Rye Reflections

July 2005 Features

A 50-year Rye vacationer reflects on sand, sunset and sanitation

Four generations of a family have flourished in a little cottage not far from the beach

Gail Beamer

It is fitting that the debut of Rye Reflections is in the summer of 2005.  This is the 50th anniversary of my first summer in Rye.  I was almost two years old the first time my little feet felt the velvety softness of the sand at Rye Beach, and it was love at first sight.

My grandparents, Hazel and Jim Shirley, bought a little cottage on what is now Breakers Rd.  (I have been told that it was once known as Ocean Ave).  How lucky for them!  I wonder if they felt as fortunate as I do now to have a relationship with this small, incredible stretch of the New Hampshire seacoast.

I spent at least a few weeks every summer in Rye, as I grew up (there I am in front of the cottage in 1962).  When I got older, my parents would leave me by myself with my grandparents for a three to four week vacation.  I loved this time with Grandma and Grandpa Shirley. So much to do – and so little time!  
I picked blueberries with my friend Happy Wilkinson, rode the waves on my canvas float till I turned blue, flew balsa wood airplanes purchased at Philbrick’s and went for ice cream cones after dinner.  There was a little ice cream shop next to Philbrick’s (now Rye General Store) back then.  We’d get our cones and drive across the street to the State Beach to “watch the sunset” from the back seat of my grandfather’s big Buick.  It didn’t occur to me until years later that we were facing East, the sun was setting BEHIND us, and what we saw were reflections.

On our second wedding  anniversary in 1977, my husband Tom and I took a trip from our home in Pennsylvania to New England. We spent some time at New Hampshire's Lakes Region and began our trip south with a visit to my grandfather in Rye.  We bought 3 lobsters, a six-pack of beer and some butter for about $10. We ate our lobster in front of the TV and watched the reports of the death of Elvis.  As my Grandpa feasted on his lobster, he looked up only once to ask, “Who is Elvis?”

In 1989 we relocated from Maryland to Massachusetts, as a result of a job transfer for my husband.  I was so happy to be able to bring my two boys to Rye for day trips to the beach after so many years of being landlocked in Maryland.  They loved the ocean as much as I did.  Now, instead of the canvas floats, everyone had boogie boards.  Never mind that the water temperature up here was about 30 degrees colder!  There were no jelly fish or other such unmentionables in the water.  It was a trade off.  

Now at age (almost) 52 – my husband and I own that little cottage on Breakers Road.  As we plan to renovate and winterize this little piece of paradise, I marvel at how my family managed to vacation there together all those years; our family of six AND my grandparents in about 600 square feet of space, with only one toilet. No TV, video games, Internet, or privacy.  My memories are only good ones, and I hope that the next generation will love and appreciate Rye as I do.  

THE BEAMING BEAMERS outside cottage:  Gail, Adam, Evan and Tom.

July 7, 2005



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