Kid's Life: Childhood Memories of Fairhaven

Friends on hill overlooking lake. Jane Wallace and Maureen Hudson. Source: Hudson
Hurricane Isabel (2003). Source: Brewer

Crabbing in the 1950s (Bob Tibbott)
Bookmobiles, Ice Cream Trucks, and a Game Called "Pies" (Maureen Hudson)
Fairhaven (Grace Holleman, 2010)
Halloween in July, 1937 (Paul McDonald)
Memories of a typical summer day, circa 1937 (Paul McDonald)
Kids Life in the Early 1950s
Hurricane Isabel (Eric Smith, 2003)

Crabbing in the 1950s
Bob Tibbott. I grew up at the Bay during the 1950's. It was the height of the baby boom and just about every cottage in Arkhaven seemed to have at least one and usually multiple children there. We would come down as soon as school let out in the middle of June and our family would just stay down here all summer long until Labor Day when we would move up and have to go back to school.

We spent a lot of time in the water. We had various boats when we were growing up, starting with a pram which is a small rowboat. Instead of a pointed bow, a pram has a square bow. And this I got on my seventh birthday. And it was the first pram in Arkhaven. It was built by a man over in Shady Side and he sold them for $25, unpainted, or $50 painted It started a little fad there for a while and all the kids in Arkhaven, several of them got prams after that. I would stand up in the bow of my pram and troll around and scoop the crabs up with my net.

In those days, it was more possible than it is today because there was eel grass out in front here. The eel grass disappeared by and large in the 1960's when we had a very destructive invasion of sea lettuce, a beefy kind of seaweed that choked out the eel grass. And it piled up on all the beaches in the area here and it created an awful problem and awful stench there. But fortunately, a few years later, it disappeared as mysteriously as it had showed up. But that killed off the eel grass and it really hasn't come back in front of Arkhaven since that happened in the 1960's. But prior to that, when I was boy, you could spot crabs on the bottom here, trying to hide in the patches of eel grass. So I would go around in my pram and check the patches of eel grass and catch crabs.

My brother and I had a crabbing business. I would generally get up at the crack of dawn and go out and catch crabs. So I was in production. My brother Dicky, who is now known as Seth, was in sales, and he would take the crabs that I caught. I would usually finish up in two or three hours. I'd come back to the cottage with a bucket of crabs, if I was fortunate, and he would line up a willing buyer for them. So we had a nice little crabbing business together.

We also had a larger boat when we got to be teenagers, a runabout, about 15 or 16 feet long -- we used to go water skiing. And we'd take that sometimes over to the Cliffs in Fairhaven and we'd anchor over in front of the Cliffs and then we would climb up the Cliffs to these little indentations which we called caves. And we would sit up there and just look out over the water. (March 28, 2009) Return to top

Bookmobiles, Ice Cream Trucks, and a Game Called Pie

Maureen Hudson. I had the happiest summers here [in the 1950s and 1960s]. There was a large group of children, from very small up to teenagers. We'd go out in the morning and didn't come back until lunch. Then you went out on your own again until dinner time. We were really very free. No one worried. But a lot of moms were here in the neighborhood and I'm sure they were watching us, but we just didn't feel like we were being watched.

We swam three or four times a day. We played a lot of running and jumping games and we played something called "pies," which was the funniest game. I think my mother taught it to us. We would sit on an old bench and you had to think of what kind of pie you wanted to be. Then one person would be the wolf. The wolf would come to the bakery and say "Do you have any cherry pie?" and whoever was a cherry pie had to jump up and run around the house without the wolf catching you. I remember Guy Nimro would pick the most bizzare things like "cranberry pumpkin pie" and things that no one would ever guess.

