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.
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.