Daily Archives: July 21, 2009

First Boat

I’m sure all bloggers get a cheap thrill when a reader leaves a comment on a post. I have several readers who comment regularly and I’m hoping this post will draw others to join as well. Like a first love I’m sure the readers remember their first boat. Here’s a reminiscence of mine and I’m hoping you’ll share yours with everyone who comes here.

I was about seven years old when my dad built a small 8 foot pram. We lived in Watertown, just outside of Boston but spent our summers at Nickerson State Park in Brewster down on Cape Cod. Back then, the late 1940s and early ’50s, you could reserve your favorite spot and stay in it for the entire summer. For me it was wonderful. I went to five different schools in the first seven years so I was always the new kid but down at the park it was the same people in the same place summer after summer. Next to us going up a small hill were the Bolducs then the Larrabees and across the dirt road from them were the Taylors whose son Tony was an hour older than I was. Going down the hill were the Cullums, the Brenners and the Morrises and on the other side of the road was my Uncle Bill and Aunt Stephanie and their daughters Helen and Lois. My Uncle Ed and Aunt Cleora were around the pond from us with their kids Eddie, Bruce and Audrey.

My mom and dad had a restaurant and catering service outside of Boston which they closed down every summer and they would be waiting for me the last day of school. My mom would be in our Ford Woodie (wouldn’t you like to have one of THOSE now?) and my dad would be in the Chevy panel truck with the pram on the roof and a small aluminum trailer behind…

Trailer @ Nickerson

My brothers and I slept in a tent nearby. My dad had a small restaurant at the beach in Orleans, the next town down Route 6 from the State Park.

The pram would spend the summer in the water of Flax Pond tied to a tree only a few feet from where I slept. The videos that follow were taken on a memory trip I made to the old campsite a couple of years ago. This one was taken from where my tent was located and shows just how close I was to the water.

Tony Taylor, Franny Cullum and I spent most of our days on the water. I used to have one picture of the old pram but it got lost somewhere down through the years long ago.

The boat was often pushed around by a small, cranky, Sears & Roebuck outboard but most usually we rowed it. My mother loved to fish and the two of us spent many evenings motoring the mile across Flax Pond to a deep fishing hole where we would catch hornpout (catfish) which we would fry up the next morning for breakfast accompanied by pancakes loaded with blueberries we picked from bushes along the shore. I will never forget the evening my mom and I went to our “spot” to catch the next morning’s batch of fish.

The huge boulder that had been laid down by some ancient, long-forgotten glacier was an easy landmark even in the dark.

The fishing was good and suddenly my mother got a hard strike. Flax Pond had a good mixture of hornpout, perch, trout and as my mother battled with this fish she excitedly proclaimed, “I think I’ve got a bass on!” The fish was putting up a good fight and then the head broke the surface next to the boat. And it kept coming, and coming, and coming. It was an eel about three foot long. My mom hated snakes and she wasn’t about to let a fish that resembled a snake into a boat she was in. She grabbed the starter rope, wrapped it around the flywheel and with a single pull the engine roared to life on the first pull in its one and only time of its life and we dragged that poor eel all the way back to the campsite on the other side of the pond drowning it in the process.

At the end of the summer all of us kids, ages between 8 and 11 years old would swim across the pond with my mother rowing as an escort vessel. We’d start off from the beach at the foot of the Morris’s campsite and end up by my mom’s favorite fishing hole on the other side. You can just make out the boulder in this video.

The the Park experience was dominated by kids my own age and mothers. The fathers were generally gone throughout the work week only showing up for the weekends and a two-week stretch sometime during the summer on their vacation time. Everyone stayed until the day after Labor Day when tents would be struck and everyone returned to their humdrum lives in the cities.

When I was 12 we moved full time to Orleans. Our days at the Park were over. By then campers wre only allowed you to stay a maximum of one month and no reservations. A couple of years later maximum terms were cut to two weeks maximum. At twelve I started to work at the restaurant and I never entered the pram again. I remember that when I was around 15 the chines had rotted out and I made a half-hearted and unsucsessful attempt at replacing them and the poor boat died an ignoble death as landfill in the town dump.

I welcome any reader to let us know about their first boat.

1 Comment

Filed under boats