Scoring on Old LBI With Phone Booths and Mosquito Truck

By LYNNE VAN SCIVER | Jul 25, 2018
Courtesy of: Lynne Van Sciver The author and her sisters get ready for the beach in front of their shore house in Brighton Beach in the 1960s. Lynne is the oldest (top right), surrounded by (from top left) Taire, Donna, Lynne, Patrice and Maureen.

Is it odd to be amazed by the increase of men on the beach during the work week? With this observation, the lost vestiges of my “Island summers” surface, moving me to the late ’50s and early ’60s, when mainly mothers and children dotted the Island’s beaches during the weekdays.

It was a time of lazy days filled with relaxed rules and casual dinners. There were no schedules for when to join the fun at the beach, as sounds of surf and delight blew off the beach, over the honeysuckled dunes, down the sandy path and in through our front door.

Of course our dad was missed, and sometimes we would go to the local phone booth to make a surprise call. We loved that phone booth because in addition to being a connection to Dad, who would not make an appearance until Friday evening, the coin return would fill with change, like a slot machine, every time we or anyone else made a call! While this lasted only a short time before being repaired, we neighborhood kids were all sworn to secrecy.

We spoke in whispers about our score at the booth in the early evenings as we waited for darkness and the mosquito spray truck, another guilty pleasure. Not all of us were allowed to chase it and breathe in that alluring aroma, but those of us who stood on the sidelines were captivated watching the others disappear in the chemical mist.

When Dad arrived, with loosened tie, suit jacket over his shoulder, wearing his work-worn look and mentioning how much he enjoyed our calls, I would freeze with guilt. The taste of candy, bought with my winnings, bittered in my mouth because I knew he would not condone my phone booth profit sharing. We eventually did tell, and it was repaired, but what innocent fun while it lasted!

Today, as I sit on the beach during the work week, I see many men with their families, and I think how times have changed. My grandchildren are fourth generation on this Island, and the way they enjoy the ocean has not changed over time. Vintage Cape Cod cottages, select frozen custard stands, Fantasy lsland (formerly Hartman’s) and Old Barney remain, as do many other Island landmarks.

Places I miss include Tony’s Pizza, Morrison’s on the bay, the A & W Root Beer stand and the Wizard of Odds. I miss yards large enough for summer barbecues and clotheslines, and houses with windows that stay open to catch the ocean breeze. I miss transistor radios blasting from blanket to blanket.

And yet, children still play along the ocean’s edge, collecting the few seashells that wash ashore and patiently digging for the other side of the Earth. The jetties are gone, but unruffled waves still roar. I can still sense the beach as the musky marsh air and sunshine fill my car, and an echo of the rickety old wooden causeway resonates in my mind, calling me back, summer after summer.

Lynne Van Sciver lives in Fort Myers, Fla., and Ship Bottom.


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