In the 1940s, when the most important events revolved around World War II, Americans looked to the coast to provide more than a sun-dappled vacation. The shore became a place to escape from everyday worry―a sandy playground where families, kids, and couples could take time out to play games, frolic in the waves, and, when the moment was just right, tease and flirt―with a little help from a crab.
William C. Shrout photographed for LIFE magazine from 1940 to 1946, shooting many war images for the magazine. He also had a talent for capturing ordinary moments with exemplary emotion. He documented teenagers hanging out at a malt shop, a young mother ironing shirts in her apartment, and immigrants on Ellis Island gazing at the Statue of Liberty. ―Kristen Shelton