Sixty-Seven Years Ago She Came to Dear Old Sandy Shore…
by Betsy McLaughlin, Mary Ellen Dooher and Patty Dowler
(Title based on a line from a song Bill Minahan wrote about Sandy Island.)
The Featured Image above shows Marie Minahan aboard the Sophie C., waving to family members waiting at North Dock.
In 1950, Bill and Marie (“Re”) Minahan were a young couple in their twenties. They had three young girls and had a very busy, hectic life. In July of that year, after celebrating their 5th wedding anniversary, Re’s sisters offered to take care of their children so they could get away by themselves. Bill had seen an ad in The New York Times for an island camp in New Hampshire named Sandy Island, and they decided to give it a try. The camp had recently started welcoming families after many years as a singles camp. There were very few cabins on the island at that time, so they stayed in a tent and were given kerosene lanterns for light. They loved the dancing, sailing, canoeing and swimming, and made many new friends. It was clear to them that they had found a magic place, and knew they wanted to come back with their children. It was the beginning of a yearly vacation with their growing family. In the early days, because there were no interstate highways, it was a two-day trip in their trusty old station wagon. The Minahan kids (eventually 8 of them!) looked forward all year to Sandy! The countdown to the next year began on the day of departure.
Bill and Re were active campers at Sandy – they loved to participate in the tournaments and perform skits in the talent show. In 1970, Bill wrote a song about how they had started going to Sandy 20 years prior and sang it in the talent show. He sang “we’ve come back every year and we’ll come back many more,” which they did. In the early 1970’s, Re wrote to The New York Times about their wonderful vacations at Sandy and how it allowed their family to spend time together at this special place. Her letter was published in the editorial section.
After several years, the enthusiasm for Sandy spread to other family members, and soon Re’s siblings’ families, the Birges, Goodriches and Stadtmuellers became Sandyites, as well as a some friends and neighbors. Re and Bill’s kids’ families, the Doohers, Minahans, Wilsons, Dowlers, and McLaughlins kept up the tradition, and before long a third generation started going. There is now a large and growing fourth generation as well! Many family members, not feeling that one week was enough time at Sandy, joined the staff at one point or another starting in the 1970’s right up to the present.
Re was a camper up until a few years ago, but once Sandy is in your blood, it’s hard to forget about it. Now Re is 94 years old, and during 4th week every year she rides the Sophie C. mail boat to make a visit to Sandy. On the day she takes the boat, a large group of family gathers on North Dock to see her. The children are so excited that they are going to see “Gammy” sail in on the boat. When the boat pulls up, Re waves from the open windows to everyone on the dock. It has been 66 years since that first visit to Sandy, and now each year she looks forward to visiting Sandy in a different way and the happy greetings from the campers on the dock.