Block Island Summer

Wed, 11/22/2017 - 8:45am

The book “Block Island Summer” was published in 1971. Black and white photographs and eloquent little essays contained within its pages hold the island we think we remember but sometimes doubt truly existed. Yet, here it is, chronicled by Klaus and Elizabeth Gemming, printed and bound, a volume amazingly known, not in vague “I think I saw that once...” terms but with its precise location on a shelf, still — perhaps more for the passage of decades — a cherished possession (1).

It was a time of transition; the Manitou, which was built as the first stern loader, was running but it was the first run of the Quonset, the old side loader, that proclaimed the start of summer. Freight was off-loaded with hand trucks, and loaded onto trucks, an arduous process for the young and the strong (2).

The “groins,” wooden jetties built to hold sand at the State Beach were a decade old. On and after the storm, summer-day beach-goers perched on the upturned lifeguards' dory and toddlers could enjoy the paddling pool left by nature without fear of crashing waves (3). 

The Spring House was painted white to the roofline, matching the Narragansett, her sister in the New Harbor. The tall monochromatic hotel had a striking elegance, although, looking back, it might have been a look born of practicality. Swans, more white elegance, nested across the road (4).

Today's neat Transfer Station was a dump. The population was less and we did not live in a disposable world. Trash and garbage, trails of of lives, were simply left in the open, a treasure trove of repurposed goods for some,  it was, most of the time, a place where gulls reeled overhead in day and rats feasted at night (5). 

Note: Amazingly, as of this writing, there are copies available on Amazon and eBay for less than the demand-driven cost of some postcards.