My parents bought their beach house at the Jersey Shore almost 50 years ago. It was a small two bedroom bungalow with no telephone, heat or air conditioning.
Each Fall we boarded up the windows and in the Spring we removed the planks and washed the screens. “Opening” the house in May and “closing” it up again in the fall was a major operation.
In the back yard attached to the house was an outdoor shower. It had a wooden frame with plywood boards bolted on.
The neighboring houses resembled army barracks, wooden shacks with screened porches that took advantage of the ocean breeze for relief from the summer heat.
The beachfront cottages were also modest, single-story affairs with walls that didn’t go up to the ceiling so the air could circulate.
My parents renovated several times, adding a sun room and modern kitchen and proper windows.
When they decided to retire they added a second floor to the house and did a major overhaul. The new all-year house bears little resemblance to original cottage.
It has four bedrooms, three bathrooms, a sun room, a balcony, and front and back porches, along with central air.
In the mid-1990s people all across town started “going up.” With the value of coastal property everywhere increasing, the prices for small bungalows and empty lots skyrocketed. Contractors started building bigger houses.
The cottages were gradually replaced with elaborate three-story houses in an array of styles from Cape Cod traditional to Tuscan Villa.
Many of the new houses have big windows and enormous flat-screen TVs. They have kitchens with marble counter-tops and blue stone patios. Some have windows that don’t even open, a strange architectural feature for a place whose original attraction was the cool summer breeze.
When I bring my kids to visit I try to explain how it used to be. How we didn’t have heat or AC or even, for years, a phone. How much more modest it was.
They cannot really imagine such a place.
The beach itself looks largely the same as when I was a kid but that is an illusion as well.
Badly eroded by Hurricane Sandy, the beach was replenished with sand paid for with federal funds. It now looks as wide, as it did during my childhood.
It’s a good reminder that nothing stands still. Nothing remains unchanged. Even the landscape that we think of as immutable.
**Published by Ted Merz Jun 15, 2016**