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Tuesday, November 23, 2010


Hippie Art! 
It swept across the country from Haight-Ashbury in the summer of 1967. Aretha called for Respect, Jim Morrison wanted his fire lit. And Van Morrison sang to me, his brown-eyed girl. No one was immune, the music was just too damn good and the truth was found to be lies. It was the summer I fell deeply, madly in love with a boy at our swim club. 

He was the son of a beautiful tall, bronzed brunette Italian mother with the ripe features of a Sophia Loren and a short Jewish father in the wholesale meat business who resembled a frog and not Kermit.  His older brother looked like the father and he, the object of my young obsession, took after his mother. He had dark blonde curly hair, an olive complexion, wide shoulders, a full sensuous mouth and he played the drums. (Collective sigh -- now.)  All that was missing were the flowers in his hair. I had seen him perform in a Battle of the Bands at the swim club junior dance and was from that moment, gone.  I was just 14 years old. He was 16. 

There was enough of an age gap at that time, compounded by my immaturity and his maturity, that the gulf between us was too wide. For two summers I just gazed with wonder at this fine specimen of young manhood with his beautiful clear skin, his sparkling golden eyes and sun bleached curls and felt absolutely worthless.  He was my Adonis. And in fact, might as well have lived on Mt. Olympus for all the interaction that took place between us -- precisely none.  

I was a big swimmer in those days at a swim club that held dances and parties and had a fantastic day camp we attended for years.  Monday through Saturday, Mothers with children in tow, came to the Club, had lunch and then delivered the children to the camp gates for the afternoon. The property was a rolling-hilled and rambling old dairy farm of about 300 acres and the youngest children all gathered in a huge red barn with a silo. Their camp area was fenced in with deep soft sandboxes filled with toys, a large toddler pool with a little fountain and wide wooden swings. There were large expanses of rolling grassy areas populated by ancient towering trees that provided ample shade.

The older children, the ones ready for competitive sports, had the run of the larger day camp area which was about 25 acres. Centrally located were 3 full-sized basketball courts surrounded on three sides by a grassy hill where groups of children sorted by age gathered with their counselors at the beginning and end of each day. There were freshly mowed fields on open acres for running and jumping and just being kids.  There were 4 softball/kickball fields, an Arts and Crafts dome, a Music Dome, a smaller swimming pool for daily lessons, covered areas for games in inclement weather, and for the oldest campers, a place for cookouts, when marshmallows were roasted in the lightening-bug filled twilight hours, when Color War activities extended our days.

While the children were in camp, weaving lanyards, playing sports, rehearsing the annual musical, and eating double stick ice pops that you could split and trade flavors with friends; the mothers played tennis or mahjong and watched fashion shows on the weekends where the models, strolled from cabana to cabana in the latest designer cruise and swimwear holding discrete tags with price information.

On the weekends the Fathers appeared and played paddleball and tennis or cards while the children and mothers baked at the pool and took their various lessons. Gracious members had small refrigerators in their cabanas stocked with ice and juices for mixing cocktails at their own bar. Drinks were served all day long. The club members were a tanned and fit, boisterous group of upper middle class Jews who were successful in a wide variety of businesses. This was not a collection of well-educated intellectuals though some were Doctors and Lawyers and most had attended or graduated from college; these were the young marrieds who were riding the crest of prosperity ushered in with the booming sixties. These were the sons of family owned businesses in the garment center, in the fur business, in the diamond district, and the manufacturing of auto parts and accessories.  They smoked and drank and enjoyed flirting with one another’s spouses.

My family had a large cabana with a private shower and dressing room in a row with families they spent every summer with. The club layout had 4 tiered and distinct areas with lockers and cabanas that were rented season after season by the same families.  The open area had another baby pool with a fountain and play park for infants, a large restaurant with great ice cream and burgers and fries that probably could seat 250 diners, 9 tennis courts, 9 paddle ball courts, 3 paddle tennis courts and teen area with a juke box and dance floor.

When you entered this wonderful club there was a huge raised slate patio used for Saturday night adult dances and Sunday family movie nights.  My first movie under the stars was a special screening of “Bye Bye Birdie” which we all watched eating ice cream cones in our pajamas.

The Hoff
But the true treasure, the greatest thing this club had was it’s amazing pool. It was a double Olympic sized pool with a low and high diving board, meticulously maintained by a large crew of zinc nosed lifeguards in red suits, long before Baywatch enshrined the look. They were perched in 6 elevated stations around the perimeter of this always shimmering, always perfect, always welcoming glorious pool. There was nowhere else in the world that made me happier. I would swim underwater the width, and eventually the length of this private wonderful world.  Down to the bottom and up again--sometimes tossing coins to retrieve, sometimes just pretending to do it, just for an excuse to be submerged in the warmth and sparkle of summer sunlight diffused by the subtle lap of the water.

Handsome, garrulous, tanned young men, home for the summer from good Northeastern colleges worked at the front gate parking cars and flirting with the prettiest girls. The next tier down on the social pecking order were the cabana boys, dressed in their blue and white club tee shirts and shorts, who swung their master keys and sat on deck chairs stationed throughout the club helping the little kids who would get locked out, or in, of their closet sized lockers and flirting with the mothers and their daughters as they emerged from their lockers in the latest swimwear.

I spent an entire summer in the company of a Dartmouth sophomore when I was 14, while the other mothers at the club clucked about it.  My own was oblivious. I even overheard them talking about me one day --- “Well if she had a proper role model” and “if her father just paid her the slightest attention, she wouldn’t be looking for approval from Bobby ”  -- my much too old for me, Cabana Boy.  Just thoughtless remarks made by thoughtless people and overheard by a much too sensitive girl. But what they didn’t understand was that he was my practice boyfriend and there was no danger of anything ever happening. My real boyfriend was the one with whom I never exchanged a word. It was after all, the Summer of Love.

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