My Grandfather Recalls Memories from Cape Cod and Nauset Beach

Last year, my aunt gifted our family with a StoryWorth subscription. StoryWorth is a service that prompts family members, in this case my Grandfather, with questions. The answers, or memories, are captured and shared in a book.

In the first half of the 20th century, my Great Grandfather purchased a hunting and fishing camp along an isolated and rugged stretch of coastline called Nauset Beach. Our family continued to use the camp as a getaway until it washed away in 2007. It was the heart of so many memories. (I've talked about the camp in other blog posts, if you are interested check out, Swept to sea: my final walk through the Harriss camp). I have thoroughly enjoyed reading my Grandfather's memories of our family camp from decades before I knew it. The following are a few of my favorite Q&As.

Side note, for all intents and purposes, Nauset and North Beach are the same. Also, I made some spelling and grammatical changes (disclaimer in case a cousin is reading this and my Grandfather's answers sound a little different ;-)).

Q: Tell us about some of your great memories from Cape Cod.

The best of Cape Cod.

My Father went to a sandbar out of Orleans on the cape with Paul Rasmussen, a shooting buddy, to shoot ducks. Paul had a camp on the sand dunes. My Father liked it so much that he negotiated to buy the camp next door. These camps were shacks with no home features.

My first experience going there I was asked to help a carpenter to resin glue the roof. This I did on part of my summer break from Boston University. [It was] A GREAT LEARNING PROCESS .

Elinor and I spent part of our Honeymoon at the cape shack.

I loved the ease of fishing for bass, casting into the surf or from the boat in the bay.

As my children got older we spent our vacations at the shack.

In time, improvements were made to the camp, but it still remained a shack. 

One year after everyone went home, I went out for my last fishing trip in the bay. I caught a very large bass, 40/45 pounds (I forget) but my family was not there to see it.

It was different from my normal way of life, digging for clams, other shellfish, and one year the bay was loaded with lobster.

It was great while it lasted. 

Nauset Beach Camp 1949 and 1982catching blue fish in pleasant bay 1935

Q: What are your earliest memories of taking the family to cape cod?

My earliest memories of going down to the Cape with the family [involve] the transportation factor. I had to go down first to get the boat which was usually anchored off the camp. I had to take the jeep down to the camp to get the boat. The family came down in a regular car to a point called Scatteree [a beach/landing in Chatham]. They would flash the headlights and I would check the boat across the bay and pick them up. This was not too bad but as a family to increased, the operation changed a bit.

The fact remains that in the early days the camp was very primitive - kerosene lamps, no running water, it was a pump by the sink which had to be primed to get started. The only one [positive] factor was that the old house had a commode in the garage, but it had to be emptied periodically.

We survived these times. As the family got larger we made various improvements such as a gas line and gas lights in the lower floor. We had problems in the beginning with sand piling up over the winter in front of the garage doors but that was very mild and we overcame it very easily.

In the beginning, there were plenty of fish, clams, quahogs, and other types of wildlife. 

Q: Talk about some memorable fishing trips at the cape house.

First, the best fishing event I had was the one I have written about, whenI caught a 40 or 45 pound stripper. But I am a bit vague on the weight as I sold it at the Chatham Fish Pier. It could have been 75 pounds. 

The real joy was surf casting. I never knew about [this] till my father took me to the camp on the sand strip off Chatham [Nauset Beach].

I caught many strippers over time but one experience sticks with me. At low tide on the Atlantic Ocean strips of sand were exposed (sand bars). So to cast further out to sea, I went out on one of the strips. The end I was on was higher than at the beach. Sure enough when the tide started to come in I did not realize I was going to be trapped. I started back but the sand was covered with water and it was soft to walk on. It was tough walk and no one on the beach but I made it ok. Never to do that again.

Q: How did you see fishing and clamming change in cape cod over the years?

striped bass fishing 1953 pleasant bay chatham, ma

When I first went to north beach, a sand bar off Chatham, there were 3 or 4 sand dunes facing the ocean before you could get to the camp. There was also a line of telephone poles going to the old coast station.

During the 50s and 70s these all disappeared.

This was also true of the fishing etc. 

You could live off the land in the early days. Plenty of fish, flounders, stripers and shell fish.

But gradually over time this all changed, more people bought second homes, more summer tourists, more people could purchase boats and the tides changed the shape of the shore line.

So gradually there were less stripers on the outer beach and then the bay was changing. One year I found the large sea clams in a sand bar in the bay, next year they wee gone. And some years later there were plenty of lobsters. There were plenty of clams on a nearby sand bar, but the ties changed it so no more.

At first it was a surprise to see seal on the beach or in the water, now there are hundreds around the sand islands and below the entrance to the harbor. 

It is a constant change but I am sure it will change for the better in the future.


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