And we'd all wait for the bookmobile to come. They had the best books for such a confined space. Whoever chose the books, they did really well. That was a high point for us--and the ice cream man who came every afternoon. It was like a heaven for a kid. And it never rained (laughter). (August 19, 2010)

Halloween in July

Paul McDonald. Most of the recreation for kids was organized by the kids or some specific adults. Fred Ozab was a great idea man for things to do. In late July one year, my guess is 1937, he got the older kids and the others fired up to have a costume party. There was to be a prize for the best costume. Every costume had to be home-made. There were suggestions made both kind and nasty. It was suggested that one pudgy girl wrap herself in silver paper and come as the Goodyear blimp. Two girls had overdone the hair bleach and then gotten deeply tanned. It was suggested they come as the “Gold Dust Twins” who were bleached blond Africans used to advertise a washing powder. They did that and it worked. My brother, with the help of a white cotton blanket over his swim trunks as a diaper and a nipple on an empty beer bottle, came as a weird hairy baby. Anthony Veith, who had dark hair and a deep suntan came as an Indian, complete with real feathers. Other parts of costumes were cotton mops for wigs, some dyed weird colors. There were pirates and dancing girls straight out of the middle east.

The party was at my house which had a large screened porch on the back and the kitchen and dining room were close, so the food, that was the focus of any kids party, was near but not in the way of movement on the porch. My mom and several others and even some of the girls had made cookies and candy and brought potato chips. There was lots of food and punch. My pal Bob Lindauer lived next door so we were supposed to be at his house minding our own business but we were outside the screened porch listening and watching what was going on. The big question was where was Freddy?

The side of the porch toward the bay was well lighted so that meant those inside could not see outside very well. There came a scratching on the screen there and one of the girls looked up and screamed. There was this horrible one eyed creature scratching at the screen. It was dressed in rags and had seaweed all over it. It laughed a screeching laugh, lurched over and opened the door to the porch. Even the boys retreated to the other end of the porch but there wasn’t a door there. The creature stood straighter laughed a more normal laugh and said, “Scared you didn’t I“? It was Freddy! He called his costume “The Wreck of the Hesperus”. He won the prize for sure but I can’t remember what it was. (October 26, 2011) Return to top.

Fairhaven, by Grace Holleman (age 11)

When a brown roof peeks
Through green vegetation,
And the waters of the bay,
Blue, murky green waters,
Can be seen.

When the salt-water air settles
In my nose,
On my tongue,
Surrounding me.

Above a seagull flies
Through the humid air of July,
The sun beats down.

When happiness flutters in my stomach,
When my bathing suit itches under my clothes,
When we see the lone fisherman,
Checking his crab traps one last time.

Then I know
The summer has begun,
We have arrived,

When the aunts and uncles crowd around me,
Cousins and second cousins,
Old friends,
They line up and give hugs
'Till I can stand it no more.

The kids,
Ready to begin the fun,
Jump in the pool.
They brag,

Did you see my can opener?
Watch me do a back dive.
Can you do a misty flip?

I join in,
Jumping off the board,
Trying to impress with the biggest splash.

I swim until my lips turn blue,
My legs wobble;
I climb across the driveway of sharp rocks,
From which get get the term,
"Fairhaven feet"

In the old cottage,
Charming and small,
Sand and spider webs,
Always someone sleeping on the couch.

The Big House next door is always open,
From the morning, when the boys play video games,
To when the adults gather in the evening,
To play Liverpool, Scrabble,
Whatever strikes their fancy.

The big house stands tall,
An impressive four stories,
Not including the basement,
From top to bottom.

With access to the pool,
A hot tuup,
And the bay.

Ah, the bay!
Covered in clay from the clay cliffs aboe,
Little black spirals we call
"Prehistoric poop"

The lucky searcher finds a shark tooth,
Sea glass, or the legendry blue tiles,
Which my aunt and uncle and mom threw
From the deck of the big house

And, occassionally,
We venture out to D.C.,
From our little village it's an hour's drive.

The 4th is spectacular,
The day begins with a parade,
Up and down a hill, back to the beach.

