Summer, 1960-70

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Oh, fantastic summer! As kids, we couldn’t wait to get to our family cottage for the month of August. Half trailer with a half built on living room, nestled in the woods up a slight incline from the lake, our ramshackle “summer house” looked out over a stony shoreline and a dock that had been left in the water all winter. The guest house was a tool shed with two single beds we called The Bunk House. My brothers slept in there, among other things.

I’d sit on the end of that dock with the coveted literary reading of the season; the waterlogged copies of Vogue our fancy neighbor around the cove had left out on their beach on a table under a martini shaker.

I washed my hair in the lake with the Beauty Counselor products one of my mother’s friends sold where they lived in Washington D.C. Their family hosted naval cadets and Louise, my mother’s friend’s daughter who was slightly older than I, would regale us with stories of cadet lust. Louise was privileged, had a know it all personality, wrote bad folk songs about drifters on her ukelele and I worshipped her. She also had long, naturally icy blond hair that was so unfair! I spent hours in front of The Bunk House mirror with a comb dropped deep into a bottle of peroxide, trying to figure out how to look more like her.

In 1969, during The Summer of Love, when our lake neighbors to the left, took their kids to Woodstock, I cried for a week. I begged to go. (My father absolutely shut it down and I must say I don’t blame him, for in 1966, I begged him to take me to see The Beatles at Maple Leaf Gardens in Toronto. My best friend Laurie and I went, escorted by our two Dads. I convinced Laurie to try to go back stage, we got lost, and the entire Toronto police force including several Canadian Mounties were burdened with finding us. It made the paper and I can still feel that thorn in my side today, almost 50 years later).

To remind everyone that I at least belonged at Woodstock, I quit the Beauty Counselor routine of washing my hair in the lake (probably responsible for the fact that that beautiful lake is environmentally challenged today). I also stopped wearing shoes. Jeans were the thing. They had to be too long so that the bottoms dragged on the ground under your dirty bare feet and toe rings. Oh, also an American Flag on at least one of the back pockets was of a certain status. Eventually back pocket American Flags were banned in my school, but that came in the fall and this was summer!

My Canadian cousins visited that summer and taught me how to roll dried cornsilk in cigarette wrappers. Gateway. ( We got caught hanging out The Bunk House window with our first real joint several summers later.)

Long Point Park was less than a mile down the road and at sixteen and if we stayed in a group, we were allowed to walk down along West Lake Road to ride the rides, play Skee Ball, and smoke cigarettes sitting on benches chained to trees down at the beach.

Pheromones were compliments of Love’s Lemon Scent and of course, there was the chalky pink drugstore lipstick that my friend Teresa said would make our tans look darker. We’d lose our over sized T-shirts half way down the road, revealing our bikini tops and cutoffs. The coverups were stuffed in a mailbox by the side of the road and picked back up on the way home. That’s right, we wore our bathing suits at night. A trend I have to admit, never really caught on.

To me, the best part of Long Point was the roller skating. I got my first kiss on the beach, in the moonlight, after a couples only skate. MC was a real “Laker” which meant his family lived on the lake year round. They were eastsiders, from the “other” side of the lake, the mysterious, alluring side; whereas our family and friends lived on the so transparent, so stupid west side.

MC was just the smoldering, non filter smoking, too cool for sports, seventeen year old you’d hope for that first kiss. He smelled of English Leather and tasted of what would be my introduction to Old Mr. Boston’s Sloe Gin. It was completely intoxicating. Yeah, he got me. And yeah, I wasn’t the only one. And although I would see MC many summers after that, with some other girl, outside the rink, in the moonlight, flicking his cigarette over a car, into the parking lot and leaning in for a kiss — at least I’d always know,we had the beach.


Robin McDonaldComment