Tom Moretti, left, and his wife Martha, of Westerly, right, talk with their granddaughter Abby Marsalisi, second from left, of Canterbury, and Abby’s cousin, Hilary Marsalisi, of Glastonbury, Wednesday, July 27, 2022, while at Tom and Martha’s Misquamicut trailer Beachfront located on Jim Beach in Westerly. (Dana Jensen/Today)
Martha Moretti, of Westerly, removes sand from an outdoor rug while talking to her husband, Tom, Wednesday, July 27, 2022, while in the beachfront Misquamicut trailer located at Jim’s Beach in Westerly. (Dana Jensen/Today)
Clockwise from left, Tom Moretti, of Westerly, Abe Marsalisi, of Canterbury, Hilary Marsalisi, of Glastonbury, Martha Moretti, Amy Marsalisi, and Lucinda Marsalisi, of Colombia, spend time together on Wednesday, July 27, 2022, at Tom and Martha Misquamycut beachside trailer located on Jim Beach in Westerly. (Dana Jensen/Today)
A day at the beach
Editor’s Note: Welcome to our annual Summer Series. This year, we asked readers to tell us about their favorite beach destinations within a short drive, because summer in southeastern Connecticut wouldn’t be complete without a day at the beach.
Westerly – To those who drive past Jim’s Trailer Park and Beach on Atlantic Avenue, it may feel like 30 trailers packed together in a parking lot on the sand between Town Beach and Windjammer Bar.
But for 73-year-old Tom Moretti and his summertime neighbors, this is heaven.
For the past 42 summers, Moretti, who now lives in Westerly, has had a trailer in the park that is open from Memorial Day through September 15. The rest of the year is an empty plot of land.
For 37 of those years, he had a second-row spot, but recently moved his 35-foot trailer to a beachfront spot.
“Now I’m on Rodeo Drive,” he quipped one sparkling afternoon last month when little waves broke out on the beach and his wife, daughter, granddaughter and some friends were sipping wine and eating cheese.
Those who live in the garden have converted the space between their trailers into outdoor living rooms with sofas, furniture, and rugs. They play cards and visit each other at happy hour.
“Everyone here is really like family,” said Moretti’s daughter, Amy Marsalisi of Canterbury. “We are in touch with each other.”
“The beach and the people who have become friends with you over the years,” Moretti’s wife, Martha, added of the place’s allure.
“I walk on the beach. I ride my bike up and down the road. People always show up to say hi,” Tom Moretti said. “We are so lucky to live here.”
Tom Moretti, a former long-time Norwich resident who worked as an account manager for WCTY, said the park strives to maintain a family atmosphere with many residents returning year after year.
“People love it here. It feels relaxed. It’s loose goosebumps. But there is a quiet hour if you rock and roll a lot.”
Spaces are rarely available in the garden.
“It takes someone’s death to get here,” Moretti said. “It’s always been popular.”
Jim’s Trailer Park is one of many companies creating the one-of-a-kind beachfront community that is Misquamicut.
Unlike the two more upscale villages of the East and West, Weekapaug and Watch Hill, Misquamicut has always had a more working-class feel with its large state beach, bars, and attractions like waterslides, mini golf, ice cream and T-shirts. .
For many years the homes were small traditional huts although over the past two decades many homes along the beach have been demolished or rebuilt and converted into a multi-million dollar edifice. But along the streets that extend inland from Atlantic Avenue, they remain.
Many older residents remember, fondly or not, the ’70s and ’80s when nighttime in Misquamicut meant people cruising up and down their cars. Bars like Atlantis, Blue Sands, Wreck, Island House and LA Beach Club were full of patrons, some of whom were underage, coming to drink, listen to live music and DJs, or watch wet T-shirt and bikini competitions.
The police were busy and arrests were plentiful, especially on weekends.
Then city officials, police, and business owners made a concerted effort to promote a more family-friendly atmosphere.
Today, there are only two bars, Paddy’s and Windjammer with recently closed Sandy’s Lighthouse and Andrea serving more to diners and hosting events.
But there are movie nights featuring classics like “Jaws,” evening beach concerts, classic car shows and more, all of which appeal to families and the quieter crowd. There are also Springfest and Fallfest weekend celebrations and the Surftown Half Marathon.