Forbidden: Remembering the Past Working on the Beach
The worst thing about working at Hurley’s Bath House at Revere Beach was not having another carefree summer to do with what I pleased. The best thing – even beyond earning more money than ever before – was watching women get dressed by occasionally peeking through the tiny holes in the wooden wall that separated the men’s side from the women’s side.
The war is over, but there are still many soldiers and sailors coming to the bathhouse. I have the only key to 200 or more lockers on the men’s side. On a busy Sunday, an honest-enough looking sailor comes back from an afternoon at the beach and has me open his locker.
I do my turnkey task quickly, for there can be a direct relationship between the speed of service and size of the tip.
Within minutes, he comes back to me with a complaint about his gold watch being missing from his locker. I know nothing of this. The sailor goes to the manager out front, gets no satisfaction, and calls the police. The officer from the Metropolitan District Commission arrives in a white shirt with authoritative gold braid, talks to the sailor and then calls me to the back of the locker room for a private conversation, the purpose of which is immediately apparent: give up the watch and the whole thing will be forgotten.
I know I am guilty. All summer I have been sneaking peeks at women without getting caught. In an instant of honesty, I think perhaps if I confess my larger sin – my real crime – the officer will know I am not a thief. Some inchoate sense of survival blocks this plea from being expressed. Since I don’t have the watch, I repeat my innocence again and again.
The officer relays my denials to the sailor and our manager, with the fallback that the sailor can file charges at the station house. The two uniforms walk down the stairs together. I hear the loud calliope music coming from Hurley’s Merry-Go-Round on the sidewalk level beneath the bathhouse. We never hear from the sailor again, and I can’t remember going near the wooden wall from that Sunday until Labor Day when the bathhouse closed its door for the end of the season.
Croton-on-Hudson, NY (and a Revere native)