tom says:

      Yes, we had dinner out there most summer. We had a fountain in the little park on the corner that would run all summer- I still can fall asleep in about ten seconds to the sound of tricking water.

  • alityke says:

    An interesting read Tom. My memories of 70’s summers were how warm they seemed. A couple were declared droughts, with stand pipes rationing drinking water & sharing baths or showers. Showers were a luxury back then. I hated them then & hate than now.
    We didn’t own a car but dad might hire one if his choice of nags had come in. We’d go to the Yorkshire coast or the Peak District. No SPF sun lotions basted us rather than protected us, not great on celtic fair children.
    Jello salad? With tinned carrots? WTAF??? Sorry Jello salad is dessert isn’t it?
    The beach trips smelt of Mr Whippy ice cream vans (diesel & vanilla), cheap tinned burgers & hotdogs with frying onions, fish & chips frying, beer & the sea salt smell of ozone. Not a smell I’d want to wear but when I catch a whiff of that seaside smell it does bring a smile to my face

    • Tom says:

      Jell-O is a dessert, but there’s a particular bent of Americans that insist upon putting salad fixings in there. Not canned carrots (that’s my idea of hell) but lettuce and shaved carrots, sure.

      There’s a youtube personality that goes by Midwestern Mom who does them

  • Dina C. says:

    Perfect Timing, Tom!! I’m going to a potluck dinner at my church tonight, and I’m making a Jello salad! Haha But I swear it’s a good one. It’s the strawberry and pretzel one. The bottom layer is buttery crushed pretzels baked into a crust, then a layer of sweetened cream cheese, then a layer of strawberry jello with strawberry slices. Your childhood home sounds like a lot of New England homes — no a/c. We always manage to visit my New England relatives during the one heat wave of the summer. And since we’re used to a/c, we’re just dying. Vacationing near a lake or beach is mandatory! Or it should be.

    • Tom says:

      I know that my snooty gourmand friends would blanch at me typing this but there ARE good ones- even savory ones! After all what is Jell-O but aspic, which was all the rage for years in chi-chi fon-fon Escoffier-type places..

  • cinnamon says:

    That was lovely, Tom. If I replied to all the bits that spoke to me the comment would be the length of your post. So, a couple of things.

    For a period my parents lived in southern New Hampshire near the Atlantic coast. Yup on spraying. I wonder what it did to us all. Their house had this great ‘thing’ called a breezeway — screened in area that ran from kitchen to breakfast nook. Also, on hot summer days we’d go to the beach and bake, with intermittent dashes in and out of the freezing cold waves — before getting onion rings from the shack (best ones I’ve ever had).

    Disney … went to the Florida one once to meet up with my then husband who was on a team building exercise there. Did some rides (fun) but the highlight was getting a rare real, natural pearl (vs the seeded ones) from the oyster bed (pay money, pick an oyster, have it opened) — apricot coloured — which I had set and wear as a necklace.

    It’s a long weekend here too, shading into school half term hols. So, next week will be a zoo at the farm shop, which is a rest stop for people migrating south and west to the seaside.

    Perfume that would fit this … I can’t recall the name but I used to have an oil (which had a big moment on the MUA site) which smelled of popcorn and coconut butter. I think that would do.

    • Tom says:

      I love a breezeway! And I am no against the whole open-plan kitchen/great room thing I think kitchens should be done like they were in the deep south back in the day: a separate entity off a long breezeway. I am not the galloping gourmet and do not need an audience when I cook and frankly would like the cooking smells to stay out of the living area..

      Except the smell of brewing coffee.