The second in a series about the author's early days in Rye, this article covers the summers of 1941 to 1943. The author is now 96.
Now that we were a family of three we wanted a place of our own to spend the summer. The family camp at Lake Winnisquam was crowded. My husband’s brother, Dick, had two children, his brother Ed had three and his sister Fran had one. The ocean appealed to us. It also appealed to Dick and Fran. Eventually all the Morton family, with the exception of Ed, owned houses on or near the ocean in Rye. Ed and his family, who lived in Berlin, bought the camp.
Polly Morton and daughter Ellen.
Concord is in a valley, and summers can be hot and sticky and punctuated by violent thunderstorms that follow the Merrimack River. Nature would put on a spectacular display with thrusting spears of lightning. My husband and in-laws would sit on the porch and enjoy the show. I would sit on the divan and tremble with Samantha, our cocker spaniel.
Our first summer in Rye was 1941. The rented house was like a barn. Bedrooms had wooden double beds with high headboards, and mattresses were appointed with well-designated hollows – your place and mine. Just try and roll over! We spent as much daylight as possible on the beach. Rushing in and out of the cold ocean water was invigorating. Many hours were spent reading, relaxing and working on acquiring a tan everyone would envy. We liked it a lot.
Unfortunately, in 1942 we couldn’t find a place to rent.
In 1943 the Robert Upton house right on the sand was perfect for us. It was on Jenness Beach across from the present Carriage House. Fran, her husband Don and son Henry came too. We lived in bathing suits. The war curtailed traveling. “Blackouts” were strictly enforced. Volunteers patrolled the beach hourly when it was dark.
Polly, Ellen play at beach on Mere Point.
I remember that year, because, unbeknownst to us, just before we left for Concord, Henry (age 9) removed every electric light bulb he could reach and hid them under the pillows of the stripped beds. Mrs. Upton called my husband and asked why we took the bulbs. Henry confessed.
The summer of 1944 found the three of us on Mere Point outside of Brunswick, Maine. My husband was supervising a landing strip under construction for the Brunswick Air Station. Available was a three-room camp with no indoor plumbing but with a telephone and electricity. This was on a wide, deep salt-water inlet. The ground cover surrounding the camp was low bush blueberries, and the sands of the inlet in our front yard yielded buckets of clams. The blue of the ripe berries never changed, while the blue of the inlet was never the same. When the water was rough, the quick curls of white spray looked like lace trimmed petticoats showing from under hems of gathered blue skirts. These were the pluses. On the minus side was my fear of foreign submarines approaching under darkness and landing a spy who would steal our car or worse take us hostage. My imagination annoyed my husband. It was a lonely summer with only three-year old Ellen during the day.
Next: From Concord to Concord Point
August 4, 2005
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