Sandcastles Vol. 1: The Early Years

In my youth, I was a pioneer of “extreme sandcastling”, a sport which was almost included in the Olympics! Just kidding. Here is the first set of ancient box camera photos from my sandcastle archives. These sandy structures were all made in our sandbox in Hinsdale, IL.

AWM Sandcastle Archives Label

These photos date from when I was in HS. Unfortunately, I can’t find any from when I was younger.

Other kids thought I was crazy to spend my time in a sandbox. I remember getting out there at dawn, even in early Spring when the sand would be so cold as to freeze my fingers; I had been planning sandcastles and sand cityscapes all Winter. My Dad, an electrical engineer, built the sandbox for me, and later made a plywood roof over it so that rain would not deform the sandcastles! But other kids used to knock them down while I was in the house, and one kid set even blew up the sandbox with a cherry bomb during dinnertime one Summer night.

Beth Scamper Rome 1959 Sister Elizabeth and Scamper our dog at the Hinsdale sandbox, looking down like Diana & Mercury over my miniature Roman Forum.

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Open Vault Tracery 1960 A gothic style structure completely carved hollow on the inside, with flying buttresses, and sand tracery carved in the windows – all of this done from a “block” of sand.

Superhighways of Sand 1961 Sandbox superhighways for toy cars (golftee motorized transportation) went right up to the front of a gothic cathedral type castle. Lots of overpasses, but no room to pass.

Courtyard Parapets 1960 These “apartments” form curvilinear courtyards. I was entranced by European palace designs in which the plans created curved wings, set in gardens.

Courthouse 1959 I was thinking of the Brussels Courts of Justice building, a bombastic classical 19th Century building.

Church Entrance 1960

Church 1960 This is a domed Renaissance Church built on top of a fortress form.

Apartment Houses 1960 The golf tees represented people who “fit” into the apartment windows. OK, OK, remember, I was a kid!

Aerial Temple Complex 1961 Why not start city planning young? Asian pavilions and classical temple forms around the tower from above.

Temple Complex 1961 This shows the Asian pavilions in front of the skinny tower. Some of these sand castles would be destroyed in play “wars” using golf tees for soldiers and marbles for cannonballs. If your golf tee was knocked over by a marble, he was “out” and removed from the game.

Roman Forum 1959 Normally I made the overall shape of a sand castle first, packing wet sand very firmly, and then carving the forms with popsicle sticks. This was an experimental sandcastle made of sand “stones” formed by hand, and placed one upon the other to make the shape of the temple, the portico, and finally roof shaped pieces. Then decorated with the little spires.

Renaissance Church Courtyard 1959

Renaissance Church 1959 A cruciform complex composed of 4 temple fronts with a center dome, set on a raised platform, lots of balustrades and stairs.

Renaissance Chateau 1959 More apartments, more golftee people: pointed heads & flat feet!

3.5ft. Sandtower 1961 This was my record for height vs. width of a packed sand tower, no reinforcement, and carved hollow at the top and base.

Sandtower 1961 A tall skinny tower with a monastic style castle built alongside. The tower itself lasted several weeks!

Wargame 1960 This shows the devastation of a war game between Beth and me: ruined apartments on the left, a sort of “no-man’s-land” in the middle, and on the right at the bottom tanks and military trucks. WWII formed a major part of our consciousness in those days, I remember seeing bombed out sections of London and European cities, even long after the War.

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Comments: 5

Hi- I remember seeing your wonderful sand castles as a kid. My sister, Belinda, was in Beth’s class and we played together often. We lived just a block towards town from you. I love seeing that you have accomplished so much. Love the pictures of your sandy creations!

Thanks for remembering this, Jan! So cool!

Hi, Jan: I forgot to say, Beth will be ordained an Episcopal minister this June in Kansas City!

Oops! Haven’t come back in awhile! That’s wonderful about Beth. I lived in Kansas City for about 12 years, though that was 30 years ago now.

By billy schaefer on 6.07.2011 21:52

hey angus, i found your blog through ashley’s facebook, this set is amazing and so well photographed to boot. i wish i had photos of the houses of cards i used to build, but nothing as intricate as this! the courtyard apartments reminds me of my architecture school: http://www1.ccny.cuny.edu/ci/centennial/images/Shepard-Hall-Ariel-view-from-West-1_1.jpg

anyway, very good read and will hopefully see you again soon enough when i’m next down in virginia.

all the best, billy

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