Memories of a Cape Cod Summer

Cape Cod beach When I was little, my family used to rent a cottage on Cape Cod for two weeks every summer. Those weeks at the beach are among my fondest memories of childhood. Fourteen or fifteen ramshackle cottages, known simply as Hopkins’ Cottages, lined a stretch of beach along Cape Cod Bay in Brewster. Simply furnished and feebly maintained, the one unifying feature of each was a screened porch that looked out to the bay. The view from that porch was of endless sea and sky.

The beach below was perfect for families with young children, for when the tide went out, an enormous swath of mudflats emerged filled with quahogs and hermit crabs and other wonderful remnants from the deep. It was enough to make my heart leap for joy at what treasures awaited me on the beach each morning.

By day we would camp out on the sand with blankets and umbrellas and folding beach chairs. There would be pails and shovels and inflatable swim tubes, and a cooler stocked with cold drinks and sandwiches. Each family staked a claim of beach directly in front of their rental cottage, and kids would frolic in and out of the water between two enormous jetties jutting into the bay. Morning ebbed into afternoon and afternoon into evening, when slowly the beach erased itself of all traces of humanity and the sun sank into the sea.

After dark the cottages would emanate the warm glow of lamplight, and laughter would spill out into the night air. There were no televisions to entertain us, just a record player, some board games and a deck of cards. As soon as I could count to ten, my father taught me how to play poker at that summer cottage. He started me with a game he called “Spit in the Ocean”. Four cards were dealt and whatever card he flipped from the top of the deck was “wild”. I quickly learned about straights and flushes and full houses.

Those were heady times, our summer beach vacations. Two seemingly never-ending weeks of the year holed up in a shack at the beach with nothing more to worry about than filling my pail with sand and splashing in the ocean.

We drove down that way, Rich and I, the other day. It was the first really nice day we’d had in a long time. The thermometer hovered near 50 and the sun shone brightly on trees that were beginning to show signs of budding. We ambled down Route 6A, the Old King‘s Highway, past the shuttered windows of our favorite clam shacks and ice cream shops. The day was warm enough to lure homeowners into their yards for the first of many spring clean-up chores. Lawns were raked of winter’s debris, and flower beds readied for planting. Spring is still several weeks away, but we hardy Cape Codders long to be outdoors, if only to survey what needs cleaning or repairing after winter’s long visit.

We drove through Brewster, past the General Store and the Ladies Library, through the center of the village and on towards Orleans. I spied the roadway that leads down towards Hopkins’ Cottages and for a moment I was a kid again, tucked into my father’s station wagon filled with sand toys and beach gear headed to our shack on the beach for two weeks of summer fun. I could smell the beach grass and the pungent aroma of mudflats, hear the distant waves lap against the shore, and feel the warm sand sift through my fingers. In my heart I wanted Rich to make that turn, to take me back to where I’d spent so many happy days as a child. But in my head I knew that sometimes even the faintest of memories are far better preserved when left untainted by the truth, and that by driving past the road that led to our old beach cottage, I could return to the beach and be that kid again whenever I needed.

21 thoughts on “Memories of a Cape Cod Summer

  1. your right on.stumbled on your article looking for places to stay down the cape. my family used to stay at hopkins every summer. we had a fire in one we were staying in and it burnt down(1969) through the 70′s and early 80′s we stayed every summer at the gray cottage on the right by itself just as you come into crosby parking lot.

  2. 1953 thru 1960. The Hopkin’s cottages , the last 2 were always ours for 2 joyful weeks such as you encounted.
    Do publish my email address. jimhow@rock.com so many of us who did spend time there and have as you the most fond memories… I’d love to hear from other’s !
    ALL the best,
    Howard

