Little Hansie


During the late forties, my family was one of the lucky ones who usually took a vacation to the beach every summer. We had several places in New Jersey where we went for a week or two to swim, go to the boardwalk and ride bicycles. Our favorite place at that time was Wildwood-by-the-Sea. We would rent a wood-frame duplex with two bedrooms, a kitchen and a living room about two or three blocks from the ocean. It wasn’t fancy, but my sister, Gretchen, and I thought it was paradise.

Mother on the boardwalk

Almost every day, we packed up a picnic basket and grabbed the towels, beach blanket, sand buckets and umbrella and hiked a few blocks to the beach. We’d spend most of the day at the beach, enjoying swimming and building sand castles and eating delicious (but sandy) ham sandwiches until we went home for naps in the afternoon. Even our parents took naps, they were so exhausted from taking care of us.

We also usually took a boat into the ocean to go deep sea fishing. My sister and I were too young at first to be trusted with a hook and line when other people were around, but as we grew older we were also allowed to fish.

Summer vacation was a wonderful time for us, and I have dozens of sweet memories of it. But my favorite memory of all is playing “little Hansie.”

This game was played at the beach in the shallow water. My father’s name was Hans Beyerl and he had come to the United States from Germany when he was 19 years old. He still had his German accent. He would take us into the water and he would kneel down and pretend he was our little boy.

My sister and I would hold his hands and when a wave came we would try to help him “jump” the wave. He’d make it over the first few waves, but sometimes he’d let the waves smack him right in the face and we’d squeal and worry he would drown. Then a “big one” would come along and he would go under the water like he was drowning and we would squeal and try to help him up.

“Little Hansie’s drowning,” we would scream and try as hard as we could to lift him up. Sometimes he would come up and sometimes he wouldn’t. Then we would squeal even louder and try harder to lift him up, meanwhile laughing and giggleing, as only children can.

He would always come up drenched in water and looking like he was going to drown at any minute. We would help him up and help him brush off the water, trying to care for little Hansie.

father on the boardwalk

I remember the joy of playing this game, perhaps better than anything else from my childhood. I’m sure we squealed enough to bother a few people trying to relax, but we had such a good time I don’t think anyone was upset about it. And my poor father. We always wondered how he withstood getting salt water all over his face all the time, but he didn’t seem to care. I think he loved this game too!

Do you remember any special games you played at the beach?

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