Oh, when the sun beats down
And burns the tar up on the roof
And your shoes get so hot
You wish your tired feet were fireproof
Under the boardwalk
Down by the sea, yeah
On a blanket with my baby
Is where I'll be

The time is 1970, the place is Brooklyn, New York. It’s the dog days of summer and the city is engulfed in a massive heat wave. I was only twelve years old at the time and my parents were pretty strict. They liked to keep me close at hand and travel to the beaches of Coney Island was out of the question.

That left me with only one or two options. I could retreat up to the rooftops six to ten stories above the ground to what was known as “tar beach” and seek some form of respite hoping that the air was cooler up there or I could stand in front of an open fire hydrant and let the cool water wash over me.

And then there was option number three…

(Under the boardwalk)
Out of the sun
(Under the boardwalk)
We'll be having some fun
(Under the boardwalk)
People walking above
(Under the boardwalk)
We'll be falling in love
(Under the boardwalk, boardwalk)

Ah, first love. It hit me was I was in the eighth grade and it hit me hard. We went to the same grade school and since next year we were destined to attend separate high school we didn’t know how much time we had left together. Mine was to an all boys Jesuit military academy and she was off to an all girl’s preparatory school. Since we both had a bit of a rebellious streak in us we decided to sneak off to Coney Island and spend the day at the beach with nothing but the sand between our toes and the cool water to keep us company.

In the park you hear
The happy sound of the carousel
You can almost taste the hot dogs
French fries they sell
Under the boardwalk
Down by the sea, yeah
On a blanket with my baby
Is where I'll be

So we packed up our blankets and towels and fixed ourselves some lunch. Armed with nothing but sun tan oil (which at that time consisted of a bottle of Johnson & Johnson baby oil in a clear plastic container) and a transistor radio we hopped on the B train which would deposit us on the edge of what seemed like paradise.

(Under the boardwalk)
Out of the sun
(Under the boardwalk)
We'll be having some fun
(Under the boardwalk)
People walking above
(Under the boardwalk)
We'll be falling in love
(Under the boardwalk, boardwalk)

Upon our arrival we were a bit dismayed to find that the beach was so crowded there was little or no room for us to spread out our things and get comfortable. After searching for that “perfect spot” for what seemed like hours and baking away in the summer sun we decided to head up to the boardwalk that defines Coney Island and find some much needed shelter.

Sounds romantic so far doesn’t it? Two young lovers holding hands walking up and down the beach gazing at each and stopping for the occasional kiss sounds about as idyllic as it can get.

Have you ever been under the boardwalk at Coney Island? I don’t know about now but back in the 70’s it wasn’t all that attractive. Besides the discarded beer cans, bottles and cigarette butts there were used condoms and all other types of flotsam and jetsam that the ocean had decided to leave in its wake. The smell it gave off certainly didn’t remind one of the ocean, more like a lab experiment gone wrong or the putrefaction of a dead fish.

After about four or five hours, we decided to call it a day and make our way back to our home neighborhood. By now, our bodies were sun burned and our spirits were broken. We lost touch after it was time to return to school.

(Under the boardwalk)
Out of the sun
(Under the boardwalk)
We'll be having some fun
(Under the boardwalk)
People walking above
(Under the boardwalk)
We'll be falling in love
(Under the boardwalk, boardwalk)

Many years later after I returned home from my four year stint in the Marine Corps I happened to run into my first love in one of the local bars and we struck up a conversation. It’s funny that we both remembered those circumstances of that day and the days that followed much in the same way. Usually, one person has a fondness for them and the other, a sense of regret. Shit, I was almost tempted to find the song on the jukebox to see what kind of reaction it would stir.

It’s a rare thing when they both can be looked at through two different sets of eyeballs and come to the same conclusion and you can both laugh about it.

Lyrics to "Under the Boardwalk" written by Kenny Young and Arthur Resnick and recorded by The Drifters in 1964.

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