Swansea Town Beach – The Bluffs, Swansea, MA
Bottom of Wyola Road
Swansea, MA is a little riverside town in southeastern Massachusetts. I grew up in Berkley, MA. Berkley is a small town about 15 miles north of Swansea. During the summers I spent a lot of time in Swansea at my grandparents' yellow Cape style house along with my mom, my two younger brothers, six cousins, and aunts and uncles. Several times a week my brothers and I would fight over seats in the car then pile in to head to my grandparents' house. “Do you want to take the high road or the low road?” my mom would ask us. We would choose the highway or back roads, and we were off. Early in the morning we'd arrive at the little yellow house and run inside to say hi then out to the backyard to play. Most of the time it was a game of whiffle ball, football, or kickball. The boy cousins tried to not allow us girls to play but we muscled our way in every time. I can walk into that tree filled yard with the pine needle carpet and tell you where each base and home plate was located. I can feel the sap I'd always get on my fingers or legs. It was my home away from home.
There was a little private beach at the bottom of their road, which we loved. During our visits, inevitably one of us would end up asking Gramp to take us down to the beach. My grandfather would take all 9 of us together by himself and we drove him crazy but he loved it. This was usually after a fight ensued or someone was cheating at the game or got hurt. And sure enough he never said no. It'd take a few minutes for us all to change into our bathing suits and get our towels and we'd meet out on the front lawn. Back then it was no muss no fuss, all you did was throw on your bathing suit and grab a towel. It didn't even matter what kind of towel, bath towel, beach towel...who cares? And 99% of the time we were barefoot, no flip flops or sandals needed. Quite a difference from the beach bag I pack these days! Once we were all out front we'd all start walking, some of us running. Wyola Road is a hill and there is a Stop sign and an intersection at the bottom. My grandfather would try to keep up, shouting “Stop at the Stop sign!” Like we didn't know this, he yelled it ten times every time we went.
Once we all gathered at the infamous Stop sign, we'd trek across the road together and down a dirt road to the beach. It was a small neighborhood beach but to me it seemed like the best place on earth. The water was pretty calm and flat most of the time. In the distance were tiny houses and you could see the city of Fall River across the way. We'd all run across the hot sand and into the water. We'd swim, dig, and play together. My grandfather would have 25 heart attacks as he tried to keep track of all 9 of us and make sure we weren't swimming out too far. He loved swimming and would come in the water with us. He taught us how to dig for perriwinkles, crabs, and clams in the sand. We'd fill buckets of them and sometimes bring them home with us. Why we needed to take them home is still a mystery to me. I just know in my heart he loved every minute of these beach days.
Once we tired out or he got tired of watching us all, not sure which, we'd collect our towels and head back up to the house. We were starving by now and sometimes we would stop at Harry's, the seafood shack, on our way back up the hill. The smell of fresh, fried New England seafood is one of the best scents in the world. We'd get some fish and chips and clamcakes and one of us usually talked him into letting us get cans of soda. We'd climb the hill home and we'd all share the food with our moms and grandmother. Other times when we got back our moms or grandmother would have lunch waiting for us, sandwiches or english muffin pizzas. Back to games in the backyard or on to hide and seek or something of the sort. Many times we end up staying for dinner too. After dinner we'd get ready to head out and my grandmother would always say “You're leaving already?” We would pile back into the car and my grandfather would make a big fuss about telling us to get going and not come back. He'd push the car and say “Get out of here!” and we would crack up every time. We could spend ten-twelve hours at the house and it was never enough for them, that's love.
Swansea is also where I learned how to swim. About a 3 minute drive from my grandparents' house is Swansea Town Beach or as it was known “The Bluffs”. I loved the neighborhood beach most, but I also enjoyed going there. The way the land bends, you can actually see the neighborhood beach from the town beach. It was a bigger beach, but pretty much the same shoreline and same water. The moms and aunts usually accompanied us on these trips and occasionally our uncle.
We took swim lessons here. I first heard the word dog paddle at these lessons. Our moms would sit and chat on the beach and we'd hop in the water while the lifeguards divvied us up into groups. I recall being one of the Devil Dogs, I loved my group's name! After the lesson we'd eat lunch on the beach. Sandy sandwiches and chips for all. We'd then spend the afternoon playing in the sand, collecting rocks and shells, and swimming. Oh and of course eavesdropping on our moms' conversations. No beach day is complete without beach chat. At the end of the day we'd pack our sandy selves along with our beach treasures into the car and head back to the little yellow house.
Both of my grandparents have passed away and my brother and his wife now live in that little yellow Cape, however it is no longer yellow. I am fond of the memories I have in that home and treasure all the happy times we had there. The neighborhood beach became overgrown and is no longer taken care of. My brother recently heard of a possibility of a revival of the beach. I truly hope so and this way my brother and his wife can create new memories there. I occasionally visit Swansea Town Beach and a few years ago I went there with my Canon to capture a couple of shots. Thank you Swansea and my family for my first of many beach memories.