Childhood on the beach revisited in old photographs

by | May 3, 2020 | Photography

As precious as childhood itself are old photographs of children on the beach. The following pictures — a sequel to my blog post of 26th July 2019, The joy of childhood and the sea celebrated in art — tell of happy days. However, they have a certain poignancy which calls to mind a poem written by one of England’s best known poets.

The Beach
by Robert Graves (1895–1985)


Louder than gulls the little children scream
Whom fathers haul into the jovial foam;
But others fearlessly rush in, breast high,
Laughing the salty water from their mouthes–
Heroes of the nursery.

The horny boatman, who has seen whales
And flying fishes, who has sailed as far
As Demerara and the Ivory Coast,
Will warn them, when they crowd to hear his tales,
That every ocean smells of tar.

Beach Fun, undated
Photo credit: History Trust of South Australia, Government of South Australia

Children swinging on pier rope at beach, circa 1900-1910
Photo credit: Detroit Publishing Co., publisher / Library of Congress, USA

Woman with child at beach, undated
Photo credit: Reuben R. Sallows (1855–1937) / Huron County Museum & Historic Gaol

Four sons of Jan Zeegers by the sea, 1908 t/m 1910
Photo credit: Jan Zeegers / Stadsarchief Amsterdam (Amsterdam City Archives).

End of the bathing season in Zandvoort, 1957
Photo credit: Harry Pot/Anefo / Nationaal Archief (National Archives of the Netherlands)

Childhood fades, the sea stays. Yet, how can one forget the beautiful old days?

Childhood vanished like the sweet scent of his mother’s perfume. But the odour of salt water never went away. On this cold, grey December afternoon, its faint smell came back to haunt him. And once again he felt the grit of warm sand under his feet and the soft embrace of something larger than all his remembered days… ~Barista Uno (notes for a novel perhaps)

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