The Wayback Machine: When the Shutters Come Down

Labor Day used to be a time on Cape Cod when everything shut down. Everything simply closed. Downtown Hyannis, and especially the Outer Cape, everything was closed.

The Summer People went home. Even though it helped the economy back then, too, it wasn’t anything like it is now. We went from a lot going on to nothing open.

It was an anti-climactic It meant school. Because we had to go back to school, we never looked forward to it. It was like going to the dentist.



Come to think of it, that’s when we had to go to the dentist, before school started again, to make sure our teeth were clean and healthy.

There were no more lazy days in the hammock, reading, or running around all day. No more reading comic books. We had to toe the line and go to bed on time to go to school.

Our dog got a short haircut for the summer; by Labor Day, it had grown out. I had to go to the barber shop with my brother just to get my bangs cut.

Girls weren’t allowed to wear pants to school. We had to wear skirts or dresses. Everyone’s new clothes were bought too big so they could grow into them. We bought new clothes, new shoes, a coat, a blouse with a Peter Pan collar, a skirt, a dress. And the Bonnie Doon argyle socks from Scotland. I would always get them in three colors: red, hunger green, and navy blue. 

My mother would heat them in oven when it was cold. One Easter, when I had a pair of pink nylon socks, they melted.


I’d get my new Brownie or Girl Scout uniform. A new pencil box, which was always very exciting. A box of crayons. All those things one gets to go back to school. I got to pick out a new lunch box. That was a big deal, almost as exciting as the pencil box.

If you lived under a mile from school, you had to walk in every weather. We didn’t have down jackets then, just our wool coats. It was cold!

We had to go back to Sunday school. In the summer, we didn’t go to church and there was no Sunday school, but in fall, there went our Sundays! 

The days were noticeably shorter, the weather noticeably cooler. It was a big divide between our summer life and the rest of life!