Hello Friends and Family,

1975 - Ocean City, Maryland

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It was only a short drive (11 miles) from Showell to the seaside vacation spot, Ocean City, Maryland (not to be confused with Ocean City, New Jersey which is much farther away). This gem is, in actuality, a barrier sand island just east of the Maryland mainland. The sun and surf have been attracting visitors since Algonquian tribes first came to these beaches to fish and sun themselves many years ago. Due to Ocean City's isolation as a barrier island, the town remained a sleepy fishing village until 1875, when the Atlantic Hotel began welcoming visitors. The following year, a railroad bridge was built across Sinepuxent Bay — and a resort was born.

In August of 1933, a powerful storm ripped open a new channel from the bay to the ocean. Engineers made the inlet permanent, providing sheltered marina locations in Sinepuxent Bay for smaller boats. As a result, Ocean City became one of the east coast's premier sportfishing destinations — the White Marlin Capital of the World.

This photo shows the beach just north of the inlet. On the south side is Assateague Island National Seashore. Their website touts "sandy beaches, salt marshes, maritime forests, and coastal bays. Rest, relax, recreate and enjoy some time on the edge of the continent." One of the attractions I recall from a short visit in the 1990s was wild horses — beautiful and majestic — not afraid of humans but they did seem to keep their distance. Camping is permitted and, in my view, would be a perfect way to fully enjoy this special location.

North of the inlet is what most of us think of as Ocean City. The beach is beautiful white sand and is much wider than I recall from my youth. Over the years, they build jetties — barriers that projected out into the ocean. The slow drift of ocean currents pulled sand from beaches farther north (or was it south) and deposited it along the jetties — eventually covering them and extending the beach eastward.

With a bunch of aunts and uncles plus lots of cousins living in or near Showell, we often had the opportunity to visit the Ocean City Boardwalk to enjoy games, food, and attractions. There was almost always one or more of the adults willing to haul us youngsters there. Insert sighs from our older selves remembering Uncle Whitey's woody station wagon — now that was a real treat to ride in.

Since I was the oldest grandchild and the only boy (until after my family moved to Florida), I usually went off on my own. My favorite game was a baseball game housed in a box like a pinball machine. The playing field contained a long rectangular hole covered by a small sheet of thin metal where the ball (like a large ball bearing) would emerge. The player had to twist a level on the front of the box which would swing a bat inside the box at exactly the right time and, hopefully, hit the ball. The batted balls would fall into holes in the field — each labeled as an out or a hit. The field also featured a painted baseball diamond with a square slot where the baserunners would pop up (starting at home plate) then traverse the bases with each hit. If you scored enough runs, you were credited with additional free plays. It cost only a nickel and I was proficient enough to play several hours with just a small amount of change.

If you walked farther north on the boardwalk, you would see fewer amusement attractions and more rooms for rent. Many of these buildings have been torn down over the years and replaced with today's more common hotel designs.

You can see from the photo that the Boardwalk was made of real boards. At one point in time, the wooden planks were removed and concrete was poured for a more sturdy walkway. I was lucky to be given a short section of one of those planks with four wooden round legs attached to create a small stool. I think of the Boardwalk every time I see and use my little stool.

The subsequent story that I was told is that visitors did not really like the concrete "boardwalk" and eventually Ocean City laid new boards down on top of the concrete which I believe is the current surface in use today.

The Breakers is a self-described "lovely boutique hotel with a distinct personality that will offer an unforgettable vacation experience". The photos on their website appear to show a facility that has been completed refurbished. As a result, they currently list a mid-summer room rate for a standard room of $250 or so. Affordable? Not on a retiree's budget.

For some reason, this hotel reminds me of the Colonial where our grandmother worked as a hostess in the dining room during the summer months (she taught school the rest of the year). One year when I was a young teen, I was able to go to Ocean City with her while she worked. She gave me $5 so I could go play my baseball games and also get a bite to eat. What a way to spend a summer day with Granny. BTW, the Colonial was lost to fire in 1975, so I can no longer harvest nostalgic reminders of that summer visit.

I always found (and still find) Ocean City's side streets to be quite unusual. You can see how the road stretches from the Boardwalk (where I was standing to take the picture) to Baltimore Avenue, the main north-bound roadway at this point. You will note how the cars are parked at an angle — those on the left side of the street — on other streets they may be on the right. At the next building over, the vehicles are parked at a 90° angle. Go figure.

When I was much younger (including the time of this trip), one could drive north in Ocean City and find the end of the Boardwalk and the end of development. This brings back memories of visits with my extended family where we occasionally would camp out overnight. We kids were sent to find driftwood which we used for a campfire where we cooked hot dogs and roasted marshmallows. We kids would also play hide and seek among the dunes. Kids today can't enjoy such adventures, the coastline is solid development all the way up to Fenwick.

The last photo for today shows the view to the west where one can see Sinepuxent Bay and the mainland. The view is much the same today with the addition of quite a few residences on the far side.

Life is good.

B. David

P. S., All photos and text © B. David Cathell Photography, Inc. — www.bdavidcathell.com