Where we have cakewalks,
Egg tosses,
And sack races.

The kids play king of the mountain
On a floating raft,
And we swim in the Chesapeake,
But carefully,
For the sea nettles arrive today.

And we trudge up the hill,
Up stairs, and through a bush,
Where the parties have just begun.

Off go the fireworks!
And my aunt's dog has gotten so scared
He's chewed up my pants,

We party until everyone's too tired to continue,
Falling into our welcome beds.

A couple of days later,
Too soon,
We wake up early,

With many hugs,
And a last swim,
We climb into the car,
And drive to the airport.

[Written in 2010]

Memories of a Typical Summer Day, circa 1937

Paul McDonald. My eyes popped open and struck at the clock. It is five fifteen in the morning and dad already has his coffee perking. I pull off the briefs I slept in, pulled on some clean and topped them with a pair of shorts. A seven year old boy needs no other armor at the beach. I headed for the bathroom and found dad shaving. I did my thing even washing my face and hands at the faucet in the tub and was off. I usually liked watching dad shave but not today. Out the front screen door-- remembering not to let it slam and wake everybody. The Bay was calm but not flat calm. There was a quiet swash--swash of the waves. Following the grass-street between Beaches’ house and McCarthy’s I headed for the water. At the bulkhead I started looking for crabs on the pilings. There were a few good sized ones so I went back to the garage to get my crab net and basket. I thought of whistling for my next-door friend Bob Lindauer but remembered his mom had asked me not to do that unless someone was stirring in their house. It was mighty quiet there.

With crab net and basket I approached the tops of the piling. The rule was you couldn’t go swimming by yourself so I had to stay on top and reach the full length of the pole of the crab net to get at my quarry from above. It wasn’t a sure thing but I was catching two out of three when I tried. Some were too deep to try for. I heard dad’s car leave. He had breakfast before going to work so mom would be in the kitchen with her second cup of coffee. Coming home with six crabs, I’ll bet she would make me bacon and eggs for breakfast. I had to lean far over but I nabbed crab number six and headed home which was about fifty yards away. First she had me eat some cereal, which I don’t like, but that bacon and eggs really tasted good.

Surely I heard movement over at Lindauer’s. I gave the “secret” whistle and Bob whistled back. He came to the front door and I told him I’d already gotten some crabs off the seawall. Did he want to come get some more? He said it would be awhile because his mom wanted him to eat before going out and he hadn’t decided what he wanted for breakfast.

My mom said if I wasn’t going to catch more crabs this morning she might as well cook the ones I had caught. I grabbed the tongs for picking up crabs out of the garage and went to help her. Dad often said, “It’s a good thing I don’t put the car in the garage or you wouldn’t have any place to put your “stuff.” That is true. I have only a dresser drawer in the house to keep things. As a consequence I have lots or things in the garage where I can get them quickly and don’t have to ask anyone for permission to take them out. After we got the crabs in the big pot mom poured vinegar over them and red pepper and a couple of cups of water and put them on to steam. In just a few minutes they smelled good. There was some stirring around in the front of the house indicating Chick and Joe my sister and brother were getting up. They had been up later than me last night and mom didn’t mind their sleeping in.

While we were waiting, mom made a short list of things she wanted at the store when someone went to get the mail. She gave me the money and the list, which included some vinegar, and said, “I don’t care how long you take to get to the store but once you have the mail and the things I want, you must come straight home.” “Can I spend the change?”, I said. “Only a nickel. Bring the rest home.” It was about a half mile to the store which housed the Post Office but there was a beach, a creek and a bridge between our house and where I was going. It could take a long time to make the round trip.

