For many — and I mean many, many, many — people, Memorial Day weekend is often anticipated as the first big beach getaway. And this year, my family opted in, sort of.
We chose to spend Thursday, May 27 at Rehoboth Beach, Del. And then we promptly left the next day before the really, really big crowds showed up. We got back to Chestertown for what turned out to be likely the coldest Memorial Day weekend on record.
While I missed the Chestertown Tea Party and all the great fried food stalls set up downtown for another straight year, the weather certainly would have put a damper on the festivities. It led to the cancellation of a concert planned for downtown Saturday afternoon.
The sun came out Monday, which made for a nice day to honor those servicemen and women who made the ultimate sacrifice and to enjoy an extra day off from work with our families.
But back to Rehoboth, I lived there for a few years about 15 years ago in my 20s. I got my first reporting job there.
I first moved to Rehoboth leasing a winter rental. I got a great deal for a period along the lines of October through April for a house about a block from the beach.
I mean, it was a house in terms that it was a standalone structure with a roof, a kitchen and running water. But it was probably a converted detached garage for the larger house with street frontage.
When a driveway goes all the way to the front door of your house, you probably live in a converted garage. But it was all I needed at the time.
While I still had to fight for a parking space during the fall — the terms of my lease said I could not even park in the driveway that led to my front door — there was only one other person on the block throughout the winter.
I loved taking nighttime walks on that empty boardwalk that is bursting with life the rest of the year. The dark crash of the winter ocean waves brought me such an inner peace.
When the terms of the winter rental lease were up, I was forced to move out to the highway. But, hey, I was still at the beach.
During our sojourn last week to Rehoboth, I decided to go for an evening stroll to see if my little house was still there. It was, though more and more of the old beach houses are not.
I am fascinated by the old beach houses that remain, the sort built in the 1940s or earlier. Some blocks of Rehoboth are now devoid of those old houses, others have one left and that sole reminder of days of yore is almost completely wrapped by a large hotel.
You can pick those old houses out easily along the more residential streets, even those that have received a more modern — or even post-modern — makeover.
Features include old asbestos siding, large front porches for back in the day when people sat on front porches, signs of at least one or two additions and maybe roof bumpouts to turn an attic into another functional bedroom.
Even my little house has changed. Someone painted it. I’m not complaining. It looks nice.
I’m likewise fascinated by some of the old boardwalk businesses like Gus and Gus Place, an old fried chicken and cheeseburger stand. You can just feel the early 1960s standing in front of these places.
Some old Rehoboth landmarks are leaving the downtown. Nicola Pizza, a longtime Rehoboth Avenue stalwart, is reportedly moving to the Lewes area. The giant Dolles sign at the corner of the boardwalk and Rehoboth Avenue is said to be coming down as the candymaker is moving its operations to a different Rehoboth Avenue location.
Funland remains, though it was closed when we were there last week. I remember day trips to Rehoboth with my grandparents always ended in some time riding the amusements at Funland and I can’t wait for our boys to experience that as well.
And on my nighttime stroll, I listened to those dark waves crashing and felt that inner peace, until I nearly walked into a group of people because it was Memorial Day weekend and not the dead of winter.
Daniel Divilio is the editor of the Kent County News. Email him at ddivilio@the