Memorial Day Memories
It's Memorial Day, and in addition to the remembrances of those who gave their lives, my memories always travel back to my home town - which is not Nantucket. However, Mj Mojer, a 13th generation Nantucketer, has a plethora of great memories from her childhood. Mj will be a regular contributor here beginning with her "Summer Memories begin with Memorial Day"
By Mj Mojer.
Memorial Day Weekend seemed to be the start of summer when I was a kid. I’m sure there was still a week or two of school before we were let loose, but for some reason, my annual academic memories seem to end with a fistful of lilacs and a march to the cemetery.
For me, the sense of safety and freedom that I felt in the summer, (well tempered with the understanding that, if I did misbehave, Mom would know about it before I walked through the door) was something I thought kids everywhere had.
In the summer, my best friend, David Rose and I would walk down to what we knew as South Shore Beach, now Washington Street Beach. At seven and eight years old and up, we would mosey past Oliver’s on Pleasant Street, and down Williams Street to Aimee’s Bakery, owned by David’s family. His grandmothers had, what could only have been, asbestos hands, as they reached again and again into the steaming pot of whole, boiled potatoes to peel them for their potato salad. David’s dad, Frank, would stop for a minute, slice one of the large hams, split open a couple of his Portuguese rolls and wrap them in wax paper for our lunch. My Aunt Fran worked at the counter, and it was magical to watch the counter girls’ package up the baked goods and whip the red and white striped string around the boxes from the big, brassy spools that hung from the ceiling. David and I would spend all day at the beach, sometimes by ourselves, sometimes with an occasional babysitter or grandparent, and wander home by dinner, always stopping for a minute or two to play on the little front porch of the old Boy’s Club. David and I were neighbors. A play date in those days consisted of standing in the back yard and calling out names until someone answered or came over. We had quite the neighborhood, with Frank Rebimbas Variety Store on one side, Nana Perry on the other, the Haynes two doors down, , Honky and Ethel Garnett and Wendell and Maxine Howes across the street, and the Killen kids on the corner and the Almadobars on the other.
Island kids started working early, and my first job; part time of course, started at the age of ten. Full time didn’t start until I was eleven. I worked for my Uncle Jack at Poet’s Corner Press on Orange Street. I would ride my bike to work and back. (A sting ray with a sissie bar until I was twelve…then my first ten speed Schwinn, bought from Roger Young himself.) My job was to deliver the Nantucket Vacation Guides that we printed at the shop. I would drag a shopping cart around town, making stops from Young’s Bike Shop to the Information Bureau and everywhere in between. A right turn at the corner would take me past Mitchell’s Book Corner, the barber shop, Maude Dinsmore’s, the Camera Shop and Kareka. The Bosun’s Locker was along here as well, and if it were late afternoon, you might just cross the street instead of walking past the big, plate glass windows….just in case. After Charlie’s Market was Buttner’s, where every girl went to start their school shopping. At the end of the day, on my bike ride home up Orange Street, I would often stop at Ryder’s Market for a bottle of Coke.
Summer brought summer residents, all, it seemed, who had been here just as long as the rest of us…they just had to leave in the winter. It also brought the Penny Patch, which was only open in the summer, and moved around a bit in those days. I believe in the summer of ’70 it was either in the building that housed the Straight Wharf laundry mat or on Main Street next to the Camera Shop. The side by side entrances to those two shops on Main Street seemed somehow adventurous. Big, wrap around windows, an arched doorway….regardless of what shop was there (The Camera Shop, the Penny Patch, or my favorite, Kareka, where I spent my hard earned pay on silver earrings). I’m sure the entrance was no more than three or four feet, but my long ago memories has it as a tunnel.
Way back when, the wharves were under construction, and over the next couple of years turned into the Boat Basin. Susie’s Clam Shack and the Penny Patch were traditional summer fare. There were these great, horseshoe shaped benches that lined the strip between Straight Wharf and Old South. For Fourth of July, we watched the fireworks from the parking lot at Al Silva’s. I can’t even imagine how many car roofs and hoods we dented bouncing around to get the best view.
Growing up and raising my own family here has been a gift. There are fewer and fewer of us who have these treasured, shared memories of Main Street and town way back when, and the names and faces that have come and gone.
The joy of summer memories on Nantucket can as simple as a Malachite ice cream cone from the Sweet Shop or as complex as finding your family amongst your ten thousand new best friends at the Pops. Either way, time traveling to reconnect with my ten year old self is an indulgence that I truly enjoy!