  3. HELLO
    I WAS STUNNED WHEN I READ YOUR ARTICLE…WE ALSO STAYED AT HOPKINS COTTAGES FOR 2 WEEKS EVERY SUMMER IN AUGUST….TODAY LOOKING BACK AT ALL THE GREAT MEMORIES WE ALL HAD FROM THERE, I WOULD SAY WE STAYED IN HEAVEN FOR 2 WEEKS EACH YEAR…I WAS WONDERING WHAT COTTAGE YOU STAYED IN AND IF YOU WERE THERE THE SAME TIME THAT MY FAMILY WAS…WE WERE IN COTTAGE #16 NEXT TO THE PARKING LOT AND ACROOS THE STAIRS….I STILL GO THERE EACH YEAR AND HAVE VISITED “HOPPIES” 1 TIME YEARS AGO…I TOOK MY WIFE AND AS I KEFT I FELT AS IF I SAID GOOD-BYE TO AN OLD FRIEND ,MY CHILDHOOD…I WILL NO LONGER GO BACK…I SAW THE COTTAGES HAD CHANGED AND WANTED TO LEAVE THE GREAT MEMORIES AS THEY WERE…I TELL MY KIDS TODAY THAT WE SAT ON THE BEACH EVERY TUESDAY NIGHT TO WATCH THE BATTLESHIP GET BOMBED AND THEY THINK ITS SO COOL TO HAVE SEEN THAT….NOW AS I GO PAST THE ROAD I SMILE AND WONDER “WERE WE REALLY IN HEAVEN?”
    THOSE THAT NEVER EXPERIENCED WHAT WE DID WILL NEVER GET IT…IT WAS A WONDERFUL TIME WITH FAMILY AND FRIENDS WE MET EACH YEAR THERE…MY DAD LOVED IT THERE…WHEN HE PASSED AWAY SUDDENLY ALONG WITH MY UNCLE WHO PASSED A FEW YEARS LATER WE STOPPED GOING AND IT WASNT UNTIL I GOT MARRIED AND STARTED TO GO AGAIN…EACH TIME WE GO WE MAKE SURE THAT WE BRING THE CAPE COD SAND BACK TO THEM….
    NOW I HAVE MADE MEMORIES WITH MY WIFE AND 2 KIDS ON THE CAPE THAT THEY ALSO WILL CHERISH FOR THEIR LIVES….
    IF ANYONE WOULD LIKE TO CONTACT ME PLEASE WRITE ME AT “CLASICROK@AOL.COM”…WOULD LOVE TO HEAR FROM OLD CAPE CODDERS LIKE MYSELF!
    FRANK

    • Frank,

      I remember the battleship and still look out to sea from time to time, expecting to see it there. Those were wonderful family times for me. We stayed in a different cabin each time. i loved climbing up on the beds to peer over the walls into my parents bedroom. ii’m sure they loved that too.

      Debbie

  4. I, too, was browsing for somewhere to take my family. I wanted to show my kids what my vacations were like while growing up in the 60′s/70′s in the Rhode Island Massachussetts area. We usually stayed for 2 weeks and my Aunt’s family rented one next door or a little further down the line. Days were spent digging for worms or clams, flying kites, or chasing crabs. Nights were spent playing Keno or Mompoly or some kind of cards.We each had a chore or 2 to do,sweeping the cottage out, helping with the dishes. We each had a sleeping bag tossed on top of the bed, me and my 3 brothers. Mom and Dad had actual bedding. I can still remember out packing list… all the bathing suits we owned, 2 pr of short, 1 nice, 1 for hanging around in, 1 pair of long pants, 1 pr of pj’s, 1 sweatshirt, 1 light jacket, and 1 nice outfit for church. Sweet, sweet times.
    Thank you so much for sharing your story, it brougth back may wonderful memories.

  5. I’ll have to add my front door Hopkin’s cottage picture here to remind all of the real look. Those hip roof cottages were just ideal. In fact on stilits and all open inside they are what all waterfront homes must be. I was inside one the day before the bull dozers arrived. I bet many of you wish you had one last peek of heaven. I cried.

