Childhood memories of summer in New Bedford [OPINION]
Holidays have certainly evolved over the years for people in and around the New Bedford area, as has our attitude towards taking them.
Friday’s show featured a trip down memory lane, in which many of us recalled the vacations of our youth. Family vacations were very different not so long ago. Growing up in the 1960s in the working class of New Bedford, Massachusetts, the idea of going on vacation was foreign to many of us.
If you’ve been lucky enough to have a dad who has had vacations, you probably spent them in the garden while dad struggled to fix or paint things he didn’t have time to do. that he was working. Maybe he would load up the station wagon for a trip to a favorite summer cottage in New Hampshire or Maine. Maybe you would take a day trip to Plymouth or Cape Town.
New Bedford and Fall River were full of windmills when I was young. Many of these factories have hummed the second and third shifts all year, except for the first two weeks of July. Because most factories did not have air conditioning, many closed during those two weeks. For anyone whose parents worked in the mills, like mine, it was vacation time. There was nothing quite like taking vacations all year round like we do today. Vacation weeks, if you had any, would come in early July. Period.
My family would go camping. We hadn’t planned on hikes in national parks, rafting down the rapids, or going to Disneyland. We didn’t have the money for it. But the camping meant extended family pitched tents in a circle at Wareham’s Maple Park or Amy’s Hideaway in Freetown and played horseshoes, swam, made campfires and ate burgers for two weeks. Aunts, uncles, cousins and all the pets together. It was a great childhood.
Listeners tell me that vacations meant for them car trips to Freetown or Acushnet, family picnics to Brooklawn and Buttonwood Parks, or a bus or car trip to visit distant relatives. I spent many summer days at Mary’s Pond in Rochester or Long Pond in Lakeville swimming with my cousins. The east and west beaches and Horseneck were also favorites. Tourism was not very important at the time, time spent with family was.
We would go to Lincoln Park, Paragon Park, Rocky Point, Benson’s Wild Animal Farm or some other adventurous place as the end of summer and the new school year approach.
It was summer for many families in Greater New Bedford when I was a child. Traveling to expensive and faraway destinations just wasn’t a reality for most of us back then. Yet even if we stayed close to home, free time meant time with family, and I wouldn’t trade that for a thousand trips to Disney World.
What are your favorite vacation and summer memories growing up in Greater New Bedford? I bet they are some of your most valuable.
Barry Richard is the host of the Barry Richard Show at 1420 WBSM New Bedford. It can be heard on weekdays from noon to 3 p.m. Contact him at [email protected] and follow him on Twitter @ BarryJRichard58. The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of the author.