A Perfect Beach Day

Today is the quintessential March day. It’s 50 degrees, blustery and a cold rain is spattering down. Upstate, snow flurries are predicted. Oddly, it’s also Memorial Day weekend.

There is no sign of the flowers that struggled through this confusing spring. The beaches are deserted. Traffic is slowed to a crawl as drivers become “biodegradable” at the first sign of rain. And I am wondering how this weekend will play out for me, given that I have no place to go (as usual) other than my lovely loft. I’m tired of my loft, but I’m glad it’s there, anyway. I’m also glad it’s not boiling hot, given that my tiny A/C has given up the ghost.

So I’m here, thinking of other beaches and other Memorial Days instead. When I was a kid, we always had Memorial Day parades, featuring (mainly) the Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts, Mariner Scouts (which eventually included me), Cub Scouts and Brownies. The nurse for the Girls Scouts’ Camp Timberloft, whom we called Dr. Cottontail, always swore that it never rained on Memorial Day. And as far as my mom and I could remember, it didn’t.

We marched to Gilson Park, then a lovely park on the shores of Lake Michigan. Now, I understand, it is largely overgrown and the yacht harbor is abandoned. I never would have learned to sail if that had been true in my day!

G'maH+NLH 5:54This photo was taken at the end of the parade in May of 1954 in Gilson Park (by “The Bowl”, which was an outdoor amphitheater). Notice: there’s no rain! I was eight, and with my adored and adoring Grandma Hoffmann. I wear her ring every day and know she is with me still. We had so much fun!

For example, one rainy day, Linda Dormody was playing with us in our living room. I got the crazy idea of playing baseball; but all we had was a broom and a beach ball. Grandma was up, and batted a home run — right through my mom’s favorite lamp. Just as Mom came through the door like thunder. We had to leave the room we were laughing so hard. Linny, do you remember this? You ran home at rabbit speed!

Grandma taught me to bake fantastic Christmas cookies, to sew on a machine that had been made before the zipper was invented and to crochet. She also taught me how to make artificial flowers and embroider. I never would have loved doing such “girlie” things if she hadn’t been my teacher. (The one thing I resisted was learning German from her: it was too “odd”.)

She had great energy and was a very sharp card player: especially pinochle, and especially after a couple of drinks, when the other players began to slack off. She won quite a bit of money this way playing with her German “girl friends” in “Milvowkay”, [WI]!

Memorial Day was also a picnic in the back yard, with German potato salad, burgers and carrot sticks. We usually had one of Mr. Godemann’s unparalled chocolate cakes for dessert, as well (he was our neighbor and was the head baker for the legendary Bennison’s Bakery in Evanston). Plus, vanilla ice cream to go with it, home-made and hand-packed at the tiny family-owned store named “Peacock’s”, conveniently next to the bakery.

Our bikes were decorated as they were for the Fourth of July: with red/white/blue streamers threaded through the wheels and hanging off of the seat and handle bars. Boy, we were cool, eh Linda? Fun was so easy to come by in those days!

3 Responses to A Perfect Beach Day

  1. Fred James says:

    NH, you were such a cute nine year old! But how could Memorial Day happen in late March? That holiday always occurs in late May! Quoting Wikipedia, “Memorial Day is a United States federal holiday which occurs every year on the final Monday of May.[1]”

  2. hoffmannn says:

    Here’s the statement: “It’s the perfect March day.” That doesn’t mean it’s happening in March: indeed, this “March day” is happening on Memorial Day, and freezing the bejeezus out of the holiday.
    Does that clear up the confusion?

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