Love’s light fades when the beach air is far away

Published 8:08 pm Friday, April 1, 2011

Spring Break. That’s two words that were not in my schoolgirl vocabulary.

Back in my days, we registered for school on the Friday before Labor Day, took the Monday holiday and started to school the day after.

As for holidays, we got two days at Thanksgiving and about week at Christmas time. Then in March we were “let out” for two days for AEA Holidays so the teachers could go to some kind of conference in Birmingham. I don’t think they did though.

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The (Y)EA! Holidays were a welcome diversion from the three Rs. But when girls and boys got old enough to “notice each other,” the YEA Holidays took on a whole different meaning for us.

Instead of playing kick ball and hide-and-to-seek during our holidays, we put in to begging our mamas and daddies to “pleeease, pleeeease pleeease” let us go to Panie Maw City Beach for a night or two.

Back then, condominiums had not been invented. There were a few two-story motels strung along the beach but those were for the folks that had more money than sense, Mama said.

Those of us who had little of either stayed at the Edgewater Beach Cottages that were probably built by the WPA during World War II.

The cottages were furnished with Early Salvation Army furniture and had a gas stove and a refrigerator with one ice tray. You could raise the windows if you got hot, which we never did because the Easter cold snap always came early or late depending on when the YEA! Holidays rolled around.

One year, it was so cold that we took the musty, dusty curtains down and wrapped them around us and hopped back in bed to keep from freezing to death.

But none of that mattered. We were at Panie Maw City Beach and all was right with the world because just down and across the street was the HANG OUT. Las Vegas couldn’t hold a candle to that wonderful magical place.

We – the girls – would spend all afternoon getting ready to go to the Hang Out because that was an opportunity to meet boys that we didn’t know from howdy. They came from far away places like Samson, Evergreen and Chipley. And some even came from Georgia.

We’d dress in jeans that we rolled up to show our ankles and a sleeveless, button up shirt and bobby socks and penny loafers. We’d top off our outfit with a narrow, white kid belt. We looked good.

But before we could get to the Hang Out, the damp, salty air had either frizzed our hair or rendered it as straight as a board, depending. That didn’t keep us from twisting and be-bopping the night away with the dreamboats that had come sailing into our lives.

The most gorgeous male creature that I’d ever seen swept the pennies out of my loafers. He was just cute from head to toe. He had a ducktail and wore his collar turned up and he was from way off — Albany, Ga. And, his name was French or something. LaVon – all sweet and syrupy.

I left Panie Maw City with a huge teenage crush. We wrote letters back and forth for months and then one day, he wrote that he was coming to see me. And, he did.

How he got all the way from Albany, Ga., on that tin can, I don’t know. And for some reason LaVon looked different. His ducktail was greasy and one lonely curl hung down in the middle of his forehead.

And something had happened to his chin. It was gone. He didn’t have one.

But he had a big Adam’s apple or maybe it was chin that had dropped down in his throat. He was all bow-legged like he’d been on a horse for most of his life and he was kind of sway back and he whistled when he talked.

I fell out of love right then and there.

Maybe it was the damp, salty beach air that caused me to be delusional or maybe things just looked different in that magical place called the Hang Out on a moonlit night at Panie Maw City Beach.