A boomer remembers bygone days

We don’t get real nostalgic here at BoomerCafé but this piece, from Baltimore’s Susan Reid, challenged us. It’s about those carefree days — at least they seemed carefree to us — when we were kids. It’s about Vagabond.

“Come on down to my boat baby, come on down, we’ll sail away …” sang Every Mother’s Son, the pop group in 1967. And sail, my cousins and I did through all kinds of wholesome fun in the 1960s in a waterfront home called Vagabond. In that decade, many of us were fortunate enough to have places to go to like Vagabond in Round Bay, Maryland. They offered experiences that the hot, humid, crowded cities couldn’t.

Aunt Birdie and her husband, Hamilton, lived in the little shingled house at the foot of a narrow steep dirt road. It had a kitchen, a bathroom with a handmade toilet that didn’t flush, and one big room with a pot-bellied stove. From the front porch, you could see the rich blue waters of the Severn River.

To get to the beach, you had to walk very cautiously down a very narrow set of old sand-dusted steps, about two stories high. I’m not kidding; this was a community of steep hills and big old trees.

A long sturdy rope tied to one of the trees had a car tire at the other end. My cousins Laura, Sharlee, and I would hold the worn tire, swing over the river and jump in, splashing anybody nearby and causing giggles and screams. In our two-piece bathing suits, we floated on inflatable rafts, swam, tossed beach balls, and waded through the water. We did our best to avoid the seaweed and jellyfish.

All of this fun created a pile of dirty tops, shorts, and bathing suits. So did eating on the porch. When you’re excited and hungry, it’s not hard for the mustard from your hot dog or the juice from watermelon to find its way to your Bermudas, button-down collar shirts, and Jack Purcells. My cousins Neal, Bobby, and Mark knew all about that.

Susan Reid visits Round Bay.

Aunt Birdie’s solution to the soiled laundry was for us to pretend we were in France making wine. She filled a big metal tub with soap and water and dirty clothes and had us stomp and squish the clothes with our feet, like they were grapes. Then she hung the rinsed clothes on a line near a spring where she collected drinking water.

Aunt Birdie took us with her to buy live minnows. She needed them to catch fish from the Severn, a river wealthy in white perch, rockfish, eels, clams, oysters, and Maryland’s famous blue crabs. Seagulls and ducks liked the Severn’s menu, too.

To get to the merchant, we drove over dirt roads and paved roads flanked by big old trees in neighborhoods that still had a country environment. Aunt Birdie’s habit of driving about 20 miles per hour didn’t go over well on Maryland Route 2, a highway connecting Baltimore and Annapolis, the state capital. The first indoor enclosed shopping mall on the United States east coast, Harundale Mall, was on the highway. So was a McDonald’s.

But we usually ate at Vagabond, where we sailed through wholesome trips each day.

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17 Comments

  1. Beautiful piece Susan! Thank you for sharing those precious memories with us. Life was good back then, even if today’s children might look upon such experiences as being ‘deprived’ of ‘stuff’. You have motivated me to dredge up my own precious memories of living in pure bliss out in the middle of nowhere, where money was only a word, and fun was to be found in every blade of grass, flower, hillside, free-flowing ice cold creek and wild animal encountered!

    Thank you!

  2. Your story is filled with interesting details that made me feel I was there enjoying the carefree life. You look great in your photo.

    Tell us more stories

  3. Enjoyed reading your article, it brought back many memories of my childhood.
    Playing with my cousins, swinging on a rope swing, fishing, crabbing and sailing on the Severn River. Oh, what fun we had at Bembes Beach.
    Keep writing you are very creative. Thanks for the memories!

  4. This is such a relatable article. You did such a great job at capturing the happy-go-lucky air of childhood; it’s a joy like no other. There is a sense of warmth and contentment you get when reflecting on childhood memories like these. I am glad that you shared such a pleasant memory.

  5. Sue, thanks for reminding me of the “olden days” as my brother and I called them when our dad told us about his childhood. We had simple food and hiking in the woods and swimming in a river, too. Loved your aunt’s clothes washing method. I gave up the river when I found we were sharing the water with snakes.

  6. evocative colorful imagery:
    “sand dusted stairs…giggles & screams…seaweed & jellyfish…mustard & watermelon juice…squishy feets”.
    Sue’s Haiku, thank you

    1. Is this Fred, the person who taught me how to make a mint julep and about the difficulty finding shaved ice? Since comment is addressed to Sue, I think it must be. Thanks! Please write, if you have the time and include me in any reunions.

  7. I love this – it reminds me of a time when we enjoyed nature, each other and the simple pleasures of a summer day.

  8. Enjoyed the story! Reading this, l remember swimming at my Aunt and Uncle’s shore home with my cousin in the the summer. How much fun we had!

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