When I was a boy of about eight I had a sexual awakening. A friend and I were wandering along a rural road, as little boys were permitted to do in those days, kicking cans, throwing stones and inspecting the debris along the shoulder, when we came upon a pile of discarded magazines. It was quite a find.
Those magazines were what passed for pornography in 1966, cheesecake pictures of impossibly beautiful women exhibiting firm, plump breasts and coyly hiding their genitals. Among the cache was something of particular interest, a series of images of men and women playing volleyball together in the nude, barbecuing, picnicking and lighting each others cigarettes, all completely naked. I was stunned.
I was also as rigid as a tent stake. The sudden way my youthful nether regions had jumped to life was both alarming and exhilarating. My first thought was that I was doing something terribly naughty. My second thought was that I needed to get me more of this.
Later – I don’t remember exactly when – it became clear to me that what I had seen were images of a nudist colony. To say that I found the idea of a nudist colony titillating is like saying Bill Gates found computer programming mildly interesting.
For many years I longed to go to a nudist colony, and… and… do what? I wasn’t quite sure. As a youngster I had a vague notion of becoming sexually aroused and playing volleyball or picnicking all the while experiencing that delicious feeling in my loins.
It made me blush to think of it. The whole idea was confusing and embarrassing. But that didn’t stop me wanting to go. I was a little kid with a big, dumb, salacious dream. Forty-five years later I was on my way.
One Could Slip
Sunny Rest is like the perfect Hollywood name for a nudist colony, or a naturist resort, as they like to be called. When I discovered it searching on line I was startled by how fitting it was, innocent sounding but sly. The approach to it, driving through the rolling, wooded hills of northeast Pennsylvania, also seemed apt: rural and secluded, yet full of naked people, at once brazen and discreet. Oh, baby, this was going to be good.
And yet I was not naïve. I couldn’t pretend that I didn’t know what I was likely to find there, that my childhood fantasies of Playboy models frolicking in the buff with any Joe who could serve a volleyball were just wrong. Most nudists are over the age of 45 and nudism is not only not particularly sexual, it’s not even sexy in most cases. Still, buried deep somewhere in my gray matter was the living breathing nub of an erotic idea, the germ of my budding sexuality, and it was all mixed up wit the idea of a nudist colony.
When I pulled into the grounds of Sunny Rest I encountered a groundskeeper trimming some shrubs along the side of the road with a dangerous looking pair of gardening shears. He was completely naked except for a pair of Crocs. It occurred to me that if I was going to wear only one item of clothing to trim shrubbery it would not be a pair of plastic clogs aerated like a Wiffle ball. One could slip. He directed me to the office.
As I pulled up to the office, I saw a middle-aged couple strolling along in the all together. I did not look at their bodies. I could think of no good reason to. They would probably not appreciate my ogling them, and I didn’t want to be disappointed. I went inside.
Behind the counter was a pretty young woman with what looked like a shapely figure – beneath her clothes. In fact, there were three young women, fully clothed, working in the office. They didn’t look like they would be punching out any time soon to join the volleyball game. They took my $40, put my credit card number on file so I could charge things around the resort, and directed me to the parking lot.
In the parking lot, standing by my car, I took of my clothes. It was a little weird taking my clothes off in public, but liberating, in a way. The gentle summer breeze was caressing parts of my anatomy that hadn’t been caressed in quite that way in a good long time. It felt nice. I grabbed my sunblock and headed down the path toward the swimming pool.
All the Naked Germans
Nudism, or naturism, as its frequently called has roots that go back to ancient times but really got rolling in Germany in the early 20th century. Around 1906 a pair of German philosophers espoused public nudity as a path to greater mental and psychological fitness, and the Germans, never a people to shun a really stimulating philosophy, embraced it.
Such was the popularity of nudism in Germany that during the Nazi era the authorities turned a blind eye, even though the Furher frowned on it and laws had been passed to discourage it. It seems you cannot keep a good naked German down.