It was about 7:30 and the other kids were stirring so I wanted to get going to protect that nickels worth of change from other kids at the store. I whistled for Bob and told him I was headed to the store. He wasn’t ready yet so I told him to look for me on the beach. I went out to the walk on top of the terrace that went down to the bulkhead and headed toward Rays house and the ruins of the pier. Sport barked as I went past McCarthy’s and Mrs. Thompson was picking some hydrangeas for the dining room as I went by her new house. She said hi. At the end of the seawall I went down onto the beach. It wasn’t sand but a sandy light colored clay with streaks of rust in it. The adults called it “fullers earth”. You could splash water on it and make a slide or you could carve it and smooth it with a tool. At the water line it was squishy between your toes and felt nice. I kept on until I got to the sand between the jetties in front of Rays. This was always a good place for sharks teeth and today was no exception. I first found a dog shark’s tooth about an inch and a half long. Mrs. Ray was out watering her flowers so she said hi and asked if I had found any sharks teeth. I took the big one and a couple of smaller tiger sharks teeth up to show her. She admired them and said she thought there must be an endless supply because her kids found some every time they looked. She invited me in for a cookie but I said I better be going to the store. My mom had told me to stop bumming food off everyone. If I was hungry come home and eat. I had some grown up lady friends who even gave me lemonade and pie if I sat down and talked to them. I usually knew what was going on and didn’t mind telling them the latest news.

Starting out again for the store I walked the beach in front of the Cove Club and checked to see that none of the boats had gotten together or tangled their lines. Some boats are like a puppy and get their mooring lines tangled and shortened. Everything was OK. My brother, Joe’s, Intrepid was tied to a stake there, so was Mr. Wilson‘s fishing boat. Mr. Wilson’s boats never had a name. Bobby came down the road, saw me, and came onto the beach. “Did you find anything interesting Paul”? “Just some sharks teeth but I’ll keep looking”. We walked on toward the creek and found a few more sharks teeth but nothing unusual. Bob said he didn’t need to hurry to get the mail because his sister, Doris, was walking down the road. Their dad was out of town a lot so they sometimes got mail from him.

When my dad traveled it was usually a flight to New York in the morning and back in the evening. All the other kids thought that was really something. He had been doing it all my life so, though I liked watching the planes at the airport, I wasn’t impressed. I once saw him off in a Ford Trimotor. That was really big. He said that by the time the plane got to N.Y. nobody could hear because the extra loud engine noise had gone on so long. Bob’s dad worked for General Motors and was moving from Louisiana so he sometimes stayed there two weeks. He had been the head of the lumbering operation. G.M. was not putting wood in their cars anymore so he was closing the operation.

We got to the creek and saw that the tide was coming in so there would not be any decent crabbing there until it changed. When you walked through the creek the flow of the tide would almost pull your feet from under you. It did pull the sand from under your feet. It tickled and felt neat. You did have to watch out that you didn’t tangle with a sea nettle but the water was clear and you could see them coming. After crossing the creek we walked a path back toward the black-top, passing close to “old John’s house”. He wasn’t out yet but his chickens were pecking around. He let them come in the house and the dogs didn’t bother them. The dogs usually made a fuss about people passing but he must have been feeding them so we passed without that noise. Mr. Wilson had to leave Cotton home when he went to the store because those big fox hounds would have fought him.

The main road was macadam which is tar with gravel in it. It was high crowned so the rain would run off and barely wide enough for two cars to pass. I learned all that by asking the men who repaired it. I’ve found that most people like to tell you about their job if you ask them nicely about it even if you are a small boy. Mrs. Brady’s buggy was hitched in the shade by the ice house across the road from the store. She brought the mail every day but Sunday from Tracey’s Landing and on the way back she put mail in people’s boxes along the way. She went back through Fairhaven flats and would sometimes give a couple of kids a ride. She usually took girls though. Her horse was named Joe even when it wasn’t the same horse. My brother is named Joe so we kid him about it. Mrs. Revell would sort the mail and if you were there she’d give it to you. She always read the postcards and some people put “hello Mrs. Revell” on them. If you weren’t there to get the mail she put it in a pidgin hole with the first letter of your name on it. Ours was M. We got a couple of letters. Bob’s sister got a couple too. I gave my note to Mr. Revell and he picked the things off the shelves and added up the cost on the bag before he put them in. “You owe me $1.75”, he said. “I can spend a nickel on candy.”, I replied as I gave him the two dollars mom gave me. “Come pick it out. I’m too busy to spend much time.” he said, walking to the candy cabinet at the end of the counter. I chose two Mary Janes because they last long, a couple of liquorish sticks and asked Bob what he wanted. He picked a jaw breaker. “Now you be careful and don’t break the bottle in that sack.” said Mr. Revell as we went out the door.

