Catherine Nassa has been spending summer days at Narragansett Town Beach for nearly all her life.
She’s not sure if it’s 45 years; it could be 48. She’s 53 now. Her parents met as freshmen at The University of Rhode Island, and Nassa was born in 1967. As a baby she lived “down the line,” a part of town popular with students, and says that the beach is “in my blood, [and] in my family’s.”
As an adult she’s lived in other places, like Phoenix, “where there’s no beach,” and New York City, commuting home on summer weekends, but eventually she had enough “with the rat race of Manhattan.”
Five years ago, she was driving home from the beach with her mother and passed a house for sale. “A month and half later we were moving in,” Nassa said. “From the house we can see the beach, so when you wake up you automatically know what kind of beach day it is.”
“Since July of 2015 I have not missed a month where I’ve walked on the beach,” she added, “that’s what grounds me.” She now lives on the Warwick-East Greenwich town line.
In summer months, she can be found at Chair 5, which she prefers because “it’s not as mobbed as 2 or 3, [and there] are not as many teenagers and what have you. The snack bar is not as congested.
“Ever since I was probably 6 or 7, that’s where we sat,” she said.
Nassa can usually be found at her spot with a Coke Zero and Cheetos, and also a book. She figures she reads three books a week during the summer — a direct result of all her time spent at the beach.
At the end of the day, she says, you may see her with a Del’s Lemonade or some Brickley’s Ice Cream.
Jackie Habarland is another longtime beach goer of Narragansett Town Beach. She was born and raised in Narragansett and has early memories of jumping off Lacey Bridge into the Narrow River, where her family also did a lot of boating.
When she was young, her father would take her and others to the small beach at the end of South Ferry Road, by the URI Bay Campus. It wasn’t until she was a teenager that she found herself frequenting Narragansett Town Beach, and has memories of riding there on mopeds.
Now a Jamestown resident and teacher at Chariho High School, Habarland for a time went to Roy Carpenter’s Beach in Matunuck when her son was young, until he was five or six. Then they started going to Narragansett Town Beach, sitting at Chair 4, which is still her spot. Her son is 22 now, and stopped being her constant beach campanion in high school, and now Habarland meets friends and family there, including a great niece who is 4.
“Everybody knows we sit at Chair 4,” she said, noting it’s an ideal spot because “it’s in the middle.” Habarland generally gets there around 1:30 or 2, and always brings water with fresh mint leaves and a splash of lemon. “That’s my drink on the beach,” she says.
Like others on the beach, she occupies her time in various ways: chatting with friends, reading, walking to the point where the shore meets the river, checking her email, researching new things for the upcoming school year. Sometimes she goes in the water, but only if it’s really hot. “I don’t like to go in the cold water,” she says.
“It’s a really, really nice beach,” she said, although she does advise newcomers to be aware of the riptide, which some can underestimate.
Haily Records grew up in nearby South Kingstown, and her childhood is formed of fond memories at her family’s beach house in East Matunuck.
When her mother was young, her grandfather bought the beach house, eventually raising it onto stilts and adding a beloved clubhouse. The front steps lead right onto the beach.
“My grandfather built it as a place for my entire family to go to forever,” says Records, who is now 22. “All of our friends and family know about the house. It’s on the private beach, but everybody knows it’s a public place.”
Records is at the beach house every weekend, for what has become a festive and communal experience, one now had in the memory of her grandfather. Except for a few coats of fresh paint, in hues of orange and blue, the house is more or less as he established it. Family still gathers for games on the beach and meals prepared on the grill.
“My grandfather passed away, but we’re trying to keep things how he liked it down there,” she said. Both grandfather and granddaughter grew up in South Kingstown and attended South Kingstown High School, a point of pride.
The house has five beds and sleeps as many as it can hold. “When people want to sleep over, we stuff as many people as we can fit,” Records says. She also has two aunts, both with houses nearby, which adds to the extended family experience.
Records says another summer activity involves biking from the house to Cap’n Jack’s for an ice cream cone and a quick jump off Jerusalem Pier, either with her brother or whoever else is around.
“Whoever’s there, we’ve accepted them as part of the family, whether we’re related or not,” Records said of the surrounding community. As for beach life itself, she says, “you grow up and you kinda have to like it.” It’s as simple as that.