Memories of Melrose

Summer vacation time is coming up fast.  I've got my son's summer planned out and he's going to be a busy boy. Hopefully he'll have a wonderful summer filled with memories that he will carry with him for a long time.

As I get older, when I think back to my own summer memories, I mostly remember endless summers on the NJ shore.  But those summer vacations didn't until I was six years old, the summer that my brother was born.  Prior to that my family had traveled to Cape Cod, but being 8 months pregnant she didn't want to make the 5 + hour drive.  Can't say that I blame her.

My memories of Cape Cod are very faint.  And sadly, the hotel that we always stayed at no longer exists.  The Melrose Inn on Rt. 28 in Harwich Port, MA was our destination during my early summers.  Today it is a retirement community and although on the outside it looks a lot like it did when we visited, it's not the same.  I know there are a few photos (somewhere) of our treks there, but nowhere near as many as I have of my more recent vacations; with digital cameras and smart phones life is easily documented (perhaps too much so).  As a result the few memories that I have are not enhanced by photographs.  And what I do remember is most influenced by stories passed down through my family.

The memories I have are bits and pieces:

  •  Even without seeing the current photos; I remember yellow main building. (There was the hotel and then also an "ocean" side smaller building where we only stayed once and that was when I was older and my mother took my brother and I up for a couple of days to celebrate his birthday.)
  • The main entranceway/reception area had a clock (might have been some sort of grandfather clock) that played music. It might have been a separate music box as I do remember there were special metal discs (like lps, if you can remember those!) that went inside it for the tunes. The clock and the music box may have been two separate entities, but my mind ties them together.
  •  I recall the reception desk being very big and TALL.  (Of course being 5 years old or less what wouldn't seem tall?)  I think there was also a staircase off to the back right hand side of the room.  I think your left would be the entrance to the dining room and to your right would be a hallway/enclosed porch area that lead to the main lobby/living room type area.
  • The hallway/glass enclosed porch was long and narrow (in this little girl's mind) and filled with white wicker furniture. I seem to recall there being a television in this room.  (And it would be where we would have viewed the moon landing in the summer of 1996)
  • The main lobby/living room type area was very ornate.  I seem to recall a rich red patterned carpet.  I'm sure there must have been various sofas and chairs in the area.  There was also a staircase that lead up the bedroom.  (Definitely way before the era of the ADA!  No elevators that I can recall and definitely not wheelchair friendly!) Towards the front of the room there might have been another exit to the front patio area where were chairs.
  • Towards the back of the room (and possibly down a few steps) was a library/game room.  This room scared the crap out of me as it must have been designed by a taxidermist! I remember animal heads on the wall and even a full sized cougar (or some sort of wild cat).  Its mouth was open and its teeth were fierce!
  • I recall nothing of the bedrooms, other than the fact that they were upstairs.  I DO remember there being a basement.  And I believe that my mother and/or grandmother sometimes hung wet clothes down there.  There might have been a ping pong table down there.  (Or I might be confusing this with another vacation spot, Skytop Lodge, which still thrives in the Poconos and definitely has ping pong tables on the "basement" level of the lodge.
  • Behind the hotel was a pool.  I liked the pool a lot.  (As a kid it was more fun to go to the pool rather than to walk to the beach).  It has a "big" slide.  (Again, in hindsight and there are some photos of the pool, it's your average pool slide.  But to a kid of 3 or 4, it was BIG).  I didn't go all the way down it, but my dad would stand in the pool and lift me up and put me on the end of it and have me "slide" down into his waiting arms.  At the time I didn't know how to swim, so in addition to a bathing cap (if that doesn't date me, nothing will!) I had a "bubble" strapped on.  A bubble with an oval hunk of Styrofoam with a strap around it.  You strapped it around your torso and it kept you afloat.
  • The walk to the beach was probably not far, although again it seemed a distance.  The path to the beach was lined with flowering shrubbery.  The beach was dotted with Adirondack chairs. The Nantucket Sound did not have many waves so it was a good place to play and learn how to appreciate the water.
  • I don't remember the dining room (or eating), but I'm pretty sure we "dressed" for dinner.  (Probably not so much for breakfast or lunch...we must have eaten!)  I do remember wandering around town sometimes after dinner.  Seems to me there might have been a candy shop not too far away.  Possibly there was a kite shop too.
  • One memory that does remain was the result of a radio commercial campaign and a couple who were friends of my parents.  Henry and Muriel Connelly may not have had any children, but they did have French poodles on which they lavished love.  I think they also loved me as every year at Christmas they would send me a silver charm for my charm bracelet.  (I am ashamed to admit that one year I broke into the little charm that held a dollar that was deemed "mad money.")  One year there was a radio commercial (for what product I can't recall), that featured Sheldon the Ant saying "please watch where you step this summer."  (Or something along those lines.)  Sheldon became my "friend" and he and his pals Charlie and Annabelle (seagulls) would leave me little gifts.  To this day I still have the charms hidden away in a jewelry box.  

Though not strong, I treasure the above memories that I have.  (Even if they might not be "true").  I wish there was some way to verify them.  (If anyone out there remember the Melrose pre-1986, I'd love to hear from you.)  I hope that my son will have his own summer memories to reflect back on some day.  For memories of summer when you are a kid are times that will always be treasured.


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