“Let’s check the tide as we cross the bridge so we’ll know if we should go swimming or crabbing before lunch“. It was still running in so we went home to give mom her groceries and put on our bathing suits. My brother Joe was on the way to his boat with a bag of sails and a paddle. Harry Wilson was with him carrying other things for the boat. They were going to sail around until lunch time. If they were needed ashore mom had a big piece of canvas she spread on the terrace that they could see and respond to by coming in. Mom and Chick were in the kitchen straightening up when I brought in the stuff from the store. They wanted to know who had been at the store and if there was news about anything. I told them “no one and nothing” but that didn’t satisfy them. I had to sit down and tell them who was there and in some cases what they were wearing.

Mom said she was having some ladies for cards in the afternoon so Chick and I could set up the card table and chairs on the front porch and “pick up” the things laying around the house. Mom set out four of her pink glass cups and saucers and the fancy pink glass cookie plate. They all resided in the china cabinet when she wasn’t using them. We had a “tea trolley”. A cart that only got used when things had to be taken to the front porch. It made a nice table for things so they didn’t have to be on the bridge table.

By August in most summers the sea nettles were pretty thick in the bay. We at Fairhaven didn’t have a sea nettle net so we kids played along the shore just getting really wet when we needed to cool off. We would check for sea nettles before going under but still got stung sometimes. The “cure” was to rub mud on the sting. I don’t think that really helped. It was better than running home to mother who would rub on vinegar or a baking soda paste neither of which did much good. We played tag in the shallow water and sometimes threw a stone and tried to find it under water. The salt in the water was slight enough that it didn’t burn your eyes. We all swam with our eyes open. That was why we didn’t like pools with their chlorine to sting your eyes. The only pool around was at Irving Owings’s house and he didn’t invite many people to share it.

After playing around a while in the water with Bob and the twin girls who were nieces of the Beaches I was hungry and went home for lunch. I usually had peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. Mom made cookies or a cake almost every week so there was something to follow the sandwiches. Dad didn’t care much for sweets so we seldom had dessert after dinner. He and mom would have cheese and crackers and iced tea before bed time. None of my friends went to other peoples’ houses for meals. There was no way to tell your mother where you were because there were few telephones (we had one--a party line with “one long and three short” rings as its code) and you had to sort of “report in” after being free to roam all morning. If you didn’t go home around lunch time the alarms would go off and everybody would be called home.

After lunch you couldn’t go swimming for an hour “because you would get cramps”. Bob and I and Doris (who was about nine) got old kitchen knives and toy cars and went to the Fullers earth beach. The knives were ancient ten cent store silverware I believe my dad had gotten in a “grab-bag” at the auction he sometimes went to. A grade school friend of dad’s, Adam Weschler, ran an auction house in Washington and dad would go in, usually on Friday, to see what might be used at Fairhaven, and if he could buy it at a good price. All our lawn mowers came from there. Some times dad had to buy stuff he didn’t want to get stuff he did want. That’s where the knives came from. The cars were rubber models of GM cars Mr. Lindauer gave us. They were the latest models. The cars determined the scale of the structures, for example, roads were two cars wide. We carved off slabs of clay to make houses, which all had a garage for the owner’s car. Since the tide was still coming in, we were building high on the beach and the construction might be there in the morning. If we worked lower down the overnight tides would usually wash the town away. While we did this work we sat on the clay and slid around to new positions constantly so the seat of our pants was being abraded. Several mothers remarked that it was “The Summer of The Patches”. The bottoms wore out of our pants.

