Season begins with reliving old memories

By Clyde Davis: Columnist

As I drove off the highway and onto the peninsula that is Presque Isle, I was not driving alone — at least not in spirit. Oh, it’s true that I was meeting my old friend Roger for the day at the beach, but he was coming in a separate car, driving in from his job in Fredonia, N.Y.

Driving this familiar route put me in touch with a flood of memories — about Presque Isle, about Lake Erie in general, about specific beaches.

The memories, and the folks who populated them, stretch back almost 50 years. When I was young, we used to go to Presque Isle. The ride then was endless. But to a water-loving child, going to the lake, any ride seems endless.

I pulled in by Beach No. 10, parked the car and walked toward the water, across the sandy ridge that separates the parking lot from the lake. Ridge might actually be a misnomer; it is more of a low hill, just tall enough to hide the lake form view.

The wind, sharp, cold and coming from the northwest, reminded me that the calmer days of summer were not yet here, despite the air temperature of 80 degrees. I figured I might be the only person actually swimming, but as I dropped my backpack, there were people coming from the water. Not a large crowd, mind you, but a few people, scattered up and down the sandy strip.

Driving up the peninsula, watching the bicyclists on the designated bike lane, I’d been wishing I had my bike, but now it would have been a burden. Given the few items in my backpack, I had no concerns about leaving my stuff while I went in the water.

I had expected the lake to be cold, but not this cold. If I had dumped in a tray of ice cubes, they might have lasted a long while. Still, it was the ritual that mattered, the being here, the jumping in, the first swim of year.

Later in the day, Rog arrived, and after we had walked the shoreline, rekindling and reviving the segment of those memories that were shared property, we went to a diner that was-well, colorful — not one of a kind, but still unique.

The decor and the atmosphere, the drive-up stations and the outdoor, red and white eating area, took me back to somewhere around 1962. On a Tuesday evening in May, the place was crowded.

Driving back, watching the sun drop, I could truly say that another summer was ready to begin.