A withered old lady stopped an elderly yak-herder on a street in New York City and asked tremulously, "Why aren't you with the yaks?" "Spring," he answered simply. The old lady smiled and continued on her way.
Even if one knows no elderly yak-herders, the mythological reference to the word "spring" is nevertheless clear. Although man has learned to exercise restraint in his manifestations of spring fever, as opposed to the good old days of Bacchus and the Maypole, some manifestations are still in order.
Assuming that one can procure a likely lovely, the necessary appendage of the season, and a straw hat, and assuming that one tires of sitting on the banks of the Charles, the question of "whither" is a tepid one.
Cape Cod is always a good prospect in the springtime, particularly since the Cape is almost free of visitors until early June. During May, beaches are deserted and boat rentals are moderate, as are bunking rates.
Water temperatures vary on the Cape. At some spots May swimming is feasible, such as Buzzards Bay, and along the entire south shore. Beaches vary, from the smooth, uninterrupted sands of the eastern Atlantic to the rocky western shore. If one has the equipment, spearfishing is possible along the rocks of the west end and many varieties of edible places abound all along the coast.
For those who want to stay a little closer to home and who don't mind Coney-Islandish hordes for their beach companions, Nantasket and Revere offer miles of jammed sand and plenty of cold, cold water. The gamester who doesn't shy at pitching a few pennies or getting a quick thrill in between swims via roller-coaster can find plenty of amusement at both beaches. "Walking Charlie," Pokerino, the Fun House, and peep shows are only part of the come-ons. There are long, dark, and grimy tunnels of love at both resorts. And if you don't feel like driving, several boats leave for Nantasket daily via Atlantic Avenue wharves in downtown Boston.
A more secluded, and as some experts contend, more picturesque atmosphere for an outing is Massachusetts' North Shore. A trip into the city, through the Sumner tunnel, and then out towards the Newburyport Turnpike will take the traveller to Swampscott, Ipswich, Glouscester. Rockport and points North. Besides the sand, there are some fair-to-middling restaurants along the way and a few picnic areas, but wandering Harvard men had better beware because much of the seashore in this area has been commandeered by private families who keep a sharp watch for strangers.
Some of the most historic towns in this section offer the voyager more than just a place to spread his blanket. Rockport presents a thriving art colony with exhibitions by some of America's most noted painters. Salem offers Nathaniel Hawthorne and his original House of Seven Gables, while Gloucester provides a chance for an inlander to get a whale's-eye view of New England's famed fishing industry.
But one doesn't have to stray too far from Cambridge to find a place to spend a sunny Sunday afternoon. Medford's Middlesex Fells are fine for bird-watchers and those who just want to walk through the woods.
That Boston is really in the center of a saucer ringed by mountains is a fact few Cantabridgians know until they take a trip out to the Blue Hills of Canton. From the observatory on top of Great Blue Hill one can see the entire city, and nearby Houghton's Pond proffers succor to weary hikers. A not-too-juicy snack bar, a fairly decent picnic grounds, and mood music from the American Legion band somehow attract hundreds of city-dwellers out to spend a day in the open air.
Two wheels and a strong frame make bicycling a pleasant and popular sport in Cambridge. Once the city limits and the hazards of traffic are past, a trip of short endurance will take one to Concord and Lexington, to the birthplaces of the Revolution, and Thoreau's Pond.
Wellesley is ideal for the man on the bike, even on days when the track isn't open and the stakes are only a date by the lake. Weekend outings are easy to combine, and Youth Hostles offer cheap and ruddy lodging.
Sailing is of course one of springtime's major sports. Most people haven't got a private yacht moored at Marblehead or even a battered dinghy hidden in some cove along the Charles, but enthusiasts can procure membership in the Harvard Yacht Club for the paltry sum of five dollars. After passing a boat-handling test, the expert can sail to his heart's content almost any afternoon from the M.I.T. boathouse, thanks to an agreement whereby Harvard men may use Tech's dinghies.
As the days grow warmer, so do the nights, and a Boston bistro is no place to spend a quiet, relaxed evening. At this time of year many of the road-houses down towards the beaches set up shop and wait for harried townfolk to sample a cooling sea-breeze with their bottles of beer. Of course, there's the Drive-in Movie, several of them, usually with a bad selection of shows but nevertheless a popular place for college-men and their dates. Cambridge, Lynn, and Dedham stock the closest open air theatres.
Right in his own backyard the Harvard man can look forward to a spring of house dances, the Regatta Weekend, and a series of Monday evenings sitting out on the grass in front of Widener as the Glee Club sings out with "Marching to Pretoria" and other favorites.
To most undergraduates what has been set down above will seem an unapproachable Utopia. For with the balmy breezes of spring comes Reading Period and unwilling incarceration in Lamont. Many will be gripped with an inner struggle as they fight against the tantalizing attractions of New England in May, and most will have to settle for a brief respite on the banks of the Charles. But to those happy few . . .