While we were busy on the beach several of the older boys had gotten the sailboats out and were racing each other to the red light marker for the channel which was a little more than half way to Holland Point. Sometimes the sailors would tie a boat to the marker and the guys would climb up from the boat and dive off. It was about fifteen feet high. They didn’t have enough girls with them today to show off how brave they were so they just raced. That practice helped them win when they went to the races at West River and Annapolis. Joe read every book he could find about racing small boats. They talked about it all the time. We saw Mr. Wilson coming in from fishing and Bob and I wanted to see if he caught anything. We persuaded Doris to take our cars and knives home for us and went to see the catch.

Mr. Wilson always had his catch on a “stringer” which was a cord strung through the gill openings of the fish. Mr. Wilson drift fished, usually for hardhead, sometimes for spot. When you were drifting the fish on the stringer stayed alive so you didn’t have to bring a cooler for them. When you moved from point to point you had best remember to bring the fish into the boat or they might all be pulled off the stringer. When we got there he had just beached the boat and was lifting two full stringers to put into his wheelbarrow. He had caught about twenty five nice sized hardhead. “Do you boys want to help me scale them?” he called. The messiest part of cleaning a fish is scaling them so it was a good idea to do it under water. We both said, “Sure”. I asked did he have any scalers in the boat or wheelbarrow? These were short sticks with bottle caps nailed to them. He took three out of the boat and we made short work of scaling. Mr. Wilson would finish cleaning the fish at home because he wouldn’t let us use the knives necessary to do that. He took the motor off the boat and put it and the fish in the wheelbarrow. He asked me if I would tie the boat to its stake using the half hitch he had shown me. I was pleased to be asked and finished the job before he could get the barrow off the beach. We caught up with him and helped him push the wheelbarrow in the uphill spots. I’m not sure we helped much but we all laughed if seemed like a slapstick comedy. When we got to his kitchen he sent us to find out if our moms wanted fish for dinner. I told him who was at my house playing bridge and he said to ask them too. The ladies were familiar with Mr. Wilson’s generosity and were very pleased that the fish would be cleaned. Sometimes they were not. Each requested enough for dinner. When I told him Mrs. Thompson wanted two he said to tell her he was sending one extra for the cat. He packaged them up in newspaper and sent us off with them for delivery.

The ladies were finishing their game and I only had to put our fish in the refrigerator. Chick came in from whatever she had been doing and we made short work of putting the trolley back, consuming the leftover cookies, and putting the dishes in the sink. Mom would have time for a short rest before starting dinner. Dad’s day at work was from 8:15 to 5:15 weekdays and 8:15 to noon on Saturday. Everyone worked on Saturday but the stores were closed on Sunday. You couldn’t even get milk for a baby on Sunday. (If you really needed it someone would give it to you.) Dad would try to make customer calls on the Northeast side of town in the afternoon so he could get home before 6:30. We all waited for him to eat dinner with us. He had to hear about all the happenings of the day. Even how many fish Mr. Wilson caught interested him. After dinner he would take off his “boiled” shirt and stiff collar and pull on a pair of old slacks sometimes with just his undershirt and go work in the yard. He always said that was what relaxed him. We had a large flower garden in the side yard, roses and irises in the foundation planting and a hedge of privet about two thirds of the way around the yard. He had plenty to work with. As the sun faded mom and dad and I would go sit with the McCarthy’s and Thompsons on the waterfront and chat. If the mosquitoes were biting we didn’t stay long. Chick would have girlfriends on the back (screened) porch until nine o’clock and Joe would go with his friends to the bridge and then the beach until ten o’clock. I was asleep by 8:30. (May 14, 2011)
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