Cape Cod

Cape Cod is and always has been for me about Provincetown. I have visited many other parts of the Cape including nearby Nantucket and Martha’s Vineyard but always felt drawn to Provincetown. As quirky as P-Town is with its “tea” dances at the Boat Slip, drag shows and general rowdiness, the recollection of it nonetheless evokes primarily the customary traditions of Cape Cod. The picture in my mind is of sand dunes, salty air, winding roads, lobster stew, ocean view, sky of blue (though perhaps not so much the “church bells chimin’ on a Sunday morn”).

Page had never visited Cape Cod until after the song was released and had become a hit. She later recalled her first visit to the Cape, saying:

“I could not believe it when I finally did go, because I realized that [the song] had captured something about a place that I had had within me for so many years, but never knew. It’s unexplainable to me, because it’s so dear to me – I knew I had been here before [although] I hadn’t.”

— Patti Page, February 27, 2010

Every Labour Day Weekend for years I traveled to Cape Cod.  It became a pilgrimage. If one wished to stay in the heart of P-Town to be close to the action it was necessary to stay for a week. We always stayed in one of the guest houses though there were one or two motels on the edge of Town, perfectly respectable but decidedly out of the loop. Once we rented an exceedingly small cabin on the beach at the entrance to the Town but we soon learned that having to drive even a mile or two to get to the nightclubs competed unfavourably with drinking booze. As a result we generally opted for the more central places like The Captain and His Ship (now called the Prince Albert) which was a large old home with a widow’s walk on the top floor. The rooms were beautifully appointed.

The Prince Albert Guest House is a historic Sea Captains home dating back to 1850 Provincetown, Massachusetts Whaling Days has been restored with modern hotel amenities to create a luxurious bed and breakfast on the tip of beautiful Cape Cod Harbor offering 8 rooms all with private baths.

P-Town Captain's Ship

Because most people partied hard late into the night it was practically assured that the crystal blue sunny September mornings in P-Town were unbelievably tranquil.  My habit at the time was to awaken no later than 7:00 am no matter what I had done the night before. Although the day-time temperatures were invariably high, the mornings were as regularly cool.  I would brush my teeth, straighten my hair with a dash of water, don shorts, Polo shirt and a cardigan sweater then head to the Lobster Pot on Commercial Street in the centre of Town to get something at the bakery, usually a huge, sinful cinnamon roll with a coffee of course.  On the way I would light up a Winston cigarette.  My walk along Commercial Street was silent but beautiful, catching glimpses of Cape Cod Bay through the passageways between the ancient buildings. The sidewalks glistened from the dew. If I passed another on the street it was common courtesy to say “Good morning!” as though we were all from the same small town.

Before the restaurants began to get overly busy I liked to ensure I started with great breakfast and then I’d immediately head to the beach. I practically maintained office hours at the beach, spending the entire day there, lying in the sun, swimming, flying my kite and chatting with people. When I returned home around 3:30 pm I was cooked, often resembling the lobster I would later consume.  After cleaning myself up at the guest room, the thump of the music from the Boat Slip drew me and about a thousand others there for the afternoon tea dance. It was a guaranteed exposition and fashion show, an explosive congregation of vitality and sociability. The American tradition for powerful drinks ensured things stepped up quickly. In the ’70s there was little if any restraint upon anything.  It was amusing to watch the spectacle of incredibly talented dancers; or just hang onto the railing overlooking the Bay, watching the glistening white sailboats in the late afternoon sunset.

Cape Cod (Boat Slip)

Many years after I had ceased to return to Cape Cod for the annual trek I read Tennessee Williams’ “Letters to Donald Wyndham (1940 – 1965)” in which Williams recounts his rich experiences in Provincetown.  The book did nothing but add to the magic which Patti Page later put to music.

Donald Windham’s friendship with Tennessee Williams began in 1940 when Windham was 19 and had just arrived in New York from Atlanta. Charting the highs and lows of their friendship, this work contains a collection of the correspondences of Windham and Williams, a Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright.

Old Cape Cod

If you’re fond of sand dunes and salty air
Quaint little villages here and there
(You’re sure) You’re sure to fall in love with old Cape Cod
(Cape Cod, that old Cape Cod)

If you like the taste of a lobster stew
Served by a window with an ocean view
(You’re sure)You’re sure to fall in love with old Cape Cod

Winding roads that seem to beckon you
Miles of green beneath a sky of blue
Church bells chimin’ on a Sunday morn
Remind you of the town where you were born

If you spend an evening you’ll want to stay
Watching the moonlight on Cape Cod Bay
You’re sure to fall in love with old Cape Cod

(aah, aah)

If you spend an evening you’ll want to stay (on Cape Cod Bay)
Watching the moonlight on Cape Cod Bay
You’re sure to fall in love with old Cape Cod
You’re sure to fall in love
You’re sure to fall in love with old Cape Cod

“Old Cape Cod” is a song, written by Claire Rothrock, Milton Yakus, and Allan Jeffrey, and published in 1957. The single, as recorded by Patti Page, became a gold record, having sold over a million copies. Having been hailed by “Cape Codders” as the “unofficial Cape Cod Anthem, if ever there was one”, the song has been credited with “putting the Cape on the map” and helping to establish Cape Cod as a major tourist destination.