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Thursday, August 11, 2022
ArlingtonOpinion'Old School' column: The beach

‘Old School’ column: The beach

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Imagine my surprise when I moved to Arlington in 1976 and heard everyone talk about going to “the beach.” It took me at least one season to realize they were talking about going to the edge of a real ocean.

In land-locked Middle America, going to “the beach” meant a trip to our town’s swimming pool – Rainbow Beach. That was my summer hangout from the time I splashed in the baby pool until I was diving off the tower.

The place held concentric circles, like an oversized dart board. The largest circle was a wide sidewalk, where we strolled and modeled our latest swimwear. I remember one summer my sister and I bought matching two-piece swimsuits, very daring at the time.

The next circle was filled with sand, for the bucket-and-shovel crowd. Some people spread their blankets there, although my friends and I preferred the grass surround, outside the sidewalk.

Inside the sand circle was the first swimming area, sloping to chest-high water. That was where my grade-school pals and I swam, did underwater somersaults and handstands, and generally horsed around.

The smallest circle was the deep water, holding a large round tower complete with night-lighting and diving boards at different heights for the brave of heart.

For teens, Rainbow Beach was THE place to spend the summer. Some had jobs there as lifeguards, bathhouse attendants or selling snacks, but my pals and I merely socialized.

I’d drive my jalopy to the beach, picking up friends along the way, and we’d spend the entire day sunbathing to get the perfect tan. We mixed smelly iodine with baby oil to get brown faster, like meat under a broiler.

By this time, we rarely went in the water, since it would ruin our hairdos. Instead we gossiped or played “beach solitaire,” a hand-held version we favored and named.

We also made frequent trips to the snack bar. My favorite treat: a frozen Snickers bar on a stick.

A HUGE status symbol was to be paged on the overhead PA system. We’d beg other friends to call us there, so we could hear our names blasted through the area: “Carol Edwards, you have a phone call.”

After another exhausting day at the beach, as I sat all red and wilted at the Old School dinner table, my dad turned to my mom and muttered, “If I took her with me to work and made her work that hard, I’d be arrested.”

Reach Carol McEwen at carolwrites4fun@gmail.com.

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