Tag Archives: Nauset Beach-Orleans

Mother Nature Wins Again…

I grew up in the small town of Orleans where Cape Cod makes its eastern-most thrust into the ice cold Atlantic. For thirty five years my dad and my brother, Jeff , ran Philbrick’s Snack Shack out on Nauset Beach. I worked at “The Shack” for eight summers when I was in high school and the first couple of years in college. After getting out of the Navy I ran Nauset Beach Rides.

This weekend there was an ultra-nasty nor’easter that tore away at the beach and is bringing an end to an era. My dad built the Snack Shack with his own two hands in 1954. It has withstood nor’east storms and hurricanes for 64 years but this week it’s finished.

One thing I didn’t make clear is that while my dad built the Snack Shack and he and my brother ran it for 35 years, my brother stopped running it 29 years ago. John Ohman has been running it since then under another name. It’s sad, though, to see this bit of Orleans history bite the dust.

1960 nauset

This last weekend.

snack shack 2


When my brother, Jeff, was running the place he was selling a ton to a TON AND A HALF of onion rings A WEEK! The volume of food that passed through those windows was literally unbelievable! On the Fourth of July Weekend Sunbeam bakery used to bring a trailer full of hot dog and hamburger buns to handle all that would be cooked and consumed over those three days.

Back in the ’50s Howard Johnson’s was noted and famous for their hot dogs. They were made by the Boldeaux  meat company. (Not sure of the spelling after 60 years) They only had TWO CUSTOMERS. Howard Johnson and Philbrick’s Snack Shack. I remember on time the Boldeaux salesman telling my father that the Snack Shack, from Memorial Day to Labor Day, sold MORE hot dogs than the top three year round Ho Jos in New England, COMBINED!!!

But it’s all over now. Mother Nature is a cruel mistress…

New Pics…

Shack Erosion 3

Shack erosionShack Erosion 2

Last three photos from Cape Cod Times newspaper

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It’s Still Standing

As I said in my last post it was nearly 60 years ago that my father built the Snack Shack at Nauset Beach in Orleans, Mass., on Cape Cod.

Snack Shack

Since then it has gone through several hurricanes, “The Perfect Storm” and innumerable nor’easters, but NOTHING like what went down this last weekend, and yet the “Stand” still stands.

My brother, Jeff, who took over from our dad, went through some close calls from storms. He wrote in a comment to my last post (in case readers don’t read the comments),

“A memorable storm hit on March 30, 1984 with winds hitting 80 to 90 miles per hour. During that storm the Maltese freighter Eldia came aground about 1/2 mile north of the Snack Shack on Nauset Beach. At 478 feet long and 5 stories tall the Eldia was twice as large as anything that had come aground on Cape Cod. Several of the crew who worked for me at the Snack Shack at that time were surfers and had been on the beach watching the surf when the Eldia had come aground. They said 30 foot surf was surging over the dunes into the parking lot. They also said the most amazing thing was that the waves where coming over the dunes then splitting and going around on either side of the Snack Shack into the parking lot. They said it looked like the hands of God where separating the waters. I went inside to check the building and the basement crawl space was bone dry and there was no damage to the outside of the building. You could see the water marks in the sand where the storm surged had gone up through where the board walk is in the summer into the parking lot and going around the bulk gas tank behind the building before going into the parking lot.
“The Eldia was eventually taken off the beach in mid May. Than another odd event happened a month later when a small airplane from Chatham airport crashed of the beach about where the Eldia came aground.”

An old friend, Albert (Sonny) Robinson, who I haven’t seen in more than half a century now lives in Mashpee and went down to Nauset this weekend and took these pictures of the Shack. (I outlined how I reestablished contact with the Robinsons in this post https://onemoregoodadventure.com/2012/12/11/ive-been-searchin/

The side facing the ocean:


The parking lot view:


View of the front of the Shack:

left side of Shack

Directly behind the Shack facing the ocean:

Directly behind shack

It won’t take many more storms like that before it’s all gone.

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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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