In the spring I wrote a post about what we like to do and where we like to go on Cape Cod. I’m always glad to return to the Cape and find that so much still remains the same as it was when I first started coming here 50 years ago. (50 years ago! Man, I feel old).
However, it is inevitable that with the passage of time, changes do take place. And sadly, not everything remains from my younger years. So in this post I’d like to talk about some of the places that have disappeared during my lifetime, such as:
The Parking Lot at the Coast Guard Beach: When I came here with my parents as a child, we usually went to the Bay beaches. The waters were calmer there, and the conditions were ideal for a young child. The low tide brought the flats and the tidal pools where the hermit crabs and little lady crabs came out to forage for food, and provided hours of entertainment for my 7 or 8-year-old self.
But at least once or twice during every trip we did go to the more formidable ocean side, either to Nauset Beach, with its distinctive red and white lighthouse, or to the Coast Guard Beach, with the old Coast Guard building overlooking the ocean.
The summer I was 17, right before I went off to college, we came up to the Cape with my two best friends from home, since I was then at the age where being with my parents exclusively for two weeks was just not considered fun.
My friends and I liked the ocean beaches better than the Bay beaches at this stage of our lives. In particular, we liked the Coast Guard Beach. There were hunky lifeguards keeping watch over the summer hordes, perched on tall white chairs overlooking the beach, so we always begged my parents to take us to that beach instead of the Bay. I remember my parents driving the three of us to the Coast Guard Beach, and us all piling out of the car in the parking lot which abutted the beach. The year was 1971.
Seven years later, the blizzard of the winter of 1978 washed away the entire Coast Guard Beach parking lot into the ocean. It was that same storm that washed away Henry Beston’s Outermost House, the subject of a well-known book.
Now in order to access the Coast Guard Beach, you either have to park up above by the old Coast Guard building and walk on a long boardwalk down to the beach, or, in the busy season, take a shuttle bus from a parking lot a mile down the road. A group of educational plaques near the Coast Guard building commemorates the Northeaster of 1978 with pictures of the old parking lot and the devastation afterward, along with views of the Outermost House, which once stood on the nearby marsh.
The Flagship Restaurant: The Flagship was founded in 1930, not long after my mother started coming to the Cape with her own family. When my parents and I came to the Cape she kept up the family tradition and we always paid at least one visit to The Flagship during every trip.
It was a big place on a pier overlooking the Bay in Provincetown, with pilings underneath holding up the building. The bar was made from an old fishing dory, and the walls and ceilings were festooned with fishing nets with shells in them, buoys, and other nautical accoutrements. The tables were covered with white tablecloths and the food a nice mix of typical seafood (lobsters with drawn butter, fresh fish) and some Portuguese and Spanish specialties. I remember my mother used to get adventurous and order paella, which was the first time I’d heard of this dish. We would sit there enjoying our dinner and gazing out at the sunset over the water.
After my husband and I started coming to the Cape, we always made a point of going to The Flagship. Altogether my family, starting with my mother, had been going to this restaurant for about 60 years.
Eventually The Flagship closed and reopened under another name – The Dancing Lobster. But the sign still had “at the Flagship” underneath. After a couple of years, that restaurant moved out and another took its place. And then another. The décor changed, the food changed, the Flagship name disappeared, but the restaurant continued on and the old dory bar remained.
Then about two years ago the restaurant apparently closed for good. Now there is an art gallery upstairs, but the restaurant remains closed, perhaps never to open again; apparently it is being converted to residential use. A Provincetown institution has finally ended.
The Nauset Light Diner: When DH and I first started coming to the Cape in 1984, we used to go out to breakfast a lot. And our favorite place to go was the Nauset Light Diner, on the corner of Route 6. It was in a little strip mall full of white clapboard and shingled buildings, including the post office and a little general store.
The diner was at the light at the intersection where the road led off to Nauset Beach. So we used to joke that the Nauset Light Diner was named after the traffic light, rather than the lighthouse. The place had great eggs, bacon and other typical breakfast dishes. We would get a seat by the window and relax and enjoy our breakfast.
Today, the Nauset Light Diner is long gone – replaced by a Ben & Jerry’s and a Dunkin’ Donuts. But they are still housed in the same white clapboard building and the atmosphere of the little commercial strip has not changed otherwise. So now we stop and get ice cream cones at Ben & Jerry’s and reminisce about the old Nauset Light Diner, while young families congregate there creating their own memories.
The Moors: This was a wonderful old restaurant way out on the tip of the Cape outside of Provincetown that DH and I discovered during one of the summers that The Flagship was undergoing one of its transformations.
We liked The Moors because it had a lot of the atmosphere of the old Flagship, with the buoys and the fishing nets hanging from the walls. It wasn’t actually on the bay like The Flagship, but was across the street from it. The Moors also had a fairly large complement of Portuguese dishes, as well as excellent seafood. Even when The Flagship reopened we continued to go to The Moors as well during our trips to the Cape.
The restaurant was always busy and sometimes we had to wait to get in. So we were surprised one year to find it closed tight. It has since been torn down and replaced by condominiums. An article in the Boston Globe in 2005 described the end of the Moors as follows:
"Built in 1939, the Moors, owned and run by the Costa family, became known for its nightly sing-alongs, jazz brunches, and live entertainment. It was by locals, for locals, and for this it was loved. But when Mylan Costa -- tired of decades in the restaurant business -- sold it in 1998, it did not take long for it to be demolished. The site is now a complex of eight condominiums called the Village at the Moors.
''The condo-ization of Provincetown is hurting it," said Costa, who lives in North Eastham. ''I think it is becoming another Nantucket. Nantucket's nice. Believe me. It's a nice place. But it's definitely changing the makeup of the town. It's not a funky village anymore. That's gone forever. It's a commercial product now.""
The Orleans Army-Navy Store: This is the most recent casualty of progress. When we came up in the spring we found it was closing. I don’t remember how long it had been there; I recall it always being there on the road on the way into Orleans.
It wasn’t a big place, but it was chock full of eclectic merchandise. On the first floor were the more conventional items – sweatshirts, bandanas, pants. Upstairs was the real treasure trove: old gas masks and uniforms from forgotten wars, canteens, ammunition cases, and more. It was a great place to poke around on a rainy day, as well as a source of useful equipment.
For instance, it was at the Army-Navy store that we bought a case that we currently use for our camera case; and it was there that we bought Diva’s “dog tags” – real dog tags, army-style, imprinted with her name, our address and phone number.
Probably the store couldn’t keep up with the prevalence of the casual clothes now available at every store, or perhaps kids nowadays don’t relish the explorations into the past that the upstairs collection afforded. For whatever reason, it is now closed, another place from my childhood that is gone but not forgotten.
I’m sure there are many other places that have come and gone since I started coming to the Cape as a child, but these are the ones that stick in my memory.
But, as the French say, “Plus ca change, plus c’est la meme chose” – the more things change, the more they remain the same. I see little kids on the Bay beaches playing in the tidal pools collecting hermit crabs in pails just as I did, I see families piling into the Lobster Pool restaurant (See ‘Em Swim) just as we did. I see them going on the National Seashore nature walks and playing miniature golf, and doing all the other things I did as a child.
And I know that until this big sand bar called Cape Cod eventually dissolves into the sea, that the changes that occur will never really change the Cape. The ocean and the dunes and the wind and the sky are what matter, and they are still here.