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Cape Cod

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I live on Cape Cod in Massachusetts. I've lived there most of my life and it's been a wonderful place to grow up and raise a family. I'm what you call an old time Cape Codder. My ancestors came to Cape Cod in 1638 and settle in the village of Barnstable. One of my ancestors, Thomas Hinckley, was the first governor of the Massachusetts Bay Colony. There's a plaque on Route 6A where his house originally stood and he and other Hinckleys are buried in Lothrop Cemetery, one of the oldest in the country, also on Route 6A.

My great grandfather was builder and built a number of churches on the North Side of Cape Cod. My grandfather and his brother owned the largest lumber company on the Cape – John Hinckley and Sons Lumber Company. The business is no longer in the family having been sold to the employees many years ago. I was never a part of it anyway. The important part is: my roots on Cape Cod are deep, very deep.

Back in my day, the 1960's, Hyannis was the commercial center of Cape Cod. It was also a quiet little village. Back then, everyone knew everyone. I remember in 1965 when the movie Goldfinger came out and my mother refused to let me see it. Too adult, she said. I wasn't going to let that stop me so one day, I headed out to the Center Theater on Main Street. There was an alley next to the theater and I walked over the back way and headed down the alley. Peering out on Main Street, there was no one in sight. Perfect. I quickly walked to the ticket counter, bought a ticket and snuck into the back row where the lights were low and no one could see me. When the movie was over, I ran out the side door and scampered home. When I walked in the door, my mother was in the kitchen and said, “Did you like the movie”? How in the world did she find out? I was so careful. It was years later when she told me that after I bought my ticket, the ticket lady called her and asked her if she knew what movie her son, Cliff, was seeing. My mother was cool and said, “of course, I know. He's my son.” It was a while before I got to see another movie on my own though. Yup, that was life in a small town.

Hyannis got turned upside down in the early 1960's. Jack Kennedy ran for President and he was a neighbor in nearby Hyannisport. I say that as though I knew him. I didn't, but we all proudly claimed him as one of our own.

President Kennedy would worship at the St. Francis Xavier Church when he was on the Cape. The route the Secret Service took went down Harvard Street between my house and my grandmother's house. One Sunday morning, Peter and Johnny Nelson and I were playing in my grandmother's yard and squirting each other with squirt guns. As the motorcade drove down Harvard Street we stopped our playing to watch. The lead car pulled over and three guys in suits jumped out and grabbed all three of us and held us until the motorcade was past. Got to be careful with those squirt guns!

I lived across the street from what was then the Junior High School. This was a huge advantage for me in many ways. Since we had to be at school right at 8:00 a.m., I could roll out of bed at 7:40, grab a piece of bread, run across the street and still be on time. Very few of us had that advantage. I was both well rested and never late.

The other big advantage was the fact that my bedroom window looked out at the ball field and tennis courts at the Junior High. I never had to wonder if a game was getting started. I could see kids starting to gather and I would grab my glove and head right out. Rarely did I miss a baseball game or a tennis match.

We also lived only two short blocks from Main Street. Back then, all of the action was on Main Street and it was easy to sneak out of my house and head on down. I would climb out my window, crawl across the roof to a small addition on the other side of the house, climb on to it's roof and from there, I could easily jump to the ground. A well hidden ladder facilitated my late night return. I don't recall my mother ever saying anything about my nighttime adventures in those early summers. That doesn't mean she didn't know, she just never said anything about it that I recall. Maybe I really should have been a “second story man”!

Those days are gone now. The world is considered much too dangerous for kids to be pulling stunts like that. I don't know. Maybe it is and maybe it's just the fact that we hear more about the tragedies now than we did then. I do know that kids in Hyannis today will never know how wonderful it was for kids like me back in the prehistoric days.

We were Masters of the Universe.


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