Reviews ...

Revere Beach revisited

... another story

by Jerry Norton

At the risk of "beating a dead horse", may I throw one more Revere Beach story into the hopper... one with possibly a more personal touch.

Our visit home last October took us among other places to the beach of my fond memory and, unlike other authors, I believe I may have a somewhat more direct connection to this national reservation. Before explaining this bold assertion let me go through the oft-stated experiences of those of us who had not visited this crescent of sand and sea for many years.

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I was prepared for the spectacle of condominiums facing the boulevard where before stood only such icons of my youth as the Cyclone roller coaster, Bluebeard's Castle, Fun House, etc. But even the color of the beach sand had turned from white to brown! Where were the concrete slabs that once led down to the goose egg-size rocks which bordered the sand. And, most of all, where was the District Commission bath house that gave my dear old Irish grandmother gainful summer employment. About the only things recognizable to me were the pavilions and the band stand (rebuilt, I was told) located along the sidewalks.

Click photo for larger view
My personal connection to the beach referred to above lies with my grandmother and her work at the beach bath house. What follows may strike the reader as being little more than petty larceny but consider this family caper within the context of the depression era.

One of my grandmother's duties would find her sitting at the beach end of the underground tunnel leading from the bath house across the street to the beach. Among her responsibilities was to insure that no one without a bath house key was to enter this tunnel and gain access to the bath house without having paid the required fee for the use of its facilities. There are exceptions to every rule and dear old grandma was not above stretching them in the interest of the family exchequer. She would always have a wrist full of bath house locker keys and would present several of them to her fully-clad family members who would then transit from the beach through the tunnel to the locker rooms in the bath house. Grandma considered this stunt as little more than a fringe benefit of her employment. I mention this now only because I believe the statute of limitations has expired on such nefarious activities.

Now back to the present and my annoyance with the latter-day local inhabitants of the beach who seemed to be devoid of any knowledge of its history prior to the blizzard of '78.

I already had a negative mind set because of a traffic change which made the boulevard one way and found us going south along the waterfront when I should have been going north. My angst was further compounded when several of these people had to jump out in the street to hold up oncoming traffic and allow me to make a u-turn and head in the right direction. Not my fault; it wasn't always one way...or was it?

In my quest for accurate information I inquired of an officer in the MDC police station as to the location of the old bath house (which used to be next door to the station) and she didn't know. I posed other historical beach questions to a few different locals with similar results. It seemed that they had all only recently arrived from Peoria. What was a tourist to do?

Not to worry; I think I had most of the answers in my mind's eye anyway.... including the location of Mary O'Neil's hot dog and orange drink stand on a side street off the boulevard.

March 3, 2006

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