Judy (Roome) Wesockes was the kind of older cousin every young girl should have in her formative years at the Shore. She was brave, funny, practical.
We both liked endless swimming and sleeping in the tent in the bushes behind the cottages.
When she learned that my 12-year-old self thought the way to the boys’ hearts was a ready store of dirty jokes, she bided her time. When I observed to her, horrified, that the newspaper had reported a 12-year old-girl in her home city of Montreal had been raped, she calmly responded, “I knew her. She told dirty jokes to boys.” The shock was profound: I never told another dirty joke to boys; I became incapable of even remembering them.
Judy greeted me this summer with five hand-written pages, and since her memories delighted me, I hope you will enjoy some of them too.
“We headed to the Shore the 1st day school was out -- and never went home till the day before school started. We escaped the polio years unlike kids in the city.”
Judy, her younger sister Robin, and her parents, Art and Keith Roome, shared the cottage with Keith’s sister, Audrey Casey, her husband Doug and their children, Brian, Dan and Bill Casey.
“We never had a bath all summer - just swam every day and washed our hair outside with water from the rain barrel.
“For breakfast we grabbed a piece of fruit from the ever present fruit bowl and a handful of cookies - made by the Cookie Woman [Florence Chapman] - and headed for the beach, with cousins or alone. I can still hear the sound of the gentle waves lapping on the beach - early - just about sunrise. The one rule all children at the Shore learned early was to never wake up grown ups unless for an emergency.
“We walked for miles on the beach or in the woods and ate strawberries, raspberries or blueberries, each in its season. Dad taught us that it was safe to drink out of any spring from which Tanny, our golden lab, drank.
“I learned to swim at age 4. When we got tired swimming, we would hold Tanny’s tail and he’d pull us in to shore.
“I still recall the old galvanized round tub they bathed us in - outside - to go to the circus. I was not yet five but I can recall standing by naked and Mum pouring in water boiled on the wood stove and telling me not to get in. She went to get cold water from the pump, I forgot, stood both feet in the tub and blistered my feet. My big cousins carried me to the ocean, I’d swim for hours, they’d carry me back to my cot on the veranda: I have no scars because the salt water is such a wonderful cure.
“Brian, Dan and I had triple bunks; Bill and Robin slept in the parents’ rooms. We never had a bedtime and seemed to run free.
“We had a tent where Jeanne Christie’s cottage is now. Tanny guarded it so no skunks or racoons joined us. We would put a nail through the top of a pop bottle and sit in the tent sucking on it so the pop lasted for hours.
“I needed to be a good sport because all my cousins were boys (the girls were 2 - 4 years younger). I learned to climb cliffs and trees, throw knives and crab apples, paddle a canoe, row a boat and to cut wood as well as they did. As teens we’d row a boat full of kids way out, sink it and then swim it back in. We felt so free out there and never realized our voices carried over the water and people on shore could hear us.”
Here’s a memory my brother Garth and I share with Judy that was surely remarkable even then: “The path from Christie’s farmhouse passed our tent and went through the Atherton’s cottage to the beach - never did we walk around the cottage - Aunt Ruby and Uncle Bob never seemed to mind the slamming screen doors.
“A group of us were digging a big hole in a sand bar. My foot was covered in sand and my cousin, Garth, cut my big toe and the toe next to it down to the bone with his shovel. Brian helped me wash it off - there was blood everywhere - and he was yelling, ‘You are in trouble now. You nearly cut her toe off.’ Garth disappeared and didn’t come home until very late.” He has also successfully forgotten the incident - and won’t share others for fear they make their way into print.
“Aunt Ruby and Ada Swetnam, nurses, were our medical clinic till our uncle doctors arrived on the weekends.
“I guess I was Dr. Garth Christie’s first patient.
“We had bonfires on the beach with marshmallows and night swims. I still recall one of my doctor uncles skinny-dipping and a flashlight shining on his white bum as he ran away down the beach. “
This column could have been titled “Why We Love the Shore.”
Clare Christie is a member of the Amherst News Community Editorial Panel. She can be reached at email@example.com.