A black day at the beach.
We had been to this beach several times. My uncle. My brothers and me. Today, however, we had two cousins join us for the ride. We were all looking forward to a carefree day in the sun.
My uncle handed a sweaty man the tickets. “Five?’ The man asked. My uncle nodded in acknowledgment. He entered the turn style first. He hoisted the ice chest over his head and took a few steps in with us trailing behind. We were queued up to enter. The man counted us in without looking up.
We turned around to hear our two cousins yelling, “Hey those are my cousins over there!” The man asked, “Where?” pointing in our direction. He was gesturing with his hands for us to come back.
He whisked us through a gate next to the turn style. My uncle was upset. Two men walked him through the gate. One on each side. I thought for a moment things would get ugly.
My uncle reverted to his jovial way and marched us over to the “Coloreds Only” entrance. ( We were too young to read signs. Months later, I was told after inquiring about the incident.)
My uncle tried to salvage the day, but this side of the beach bore little resemblance to the other side. There was one small concession stand. Trash. Broken bottles and cans lined the shores. There were patches of sand on which to lay a blanket.
We didn’t stay long. We were all disappointed. It was nothing like our other trips to this beach.
This was the last time we went to that beach.
I was confused. I wasn’t sure what had happened.
All I knew was it had something to do with reading the signs.
Years later the episode was explained to me. My uncle said I asked him if we should leave our two cousins home next time.