March 25, 2013
Bumper to bumper, red brake lights was all Larry Pearce could see after his family’s long beach day at Lake Erie. My great uncle, Larry Edsel Pearce, recalls a cherished memory from spending one day every summer at the beach of Erie. “Today, many families spend an entire week in some fancy beach house on the ocean. That must cost a fortune,” he says. Pearce understands that when you have an opportunity to be with your family, you should take every second of it.
The day starts off just as any vacation would, waking up just before sunrise to get in the car half asleep (and still in pajamas) so you could get a head start on the day. “Mother Ruth had packed a picnic basket the night before and gathered all the bathing suits and beach toys. And then, off we would go, up Rt. 8 and then cross over to Rt. 19,” Pearce recalls. After the two hour drive on the two lane roads of the 1950s, they arrive at a crowded parking lot on the lake with picnic pavilions and a path to the beach. His father, Ralph, packs a small gas grill on which he made eggs and bacon for breakfast. Pearce and his siblings Paul, Carl, and Ellen ate quickly enough to satisfy their mother and their little stomachs. When mother gave the OK signal they ran to the bathhouses to change into their swim suits.
“We raced between life guard towers and built sand castles. Then we would just sit and take in the beautiful scenery,” Pearce remembers. Before they knew it, Father Ralph was calling for lunch and the day was already half gone. Ralph would cook on the same small gas powered grill that he used for breakfast. For lunch the options were usually hotdogs and hamburgers. “Later in the day, Dad would call us to change into our street clothes. We had to make a decision. Did we want to go for a powerboat ride on the inner lagoon or drive into the downtown City of Erie to the public pier where the big boats were docked and the fishing tours originated? Seems like our choice alternated each year, so we got to do both,” Pearce recollects.
Of course when elder brothers Carl and Paul got old enough to drive they would invite their girlfriends to accompany them to the lake, in separate cars from Pearce, Mom, Dad, and Sister Ellen of course. They would all meet at the lake for food and water fun but somehow they had other things on their mind, grown-up stuff. “By the time I was old enough to drive, seems the idea of taking my best girl to Lake Erie no longer appealed to me,” Pearce evokes. He did, however, take his own kids, Annie and Matt, and wife, Susan, to Lake Erie, much later of course, and that was very fun.
Just as the dawn to the lake had been dark, so had the excursion home. It was as if every family at the beach was on their way home on the two lane roads. “All I remember were the miles and miles of red tail lights stretching into the dark horizon,” Pearce says with a grin on his face. “Gone are the days when a small family could cram so much fun into a single day once a year at such a wonderful location as Lake Erie so relatively close to home,” Pearce has taught me to hold onto the memories we make in our childhood so that we may look back on them in the future whether it’s telling stories to our grandkids or just looking for a smile. When you get older and the people you have loved all your life begin to fade away, Pearce knows that you need memories such as this to hold onto and cherish forever.