By Stephen Kurkjian
MANOMET BLUFFS, Mass. — In late 1940, Michael Saraf and Elmas Saraf, an Armenian couple from Wellesley who dabbled in real estate, purchased a lot of land on Manomet Bluffs in Plymouth and turned it into the Idlewild Hotel. For decades, the hotel remained a vacation draw for Armenian families, many of whom were survivors of the Genocide of 1915, all of them working hard to make it in America.
Even though the dozen or more rooms in the wood-framed, three-story buildings may have been small, no one minded the close quarters — the hotel offered three full meals a day rich with Armenian specialties, a Saturday dance with Armenian music playing loudly into the night, an extraordinary view that had attracted people as far back as the Pilgrims sailing towards Plymouth Rock, and as beautiful beach as any in nearby Cape Cod.
And it didn’t matter if the beach was accessible only by a long flight of stairs, more than 100 in number, the structure was safely maintained and the several rest stops along the way allowed travelers to catch their breath or even look for that night’s meal – vines rich with grapes leaves perfect for making Armenian favorite dishes of yalanche and sarma miraculously lined both sides of the stairs.
And it was along that long flight of steps as much as on our blankets on the beach below, that we would mingle with the numerous odar families from the neighborhood and share stories about how cold the water was, which stretch of the beach was best to fish and where to go digging for the mussels that would make for that night’s midia dolma.