From birth until the age of 10 I grew up in the country, upstate New York (Massena), on a small road called Smith Drive that was just off the highway. Our house was 1 of 4 that sat between Motel Oral Campground and the Seaway Campground. I have fond memories of this time in my life and thought I’d bore you with them. This is your chance now to click close…. I like to think of it as my own 100 acre woods.
Next door lived an older couple Bernice and Tex. They had a tree swing and I remember swinging and talking Tex’s ear off as he rocked in his chair. Next to them lived Mrs. Gladis who was a widow and car caught on fire one night in her garage. Lastly, the Howard’s lived in the last house and he was a bit grumpy, but he sharpened my skates.
Living between two campgrounds was just the best as a kid. They had pools and let me swim for free plus they had small stores full of pop and candy and arcades. Each summer I’d meet new kids. It would always start off the same. I’d notice kid arriving and I’d hang near there campsite so they’d notice me. The first day they’d be shy and just be with their family, but the next day they’d be so bored that when I came by they’d ask if I wanted to play. Yep yep…and we were off!
We had the old relics of the past to explore. Old pinball machines and soft drink vending machines dumped in the woods at the corner of the campground. We’d pretend they were spaceships that crashed and somewhere in the woods, the aliens were living.
The tunnel under the highway was the big dare. Nobody ever wanted to do it, but if someone dared you…you had to go through it to the other side and back. It was so dark and you could barely see a bit of light from the halfway point where a drainage grate was. Afterwards, we reward are bravery with ice cream.
Glumpity Glump was also a riot to visit. It was a ravine that led to the river and it was lined with clay. We’d spend hours sliding down the banks and throwing clay balls at each other. Ouch! I can remember stepping into my house and my mom yelling, “Dwight David take those clothes off right there!”
The Bridge. Behind our neighborhood was the Grass River with a huge bridge. Underneath were crisscross metal beams for support and we’d often challenge each other on who could go out the farthest before returning. I never made it too far, but it sure got my heart a pumping!
The Seaway Campground boasted of its biggest pool in the north country and I can’t count the number of times I almost drowned in the deep end. We had the biggest tree we’d climb and could see for miles. There was also the biggest hill where I bit it many times on my skateboard, and of course, we’d build the biggest jumps so we could crash like our hero Evel Knievel!
There was Mr. Shulty who owned the Seaway campground. Once a week he’d let me help him pick up all the trash from the campsites and we’d head out in his old truck to the dump. Now that’s some fun adventure for a 10-year-old going to the dump! When we got back he’d always let me pick something from his store.
Andy the bus driver. Andy was a farmer who drove the school bus for all of my siblings and me. Think of grandfather and that would be a good picture of him. Tough old bastard for sure. Sometimes coming home from school he’d stop at the country store and come out with hot balls or bazooka gum for everyone. There was an old bridge near a turn around spot on our bus route. It was condemned and to get us going he put the front tires just on the edge of it and say I’m going to do it, I’m going to do it(go over it) …then back up and turnaround. I can still hear everyone sighing in relief!
Elton. Elton Robbins came up two summers in a row and we were inseparable. He was from North Carolina and his dad worked on the highways in New York during that time. I can remember every morning jumping out of bed, throwing on some shorts, and running through my backyard down to Elton’s camper where I’d sit on the picnic table impatiently waiting for him to wake up so we could take off on new adventures. I also remember cutting our fingers and becoming blood brothers : )
I’d be gone all day with my friends, but for some strange reason, my folks wanted me home for dinner. It was torture. I could hear the hooligans outside. I’d stuff my mouth as fast as I could, be excused, then run over the side of the house and spit it out and catch up with everyone. At night I’d lay in bed exhausted, sweaty, dirty, and thinking of tomorrow’s adventure.
Are you still reading?
Wow. So there are some ramblings of my youth. I just felt compelled to write it down…just to relive again in my head. Good times. No mental frickness…just true living. Can we ever go back to that “state” of awe in our life? Is that too much to expect? Is the now “the real world, suck it up”??? I want to go back and hang with Mr. Shulty, Andy the bus driver, and Elton and why not throw in Pooh and Peter Pan!
Thanks my friends for reading!