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The Incredible Saga of “Rowley Shore” in Gloucester (Part 1)

(note: For those of you who do not know where Gloucester, MA is, just think about the terrific movie “Perfect Storm” with George Clooney, skipper of the doomed fishing boat Andrea Gale, as Gloucester was the site for that true story and movie and historically is one of America’s first seaports, sitting on a rocky peninsula that juts into the Atlantic Ocean along the Northern Shore of Massachusetts.)


The incredible story begins back in the early 1920’s when my grandfather & grandmother, Frank & Bertha Marston were desperately trying to help their four children who had contracted polio during the tragic polio epidemic here in America. At that time there was no cure for Polio and countless children were dying or left paralyzed for life. My mother Priscilla and one of her brothers in particular were severely stricken and granddad was informed they would likely never walk again if they lived. As a senior engineering partner at the prestigious Metcalf & Eddy Company in Boston he had many contacts and resources, but alas no internet (back then) for researching treatments or cures. However, a Doctor friend at Mass General mentioned that some crippled Polio children seemed to respond well to proximity to the ocean and its healing salt water, waves and secondary ambient air quality released by the wave action. He and Grand-mom thus made a commitment to buy a home on the ocean to try and help their children and after a long search found a “summer cottage” on Rowley Shore in Gloucester, MA, directly on the water’s of Ipswich Bay on the Atlantic Ocean.


The oceanfront home on Rowley Shore in Gloucester proved to be a miracle of sorts for the children of Frank & Bertha Marston, as immersion in the cold salt water and exposure to the fresh salt air literally helped to cure the children’s polio beyond all expectations and they were able to finally walk once again. Although my mom would walk with difficulty for the rest of her life, she in fact could walk to the amazement of her Doctors. My mother and her sister and brothers all eventually married, had families of their own and we third generation “children” were thus incredibly blessed to spend summers together on the ocean in the Rowley Shore cottage. Exploring, adventuring, swimming and boating were the order of those warm summer days, and of course even occasional good-natured fighting with one another. We spent early evenings sitting out on the big front porch looking out over the ocean at the lobster boats, watching the ever-present seagulls and basking in the golden glow as the large orange sun set on the distant horizon. Those memories are true treasures that I will never forget. Then, as we children all grew into adulthood, my dear grandmother passed away and after a few years my grandfather and parents decided to finally move from the winter year-round home in Wollaston, Massachusetts that I grew up in. Winterizing the Gloucester home for year-round use was a special long-time dream of my grand-dad’s…and that dream was about to be fulfilled!

From an initial one-story “Sears & Roebuck kit home” (yes, the beams are still numbered from when it came on a flatbed truck in the early 1920’s) with a small detached garage, to its upgraded status as a two-story open studded summer cottage when I was a child. The Rowley Shore home on the ocean was finally completely restored and winterized in 1970. My parents and granddad (just before he passed away) moved into it year-round that same year. I was already in the Navy stationed in Rota, Spain and was not able to experience that special “move-in” event. I did however get to visit later on, especially on Holidays. After completing my Navy tour we were able to visit sporadically during my two years of Grad school and then later with my first job in real estate, along with my wife, three children and dog. We loved going to the Gloucester home and my own kids’ cherished being with grand-parents, running around on the big front porch, climbing on the granite rocks and swimming in the ocean waves, just as I had as a child. However...as often happens in life, things change, sometimes when you least expect them to; and with health and financial issues looming for mom and dad, we were all emotionally devastated with the need to face harsh reality and to sell this “old friend”. In 1985 we sold the Rowley Shore home and re-located my parents elsewhere for their own financial stability, health and safety. It was indeed a dark day and we all cried when the sale was consummated. We said our goodbyes to that dear home and moved reluctantly on with our lives, not knowing that the story was as yet unfinished.




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