The Times and Tides of Ocean City, Maryland
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Money Grubbing
by Carole Hitchens Quillen
2006

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Carole Quillen remembers that as a child, if we wanted money, we had to go "find" our own.
When I was a child, in the 1950's, Ocean City was a sleepy village that sprang to life in June and died a quick death on Labor Day. There was one movie theatre in town, the Capital Theater, and it was open on Friday, Saturday and Sunday nights. The only other form of entertainment was the "pool hall", but of course only "bad" boys went there and certainly not "young ladies". The local television station, Channel 16 WBOC, was on the air for only a few hours a day. As you can see, there wasn't a whole lot for a youngster to do. Add to that, the fact that there were VERY few children in town and you realize we had to invent our own entertainment.

I grew up in a middle-income family, and "back in those days" (really, the dinosaurs were long gone by then) that meant the parents had to run like crazy for three months and then scrimp for the next nine. There was no such thing as an allowance for my siblings and me. If we wanted money to go to the movies or buy candy at Birch's Market, on First Street and Baltimore Avenue, we had to "find" our own. Now you might ask "how does a kid find money in a ghost town in the dead of winter?" Well, we had to be VERY creative! There was always one or two construction/remodeling sites within bicycling distance of home and, thanks to the generosity/laziness of the construction workers, they left their soft drink bottles (we had glass bottles back then, no cans) laying around at the end of the day.

After school it was a race to see who would be the first one to hit the construction sites and get those "golden" bottles. Now, if you took those empty bottles to Birch's Market you could get three cents apiece for them. It doesn't sound like a lot now, but then, you could get a coke and a moon pie for ten cents, a pack of gum was five cents and, at least at Birch's Market, they still had penny candy, all this wasn't to last much longer!

There were two other means of "finding" money, but they were more like work!

This involved literary "finding" the money that the summertime visitors lost. Back then, like I said, the dinosaurs were gone; the boardwalk was made entirely of boards (imagine that, a boardwalk made of boards). Now these boards were spaced so a coin could quite nicely fit between them. Back before the beach nourishment projects weren't even thought of, a northeaster' storm could cut the sand back nicely from under the boardwalk and you could literally crawl underneath and pick up a dollar's worth of coins at a lot of different locations. The other main source of "income" for us kids was taught to us by our father Horace Hitchens.

This involved walking the beach on a windy day. Now the easy part was that you had to walk with your back to the wind and, looking down, the coins that our visitors dropped on the beach during the summer would be standing on end, with a little pile of windblown sand behind them. The wind would blow the sand away from around the heavier coins! Of course that was back before the invention of the "beach sweepers" that mechanically sift the sand on the beach to remove debris.

You may say this sounds like a lot of effort for such little reward, but then (the dinosaurs really were all gone) there wasn't any place to spend it except on candy and the movies!


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