In fact, it was Germans who brought nudism to the United States in the 1920’s. A fellow named Kurt Barthel founded the American League for Physical Culture (gotta love the name) in 1929 and established the first American nudist colony in New Jersey in 1932.
By the mid 1930’s nudist colonies were popping up all along the eastern seaboard from New York to South Carolina. Today there are more than 100 naturist resorts in the US, not to mention plenty of nude beaches and other venues in which to strip off your clothes, such as nude music festivals, naked bike rides and nude gardening events.
But what, after all, is the appeal?
As I approached the pool I could see about a dozen people reclining on chaise lounges naked in the sun, while another dozen or so were in the water playing – wait for it… volleyball. Ah ha! Here was my dream come true, a living, breathing tableau of my earliest sexual fantasy, and I was a part of it! I boldly stepped forward.
But something was wrong. There was nothing the least bit erotic about the scene. The people at the pool were all different shapes and sizes; their flesh exhibiting all the depressing ways the human body can distort with age. I saw people who were round, wrinkled, creased and sagging. They were overweight, underweight and over 50. I saw man-breasts to rival those on many women. I saw thickets of unkempt pubic hair, pale white surgery scars, and enough white cellulose to open a cottage cheese factory. Whatever it was that made nudism appealing, it was not eroticism.
The experience, of course, is not meant to be sexual. In fact, it’s oddly anti-sexual. There’s a lot of eye contact at a naturist resort. Sexual hanky-panky of any kind is strictly prohibited. People enjoy social intercourse in the buff, but not intercourse. Arousal is the furthest thing from anyone’s mind.
Before long you find you are not even noticing other people’s bodies. You very quickly become disinterested in the fact that everybody is naked. Soon you are just another person, lying poolside, slathering on gallons of sunblock to keep tender places from getting burned.
For me, the best parts of the experience had to do with the perfect summer day, 83 degrees, sunny, a light breeze stirring the trees, which, if you are going to walk around naked in public, is made to order.
I enjoyed emerging from the pool with a soft breeze to dry me. I enjoyed relaxing in a non-judgmental atmosphere, respectful of my discretion and maturity. I lifted weights in the weight room. I went for a hike on the hiking trail. I enjoyed a club sandwich at the poolside bar, served to me by a lovely young woman, again fully clothed, who casually chatted with me as I arranged a napkin in my lap to prepare for dining. I enjoyed the fact that nothing stirred beneath that napkin.
Naturist resorts in the US are only very sparsely attended by young people in their sexual prime. They skew heavily to an older clientele for a very good reason. Older people are less likely to become physically aroused in a way they can’t hide or control.
On reflection I realized it had taken me the better part of 40 years to test these waters because even though the whole idea was much more compelling at an earlier age, the whole idea was much more compelling at an earlier age.
In any case, I was glad I had given it a try. My afternoon at Sunny Rest Resort was interesting and relaxing; and while it didn’t come anywhere near fulfilling my boyhood fantasy, it had a quiet, captivating charm that made it worth the cost of admission.
Fantasies are, after all, just that. If they come true in any kind of real way they cease to become fantasies and lose all their potency, becoming just another part of everyday life with all its messiness and frustrations.
Maybe somewhere there’s a nudist colony like the one I saw in the pictures of that discarded magazine all those years ago. But if there is, I hope I never find it. At this point I think I’ll just hang onto the dream. It’s probably better that way.
Check it out…
425 Sunny Rest Drive
Palmerton, PA 18071
My American Odyssey Route
Click map to enlarge
|About the author: Malcolm Logan is a freelance writer who specializes in US travel and US history, designing one day driving tours, seeking out interesting US destinations and exploring US adventure travel.|
Me at Sunny Rest Resort, Malcolm Logan; Nude volleyball, World Nudist Archive; Pennsylvania Barn, Malcolm Logan; Nude woman reading, Candybox; Nude men swimming, Public Domain; World Naked Bike Ride, Stefan; Nude at the Pool, Alain Tanguay; Sunbathing Nude, Ima Learner; Elderly nudists, Annamaria.com; Nude fantasy, Jacrews7