Today, the 4th of July, Back Beach in Rockport will be the scene of an enormous bonfire watched by hundreds. But Back Beach once looked much different than it does today. Where the road along the beach now offers an unobstructed view of the ocean beyond, the road was once lined with willow and oak trees, as this postcard shows.
I cannot determine when the willows were lost or what happened to them. Were they wiped out by a storm? A disease? Surely some reader remembers and can help with this mystery.
As for this postcard, it was published by the Rockport Photo Bureau. It has no date, but based on the style of the printing and markings on the reverse, compared to other cards from this same publisher, I estimate it to be the mid-1930s. Another clue is in the right center, where there appears to be a 1930s-style, two-seat roadster parked.
With regard to the bonfire, this is another tradition whose origins are not clear. In a previous post, I noted an 1899 New York Times article about the annual summer visit to Rockport of the U.S. Navy’s North Atlantic Squadron. The article described the festivities the town staged to greet the sailors, including a dance and a banquet. “Bonfires and fireworks also lighted up the shores,” the article said, “although the display was greatly interfered with by the heavy fog.”