It was 1966 but it feels like only yesterday.
My sister had just landed her first real job for a large company in Manhattan. Her boss was a department executive; he probably made a pretty good salary because he owned a summer beach house in Barnegat Bay, New Jersey. For my parents – simple, hard-working people from The Bronx – that was equivalent to being a millionaire.
You can imagine our amazement when we were offered use of the beach house for a week. The only beach we knew was our local Orchard Beach; believe me, that was a far cry from the idyllic little seaside town of Barnegat Bay.
Looking back, the house wasn’t exactly Frank Sinatra’s Palm Springs estate, but it wasn’t Daniel Boone’s stark log cabin, either. If was fully stocked with everything anyone could need for a little seaside getaway; all we brought were clothes and suntan lotion. We’d never been to the shore so this was “heaven on earth”, as my Dad put it. I can still picture that redwood house right on the water’s edge; it seemed like we could see for miles watching yachts and cabin cruisers sailing by. The sunsets were biblical, like something out of a Cecil B. DeMille movie.
We were not wealthy people by any stretch but we made the most of that vacation. We ate all our meals at the house; most dinners consisted of something Dad would barbeque while watching the bikini-clad women walking on the beach. Once or twice we went out to a seafood restaurant and we even had lobster!
As fabulous as the seashore was, we were rather far from any activities or amusement parks and there wasn’t much to occupy my 15-year-old self. Then one night I noticed a small bonfire on the beach and heard the carefree laughter of teenagers. I begged my parents to let me walk down to see what was going on but they were reluctant; they finally agreed with one stipulation – they had to come with me.
The idea of my parents chaperoning me was mortifying but I figured I had to suck it up if there was a ghost of a chance of having any fun. So that night my mother, father and I went for a casual stroll on the beach. I kept about ten feet or so behind my parents hoping the other kids would think I was by myself. Music was playing and marshmallows were roasting on long sticks. Everyone was tan and blonde and beautiful – and that’s when I saw him. He looked just like Troy Donohue from ‘A Summer Place’. He glanced up as we walked by and smiled and I fell hopelessly in love.
Thankfully my parents quietly observed without engaging anyone in conversation. Satisfied it wasn’t a remake of “Reefer Madness”, we walked back to the beach house but not before I had a chance to look over my shoulder and give Troy a little wave. He grinned and waved back; I was in heaven. I knew I had to go to the next bonfire – alone.
I guess being out in the sun all day fried my parent’s brains a bit. When I nonchalantly asked them the next night if I could walk down to the bonfire by myself for a little while, they agreed! Thank goodness my 19-year-old sister considered herself too mature for a “silly teen beach party” and didn’t want to tag along.
The group was friendly and waved me over. I casually headed straight for Troy and sat down next to him. The kids were into Jan and Dean and The Beach Boys; I was a Beatles girl but I wasn’t going to let that get in the way. I also had my first beer that night and found I liked it quite a bit. By the end of the night, Troy and I were holding hands and agreed to meet again the following night.
That was the most blissful week of my young life. There were lots of kisses and petting and professions of love but we didn’t go beyond 2nd base. All I knew was I’d never been as happy or excited to be with someone as I was with Troy.
At the end of the week we exchanged phone numbers and promised to call each other but that never happened. It’s ok; none of my friends can say they spent a week making out on the beach with Troy Donohue.
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