No, not the 1959 movie with Gregory Peck and Ava Gardner, your own private beach.
Imagine, or better yet remember, the following scene: You and a favorite friend are alone on a really remote lovely beach. The sun has set, a small bonfire glowing, a blanket on the beach and you and your friend are enjoying some cheese and wine (NO GLASS ON BEACH PROPERTY). The moon is full, its penumbra radiating into the inky darkness of the universe. You and your companion are anticipating your time together on a blanket next to the fire. Then out of seemingly nowhere, another blanket appears, you are underneath it and then……….fade to black.
Sorry, can’t go further. However this post does involve a couple and a beach and let’s leave it at that for now.
A bit of background first. The beach is that along Onondage Lake, near Syracuse. The lake had, and may still have, the distinction of being one of the most polluted lakes in the nation. It is a lake approximately 4 mi. X 4 mi. at the extremes. An abbreviated 2012 article from NPR goes as follows:
Onondaga Lake in Syracuse, N.Y., has often been called the most polluted lake in America. It was hammered by a one-two punch: raw and partially treated sewage from the city and its suburbs, and a century’s worth of industrial dumping. But now the final stage in a $1 billion cleanup is about to begin.
Standing in his office amid stacks of reports, scientist Steve Effler glances at an old front-page headline of the Syracuse Herald-Journal: “Divers find goo in Onondaga Lake.”
Goo was just part of the lake’s problem. Effler, who created the Upstate Freshwater Institute, knows more about the 4.5-square-mile lake than anyone. But back in the 1950s, before he began studying the lake, he was a kid riding by in the backseat of his parents’ car.
“The lake [smelled] so bad [from the pollution] that you had to roll the windows up,” he recalls.
By then, swimming had already been banned for more than a decade. Because of mercury contamination, fishing was banned in 1972, although there were not many fish in the lake. Effler says there was so little oxygen that fish often swam right out of the lake.
The good thing in all this is that when Marge and I were in school, there was a narrow park between the road on the Liverpool side of the lake and the lake itself. In the night, this was a popular parking place for couples who wanted a bit of privacy. So, there was safety in numbers, and the park police did not hassle you. Unlike the Syracuse city park police.
So, we like many others, would drive down, find a place to park the car and enjoy each other’s company for a while. The local euphemism for this was “watching the submarine races.”
This was all something new for both of us. I grew up in a little prison town in the extreme frozen north of NY state. If you did not have a car, which I didn’t, there were few dating opportunities outside of events at our little high school. If lucky, a friend would ask you along for a double date some time. Nice enough, but still……
Syracuse was different in that there were busses, taxis when I could afford them so that was better. The Engineering curricula was fixed and crushing with often 19 credit hour semesters, often with courses with labs. Then too, I had to keep my GPA up to maintain my scholarship. So, not much spare time outside of school and studying for me. On the home front, my Dad was a decent enough father and man but with next to no emotional displays to my Mom or my sister and I. So,I did not have much to draw from in the experience of male-female relationships and dating.
Marge, by her own words, was “solemn as a tree full of owls” and sometimes made an analogy to herself as a turtle. I believe she was measurably smarter and probably taller than most of the males in her class of about 32. Added to that was her generalization from her family life that men in general were not to be trusted. She dated little at all in High School and her male relationships before we met at S.U. were mixed at best.
It was not live at first sight for either of us. We slowly dipped our toes into the water of boy-girl relationship. Fortunately not in Onondaga Lake. We went from nice, to like, to ???? and to had to work it out by ourselves what ???? really meant.
One of the ways we did this was to occasionally drive to the roadside park at Onondaga Lake, and spend some private time together.
In those days, the girls had female dorms, and the boys, male dorms. The girls dorm had a housemother, strict rules on curfew, etc. Probably not a bad idea really at least from the University perspective. One evening, we were parked and were listening to the car radio. In those pre-solid state days, radios used a lot of energy and the batteries then were 6 volt, not 12 volt. It was easy to run the battery down when the car was not running.
That evening, too late, I noticed that we could at best barely make it back to Marge’s dorm in time for curfew. I tried to leave but the car just would not start. Dead battery, my fault.
In a few minutes, a car with a couple maybe in 30s came and parked next to me. Violating the unwrittten rules of the park, I lept out of the car, ran to the other guy’s door, rapped on the window with something like the following plaintive cry “Buddy can you give me a push start, my battery is dead and I have to get my girl back before curfew.”
He gave me a funny look, but nodded OK, and then got behind my rear bumper and gave me a push. The good thing about those old cars was that with the car in low gear and ignition on, with a push you could pop the clutch and get going. This worked. I beeped my thanks and off we went.
Our arrival was about 10 minutes too late, and Marge was grounded for a week and had to be in by 9 p.m. All my fault.
We had though, taken another memorable (?) step along the path to couplehood. Despite is faults, Onondaga Lake had made this possible. Another step forward, not a bad evening after all.