Yesterday's Island Today's Nantucket
Volume 37 Issue 11, - July 5 - 11, 2007
now in our 37th season

Ghosts of Summers Past

by Maryjane Mojer

My husband, who has lived here for about twelve years asked for a tour a while ago.  This is a man who knows places on the island that I’ve never seen and has shown me trails and paths that I never knew.  I was a bit surprised.  “No, not a tour now, a tour then, of when you were growing up.  What was it like and what stores were where?  What was Main Street like?  What was summer like for you way back when?”

Growing up, summer for me really started the day that school let out and would be commemorated with a new rope bracelet usually bought at the Seven Seas.  Mom would make me scrub mine with peroxide and a nail brush, with the threat of having to cut it off if it became too dirty.  I would scrub it clean, and then rub it with dirt the minute I was out the door so it wouldn’t look so new.  I’ve only recently found out that I was not the only one who used this trick.

Once or twice a summer, we would head down to Susie’s Clam bar on the end of Straight Wharf for fish and chips or fried clams.  We never ordered lobster, but I can remember the smell of the big, green tanks and the sound of the rushing water as I tried to get a better look.  Surprisingly, I never did fall into one. 

On a weekend, we could count on a band concert at the Bandstand.  If I was well behaved, (which, according to my family, I rarely was) we would stop at the Penny Patch after dinner for candy.  I would mull about with my basket and pick and choose very carefully.  A favorite was the multicolored dots on the long strips of paper, along with the candy necklaces, bracelets and red wax lips.  The Penny Patch seemed to move around a bit in those days.  I remember that, for a time, it was in the front room of the Laundry Mat on Straight Wharf.  The back room housed all of the washers and dryers. My favorite location for the Penny Patch was next to the Camera Shop on Main Street.  There were two-cave like doors (right next to the Sweet Shop where we would go for Malachite ice cream, up from the Emporium or the Bosun’s Locker…depending on just how old you are) and down from Maude Dinsmore’s. 

After a year or two, the Penny Patch moved again, and the shop next to the Camera Shop became Kareka, where I would buy new silver earrings every week with the money I earned collating and delivering Nantucket Vacation Guides for my Uncle Jack at Poet’s Corner Press on Lower Orange Street.  During my morning break, I would run to Charlie’s Market to buy a grape soda, or to one of the pharmacies for a toasted English muffin and a vanilla coke.

Summer would bring a visit from my Auntie Ethel.  She was the only one who shared my affection for ginger ice cream from the pharmacy, or the peach ice cream at the ‘Sconset bookstore. We’d go to one or the other after a day at the beach. I’ve bought ginger and peach ice cream since; while it’s pretty tasty, the flavor is greatly enhanced when it’s dripping onto your salty just-off-the beach hand.

My neighbor and best friend in those days was David Rose, whose family owned Aimee’s Bakery.  (Yes, I choose friends well.)  We would go in the back door of the bakery where his grandmothers would be making potato salad, and they would give us the peels of the just boiled potatoes to snack on.  If we were beach bound, they would slice a couple of Portuguese rolls and add a chunk of fresh baked ham, wrap them in wax paper and send us on our way. 

We always went to the Shore Beach past the Boy’s Club on Washington Street.  One of our grandmothers would take us or if everyone was busy, a babysitter.  We’d get slathered with baby oil and stay for the day, searching for horseshoe crabs and hermit crabs.  If we were feeling brave, and the tide was low enough we’d sneak over to the boatyard and pick periwinkles off the rocks. 

On our way home, we’d stop at the bakery again for a lemon square.  I liked to choose things that would be packed in boxes because I loved to watch the counter ladies secure the boxes with the red and white string that came out of the gold string dispenser suspended from the ceiling.  I’m still searching for one for my house.  Once in a while, we’d take a shortcut up Warren Street and go to Rebimbas’ for a Table Talk pie and a root beer.  I lived right next door, so we’d sit in my back yard, finish our treat and make plans for the evening.

We never left the neighborhood at night unless it was with one of our parents.  We didn’t need to leave the neighborhood.  We had swing sets and bikes and back yards to play in.  We could hear any of the parents from any of our yards.  What more did we need?  An occasional movie at the Dreamland, popcorn from the popcorn stand in the lot next door and maybe, just maybe, a chocolate dipped softserve from the Dairy Bar.

Early weekend mornings, Dad and I would head out fishing.  More often  than not I’d be in my pajamas.  If we had breakfast at home, his specialty was a Mother’s Parkers doughnut mashed up in a cup of coffee with lots of sugar and milk.  If we wanted an early start, The Peddler’s Inn on Orange Street had a great hot roast beef sandwich that they served on white toast at breakfast. 

When Dad would come home from work every day at 5:30, he would toss on his cut offs and we would head down to the Cricks for a swim.  We’d drive right up to the water and jump in.

High tide was great because it could be so very deep a little bit scary.  Low tide was just as great because we could dig for quahogs with our toes.  Talk about your win-win situation.  We would usually go for a half hour or so, and that was just enough.  Back home, one more round with the neighborhood kids, bath-time then bed.  The day’s success was measured by the ring around the tub.

Now, a good day is when we can all sit at the table together, for at least part of a meal.   We didn’t need many quahogs to enjoy them.  Sometimes we’d open them there and then, sometimes we’d collect them for a week or so to make chowder or stuffed quahogs.

Stuffed Quahogs

1 quart of quahogs, ground in food mill, grinder or food processor
 (Not too small, just pulse a time or two.)

8 or 9 slices of white bread, soaked in quahog liquor

3 large onions, sautéed till translucent

1 sleeve Ritz crackers, crushed

1 teaspoon old bay seasoning   •    1/2 teaspoon Bell’s Seasoning

2 cloves of garlic, crushed   •   1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce

3/4 pound of linguicia, peeled and ground

Soak the bread for a minute or two (think French Toast).  Remove the bread and place in a large bowl.  Pile all of the other ingredients right on top, and mix them all together.  Stuff the stuffing into cleaned shells, top (if you like) with a one inch strip of bacon, and bake at 450 degrees for about 20 minutes. 

This recipe freezes very well, and the quahogs can be baked frozen.  Do start the temperature if cooking frozen to 350 for ten minutes and 450 to finish.

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