I was alone. A sultry day in July, the air was blazing, the temperature in the nineties. Jumping into the giant soaring waves was revitalizing, refreshing, exciting. I waited for the next, then the next and jumped into it as it pounded down around me. Suddenly, I found myself under the waves gasping for air and flailing my arms as the force of nature pulled me under. Would someone see a child in distress and come to my rescue? I never noticed a lifeguard on duty, who even thought about it? I tried to scramble out onto the safety of the beach, but instead, the undertow pulled me further into the ocean. One more time, and I thought I would drown. With all my might, I pushed myself up towards the beach, then finally, finally I stood up and with difficulty moved by feet through the pull of the water to the beach. Are you questioning how I could remember? Since that day, I have told the story lots. Never, I promised myself, will that happen to me again. And it hasn’t. I don’t go into the ocean when the waves are bigger than me. I was pretty tall for my age of eight, and was a good swimmer, but it didn’t make a difference. I was at the mercy of the ocean. We had a cottage just up the street, in Rockaway Beach. That’s in Queens, New York. The experience put a damper on being an ocean lover. The almost drowning is what I think of when I witness gigantic waves like the ones at Jones Beach. I spent many a summer at Jones Beach watching my kids jump in and out of the waves. Can’t stop kids from doing their own wave challenges, but I was ready in a moment’s notice to jump in if one of my kids needed me.
New York beaches are far from innocent, not only are there dangerous undertows, but now there is an increase in shark population. Be on the lookout.
The beaches are rich in culture, have soft sparkly sand and clean water to swim. Jones Beach is actually a state park, founded by Robert Moses. It has bathhouses, an outdoor arena and a long boardwalk. When Moses’ group first surveyed Jones Island, it was swampy and only two feet above sea level; the island frequently became completely submerged during storms. To create the park, huge dredgers worked day till midnight to bring sand from the bay bottom, eventually bringing the island to twelve feet above sea level. Another problem that followed was the wind—the fine silver beach sand would blow horribly, making the workers miserable and making the use of the beach as a recreational facility unlikely. Moses sent landscape architects to other stable Long Island beaches, who reported that a beach grass (Ammophilia arenaria), whose roots grew sideways in search of water, held dunes in place, forming a barrier to the wind. In the summer of 1928, thousands of men worked on the beach planting the grass by hand.
In 1930, Robert Moses hired Rosebud Yellow Robe as Director of the Indian Village at Jones Beach State Park. Rosebud became a public celebrity to thousands of children who visited the village every summer from 1930 to 1950, It was created as a Plains Indian village with three large tipis. The large Council Tipi contained museum cases with artifacts borrowed from the American Museum of History. The other tipis served as clubhouses for the children. Rosebud told stories and folklore of the Lakota and local Eastern Woodlands tribes.
Rosebud worked as Director of the Indian Village
for years, and taught tens of thousands of school children and several generations of New Yorkers about Native American history and culture. Rosebud recalled, “When I first lectured to public school classes in New York, many of the smaller children hid under their desks, for they knew from the movies what a blood-thirsty scalping Indian might do to them.”
Jones Beach is accessible by car, boat bicycle, and in the summer season by bus or even the Long Island Rail Road to Freeport and then a bus. There are fire works at Zach’s Bay on July 4th. There is a $10 cost for parking. A $65 New York State Empire Passport can be used to park for free.
New York beaches are all over the state. Do you like the beach? Where would you go?