My first birthday at Roberts Creek was in 1964. I turned five that August, and our family had just moved to our place on the beach.
We were newcomers; the Coverntons, O’Brians, and Gourlays/Mittens, our neighbours and friends, had been there long before. As were the Roys.
Roberts Creek was a simpler and wilder place then. The Lower Road was dirt; our water came from a pipe that drew from the creek; and we kids spent our summers in a dreamland. We were beach kids by day, and fishers by night. After dinner, we’d drag our little rowboats off the logs and fish for the salmon and cod that were then so abundant. On rainy days, we hiked up the Creek, or listened to old Elvis records in the Playhouse, where Denny now lives.
And in those days, Mr. Bedford – an old gent with leathery brown skin – combed the beach for shells, which would later end up in the Roberts Creek Shell Museum, long gone. When I was six or seven, Mr. Bedford taught me to hold my breath and open my eyes underwater. It was a liberation, and to this day I always swim underwater.
Summer birthdays, like mine, were celebrated on the beach around a bonfire. There were songs and stories and, inevitably, the ritual tossing of the birthday boy into the water.
Soon, sometime in the late 60s or early 70s, the Gumboot Nation was declared by Peter Roy and Adrian Belshaw. But this hippie gesture merely confirmed what we kids already knew: that Roberts Creek was ours and would never change.
Well, some things have changed. RC is more built up. The blanket of trees that once lined our beach has been thinned to accommodate more houses, better views. There are more people about.
The beach, though, never changes. The wind and tides still bring renewal, still take away the sandcastles of the day, and in winter especially, summon echoes of our voices – kids, just playing.