Tag Archives: Philbrick’s Snack Shack

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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The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars, But in ourselves…

Recently one of my Facebook “friends” asked me what my birthday was since she said, “I fiddle in astrology.” I answered, cryptically, that it was the same day as Argentina’s Independence Day (look it up for yourselves) of 1942. Now, I have to say that I believe in astrology about as much as I believe in the six day creation story. But tens of millions of people actually DO believe in it. Heck, foreign and domestic policy in the United States was influenced by astrologers during the eight years of Saint Ronnie of the Ray Gun’s administration.

My friend’s request got me to thinking about an old high school classmate or mine, Robert Hand.

Robbie Hand

We knew him as Robbie back then. Robbie was our class “nerd” though the term hadn’t yet been coined. He was the guy with the plastic pocket protector and slide rule. While he was our nerd, he was one of us. He played clarinet in the high school band and orchestra and was in the Town Band. a mixture of school-aged and adult musicians, as well.  We had some great parties at his house through our high school years. Nerd was just the position he held.

Robbie was a little strange, to say the least. His dad invented Arid antiperspirant and a mysterious but never marketed product referred to as “Fart Allure” which was supposed to make one’s flatulence smell like roses. His mom was a brilliant chemist in her own right, too. They lived in a big old house near Rock Harbor, and I remember one morning in the eighth grade when Robbie showed up at school looking as though someone had beaten him up. In a way that’s true. It seems  Robbie believed he knew the route from school to his home, about a mile or so away, so well that he could walk it with his eyes closed. He made it for about a block or so before doing a face plant into a phone pole.

When we were driving age our friend, Fran Higgins, Robbie and I used to take Rob’s mom’s car out on some of the deserted back roads in town where we’d get Rob to put the car in neutral, red line the engine and then drop it into gear to lay some rubber on the asphalt. It’s a wonder we never dropped the transmission during one of our outings.

Not surprisingly, Robbie was our class valedictorian. I don’t want to take anything away from that honor but I also have to point out that we had a graduating class of only sixty students. Bob left Nauset Regional High School to attend Brandeis University, and Brandeis doesn’t accept ordinary scholars.

Rob’s dad was a bit of an astrologer and passed his knowledge on to his son. Robbie became a professional astrologer himself and made a stellar (pun intended) name for himself in the field. He founded the Archive for the Retrieval of Historical Astrological Texts (ARHAT) in 1997, an archive that publishes translations of ancient and medieval texts pertaining to the ancient/classical/medieval study of astrology. In 2008 he received the Regulus Award for his life’s work at the “United Astrology Conference” in Denver.

Rob also worked a couple of summers at my family’s restaurant, Philbrick’s Snack Shack, at Nauset Beach in Orleans, Mass.

Robbie Hand

Who knew back then what any of us would become?


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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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Putting On Some Miles (Kilometers?)

I’ve been putting a few miles on the orange arrow in the last week. Sunday I went for a nice ride into the hills and, of course, forgot my camera. But that’s okay, just gives me a reason to go back.

I really wanted to get out Monday for a birthday ride but Mother Nature had other ideas. We’re into the rainy season now, and as I’ve said several times before, the mornings are usually beautiful before clouding up in the early afternoon and then pouring hard for a couple of hours later on. But Monday was one of those rare, odd days. It was gloomy when I got up at a little past six but not raining. It brightened for a couple of hours but I didn’t plan to hit the road before nine so as to let all the commuters clear the road.

Of course as nine o’clock rolled around it started darken up with threatening clouds. So I just played around on line. Then there would be some breaks in the clouds. Patches of blue appeared here and there. But when I’d put on my riding clothes the holes would slam shut in an instant. You could almost hear them closing. Nature kept on toying with me like that all day until it was too late to go anywhere. It didn’t start raining until about eight that night.

I couldn’t get out yesterday. I had to go in to David to hit the bank. I also wanted to check the prices on small washing machines. I’m really getting tired of doing my laundry in a five gallon bucket. It’s especially hard to do sheets and jeans that way. I then took the Cerro Punta bus up to Bugaba to buy my cigars. Once again, by the time I got home it was cloudy and too late to get on the road.

One of the places I’ve wanted to go for a long time was down to the beach. You can’t get there by bus. You can get through the small town of Alanje on public transportation but you’re still a dozen miles from the ocean and would have to take a cab  which, being a gringo, would most likely be expensive. The morning was sunny and things looked good. I got on the road at about 9:30 and headed down the hill. I was a bit apprehensive about having to cross the Inter American highway at “El Cruce” but it was a snap. Traffic in both directions had a gap of about a half a mile between the crossroads and the oncoming vehicles.

The ride down to and through Alanje is fairly scenic. There are twists and turns but with a lot of good straight stretches in between and sugar cane fields on both sides of the road. In the distance at the edges of the big cane fields were thick groves of trees that reminded me a lot of the hammocks one sees scattered among the sawgrass as you cross south Florida on Alligator Alley.

There were a few rough patches on the road but eventually the road ends at La Barqueta Beach and the monied  Las Olas Beach Resort

To the west is the La Barqueta gated rich folks houses. Kind of reminded me of The Hamptons on Long Island where I’d seen houses similar to these but with palm trees here. Cropping the photo screwed it up but take my word for how they looked.

The sand here is volcanic black. Snugged in between the two developments were a couple of restaurants. This one was closed though a sign said they were open Wednesdays through Sundays starting at 1 p.m. though at noon I saw no sign of anyone trying to get the operation started.

The other restaurant, more of the small “fonda” type that serves “comida corriente” may have been open because I saw people working around outside of it but it, too, gave no hint of being open for business. I can understand it, though since there were only three people on the beach itself and one lone surfer dude who wasn’t doing all that well.

But it’s a pretty stretch of beach looking to the east…

And over to the west with Costa Rica just barely visible in the haze…

At our family restaurant, “Philbrick’s Snack Shack,” at Nauset Beach in Orleans, Mass., we used to rent beach umbrellas for people who wanted some shade during the heat of the day. Here they do things a little different…

Heading back home I failed to make the turn that would have taken be back to El Cruce but I did come across this neat old abandoned house…

Having missed the proper turn I eventually found myself entering the edges of David and I sure didn’t want to be there. There was no way I was going to take the Inter American Highway back to Boqueron. I made a U-turn and headed back the way I’d come. I was cruising along at a sedate 35 mph (the speedometer reads in mph and kph) when the Alanje-David bus passed me headed away from David. Problem solved! I swung in behind and followed the bus until I had gotten my bearings.

In all I covered 52.8 miles today (88k X .6 = miles). In all I’ve gone 132.3 miles on the back roads of Chiriquí Province.

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