Tales from the Old Days
Rehoboth and the surrounding areas have become a bustling mini-metropolis with a unique vibe and a culture all their own.
So many walks of life and diverse populations converge upon our sandy shore—from high-ranking government officials, Hall of Fame athletes, world renowned musicians, best-selling authors, CEOs of some of the world’s most well-known businesses, to artists of all sorts, activists, lawyers, doctors, chefs, veterans, and the occasional Delawarean native, born and raised in the area.
I’m uncertain of the exact circumstances that landed my ancestors here circa 1672, however, I know that we came from Holland, settled in what are now the Bethany Beach and Ocean View areas, and never really left. For a family such as mine to remain here for the better part of 400 years, there must be something about this place that makes the heart content.
The stories I’ve heard from my great grandparents and hear from my grandparents greatly contrast what the area has become today. My grandparents remember a time here before the Chesapeake Bay Bridge was built and the area was much less accessible.
What are now bustling streets and crowded beaches were nothing but some tire tracks in the sand leading to the ocean. Our beautiful beaches were peppered with little cottages and the occasional hotel—which would be smaller than many of the houses in town now.
Something my grandparents speak of in their time is something I wish would come back—train service to the area. Imagine how that could help cut down on traffic.
Our iconic boardwalk has constantly evolved since its creation in 1873. Even in my short 30 years, many changes have taken place. As a child, the thing for us to do was hang out under the boardwalk—when this was still possible. Now there are dunes at the front of the boardwalk, but then, you could walk right under the boards—and stick dollar bills up through the cracks, only to quickly pull them away when someone bent down to pick them up. Not to be cliché but quite a few of my “firsts” happened under the boards.
Frankly, often enough, I have a hard time recognizing the area as the same place where I grew up. What used to be fields full of corn or beans have now become mega-communities, golf courses, shopping centers, or all three. For better or worse—probably a bit of both—the area is growing and flourishing as it does.
I love our farming and fishing community that still compose a major part of the area’s commerce. I love being able to eat at a restaurant and know the farms from which much of my food originated.
Whether it be peaches and blueberries from Bennet’s Orchards, micro-greens from Bear Hole Farms, any number of things from Magee or Baywater Farms, or an amazing cup of apple pie ice cream from Hopkins Dairy Farm, it’s good to know its origin.
Add to that the thriving community of chicken farmers. So many complain about the stench of these farms but for me they are a pungent reminder that I’m home. Another bit of culinary greatness in the area is the wide variety of fresh local seafood, much of which is caught by local fisherman out of the Lewes and West Ocean City harbors.
Growing up here set me apart from others everywhere else I have lived. It feels that I can easily relate to many different walks of life because I grew up on farmland, the beach, and metropolitan areas simultaneously. The mountain lifestyle is one I have to exclude myself from because I’m hard-pressed to find anything taller than a mole hill in Sussex County.
I love that I grew up with the fortune of being exposed to so many things. I can hunt for duck, geese, deer, rabbit, dove, and so much more; fish for everything from sand crabs to gigantic blue marlin; raise plants and animals—although, my girlfriend may have something different to say about my green thumb, or lack thereof. Along with the perfunctory farm-child lessons, I love to surf and enjoy the beach with the best of them.
Every time I’ve left the area in pursuit of “bigger and better” things it has been overwhelmingly easy for me to return. Is that simply because this is where I’m from or is there something magical here that I love returning to? In my teens and twenties, this was an easy retreat when I failed elsewhere in life and needed somewhere to be loved.
After I was recharged with love and confidence, I would always be off on my next adventure. Now that I’m 30 and have a marginally better understanding of life, I know that I always return here not simply because its where I’m from, but because it’s home. How lucky I am that I get to call this place home! ▼
Michael Marciano is a local freelance writer with deep rooted passion for the area. After a decade of grant writing, Michael is finally making a move into the journalism world.