Commentary by Salvator Giarratani
image courtesy: MassMoments.org
I REMEMBER ALL THOSE ITALIAN-SPEAKING AND LOBSTAH-LOOKING JEWISH LADIES AT REVERE BEACH
Back when I was growing up in the Fifties and into the Sixties, my parents would take my brother and I to Revere Beach all the time in the summers of my youth. It was our “Disneyland ” and the greatest amusement park that folks back then could afford. All we needed was to pack lunch and off we went.
My parents packed a big bag full of beach essentials, suntan lotion, a large beach blanket, sandwiches, etc. We’d get there at about noon and stay until around 4 pm. We would get off the train at “Revere Beach Station” and at the end of the day, we would get back on the train at “Wonderland Station.” This routine would be repeated over and over again and my brother and I always had a great time. My parents were put down the blanket and let the sun do the rest.
My mom was Charlestown Irish which meant she would burn, really burn and turn into the color of a boiled lobstah. my dad, well he was first generation North End Siciian. He tanned and by late August would look more like a Tunisian from North Africa. While they tanned or burned in the sun, my brother would lead the way down Revere Beach Parkway. I can hear him now, “Let’s go here first” or go there first. We had enough change in our combined pockets for several rides and food along the way.
Besides remembering all those great rides to ride like the Dodgems or the double ferris wheel, there was the Hippodrome with all those ancient pinball machines made of cast iron that might have been from the 19th century. One could spend hours just at this one spot. We did. The world seemed so much safer back then. imagine parents sending off their kids to ride amusement rides without them at our side. Parents and kids were all so much different back then. The world was safer as I said.
However, there was one memory that has stuck in my memory forever and it was of those ladies who sat in their chairs down at the edge of the sand next to the old MDC restrooms. There were only two choices, “Men” or “Women .” Two genders.You were one of the other. The ladies of course plucked down in their chairs next to the ladies room and, well, just, baked in the sun hour after hour all summer long.
My dad always stopped by them because he knew them from growing up in the North End. They and my dad would start talking back and forth in Italian. It confused me since these ladies all burned up in the sun like my mother. How could these ladies be Italian I thought.
One summer’s day after we passed by them and moved on to my parent’s favorite spot to sun, I asked, “Are those ladies Italian?” and he told me “No they’re Jewish.” He had grown up with them in the North End. Most of them came from around Salem Street and could speak fluent Italian.
When I get over to Revere Beach today. It’s changed. No more amusement rides and no more Jewish ladies trying to get as red as they could. It is all ghostly images in my memory bank up in my head.
Didn’t know what I really had back then. It was a great time to be young, alive and having so much fun.
Oh, and I just thought. Since I am not as dark as my dad nor as light as my mom. Thank God I don’t burn. However, I can get dark like a half-Tunisian. According to Ancestry.com, I have one percent Tunisian DNA in me. However, in colder weather, I turn kinda pale like my mom.
I hear tomorrow, it may be sunny again. I think I’ll go to the beach. No more beach blanket for me, I need a beach chair to get up and down from the sand nowadays just like that group of older Jewish ladies from way back when.
Pretty soon summer will be disappearing so get out there as long as you can, get baked, listen to music on your radio or phone or whatever. We only go around life once, enjoy every moment!