Mavis and George Daly were only looking for a place to keep their boat. What they found was a place to live.
In 1980, they bought a summer home in Shady Side, a southern Anne Arundel County community on a peninsula bounded by the West River on the west and the Chesapeake Bay on the east.
In 1987, the Dalys gave up their home in Bowie and moved permanently to Shady Side, a community that has yet to witness the glare of a traffic light.
"I like the caring community," Mrs. Daly said. "When you go into the post office, they know who you are."
The Dalys quickly established themselves in the life of the community. They serve as co-presidents of the Shady Side Rural Heritage Society, and Mrs. Daly also is an officer in the Peninsula Community Association.
Many other Washington-area residents are following the Dalys and finding homes on the flat peninsula.
"We are a hidden secret, but the people in the Washington area are figuring it out," said Cindy Burgess, a real estate agent with Long and Foster Real Estate Inc. They are learning that if they don't mind the commute, they can purchase a waterfront home for as little as $200,000 where the same home elsewhere might cost a half-million.
Today the area offers a wide choice of housing, from one-bedroom cottages for $55,000 to two-acre waterfront estates for $785,000. Waterfront homes start at $139,500.
Water dominates the area. Most houses are either on the waterfront or have water privileges. Mrs. Daly says old-timers and newcomers get along well.
"If you want to be part of this community, the people respond to it," Mrs. Daly says.
Native Americans fished the waters around Shady Side and piles of their discarded oyster shells and traces of their tools have been found there.
The first whites settled in the community about 1664 after Lord Baltimore granted Edward Parrish several tracts of land on what is now Parrish Creek.
The families who followed at first tried to farm, but the land proved too swampy. So the settlers turned to the Chesapeake Bay and the community became a haven for watermen earning their living fishing, crabbing and oystering. A number of boat builders set up shop.
For many years, the isolated community had no name. Ancient maps identified the area only as "the Swamp" or "the Great Swamp." Later the community was called "the Sedge Field."
But in 1888, the government decided the population was large enough to warrant its own post office. A group of residents gave the community the romantic name of "Shady Side."
For the last 75 years, the community has been accustomed to providing a haven for city dwellers.
In the 1920s and 1930s, Baltimore housewives and children escaped the sweltering city to spend the summer in Shady Side guest homes and cottages. The husbands and fathers joined their families on the weekends, sailing 50 miles down the Chesapeake Bay on steamboats.
These first dense shore-front developments were Avalon Shores, Idlewilde, Felicity Cove and Cedarhurst.
Babe Ruth was known to vacation in Cedarhurst and sometimes prominent Washington politicians stayed at the Andrews Hotel in Shady Side.
As roads improved, the seasonal cottages became year-round homes for commuters to Baltimore, Washington and Annapolis.
The pace of development quickened again in the mid-1980s, as the county brought the public sewer system to the neighborhood. Residents still rely on wells for water.
Descendants of the old families such as the Atwells, Nowells and Hartges can still be found in Shady Side, but increasingly the bTC neighborhood is a refuge for commuters.
"They have taken Shady Side as their home," says Glorious Shenton, who was born in the community in 1920 and taught school for many years.
Her mother, Ethel Andrews, at 105, is the community's oldest resident, and for many years taught at the Shady Side school.
Mrs. Shenton says that while the names and faces are changing, some of the old-time values are not.
A group of volunteers operates the Capt. Salem Avery House museum, a 19th-century home with periodic displays on the community's history.
In March, a group of residents that included Mrs. Andrews successfully fought to keep South County Deale Moose Lodge 2279 from moving into the old Shady Side Elementary School. Residents complained that the Moose would disrupt the tranquil residential community with late-night revelry.
Mrs. Shenton said she likes the quiet and the feeling of community. "I wouldn't live anywhere else," she says.
* Population: 2,983 (1990 census)
* Commuting time to downtown Baltimore: 55 minutes
* Commuting time to Washington: 45 minutes
Public schools: Shadyside Elementary, Southern Middle, Southern High.
Shopping: Shady Side Market, Renno's Market, supermarkets
* Nearest mall: Annapolis Mall, 20 minutes north
Points of interest: Captain Salem Avery House, an historic home and local museum; Centenary United Methodist Church, a fixture of the community since 1866
* ZIP code: 20764
D:* Average of a single-family home*: $131,509 (116 sales).
* Average price for houses sold through the Anne Arundel County Multiple Listing Service over the past 18 months