Back in the old days, a trip to the beach might involve a few blankets on the sand, some Coca Cola in glass bottles, and definitely some sunbathing sans sunscreen. The beach at Provincetown, Massachusetts, in 1940 became quite the busy spot when bus service to the beach made it more accessible for folks, though there were plenty of cars, too.

Have a look at what Farm Security Administration photographer, Edwin Rosskam, saw at the beach in August of 1940, where the “lack of bath houses causes a great deal of picturesque dressing and undressing in and behind parked cars.”

Via/ Library of Congress
Stretching or gymnastics in the sunshine. Via/ Library of Congress
Via/ Library of Congress
Via/ Library of Congress
Via/ Library of Congress
Via/ Library of Congress
Via/ Library of Congress
Via/ Library of Congress
It’s hard to tell what’s more interesting: the cars or the bathing suits! Via/ Library of Congress
Via/ Library of Congress

By the docks boys play with real and toy boats, while sun-fatigued patrons lie face down on their blankets. Such simple scenes remind us of what it was like visiting the beach as kids. It might have been a cool day judging by how many people are bundled up!

Back then this Cape Cod beach was called New Beach, but has been known as Herring Cove Beach since the 1960s. Cape Cod has long been a relaxed vacation spot, with no shortage of tourist attractions like small shops and guided tours. A bit closer to town visitors might have stopped to get an ice cream cone or watched fishermen repairing their nets.

Via/ Library of Congress
Via/ Library of Congress
Via/ Library of Congress
Via/ Library of Congress
Via/ Library of Congress
Via/ Library of Congress
Via/ Library of Congress
“Commercial Street, the main street of Provincetown which runs along the waterfront, including a view of the ‘Sand Bar Club’ and the tourist bus which runs out to the beach.” Via/ Library of Congress
Via/ Library of Congress
Via/ Library of Congress