A boomer remembers that historic year, 1969

When we baby boomers write our memories, they truly sound like another era, another world. That’s why we like this piece from Baltimore’s Susan Reid. It’s about a summer only slightly less than 50 years ago. But the way the world has changed, it might as well be 500.

“The Satellite Motel is still there,” I wrote to my close friend Stacie, about an oceanfront motel in Ocean City, Maryland, where she, her mother, and I vacationed in the historic summer of 1969.

Like many people did that summer, we traveled to the nearest ocean resort for suntanning, walking, swimming, shopping, and eating in a relaxing, fun-filled place. For us, that was Ocean City, a nine-mile-long town on the Atlantic Ocean, about a three hour drive from our homes in Baltimore.

Maxyne, Stacie’s mother, drove us there in her 1963 Lincoln Continental. With the convertible top rolled down, the wind blew through our long hair.

From the outside, the motel’s office looked like a place George Jetson might fly his family to. After we signed in, we unpacked and went to the wide, sandy beach facing the beautiful but treacherous Atlantic.

On Ocean City’s beach, we suntanned. Maxyne used Bain de Soliel to darken her olive skin. “I used baby oil with red iodine because the iodine helps tint your skin,” said Stacie. I can’t remember what I used. It may have been Coppertone, a popular tanning lotion known for its picture of a tanned, pigtailed girl having her bathing suit bottom pulled down by a puppy, exposing her white backside.

On the crowded beach, Stacie and I strolled through the sand in our bikinis, holding in our stomachs as tightly as we could. We passed lifeguards with zinc oxide on their noses, children building sandcastles, and other teenagers listening to transistor radios. We avoided the crowded beach at 9th Street. It was a mini-Woodstock before the real one: hippies, love beads, and drugs.

“In the Year 2525” by Zager and Evans, and ”Crystal Blue Persuasion” by Tommy James and the Shondells, were popular songs on the radio and in nightclubs where Stacie and I drank near-beer.

As a teenager, Stacie learned about the Atlantic’s siren song. “I got caught up in the riptide,” she said. “It scared the …. out of me.” Maxyne tiptoed through the almost-white sand, getting splashed in one of many bathing suits she had packed.

While she tanned and napped, Stacie and I walked the two-and-a-half miles of wooden boardwalk, looking for saltwater taffy and fudge to take home to neighbors and relatives. We put vinegar and salt on golden fries cooked in peanut oil and sold in cups and tubs.

Big stacks of pancakes covered with fruit toppings, BLTs, toast, soda, and coffee were our daily breakfasts. At night, we ate steamed Maryland blue crabs, fried crab cakes, shrimp, baked potatoes, and salads.

On July 20th, people in the restaurant we chose were riveted by the television screen, waiting with anticipation for Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin to land the lunar module Eagle on the moon. But just as they did, the television and lights went out! We missed seeing Armstrong walk on the moon, the first person to do so. But we didn’t miss the fun and food in Ocean City!

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12 Comments

  1. Brings back great memories of one of my favorite places! My mother Maxyne lived for trips to the ocean!

  2. I, too, grew up in Baltimore and vacationed in Ocean City almost every year as a child. Thanks for the wonderful memories, Susan. Thrashers fries and Candy Kitchen salt water taffy…two of my lifelong favorites!

  3. I was 17 and in Europe that summer for the grand tour. In Einsiedeln, Switzerland at a local drinking establishment when Neil Armstrong set foot on the moon, a friend and I were the only two Americans amongst the crowd of village locals and when Armstrong touched down the roar of cheering was deafening. Everyone in the bar had to buy the American kids a drink and slap us on the back. Brother, did we get plastered. I don’t have any idea how we got back to our hotel. That Summer of 1969 was indeed, epic.

  4. Another era, another world? You say it might as well be 500 years ago? Hmmm, it actually does not sound much different from any given weekend for me or my kids right here in Southern California in the year 2018. Sandy beach, zinc on the nose, tanning, bikinis, Coppertone, teens listening to music, children building sand castles, walking along the beach boardwalk … it all sounds pretty familiar & totally timeless to me. Well, except for the moon landing. Nowadays we have a Tesla orbiting above the planet.

    1. I appreciate your critique. I’ll check my next story to make sure every detail elaborates on the theme. I would like to mention Coppertone was labeled differently in those days. I researched the history of it through the years. And, as far as women’s swimwear goes, thongs and tankinis may be more popular now than the bikini. I think there are way more boomboxes on the beach than transistors.

  5. Thank you for sharing your vivid summer memories with the world! While the sights and the sounds may be completely different, it’s great to read how our experiences can be shared across the decades.

  6. Enjoyed reading your article on Ocean City, so much nostalgia. The article brought back many memories of bygone days. Life is to short … it is time to make new memories.

  7. Ocean City was a huge part of my youth! Love Boomercafe for bringing me back to great memories, perfect for Mother’s Day.

  8. Thanks Sue,
    You have such a pleasant way of bringing back memories. You let me feel as if I’m walking on the boardwalk with you. Give us more.

  9. Oh, thanks for the memories of Ocean City! Best part of each summer. Would love to relive just one day as a teenager spent on the beach and walking the boardwalk sunburnt at night. Life goes by too fast. Sigh…

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