  6. Debbie,
    I am wondering if you stayed at Hopkins Cottages the same time that our family did!…It was a wonderful experience growing up and going there….I would love to hear from you and talk about it…My email is “clasicrok@aol.co”…please “Cape Cod” in the subject line…For anyone else that reads this please feel free to contact me also…Be well to all!
    Frank

    • Frank, We were there from 1956 into the mid-60s. Always for 2 weeks, different cottage each time. Loved when the Cushman’s Bakery truck pulled up and delivered those yummy cupcakes with the fabulous frostings. Always walked up for a soft serve ice cream at the top of the street and sometimes down to the gas station to get an orange crush soda or a grape nehi from the soda dispenser (in real glass bottles).

  7. LET ME TRY THIS AGAIN….MY EMAIL ADDRESS IS “CLASICROK@AOL.COM”…PLEASE PUT IN THE SUBJECT BAR “CAPE COD”…..LOVE TO HEAR FROM THOSE THAT SPENT TIME AT HOPKINS COTTAGES…I WAS THERE FROM 1965 TO 1974 WITH MY FAMILY,AUNTS,UNCLES AND COUSINS…ANYONE REMEMBER WALKING UP TO DAIRY QUEEN AT NIGHT FOR ICE CREAM..OR GOING TO “COBIES” FOR THE BEST HOT DOGS AROUND.
    FRANK

  8. Hello! We too grew up going to Brewster and the Hopkins Cottages! We miss them so much and it was a shame to see them torn down. We still try to go to the area because we love the bay and investigating the tide pools! I am glad to hear so many others share the same memories as we do!

  9. I used to go there when I was a teenager to babysit for friends and made many friends myself in my free time…staying there were some of the fondest memories from my past. When I married years later I would bring my own family and my kids (now in their thirties) still talk about our two weeks a year on the cape. miss it.

  10. Hi,

    I also went there from 1970-1984. We always stayed in #23, the last two weeks in June. After they tore them down I went to the spot where #23 stood and took a piece of the old cottage as a souvenir. It was a wonderful time and those cottages are missed. You can publish my email as well cfo@angelshealthcare.com.

  11. I was planning a vacation to Truro and remembering our 2 weeks at Hoppy’s cottages. So much of what you wrote captures my experience. Here are some other pieces of my memory. Playing softball or wiffleball in the sandy parking area after dinner. Walking the sand roads to the ice cream stand on the main road. Exploring the abandoned scout camp just down the road. It was a magical place, and I was so sad, but not surprised, to hear that they were torn down. I don’t know the number, but our cottage was the last one on the left as you faced the beach. Norma

  12. My family stayed at Hopkins for two weeks every year until they were sold and went to ruin. Does anyone have any pictures of the cottages? I’ve searched high and low with no luck. my email is fitzy10@gmail.com if anyone has any pictures please contact me, as I would LOVE to see them.

    Matt

  13. We would go for two weeks every summer with 3-4 other families…in the old station wagons. I remember going to the owners home to retrieve our key. I still remember the key fob! We were a family if 6 and it never seemed crammed! I loved trips to the penny candy store and The Steawberry Patch…a day away from the ocean at Nickerson. Sift serve at Coby’s. The memories are still so vivid! I have many pictures from our days there and will try to gather them to show the cottage. The best of times….

    • Would love to see your photos. Some of my best childhood memories are from our annual Cape Cod vacations at hopkins. I’ll try to dig out my photos as well.

  14. My best summertime memories are those years that my family spent at Hoppie’s Cottages. We started out staying in #1, then moved on to #2. I believe the first year was 1969 to 1973. After I married my husband and I kept the tradition moving on down the line to cottage #14. We always went for two weeks in July. I remember our first year in cottage #1. There was a hurricane that came through. It was so exciting to be able to run around in the rain and the wind. Life was wonderful for two weeks, we were free to do whatever and whenever. Loved the softball games every evening. Still remember the feel and the coolness of the soft dirt that we stood barefooted on waiting for our turn at bat. Great memories!

  15. I too was lucky to have experienced 2 weeks of pure heaven every summer at the Hopkins Cottages from 1971-1977. I would love to see pictures anyone has. Please share if you have any: jmspata4@yahoo.com

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