For most of us in the over fifty-age group who grew up in Connecticut’s Naugatuck Valley (Ansonia, Derby, Seymour, and Shelton) we lived for those summer weekends when we could go to the shore. For many of us that shore meant one of several places: Hammonasset State Park in Madison with its two miles of beaches and a great concession stand on the boardwalk; Seaside Park in Bridgeport with its open spaces sporting large trees offering shade for families to picnic and its rocky shoreline that needed to be navigated before we reached the water; and Silver Sands Beach in Milford that seemed to go on forever and was a favorite place of sun and boating enthusiasts.
Photo Courtesy of: http://www.ct.gov/deep/cwp/
The unique thing about Silver Sands (or Milford Beach as we called it) was Charles Island, a 14-acre island that reputedly holds the buried treasure of Captain Kidd. Growing up I hadn’t heard the buried treasure story but I remember going there with my folks and wanting to walk across the sandbar – well it was more like a rock bar really – and go out to the island. As a youngster I wasn’t allowed to do so because the tides going out there can be tricky if not timed exactly. When the tide came in you’d better be back at the beach or you’d be stranded on the island until low tide returned. There were many reasons not to get stranded out there and most of them had to do with rumors that the island was haunted. But most families made the walk out there and back together right after having lunch because the walk would help to pass the time between eating and being allowed to swim, i.e., the wait one hour before swimming rule.
Mostly my memories are of sitting on a blanket on the beach, getting hot and sweaty (which I abhor), going into the water for a dip then back to the blanket for more sitting in the sun. My uncle had a motorboat and sometimes we got to go for a boat ride around Charles Island – that was lots of fun and much cooler than sitting on a blanket and getting sweaty. Back then I hated sitting in the sun. My mom used to rub the suntan lotion on me, I’d wear a hat (usually something made of straw that looked tacky), and after an hour or so I’d turn red as a lobster. Sure enough, I was sunburned. Leg, arms, back, neck, face. And of course getting sunburned only made me feel hotter! Mom would help me change into a pair of shorts and a shirt and we’d try to find a bit of shade but those nights after a beach outing were totally miserable for me. Even with the help of a liberal dose of cooling Noxema skin cream I suffered for about two days. And right on schedule my sunburned skin would peel off just in time for a return trip to the beach.
When I got older we would go down to the beach at low tide and go clamming. That was a fun time and we always came away with something to show for our efforts. Mostly though my friends and I would sit on our towels or blankets and look out for handsome boys – at least we did until I got engaged. Then my fiance and I would spend Sundays at the beach – mostly Hammonaset Beach as that had more ammenities.
Nowadays, we have such wonderful sunscreens and marvelous ways to stay cool and comfortable while sitting on the beach. I’ve traded in those days when I could look out from my perch on a blanket at Milford Beach and see Charles Island in the near distance. Now I prefer to sit in a deck chair on a cruise ship and watch lovely Caribbean islands as they float by; I can shade myself with a broad-brimmed hat, oversized sunglasses, an occasional mist of water to cool myself, and a large glass of iced-tea. Those days of family outings at one of Connecticut’s beaches are now distant memories but I bring them out now and again and cherish each one.