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The Beach – In Arkansas

Author Shelley Fraser Mickle
Air Date 7/1/2003

The Beach Transcript

It’s really, truly summertime, and Shelley Fraser Mickle is remembering a very special trip to the beach – in Arkansas. 

There are plenty of kids today growing up as I did – landlocked, with no idea of what it is like to go to the beach except for what can be read in a book or seen in a movie. In fact, I remember even before school was out, I saw tons of magazines filled with pictures that splashed the water with such brilliant pinks and golden colors that I was sure the sun rays were escalators to Heaven. In movies, I saw bonfires blooming on the beaches and romances blooming beside them, so that I began to worry that living where I was, all my romances would be less than they should be. In fact, to us poor landlocked creatures, it didn’t seem that we were having a real American summer at all. 

One day in my little cotton town of Arkansas, a group of us got fed up. We didn’t even have a community swimming pool. Whenever we went swimming in a pool, it was because a group of good citizens hired a school bus to ship us once a week over to a local town where we swam and splashed and dunked each other for a few hours, then rode the school bus back while singing “A Hundred Bottles of Beer on the Wall” until the bus driver screamed for mercy. (Privately, I think he couldn’t tolerate us but once a week, and that’s why we went to the swimming pool only once a week.) But anyway, that outing seemed a poor substitute for the romantic visions of going to the beach. So on July 15 in 1955, we declared a Community Beach Day and set up a tent down by the Mill Pond. 

The Mill Pond was actually a stream that ran through the back of town like a deep ditch. But on July 15, it became the Shores of Malibu. We spread the east bank with Pillsbury Flour so it would look like a white sand beach. Then we built a bonfire and roasted hot dogs and sang wonderful silly songs until the sun slipped into the distant tops of pine trees. It was then that we sat down on a quilt someone’s mother had made and passed around the large seashells that my grandmother filled with sand to use as doorstops. With the shells against our ears, we heard the roar of the ocean and no longer felt deprived. Yes, I definitely felt the wealth of imagination on that day when we were all landlocked on the Shores of Malibu.

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