Thursday, May 29, 2008


When I was a kid "going to the beach" meant we were going
to visit my grandaunt and granduncle Peggy and Leo McCue
at their cottage on Hough's Neck. (pronounced How's Neck).
"The Neck" is part of Quincy, Ma. and juts out to form the
southern boundary of Quincy Harbor.

There were other nearby beaches but they were crowded
and the water wasn't too safe on some days, so for most of
my childhood we would drive out to see Aunt Peggy and
Uncle Leo. Their cottage sat at the end of the seawall on a
little dirt road named Nut Island Ave. but one of my earliest
memories of the place is of walking down a long flight of
wooden steps to the cottage from Island Ave which ran
along the hillside above it. There was brush on either side of
the stairs and walking down towards the building must have
made an impression on me because I've never forgotten it.

Aunt Peggy (Margaret) was the only surviving sister of
my grandmother Aggie. She and Uncle Leo had five
children, three boys and two girls. Four had already married
and started their own families so there were usually some
cousins around to play with when we visited. It was also great
when Peggy's youngest son Bobby was around because he was
my idea of a very cool guy: good looking, athletic, and he had
a driver's license. He was about 7 or 8 years older than me so
it was a classic case of a younger kid idealizing an older one!

The first picture is of my second cousin Margie, my Mom
on the right and oh, yeah, that's me in the middle. It's a bit
ragged like some of the old photos I have and one of these
days when I can afford the cost of Photoshop Elements I
hope to be able to fix this and others like it.

The dirt road ended at the cottage and beyond that was a
rocky beach. We used to toss rocks at the ground and watch
for the "squirt" of the steamer clams and dig them up. If you
went swimming, you either had really tough soles on your
feet or you wore old sneakers into the water.

One incident at the cottage I dreamed about for years. There
was a raft in the water made out of old planks and oil drums
and somehow or another I fell off it into the water. I must
have been around 5 or 6 years old and I swallowed a LOT of
water. The end result was that for years after, right into
college, I never put my face under the water while I swam.
We had swimming class as part of gym at college and that's
where I finally got over that fear, but I still prefer to keep my
head above water!

I have other memories of the cottage. One involves my first
taste of beer. The grownups were sitting around drinking
what I thought was ginger ale but when Uncle Leo gave me
a sip of his I didn't like it at all. My Mom told me I made
quite a face.

I've never forgotten the family dog, Lady, who was crawled
over, tugged at and pestered by grandchildren and cousins
and was always patient about it.

And the first place I ever saw "The Ernie Kovacs Show" and
The Nairobi Trio was on a tv at the cottage.

As you can see from the picture of the building, the cottage
wasn't some grand building and the atmosphere was laid back.
If you look closely, you can see somebody's leg resting on the
railing of the porch.

Uncle Leo passed sometime in the 1960's and Aunt Peggy in
1988. At some point the ownership of the cottage changed
hands but I don't know the particulars. Two of their children
had cottages in other Massachusetts towns and so my
younger brother (who is 17 years younger) has memories of
the visits to the Marshfield cottage.

I haven't been out to Hough's Neck in years and I think the
original cottage no longer stands.

But the memories live on.


wendy said...

Thanks for sharing! Too bad the cabin isn't standing anymore. Always great to have those memories!

Terry Thornton said...

BILL, How interesting your Houghs Neck summers must have been. Thanks for sharing your memories -- and thanks for another lesson in New Englandspeak. How appropriate!

Anonymous said...

Hi Bill,

My great-grandfather (Edmond Butler)owned 106 Island Avenue back in the 1930's. I was going through old photo albums last week with my father (he is 84 now) and we had all sorts of pictures of the cottage and family enjoying Houghs Neck (somehow he remembers everything about it). I know the cottage was left to my great-uncle at some point. I live in Ipswich, MA on Little Neck (a very similar water surrounded peninsula) and could never imagine leaving. Not sure if you ever new my family?

Steve Butler

Bill West said...

Hi Steve,
The cottage was not owned by my family but by my Mom's Aunt and Uncle. We'd go down there to visit for the day over the course of a Summer. So I really never knew much about the neighbors there. I'll ask a McCue cousin the next time I see one. :)

KnitwitTeri said...

Hi Steve,
Your second-cousin, Margie, in the photo is my lovely Aunt Margie McCue Boyd. She married my Dad's bother, John, in 1953. She's just as beautiful today as she was when that picture was taken. Eventually the cottage was owned by Margie and John. The McCue and Boyd families continued to make wonderful family memories in that cottage until it burned down on winter in the 1980s. A new house is there now and I hope the occupants have as much fun as our families did.
Teri Boyd

Bill West said...

Hi Terri,
Glad you like the post. Your Uncle John used to crack me up when I was a kid by calling me "Irving" or "Stanley". Thinking about that cottage always makes me smile.

There's other posts here about the family, under the McFarland label. If you click on the name McFarland in the list to the right of the screen they should all come up.


FiddleKat said...

My mother grew up in Houghs Neck on Fensmere Ave...just around the corner from Nut Island Rd.