Seasons Change and So Do We

As Labor Day approached, we dreaded summer’s ending.

In my youth, as Labor Day approached, we dreaded summer’s ending and counted the days of freedom remaining before school resumed. Now we still count the days until Labor Day, but for a different reason!

The Labor Day holiday no longer rings down the final curtain on summer.

Formerly, the day after Labor Day was almost eerily quiet. If there was still some traffic around, my mother would remark, “They haven’t all gone home yet!”

Seasonal shops and restaurants would be closed, and we would have to wait another year to satisfy our ice cream cravings. Outdoor fairs were over; clambakes and cookouts had become only fond memories. 


Now, Labor Day ushers in the shoulder season, which brings a new crop of visitors or extends the stays of visitors already here.

Many seasonal businesses stay open until Columbus Day, at least on the weekends, and inns have not yet gone to off-season rates. Farmers markets, which did not exist in most Cape towns during my adolescence, display their beautiful fall produce. There are a few more opportunities for fried clams and soft-serve. Although traffic congestion may ease a bit, it doesn’t disappear. 

The spectacular Cape autumns were a well-kept secret for decades, but few secrets can be kept forever. 

Mary E. McDermott is a 13th-generation Cape Codder living in Orleans. She worked for 17 years in the Orleans Assessor’s Office and 23 years as a commercial insurance broker at Pike Insurance Agency. She has been a justice of the peace to solemnize marriages since 1976 and has previously published two books of poetry, Tapestry and Handle with Care. Her poems have appeared in several publications including the Christian Science Monitor.
Read more about Cape Cod in Mary E. McDermott’s book Old Orleans, Memories of a Cape Cod Town.

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Take a Cape Cod book to the beach with Moon Tide: Cape Cod Poems by Mary Petiet.

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Let Cape Cod inspire you.

Find inspiration in the rising sun, poetry flowing with the tide, and beautiful prose emerging from the gentle fog. Cape Cod: A Writer’s Journal, a new book by Mary Petiet.

The 20 prompts and inspirational quotes in this interactive journal were designed by a Cape Cod writer to connect you to your muse so you can capture the beauty of Cape Cod on paper. Each prompt leads you to your personal writing style as you cover the blank pages of this pocket sized journal with your deepest thoughts and insights. It’s designed to fit in your pocket, so take it with you as you travel Cape Cod, and if you’re far away rely upon it to transport you to these shores which have always worked their magic on the written word.

Summer on Old Cape Cod

What was summer like on Old Cape Cod?

During my youth, Orleans boasted many summer camps, several of which specialized in sailing. Young people came from everywhere to attend the camps and develop skills in swimming, boating, and other activities. When there was a baseball game at Eldredge Park, buses would bring the campers to attend; after the game, we would see buses returning to the South Orleans camps and would hear the campers singing. What a joyful sound that was!

Jobs as counsellors were much sought after by college students, some of whom met their future spouses while working at the camps.

Sadly, increasing governmental regulations made the cost of operating the camps prohibitive by the mid-1970s. Unable to make a profit, one camp after another closed; the land was subdivided and the rustic cabins replaced by upscale homes. 

A summer beach on Cape Cod.


Another summer delight was the carnival sponsored every year by the American Legion. The carnival, eagerly anticipated by both children and adults, came for a week and was always well attended. My favorite ride was the merry-go-round, although the flying swings were a close second. I avoided the Ferris wheel, where teenage guys liked to rock the cars.

Some older friends once took me on the Octopus; once was definitely enough!


There were many games such as throwing darts to break balloons; picking a lucky plastic duck from its moving stream; pulling a string to reveal a door with a prize behind it, etc. One game involved jewelry prizes; a high-school boyfriend won me a ring and my mother quipped that she had never expected her daughter to get engaged at the carnival!

Also offered were a host of interesting edibles: candy apples, cotton candy, etc. The carnival was where I learned to appreciate vinegar on French fries! My mother used to warn me, for reasons of food safety, against eating hot dogs or hamburgers at a carnival. I remember as a young child seeing people eating just such items there and wishing I knew their names so I could check for them in the obituary columns! 


The camps and the carnivals are fond memories now, but people still come to swim, sail, and sunbathe; to hike the nature trails and ride the bike paths; and to enjoy this unique place where we are privileged to live. Long may it be so!

Mary E. McDermott is a 13th-generation Cape Codder living in Orleans. She worked for 17 years in the Orleans Assessor’s Office and 23 years as a commercial insurance broker at Pike Insurance Agency. She has been a justice of the peace to solemnize marriages since 1976 and has previously published two books of poetry, Tapestry and Handle with Care. Her poems have appeared in several publications including the Christian Science Monitor.

Read more about Cape Cod in Mary E. McDermott’s book Old Orleans, Memories of a Cape Cod Town.

Take a Cape Cod book to the beach with Moon Tide: Cape Cod Poems by Mary Petiet.