In summer 1964, I started surfing on the north side of the Indian River Inlet. At that time, we had to park in the grassy median between the highways and walk across and down the embankment to get to the beach. This was a real nightmare on weekends and holidays because of all the cars and especially since we were carrying 10-foot surfboards that weighed 25 pounds, and we were only about 5 feet, 5 inches tall.
Then, time marched on, and a (gravel) parking lot was developed, and we pulled in to surf in the summer of ’65 and were greeted by a person who wanted a $3 entry fee. Well, teenagers rarely have money, since Mom and Dad provided, so I did not have $3 to enter. The surf was good, so I begged and pleaded with the fee attendant, and the nice lady there must have had kids of her own and understood and paid my fee for me, and I surfed that day. Little did I know that I had dropped my wallet outside the trailer where we paid the fee.
I left that day and did not realize my wallet was missing till I returned home to Harrington and went to place the money that Mom gave me to go back and pay the nice lady. I called the park office to see if the wallet had been found and was told it had, and all I had to do was come back and describe the contents to get it back.
The next day, I returned to Indian River and went to the trailer, and the same lady was working, and I was able to retrieve my wallet. I gave her back the $3, and while she said it wasn’t necessary, I insisted, and she took it. You can rest assured that the act of kindness she showed made a memory that lasted a lifetime. Now, at 70 and still surfing the north side of Indian River Inlet, every time I pass the fee booth, I think of that day.
As a note from that day, I have purchased a park sticker every year since they started issuing them. I have seen the old Coast Guard tower dismantled, walked on the gravel lot, seen the old bridge demolished, witnessed the new one erected, seen the new parking lot and the new northside campground (which used to be the overflow from the south campground) both built and, of course, observed the new fee booths, but one thing has not changed, and that is the friendliness of the people who work in the parks. Yes, things have changed since 1965, but the same acts of kindness, courtesy and friendliness still exist today as they did then, maybe even at a higher level.
I grew up wanting someday to be a part of this organization in any capacity that I could get as a seasonal employee. My dreams came true in the 1980s, and I became a seasonal park ranger at Holts Landing State Park and Fenwick Island State Park. In this job, I met the public, informed them about the parks and welcomed them into the park family. I received a letter of recognition from the late Bob Jones, who was head of Delaware State Parks during those years, for outstanding performance in aiding a swimmer who had suffered a neck injury in an unguarded area on the Fenwick Island drive-on beach that I happened to be patrolling at that time.
Yes, the parks have given me much and have introduced me to people who have made many influences in my life — from the administrative levels in Dover through the staffs of the different parks in lower Delaware. Thanks for giving me the chance to be part of the great family — from those who have come and gone to those present today in the Delaware State Parks system.
Editor’s note: This was originally published by Delaware State Parks as part of its 70th-anniversary celebration.