Thanks to Lucille Rella, Class of 1957 for this wonderful reminiscence of Arverne in the 40's and 50's.
Arverne by the Sea
Her feet make an impression in
the soft sand. The afternoon made hot from the noonday sun, heat rising up her
legs as she walked to an area of the beach. Free from the crush of weekend
beachgoers, she is within sight of groups of people striking various poses of
relaxation. A cerulean sky meets the distant horizon. A series of whitecaps
culminates in gently rolling waves caressing the shoreline only to roll out to
sea as a new wave replaced the one before it. Like a David Levine watercolor, the
playa was filled with body shapes of all sizes. Striped lounge chairs arranged
in semi-circles encouraged groups of friends into easy conversation. Seagulls
soar overhead darting in and out of
waves looking for fish that could not escape their sharp eyes. Cool breezes lifted the scalloped edges of beach umbrellas like fancy skirts on young girls;wet bodies tightly wrapped in towels looked for a sheltered place to hide.
Glistening human forms rise up from the sea and gentle waves carries them to the waters edge like beached whales. Receding water reveals reflected shapes, figures dancing, and running over the hard surface. Sand castles are created, the right amount of sand and water, and the mass drips from her hand forming pyramid shapes that turns into galactic planets which survives until the next wave slowly takes it away.
As the great orange orb rises high in the sky so does the appetite of the beachgoers. A steady procession over white hot sand edges people closer to the boardwalk; tiny concessionaires stand ready to grant the gourmand there every wish. Hotdogs dripping with mustard and sauerkraut, a warm bun tenderly encasing a Kosher frankfurter. Knishes, golden brown, the best you could hope for, eagerly handed to equally golden brown bodies waiting to consume a potato concoction. Fragrant waffles warm to the touch filled with cool ice cream, a counter point to the heat burning like a knife into sun burnt backs as they eagerly paid for their boardwalk confections.
The sun has reached its zenith and she moves into shaded confinement under the boardwalk. As people entered into the shadowy depth the sand grows cold, and an audible sigh of relief is expelled from overheated bodies. Rays of sun squeeze through the planks overhead creating streaks of light at equal intervals on the sand below. Light patterns fall across bodies, crazy psychedelic images playing out on a blank canvas. Here the huddled masses will stay, transfixed until the sun crosses the sky and slowly starts to sink in the west. Bathers darting in and out of the waves feel the exhaustion of the day, settle down as the din on the beach becomes acceptable background noise.
As the sun sinks lower in the sky shadows turn purple and a thousand depressions in the sand cast a blue transparency that went unnoticed earlier. Sun burnt bodies, brown bodies, are ready to surrender their place. As people bend to the task collecting belongings, blankets, and towels are gathered up, Towels in hand are given one last snap downwind, releasing sand that unites with the beach now empty of the noonday crowds. Beach items that served a purpose a short while ago are now packed away. As shadows lengthen light
becomes magical. The length of the beach is long and wide. The setting sun concentrating all its strength to the west, while to the east a sea mist hangs over the shoreline. Remaining groups of people burdened with paraphernalia from the days outing made their way over the sand, leaning forward to counterbalance the force of the soft surface that seems to hold them back.
The day is ending, but night will appear to reveal new sights and sounds. Lights along the boardwalk will illuminate a long promenade, a place for family and friends to join together. The heat of the day lingers in the sun burnt faces of sun worshipers. Night has fallen. the evening grows cool and night air hangs heavy with damp humidity. She makes her way towards Playland, 'The Great White Way', light spilling out into the night. As she approaches the amusement park sounds grow louder, and louder, upon entering, night becomes day, and sights and sounds of people are observed waiting for the next ride. Periodically the clatter and swoosh of the roller coaster grabs the attention of the crowd with shouts and screams emanating from participants on the ride, as the car creeps slowly to the top of a mountainous shape, only to reach the summit and at lightning speed descends down the other side which produces audible shouts of fear which can be heard from below. Wind-up Sally the "laughing woman", perched high above the funhouse motions her to enter the world of
crazy mirrors and secret surprises.
The penny arcade tests the skills of all who enter. With a pocket full of coins You can test your driving agility at the wheel of a fake screen, get your fortune told as a card falls through a slot with a written message old fashioned viewing cards flipping one after the other create moving images of cars and people.
This Tuesday night, and every Tuesday night, fireworks dance over the ocean as bright colors light up the night sky. Once again groups of people move towards the railing of the boardwalk to take in the color and sparkle of a summer evening, and again the sounds of "Ohs" and "Ahs" can be heard. Just as the sounds of screams and yells emanated from the roller coaster, and just as the sounds of relief could be heard from those who took refuge under the boardwalk, this was just another summer day at Arverne by the sea.
Lucille can be reached at