The Beach Vacation
A Baltimore rite of passage
By Linda L. Esterson
Close your eyes and imagine — the hot sun beating down on your oiled skin, the grainy warm sand scratching your toes, the pungent smell of sea salt and the thunderous sound of waves breaking.
Maybe your memories of the beach are different — the smell of melted caramel as it is stirred into freshly popped popcorn, the distinguished oily and salty taste of those famous french fries, the sounds of skee-balls popping off the alley edge and Pacman losing a life in the arcade. Are we there yet?
For many Jewish Baltimoreans, memories of the beach are plentiful. Whether it is Ocean City, Md., Bethany or Rehoboth Beach, Del., or Atlantic City or Wildwood, N.J., the stories are similar. Family vacations spent at the beach have always been an annual rite of passage.
Since she was a child, Robin Banks joined her family for weekly annual trips to Ocean City.
“The irony is I did the same thing my kids do now — play on the beach, swim in the pool, go to the boardwalk and play games,” she says. “Ocean City has changed somewhat, but what we do hasn’t.”
Today, she and husband Marshall, and daughters Lauren, 10, and Danna, 7, make an annual trek to Ocean City. Since the girls were born, the family has spent about three weeks at the beach over the course of each summer.
Each visit, the kids enjoy the “beachy stuff” — making sandcastles, riding the waves and swimming at the condo pool. The Banks always eat at Fish Tales, a bayside marina restaurant equipped with a pirate ship playground and face painter for the kids. They also make sure to visit Jolly Roger Amusement Park and always play miniature golf.
The Keiser family, who live in Owings Mills, also make Jolly Roger a part of their visits, just as Stu Keiser did as a child. His favorite ride? The go-carts, which are now race cars. “It’s neat because I’m taking my kids to Jolly Roger,” says Keiser. “It’s cool to share the same memories.”
Keiser, an admitted boardwalk french fry and Fisher’s popcorn fan, fondly remembers waiting in the long line at Phillips Restaurant. He and his brother, Mitchell, threw stones at each other to pass the time, prompting scolding from the others in line.
Spending time on the boardwalk was also a popular vacation pastime and the Keisers would peruse the T-shirt shops, play arcade games and ride the rides at Trimpers.
Nine years ago, Keiser and wife Terry rented a townhouse on the beach in Fenwick Island, Del. They “fell in love” with the serenity and peacefulness of Fenwick, in contrast to the congestion and high-rises of Ocean City. In 2002, they bought on the bay side of this Delaware beach town in a community with pools and tennis courts, and a pier for boats and fishing. The Kaisers spend up to seven weeks there each year, always venturing down for a week in June and July and most of August.
They like that they are creating “lifetime memories” for Sydney, 12, and Ashley, 10. “Just as I had them, they’re going to have them too,” Keiser says.
For Keiser, the ride to the beach was also a memorable experience. He and his brother fought over who could sit on the car’s armrest. Mitchell, the elder, always won.
After a few vacations in Atlantic City, Marci Platt’s family made the switch to the Maryland shore when she was about five-years-old. The first year, her father enjoyed it so much that he bought a condo for the family. Not only did they spend the popular “beach week” in late August “down the Ocean,” but they also went many times during the year, including the winter holidays.
“I remember traveling on Monday mornings and being dropped off at elementary school,” she says. “We didn’t have to rush out on Sunday because we had a place.” She also recalls being picked up from overnight camp and heading directly to the beach.
The ride down also had its special memories. Platt remembers her family always stopped at the Pancake House right before the Bay Bridge. Although it was just 45 minutes from home, it seemed like a long journey before she could order her favorite chocolate chip pancakes smothered in syrup from the syrup bar. After breakfast, she always got stick candy from the candy shop there.
After her daughter Cali was born 10 years ago, she and husband Mitchell joined friends Stephanie and Brian Kagen and Karen and Robbie Bark for a week at the beach in July. Ten years later, the three families continue their annual vacation together. They started in Ocean City, then tried Bethany Beach and loved the calmness there. Each year, they take a “first night picture” with all of the kids, including their son Ryan, now 8.
When her parents sold their Ocean City home and retired in Florida, Platt vowed to get a “place of my own at the beach.” She did a few years ago with her brother and father. Each year, for up to three weeks in August, the families meet at their townhouse in Ocean View, just a mile past Sea Colony in Bethany Beach.
And just as she did as a child, she brings her children to the beach over Christmas break.
“The difference is — everything’s open!,” she laughs.
Where Do You Go?
If you are from Baltimore, you say you’re “going down to the ocean.”
Where does the rest of the nation go? To find out, iNSIDER asked people who lived in other parts of the country.
• New Jersey natives go “down to the shore.”
• Northern Californians say they’re “going to the coast.”
• In Southern California, they call the beach by name.
• In Boston, they “go to the beach,” or they say they are going “down the Cape.”
• In the Midwest, if it’s not the ocean, they “go to the lake.”