“You are not going out with that boy unless his parents are driving and that's that. I'm not just Spitting Grits here, young lady!”

. . . My father, John Thomas Cravey, USAF, to me in 1956.

Requiem Adagio: The Beach

-- continued from the previous post

As we wait to see if the cap that BP managed to snap onto the spewing oil well will work, the future of the Gulf of Mexico remains critically damaged by the estimated 4 million gallons of crude choking the life out of the region. Tar, toxic dispersant, and slimy oil will continue to maim and kill from the bottom up for a long, long time.

The constancy of The Beach is broken, perhaps for several generations. I grieve for the loss.

Back to Gulf Shores

girlfriend-granddaughterOne of the 1972 "Gulf Shores girlfriends" introducing her third granddaughter to The Beach, Inlet Beach, 2009.

One thing I learned from my mama was the importance of taking girlfriend trips, so in 1972 – and newly married -- I suggested to my close group of married girlfriends that we take a trip to the Graves house in Gulf Shores. All of us had young children, or were pregnant, or would soon be. Today I think of all those children and how they grew up loving The Beach. Now those children have been taking our grandchildren.

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 "Girlfriend's" first granddaughter, Inlet Beach, 2010

 

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"Girl-friend's" second grand-daughter, Inlet Beach, 2010

Gulf Shores was still relatively deserted in the early 1970s. We still had to take our food and water. It was still gross to brush your teeth in the tap water. We ate at Mimi’s. (See previous post.)

Since there was no telephone at the Graves house and no cellphones, even in our imaginations, we stopped at the State Trooper’s office on the way to the house to let them know who would be at the house, as we had all instructed those left at home to call the trooper’s office in case of a need or an emergency.

We knocked and knocked on the trooper’s office door. No one was there. It was after hours and a weekend. There was a line at the one telephone booth at the Hangout, so someone had to drive back to Foley to call home long-distance and spread the word that we couldn’t be reached that way. That meant, of course, we couldn’t be reached.

Our group made that trip for several years in a row. No, there were no grocery stores, but there was by then the Flora-Bama, a small hole-in-the-wall liquor store and bar.

 

An Ill Wind

It all ended at the Graves house on September 12-13, 1979, when the category 4 Hurricane Fredric bombarded the Alabama coast with winds up to 145 mph. The Graves house was among the huge losses; it was found the following week floating like a boat in the bay, books still in the bookcases. Total losses from Fredric were estimated in 1979 dollars at $2.3 billion, yes, billion.

Not even Fredric could break the constancy or the legacy of The Beach, any more than Katrina could turn New Orleans into a wasteland forever.

Fredric destroyed a lot of man-made structures on The Beach and inland, just as other hurricanes have done through the decades, the very worst being Katrina. Despite the losses of life and livelihoods, the constancy and resiliency of life and nature always survived. Until now.

 

The Redneck Riviera

It took another decade or so on the Alabama Gulf coast before condominium complexes, businesses, and a way of life began their comeback as part of the development stage and rediscovery after Fredric. Family, friends, girlfriends, and children continued to stay in those old cement block motels that remained -- until Gulf Shores grew and became known at the Redneck Riviera.

We continued to make girlfriend trips for decades and to take our children on Beach vacations – even until this summer.

The Beach has been for so many of us one of the threads that connected generations to each other.

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A close friend's husband and grandchildren at Navarre, looking at blue crabs, 2010.

The grandchildren at sunset at Navarre

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One View

Our granddaughter Joanna Leigh has seen the Gulf waters, sand, and surf only once. After going to a birthday celebration for a friend in Ft. Walton, my husband and I decided she needed to at least see it, even if we couldn’t stay longer. We left Ft. Walton and crossed the bridge into Santa Rosa. We got out at a public beach site and walked toward the water.

Joanna Leigh at Santa Rosa, first Beach experience, 2010

Like all the children before her, she was entranced.

Like so many of the children before her, she ventured into the water just as the breaker came in. The sand shifted. Her feet were pulled out from under her in a couple of inches of warm salt water. We grabbed her up, crying and shocked.

Unlike so many of the kids before her, she will likely not get all those other times to go under again, to learn how to maneuver even the smallest breakers, to gulp down salt water through her nose, to wade in a tide pool of warm water where shells gather, to see the water birds soaring and diving, to catch a blue crab in her net, to marvel at the magnificent sunsets.

I am heartbroken for this loss of one of Nature’s greatest creations, by human hands.

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