Actually left Marblehead in summer of 71. For me it was a wonderful place to grow up. Spent most of the time on the water either sailing, waterskiing behind Boston Whalers off Misery Island and taking the Whalers over to Beverly for McDonalds. During the Winter we would skate on the small pond in the Sanctuary that was behind our house. Love the old town with the narrow streets. At least once a week during the summer would take the whaler from the neck to public wharf and get order of fried clams from the Driftwood restaurant. Remember Seatrain doing concerts in the park one 4th of July.
When my wife and I returned a couple of summers ago it was nice to see much of the charm remained. We stayed at a B&B ( big yellow home) next to Ft Sewell. While the "neck" seemed to have changed in that it felt older and more affluent and not as many families as when I grew up there, it was still beautiful. The house that my parents built (Ocean ave at the S curve) was still there and I assume that the sanctuary where we would skate is still there. My wife felt it was one of the more relaxing vacations that we had taken. Matties Sail Loft was not quite as good as I remembered it when everyone would meet after the races on Saturday evening. Still one of my favorite towns.
If I could ever afford a summer home on the neck I would do it in a heartbeat.
Sounds like you and your wife really enjoyed yourself while here. Like you say, Maddie's Sail Loft is not the same, but the town has retained the historic beauty that attracted me to the town years ago. A wonderful place to raise a family and enjoy its charm.