When the final school bell had been rung for the season and students were released for the summer, along came the daunting decision of what to do first with our free time. Each June the unencumbered days would stretch before us filled with all sorts of possibilities. For me, there was the dilemma of choosing between playing in our yard or playing inside our house. Most days the choice was dictated by the weather and maternal decree. If the sun was shining my mom pretty much wanted to make sure that I got some time in the fresh air and sunshine.
My favorite place to be was the beach – it was then, and it remains so to this day. During the work week, however, it was impossible to get there. That was when I made good use of the inflatable kiddie pool, a brightly colored beach ball, and a small tin pail and shovel. My favorite outfit was a bright, coral-colored swimsuit. Of course mom made sure I had some suntan lotion on (we didn’t call it sunblock back then and we hadn’t heard of an SPF factor).
The weekend was when we got to go to the real beach. For us that was Seaside Park in Bridgeport. Between packing/unpacking the car, going for long walks along the shore to collect seashells in my tin pail, and eating a wonderful lunch mom had packed the day was over way too soon. In my really early years we would often be accompanied by a grandparent or two who enjoyed sitting on a blanket in the park across from the water.
Another special summer pleasure was going to see a first-run movie at the Center Drive-In; located off of Division Street it was called the Passion Pit of the Valley by the time I was in my teens. However, as a young girl I was thrilled when my parents took me there as a treat. We would usually arrive before dusk on a Saturday evening. Dad would maneuver the car down the dusty rows trying to find the perfect spot: center of the screen, in front of the concession stand, but not too close to the front of the drive-in. Once he jockeyed the car into position we had to hook up the speaker – a square metal box that hung from the rear window of the car and put out more static than sound.
If there was enough time before the movie started dad and I would go into the concession stand and buy popcorn, a treat my mom loved. Once the popcorn had been safely delivered to her, she enjoyed a few moments of quiet time while dad walked with me to the small playground at the front of the drive-in, literally at the foot of the huge screen. We would spend maybe fifteen or twenty minutes there then head back to the car. Some nights there would be mosquitoes buzzing through the air and dad would buy one of those citronella coils that you light up and blow out. The remaining smoke was supposed to dispel the nasty critters but most often that didn’t work.
On an average, I would remain awake through the cartoon and part of the first feature. By the time full dark was upon us I would be slumped over in the back seat and sleeping soundly on a blanket that my mom had so thoughtfully brought along. I truly don’t remember any of the movies I saw there until I was in my teens but I do remember waking up the next morning, safe and snug in my own bed and scratching at the mosquito bites I’d received the night before.