Friday, February 25, 2011

Forts, Condoms, and Innertubes

The ubiquitous scotch broom invaded the Island and even garnered its own parade, the Scotch Broom Parade, in the middle of summer. For my girlfriend and me, it hid our very own fort. Sort of like Brer Rabbit in his thorny patch. We crawled through our secret path beneath and around the scotch broom bushes to the middle where we had cleared a room. We called it our fort - all the boys had forts where we were not allowed so we made our own. What is now part of the sprawling ferry dock parking lot, at the top of the hill at Cave Road, was then, what looked like acres of the dark green shrub with its stalks of yellow flowers. At the northeast corner, stood a white house. That is where my girlfriend lived; Judy Lee.

The little enclave of Hawley was formed by a road which curved down from the Lee's place to Old Charlie Taylor's Boathouse, with paths and drives to the beach and back up a hill forming a U-shape. Within the U were several houses including Captain Peabody's. The rest of the community, including my grandparent's house, huddled around the outside of the U. Judy and I walked down to the Boathouse where there was a path to the beach. From there we could log-hop and scoot along cliff edges to the underneath piers of the ferry dock. Not much sun ever shone there so the rocks of the beach were slimy with algae as were the maintenance steps up to the terminal. Trees jutted out of the dirt cliffs above the beach. It was the back door entry (and the long way around) to our fort.

One warm summer day we sat on a madrona tree branch out over the beach eating our lunch. It was my first taste of a BLT sandwich - new treat! We giggled so hard Judy fell onto the rocks. She broke her arm. For the rest of the summer she wore a cast and our beach climbing was over. Plus - the boys found our fort. The Lee's moved before school started. I never saw Judy again. I've wondered about her ever since.

Nina, too, has some beach-y stories:

"As I wrote before, Rockaway Beach became a favourite play area for my brother and me that first summer. Just above the beach was the home of the tugboat captain for the Creosote plant, His wife, Jenny, kept a small telescope on a tripod in the house to watch the bay. Many large naval ships passed Bainbridge on their way to the shipyards in Bremerton. During July, or early August, my brother and I were at the beach paddling about, wading, and exploring the rocks and sand in the early morning. The tide began to come in and we discovered something truly amazing. The tide seemed to be filled with hundreds of white balloons. (They were really condoms dumped off one of the many vessels.) But being only five and six years old (and not knowing what they were, of course) we picked them up, filled them with water and proceeded to pelt each other with them. Unbeknownst to us, Jenny was at her telescope and spotted what was going on. My mother suddenly showed up on the beach and told us we had to go home immediately. We argued back telling her what a great find we had and how much fun the balloons were. She finally shouted at us to get in the car or else a spanking was imminent. We left very reluctantly. No one explained anything to us. But - when my Dad came home from work and my Mother whispered to him, he could not stop laughing. They never explained the joke."

When I read this, I too remembered there were always those little rubbery white things on the beach and in the waters. I had been strictly told never to touch them; that they were poisonous; but never any indication what they really were. My thought then was that they were off the suction cups of octopuses. I wonder if others remember this, too? And why? Were they really dumped off the ships? On the Navy ships there weren't any women. It's a mystery.

One time during WWII a Russian ship came into the Yard for some repairs (Russia was supposedly our ally then). There were quite a few women aboard. According to my mother who saw them close up as she worked in the Yard, the Russians hardly spoke to anyone. The women looked like men; that no one would have known they were women if they had not been identified as such. Could it be that this incident is what inspired the movie, "The Russians Are Coming, The Russians Are Coming?" Curious thought.

But the best way to enjoy the waters of Puget Sound was riding on an innertube. That must be pretty difficult now that tires are mostly innertube-less. My favorite innertube was one that had a big bulge in it. The bulge was a perfect back rest as I paddled around. At the curve in the beach where Hawley met Wing Point, the water was shallow for quite a distance. Riding on top, I could see the crabs scuttling and little fishies flitting - the water was clear and cold, the days were warm and sunny. If my uncle and his band of rowdy boys had not been around most of the time, always ready and eager to play war in the water, it would have been idyllic. Getting tipped over and chased was not fun.

Then there was the swamp at the edge of the beach where cattails waved and frogs waited to be caught. Actually, it was the most fun to scoop up tadpoles in a jar and watch them over time, transform into frogs. Another fun activity was running down the beach throwing pieces of driftwood in the air - except for the one time, I furiously flung a good-sized stick way up high and ran like sixty only to have the said stick bonk me in the noggin. Knocked me clear out - such fun!

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