Daily Archives: March 9, 2013

Small And Getting Smaller

I grew up in the small Cape Cod town of Orleans, Mass., in the 1950s. If you think Lake Wobegon is small, you haven’t been to Orleans. There isn’t much to it. According to the Wikipedia site it’s only 21.1 sq mi (54.6 km2) of which 6.9 sq mi (17.9 km2) is water (Pleasant Bay and the Town Cove not to mention numerous lakes and ponds) which leaves just 14.2 sq mi (36.7 km2). It’s only about 4.5 miles wide from Cape Cod Bay to the Atlantic Ocean.

Our house was over on the west side of town, a short walk from Skaket Beach. The family business, Philbrick’s Snack Shack, for located at Nauset Beach, as far east as you could get without getting your feet wet.

Snack Shack

It didn’t have that many people living there when I was growing up, either. When I graduated from Nauset Regional High School in 1960 (the first graduating class at Nauset Regional) the year-round population was 2,342. It’s nearly triple that, now, with 5,890 residents, but what’s interesting is there’s been a 7.1%  decrease in population from 2000 when it hit its high of 6,341.

Not only is the town’s population getting smaller, but the actual size of the town is diminishing. Cape Cod sticks our from the mainland of Massachusetts like a flexed arm.

Cape Cod sat

This leaves it vulnerable to devastating storms. As you can see from the above, Orleans gets battered pretty much from whichever way the wind is blowing. Over the centuries it has been hit by hurricanes and winter nor’easters which eat away at the coastline which is primarily sand. The winds and waves pick the stuff up from one place and deposit it somewhere else. Nauset Beach over the past half century has suffered a lot. The yellow stick pin is where the high tide mark was when I was a kid.

Nauset high tide mark

In the past year the “Outer Beach” has been pounded by Hurricane Sandy and the recent winter blizzards, the most recent of which was on March 7th. And tear thing up is an understatement.

In 1966 I owned Nauset Beach Rides. I had a large International Harvester 4-wheel drive Travelall and took tourists on beach buggy trips down the beach.

Beach Rides

(Were we ever that young?)

This is the same spot after the most recent storm…

Nauset Beach Rides

The last time I was on the Cape this is what Nauset Beach looked like…

What's left of Nauset 2

As I said before, when I was growing up there was another 100 yards of so more beach to the high tide line. When I was there to take this photo the boardwalk ended with a set of stairs leading down to the beach. Back in the ’50s the boardwalk simply went on a flat line for another fifty or sixty yards from where these people are sitting. No stairs.

This is what the beach looks like today…


(Video by Cape Cod Travel Guide)

The storm effected the entire Cape: http://www.capecodonline.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20130309/NEWS/303090324

Nothing stays the same. Even rocks change shape over time. And don’t forget, the Colorado River that flows through the Grand Canyon was once at ground level.


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