P A R A D I S E
Return with us now to those days of yesteryore, before September 20, 1938. The place, Marks Cove. Around the bend from Swifts Beach. Otherwise known as paradise.
It's easy to get there. Just go to Swifts beach, face Buzzards Bay and turn right.
That will set you on a course due West, walking along the edge of the marsh, which will give way to swarths of eel grass.
To the right is a stand of mostly pine and oak. Keep going until you reach the end of the woods on the right. Turn left and Marks Cove is right in front of you.
There is an island with a big boulder at its Eastern end, your left as you look out onto Marks Cove. It is called Cedar Island. You can wade out to Cedar Island at low tide. Wear beach or water shoes as there are many stray, empty shells from Quahogs and other shellfish that can cut your feet.
There are lots of Blue crabs in the cove, but don't worry; I have never been bitten by one crawling around on the bottom.
My father took us crabbing. You go at low tide when there is no or little wind. He would stand in the bow of the rowboat with a long handled net as I manned the oars, slowly rowing. When he caught a crab, it would be placed in a bucket. They all scuttled around tring to get out.
One day, my bother, Bruce, stuck his hand in the bucket. A crab latched onto his little finger and he let out a howl. Our Dad got the crab off, but his finger was pretty sore for a couple of days. And he kept his hands out of the crab bucket from then on.
You see, my Mother's family built a cottage on the Cove around the turn of the century; that's the 20th century starting in 1900. It belonged to my Mother's Aunt Mable Spurr, nee Schultz.
Every summer, we would leave our home in Braintree and head down Route 28 to Wareham and the family cottage at Swifts Beach on Marks Cove.
There was a community there made up of several summer cottages.
I always thought it was paradise. Still do even though it was all smashed to smithereens during the hurricane of 1938, commonly known as the '38 Hurricane.
In those days there was no National Weather Service to warn people of impending doom. In fact, when the '38 struck, there were people swimming in the bays and beaches. It caught the entire Eastern shore from New Jersey to Chatham by surprise. No one was prepared. Over 600 people died and it destroyed 100s of millions of dollars worth of property. Thousands of boats were lost, from row boats to huge steamers. I'm sure the cost today would be in the billions.
My Mother, me and my brother, usually stayed at the cottage until October, especially if it was a nice Indian summer. But in 1938, I had to go to school, so we left early in September and returned to our home in Braintree. Lucky us for the '38 hit around the 20th of September. The experts estimated the surge or tidal wave was over 20 feet high; that's two stories tall. Every cottage near the beach was destroyed except for one. It was right on the beach at the end of Bay View street. They opened all the doors and windows and the surge swept through leaving the house intact. Its still there.
And of course,our cottage was washed away along with all of the cottages in our little community on Marks Cove.
The wake of the hurricane converted all the wood in those cottages to a melange of broken two by fours, novelty siding, toppled chimneys, upended cars and many rooftops.
Floating rooftops saved many people's lives along the coast as the surge subsided.
Here are some photographs of summer fun at our cottage on the Cove.
My Dad, Irving Hudson Brown, throwing horseshoes at the Swifts Beach, garters and all, 1930s, just before I, Walter, was born. The car in the background looks too new to be a 1931 car as the date on the picture says.
My brother, Bruce, and I on the beach in front of our cottage with our grandmother Brown, Nana, and my grandfather Brown, Gaga. Bruce is in the rowboat. I look bored and would rather be sailing. Out cottage would be beyond the boat at the edge of the woods, directly on the marsh. A full moon tide would creep up to our cottage and go under it. Early Global Warming?
View from cottage porch. Bruce and Walter behaving.
Not sure who this is; Walter, I think. Looks like our rowboat.
This is me submerging. Our trusty rowboat with the Sea Witch engine is to the right while a large boat has been put on a dolly and winched up the marine railway that was on the beach. The railroad tracks can still be seen at low tide.
My mother is giving me a ride on het back. I can't ever remember not knowing how to swim. Bathing caps, like my mother is wearing were de riguer during the 1930s. Rowboat in background with Sea Witch outboard engine.
My brother Bruce sitting in the bow of our rowboat. Looks like a large Cape Cod Catboat in the background hauled up on the marine railway.
Jane McDonald, myself, and brother Bruce enjoy a sandwich by the picnic fire across Marks Cove on Cromeset. It was largely unsettled in the 1930s.
This is the picnic party on the beach at Cromeset. Our little community would row or motor across the cove and land on Cromeset and have picniks.
This is our dog Blitson at the beach.
My Aunt Erma bought us a little dinghy. Notice the paddle wheels to make it go. The paddle wheels fit into the oarlocks. Aunt Erma was my Dad's big sister. I am manning the paddle wheel with Jane and Bruce in the stern. We called the dinghy, WALBRU, after the first three letters of Walter and Bruce.
WALBRU under way. Dad on right. To turn the dinghy, we leaned leftor right, raising one paddle wheel out of the water.
Ain't I cute! Jane and Bruce think so. Cromeset, in background, has no cottages yet. Whoopee boat in back of WALBRU leaked like a seive and was usually half submerged. It must have just been bailed!
Our garage is in the background. Me, Beth Bigelow and my bro, Bruce.
Here I am steering the rowboat with the Sea Witch outboard engine. Two hands for beginners. I was seven years old. I think my grandmother Brown (Nana) bought it for my Dad at Sears, Roebuck. If you look close, my vaccination scar is visible on my upper left arm.
The Sea Witch met an untimely demise at my hands. Several years after the '38 Hurricane, we were living in Braintree; on Talbot Road, a dead end street. I gathered my friends together and we put the Sea Witch in a wagon and took it to Sunset Lake where we rented a boat, attached the Sea Witch to the transom (back of the boat) and took off for a joy ride around the Lake. I was making the boat do some sharp turns and on one sharp turn, the engine tore loose from the transom and fell off the back of the boat and sunk into the the deepest part of the lake. We tried diving down but it was too deep and dark so we gave up, returned the boat to the dock and went home. That weekend my father and I went to the lake and rented a rowboat. He asked some big kids to help find the engine. They dove down, but could not find the Sea Witch. I was very sad and mad at myself. My Dad consoled me and said it was not a very good engine and he was thinking about getting a new one. We ended up with a new 5hp Johnson and from then on I made sure it was securely clamped to the transom of whatever boat we rented from the Weweantic to the North River in Scituate for my Dad loved to fish.