Lawrence - My Hometown
The old gang and our first cottage
By Richard E. Noble
Up until the age of sixteen my folks always tried to get the family off for a week or two “at the beach” every year. At sixteen “the gang” took over. The old gang rented a cottage at the beach every year from the time I was 16 until I reached the age of 27. We had a few guys who were old enough to sign the leases in our early days. But as I remember there were many renters who were not all that particular. If you had the money, you got the cottage.
I think we had 40 guys who chipped in for our first all season rental at Hampton Beach. The cottage was called the Marilyn and it was on Island Path. This particular cottage is notorious in the minds of our original renters to this day.
Every evening the floors were littered with bodies. The beds went to the original seven or eight of us who thought up this timeshare idea. On several weekends even the floors would be filled. The bodies then spilled over into the cars in the tiny parking lot.
I remember coming in late and stepping over people to get to my bedroom. When I stepped on somebody and they voiced their disapproval, my response was rather Reaganesque, “Hey listen you, I’m one of the guys who is paying for this place!” The person lying on the floor would usually apologize. It was often necessary to evict strangers from my bed. For the most part they respected their position and found a new spot on the floor.
The Marilyn was down the end of a road and surrounded by a swamp. The cottage was isolated by the swamp which added a certain amount of privacy and mysteriousness to it. The swamp was kept at bay by a large wooden fence. The cottage was really a shack. It leaned to one side. We didn’t know if it was sinking into the swamp or just falling over.
The Marilyn was well known to the Hampton Beach Police Department. Most of the cops on the force had been to our home away from home so many times, that we actually befriended a number of them. When a cruiser happened to appear outside our little paradise by the sea, someone would go to the window and then announce whether the officers were friend or foe. If the officer was foe, we usually got a warning about the noise or the loud music and were told to calm it down. Kids like us were important to the beach economic community - for a while at least.
Our little villa by the swamp gained a reputation and became a must-go-to place for the junior crowd. We had guests from all walks of society.
On one occasion an overdressed young man came in with his equally over-dressed girlfriend. The young man knew one of our forty renters and just happened to be in the area. They were gawkers and obviously slumming. The young lady was wide-eyed and clearly astounded. The young man was proud as a peacock to be able to show his date this side of life. Their faces beamed and their eyes rolled around wide and astonished. Clearly they had never seen anything like this before in their lives. I imagine to their minds it was much like a trip to New York’s infamous Bowery or skid row.
Things were going well until a cruiser pulled up outside. One of our full-timers peeked out a window. He turned and gave the “no problem” signal. Our uptown guests, unfortunately, were not familiar with our signals. The young man went to the window and took a peek for himself. He exploded, “It’s the police!”
He and his local prom queen began rushing around in every direction. We all sat watching them curiously. Hadn’t they ever seen a police cruiser or a cop before? What was with this couple?
By the time our two buddies from the Hampton Beach Police Department came to the door. Rodney and Penelope (not their real names) had vanished.
We all chatted with the cops. They gave us the usual warning about not letting things get out of hand and then they left.
A short time passed and we all began to wonder where our two well dressed tourists had disappeared to. Someone recalled seeing them scurrying out the back door. We wandered out back. We heard some whimpering. It was coming from the swamp-side of the fence. We hiked one of the boys up to take a peek over the fence. There, waist deep in muck and mire, sat our friends Rodney and Penelope.
We lowered them a rope and somehow pulled them both from the soggy, snake ridden mire. He did not look good. She looked much worse. They went home. They had their fill of skid row and the Bowery Boys.
Our season ended abruptly at the Marilyn when we all returned from the Center one evening and found a sign on our front door. Our cottage had been condemned. We weren’t even allowed back inside to claim our “valuables.” We thought briefly that our rights had been violated and that maybe we could sue somebody. But then on second thought, we decided that we best leave well enough alone.
Richard E. Noble was raised in Lawrence, Mass and is now a freelance writer. He has published five books. Two of them have Lawrence as their setting, A Summer with Charlie and Honor Thy Father and Thy Mother. A Little Something is a book of poetry - parts of it inspired by life in Lawrence. Hobo-ing America is a workingman’s tour of the U.S.A and The Eastpointer is selected pieces from his award winning column about life in a sleepy fishing village in the Florida Panhandle.
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