The newly reopened mini-golf course at Old Saybrook Point after hurricane Irene destroyed the Dock and Dine Restaurant and the old classic miniature golf course. Art work by Edward M. Fielding – www.edwardfielding.com
Lighthouse at Old Saybrook Point is a popular image in my portfolio. It was painted from a photograph I took on a trip to help my parents pack up their Westbrook home and move down to Florida permanently. Due to health issues it might be the last time my folks see Old Saybrook where my Dad’s father built a small cottage after World War II with a ration of wood that could only build something the size of a two car garage.
The whole extended family used to pack into the place for fun summer weekends with kids sleeping on the floor and in the attic. Chalker Beach was a short walk with an old red Radio Flyer wagon full of beach chairs and sand pails.
These were the days when a middle class family could pool their resources and buy a modest, un-insulated summer place at the beach. Nowadays people basically have to inhabit year round homes with prices that only well off families can afford or shared homes that have been passed down through the generations with various family branches having “their weeks” during the summer. Plus people expect more luxury these days. You still see outdoor showers on some of the older cottages, but then again some are being torn down and new mansion type dwellings emerge with beach front swimming pools, patio warmers and outdoor tvs.
Summer days down at Old Saybrook were spent swimming, building sand castles, fishing off the rocky jetties and crabbing in the tidal marshes. Maybe going for a ride on a neighbor’s sail fish boat if the window was blowing.
Crabbing was always a fun. Just tie a smashed muscle shell or chicken bone to a string and dangle it over the edge of the bank. Little blue crabs would scurry out but you would have to be careful to scoop them up with a net. Often they would ride the bait up to the water’s surface as you carefully pulled up the rope but they would always jump off when they reached the air. I only remember one time getting enough of them to make it worthwhile bringing them home for dinner.
At night there were movies on the beach or bingo in the club house. For a while there was a roller skating rink within walking distance when roller skating was popular. Now its West Marine and Benny’s discount store. But the Dairy Queen is still going and the Italian Ice man still drives his van down to the beach in the summer. I remember a watermelon Italian ice used to be 50 cents and my Dad would always let us get one even if it was close to dinner time.
The other night time activity was playing miniature golf. The mini golf place on Saybrook Point was a classic flat course with windmills and other obstacles. None of this hill climbing stuff like you find in Florida where they dig out a pond and create a hill with the fill.
Irene was considered a tropical storm but it whacked the heck out of the Connecticut shoreline. It wiped the classic “Dock and Dine” restaurant off the map and with it the mini golf course. The restaurant still hasn’t been rebuilt but the mini golf course has and its really spectacular with all the houses representing some classic historic landmarks from the area. Plus its only $5 which allows locals to revisit the course time and again.