Childhood Memories of Summertime in New Bedford [OPINION]
Vacations have certainly evolved over the years for folks in and around the New Bedford area, and so have our attitudes about taking them.
Friday's program featured a trip down memory lane, in which many of us recalled the vacations of our youth. Family vacations were very different not that long ago. Growing up in the 1960s in working-class New Bedford, Massachusetts, the idea of going away on vacation was foreign to many of us.
If you were lucky enough to have a father who got vacation time, it was probably spent in the backyard while Dad puttered about fixing or painting things he didn't have time to do while he was working. Maybe he'd load up the station wagon for a trip to a favorite summer cottage in New Hampshire or Maine. Perhaps you'd take a day trip to Plymouth or the Cape.
New Bedford and Fall River were full of mills in my youth. Many of those factories hummed second and third shifts all year long, except for the first two weeks of July. Because most of the mills had no air conditioning, many would close for those two weeks. For anyone whose parents worked in the mills, as mine did, it was vacation time. There was no such thing as putting in for vacation time throughout the year as we do today. Vacation weeks, if you had them, came at the beginning of July. Period.
My family would go camping. We didn't plan hiking trips to the national parks, white river rafting excursions on the rapids, or go to Disneyland. We didn't have the money for that. But camping meant the extended family would pitch tents in a circle at Wareham's Maple Park or Amy's Hideaway in Freetown and play horseshoes, swim, have campfires, and eat hamburgers for two weeks. Aunts, uncles, cousins, and all of the pets together. It was a great childhood.
Listeners tell me that vacation time for them meant car rides to Freetown or Acushnet, family picnics at 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. East and West Beaches and Horseneck were favorites as well. Tourism was not a big thing back then, family time was.
We'd go to Lincoln Park, Paragon Park, Rocky Point, Benson's Wild Animal Farm, or some other adventurous place as summer's end approached and the new school year loomed.
That was summertime for many families in Greater New Bedford when I was a kid. Traveling off to expensive and faraway destinations just wasn't a reality for most of us back then. Yet even though we stuck close to home, time off meant time with family, and I wouldn't trade any of it for a thousand trips to Disney World.
What are your favorite memories of vacations and summertime growing up in Greater New Bedford? I bet they are among your most treasured.
Barry Richard is the host of The Barry Richard Show on 1420 WBSM New Bedford. He can be heard weekdays from noon to 3 p.m. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter @BarryJRichard58. The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of the author.