Aug. 6—Day at the beach
Editor's Note: Welcome to our annual summer series. This year, we asked readers to tell us about their favorite beach destinations within driving distance, since summer in southeastern Connecticut wouldn't be complete without a day at the beach.
Westerly — For those who drive past Jim's Trailer Park and Beach on Atlantic Avenue, it might just look like 30 trailers packed together in a sand parking lot between the Town Beach and the Windjammer bar.
But for 73-year-old Tom Moretti and his summertime neighbors, it's paradise.
For the past 42 summers, Moretti, who now lives in Westerly, has had a trailer at the park which is open from Memorial Day to Sept.15. The rest of the year it is an empty lot.
For 37 of those years he had a spot in the second row but recently he moved his 35-foot trailer up to a spot fronting the beach.
"Now I'm on Rodeo Drive," he quipped one sparkling afternoon last month as small waves broke on the shore and his wife, daughter, granddaughter and a few friends sipped wine and ate cheese.
Those who live at the park have transformed the space between their trailers into outdoor living rooms with couches, furniture and rugs. They play cards and visit each other at happy hour.
"Everyone is really like family here," said Moretti's daughter, Amy Marsalisi of Canterbury. "We keep in touch with each other."
"The beach and the people who become your friends over the years," added Moretti's wife Martha about the attraction of the place.
"I walk the beach. I ride my bike up and down the road. People are always popping in to say hi," said Tom Moretti. "We are very fortunate to live here."
Tom Moretti, a former longtime Norwich resident who worked as an account executive for WCTY, said the park strives to maintain a family atmosphere with many residents returning year after year.
"People love it here. It's a feel of relaxation. It's loosey-goosey. But there is quiet hour if you rock and roll too much," he said.
Spaces at the park rarely become available.
"It takes someone to die to get in here," Moretti said. "It's always been popular.'
Jim's Trailer Park is just one of the many businesses that create the unique beachfront community that is Misquamicut.
Unlike the two more upscale villages to its east and west, Weekapaug and Watch Hill, Misquamicut has always had a more working class feel with its large state beach, bars, and attractions such as waterslide, mini golf, ice cream and T-shirt shops.
For many years, homes were small, traditional cottages although over the past two decades many along the beach have been razed or rebuilt into million dollar edifices. But along the streets that stretch inland from Atlantic Avenue, they remain.
Many older residents, fondly or not so fondly, recall the 1970s and 1980s when nighttime in Misquamicut meant people cruising in their cars up and down the strip. Bars such as the Atlantis, the Blue Sands, the Wreck, Island House and LA Beach Club were packed with patrons, some underage, coming to drink, listen to live music and DJs, or watch wet T-shirt and bikini contests.
Police were kept busy and arrests were plentiful, especially on weekends.
Town officials, police and business owners then made a concerted effort to promote a more family-friendly atmosphere.
Today, there are just two bars, Paddy's and the Windjammer with Sandy's Lighthouse recently closing and the Andrea catering more to restaurant patrons and hosting events.
But there are drive-in movie nights showing classics like "Jaws," evening concerts on the beach, classic car shows and more, all appealing to families and a quieter crowd. There's also the Springfest and Fallfest weekend celebrations and the Surftown Half Marathon.