Yesterday's Magazette

6 – Summertime Forever

Summertime Forever

By Mary Lou Ardrey

Way back in the early forties, when the whole world was in turmoil, there was a quiet little place on the Long Island shore. This friendly little farm town was evolving into a seaside resort. Summer bungalows settled in peacefully with the old established farmhouses.

The small town of Flanders had a firehouse with a truck that looked like some other town’s cast off, a one-room schoolhouse, only to the eighth grade, a tiny general store that sold just the bare necessities, and a little white church with a steeple. Each of them was no larger than the average garage. Time was just not moving as fast out that way and some friendships made as youngsters went on to last a lifetime.

I remember those hot summer mornings when the shrill sound of the harvest flies reminded us that summer was almost over. This meant that our summer friends would have to say their goodbyes until next year.

My summer buddy, Ethel, was standing in the shade of the pine tree in front of our bungalow. She was swinging a small milk can. It was time to go down to the farm and pick up the milk.

Each morning we strolled  barefoot down the sandy road to the farm at the end of the road. The sand was cool on our feet until we came to a spot where the trees didn’t shield the sand from the hot sun. Then we hopped and skipped quickly through the burning sand. Just ahead of us was the old farmhouse, and when I say old, I mean really old. I think they would call that a saltbox structure. Old Mike owned this duck farm and worked it with just the help from his cousin Martha. It was waterfront property and probably worth a fortune now. At the rear of the house was the old falling down barn with one cow. She gave enough milk for their use and some for the local people too. We dropped off our milk cans for Mike to fill.

We never stayed and waited because the smell of the barn burned my nose.

We went up to the shed on the side of the house to see Martha and give our order for a duck for Sunday dinner. Martha was a wonderful cook. She must have weighed about 400 pounds. She actually had to squeeze through the doorway. She was a jolly old lady, always laughing. It’s been said that Martha drank a little. I think she drank a lot. She raised the ducks, killed them, plucked and stuffed and cooked the ducks for many families’ Sunday dinners. I recall the odor of kerosene from the huge ovens. It’s funny how I can remember these things so clearly.

There is one more thing I remember about big Martha. A few days a week she worked on other farms. A pickup truck came for her and she rode by in the back of the truck wearing a big straw hat with a flower on it. Now that is a memory no one could forget. Martha always reminded us to bring a jar for the gravy when we’d come to pick up our duck on Sunday morning.

My mother cooked fresh vegetables from the farmer who came by in his truck on Saturday. Our Sunday dinners were truly a gourmet treat.

When we got back to the barn, old Mike had our milk pails filled. We each paid him a dime and we were on our way. Sometimes we stopped to see if the beach plums were ripe, but most times we just stopped to pick and eat the blueberries growing alongside the road. We couldn’t stay too long because we were told not to dilly-dally or the milk will spoil.

Ethel and I remained best friends all through our teenage years and then we didn’t see each other for long periods of time, although we were in each other’s wedding parties and our children became good friends. Sometimes we weren’t in touch for five years or more, then one of us would drop a line or call and we carried on a conversation as if we had spoken the day before.

Many years later I remembered a talk I had with Ethel’s parents at her wedding. They had retired and moved to a new home in Florida; a wonderful place that reminded them of our summer homes on Long Island. It was quiet and rural with pine trees and beautiful beaches. The waters were full of fish and crabs. They had a home on Lemon Bay. When I was visiting my daughter in Tampa, I insisted that we find this wonderful Lemon Bay place. But there was no such town on any of the maps.

All I knew was that it was south of Sarasota, so off we went searching.  Finally we discovered that it wasn’t a town, it was the water off Englewood called Lemon Bay. We stayed at a motel on the beach and fell in love with Englewood. When I got back home to New Jersey I told my husband that I had found the place where we should retire. Many, many times I told him.

A few years later, when it was time to retire, we took a trip and explored Englewood. We loved it and bought our home. What a pleasant surprise it was to find that Ethel and her husband Bud had retired here, too, and lived less than a mile from us. Our friendship has picked up where we left off and that is just another case of the circle of life.


Vol. 37 No. 2 – Yesterday’s Magazette – Summer- 2010

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