babble.jennasdad

– memories of a man getting older –

Christmas & Newspapers

December 17th, 2008 · 3 Comments

Grade school, Washington School, comes to mind. The main entrance of the building was right in the middle, twin sets of doors behind large pillars. Entering, you took one of two flights of stairs to the second floor. Here, centrally located, majestically stood the Christmas tree. Like most Christmas trees seen through the eyes of children, it was a thing of beauty and magic. I don’t recall decorating the tree but I think it was covered with decorations that students had made. Classes would meet, gather round the tree and sing carols. It felt like Christmas.

Our home had a basement and two floors. My sister and I had our bedrooms on the second floor. There was a banister on the steps that ran about half way up, then stopped, connecting to a wall. This meant that you had to come down the steps about half way before you could look upon the first floor, into the living room. It made for a great Christmas presentations.

I remember the year the vision that greeted my eyes contained a new bike. The bike was much more than just fun, it was a time saver and a money maker. The distance to the baseball field behind the Presbyterian church center could be covered in a fraction of the time it would take to walk. And miniature golf by Hadley Airport became part of my solar system. Same with going down town to Costa’s ice cream or Danford’s convenience store.

One of the great things the bike brought me was a job: newspaper delivery boy. I delivered the afternoon paper, the Newark Star Ledger, Monday through Friday. Total weekly cost for this “at your doorstep” service: 35 cents. The papers were dropped at my home, in a stack, tied with cheap twine. I proceeded to fold each paper. Paper boys had a variety of “folds.” There was one where the outcome was the newspaper in the shape of a triangle. This fold created a very tight, secure paper, that was delivered with a tomahawk-like throw. It could carry a great distance and stay folded upon impact. Problem was, it was not a quick fold. The typical, and quicker fold, was created by the insertion of one side of the paper into the other open side and putting a crease in it by slapping it against your knee. Although neither as compact or secure as the triangle fold, it was quick and allowed the papers to be conveniently organized in the canvas bag that hung off the front of the bike, its straps looped around the ends of the handlebar. As you rode by a house you reached in, grabbed a paper, gave it a side arm toss, hoping to have it land on steps or porch. The normal fold held up OK for short, low-impact deliveries.

One time I delivered papers in a ferocious storm. I road through driving rain, puddles and rivers flowing down curb side, tree branches falling. It was exhilarating. Don’t recall if the papers survived but the ride sizzled with excitement and adventure.

Saturday was collection day. People who gave me 50 cents for the weeks collection (15 cent tip) got first class service. There paper would be placed behind the storm door, or carried up onto the porch and put in the mailbox. These people would also give me a Christmas tip, usually an envelope, that would contain U.S. currency. Christmas tips imparted a feeling of being rich!

For each customer I had a square, cardboard page, about 4 x 4 inches. Each page had a series of perforations that created small blocks, a date printed on each block. Upon payment, I would tear off the appropriate block and give it to the customer as proof of payment. Some customers were difficult to get hold of and the fact they were falling weeks behind in payment could be tracked on the page. Although this was an annoyance, when they would finally pay it felt like you were tapping into a savings account.

We put out milk and cookies for Santa and carrots for the reindeer. My sister and I would wake in the morning and  race down the stairs, stop halfway, and gaze upon the packages under the tree. The glow of the lights on the tree, the decorations, the colorfully wrapped presents, was a vision of wonderland. Odd though, I don’t have a lot of distinct Christmas memories, rather more of an encompassing “sense.” It might be because memories live in our brain while Christmas lives in our spirit, in our hearts. Like a soft, silent, evening snow … peace on Earth.

→ 3 CommentsTags: Early Years · Metuchen N.J. · Msc Ramblings

Your Grandma, my Mom, leaves her suit.

November 21st, 2008 · No Comments

Dad and Mom

Photo of my dad and mom.

Your Grandma, my Mom, died a few weeks ago.

I stand out in the field, looking up at the evening sky.

My Dad has been long gone; Grandpa before that; Grandma after; now Mom.

I wonder about the machine, the machine we call living, call life & death. Perhaps we are all aliens and our human bodies are simply space suits that we need to wear to live on the planet. They wear out as everything that resides in this space/time existence and have to be cast aside.

The body really is an amazing piece of construction, far beyond our mechanical and technological capabilities to construct. Fortunetly we don’t need to know how to build it as it reproduces itself – an amazing feat! You take two suits, one male and one female. Together they are able to create a new suit. It takes approximately nine months for the female to finish the construction of  the new suit – and here is the astonishing part – within her own body. At some point during the construction, or, upon delivery – no one knows for sure – the suit is inhabited by an alien presence, or spirit.

Think about it. When we “die” it is because the suit gets damaged, sick, or simply wears out. Once the spirit leaves, there it is, before our eyes, a lifeless suit – a space suit with no one inside. We look upon it with wonder and have some strange realization. The realization that this suit wasn’t the person we knew. It is obviously no more than a container – albeit a wondrous one. It is the proper suit for someone to use if they want to dwell upon this planet, hang out on Earth.

So, your grandma left her worn out space suit a few weeks ago. No, I don’t know where she went. One would guess she went back to where she came from, back home. Anyway, I saw my Mom a few weeks before she left. I told her she was a great Mom and would always be my one and only Mom. Nothing on heaven or earth, as they say, can change that. And she told me I would always be her boy, her one and only boy. Nothing on heaven or earth could change that. We acknowledged that connection for time beyond time and found comfort and joy in it.

I don’t have any answers and don’t fight my ignorance. Don’t throw rocks at the mystery so to say. It’s been this way for a long time, at least from the perspective of time, and I know one day I’ll leave my suit and go on. My guess would be to the same place by Dad, Grandpa, Grandma, Mom, and countless millions of others before have gone. My guess is the connection, the chain, stretches back to a point where we are all continually start, are all continually connected. Coming from the one and individually participating in the one.

There is peace in that. And there is comfort in knowing that you are my Daughter. My one and only Daughter. And will always be, and nothing on heaven or earth can change that.

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Shifting Gears

November 16th, 2008 · 1 Comment

For the most part, my relationship with my dad was pretty smooth. While I was growing up he worked at Rutger’s Chevrolet, a dealership in New Brunswick, New Jersey, as the parts department manager.

I left New Jersey to attend college at Richmond Professional Institute in Richmond, Virginia. I would always come home on the holidays and this meant taking the train. It was not unusual for the train to be late, sometimes a few hours, sometimes many times that. I think that is what drove the thinking that had my dad deliver these words at the dining room table one night, “Son, we’re going to get you a car.” I immediately responded, “I want a convertible or a 4-speed!” There was no response, but I’m pretty sure this exclamation came across as being pretty selfish. Imagine.

The day came when my dad had my car delivered to the house. It was a 1964 Chevelle SS (super sport) and was about 3 years old. It was turquoise in color, two door, bucket seats and had Chevy’s 283 cubic inch “mouse motor” with a two barrel carburetor. It was not a convertible. It was a hardtop. It was not a 4-speed. It was an automatic.

I don’t recall being disappointed. The car was to be a source of my attention for the next couple of years and the focus of the one major falling out between my father and myself.

There were a couple of hot rod mechanics at Rutger’s Chevrolet. One was called “Mouse,” small in stature but a real motor-head. The details are long since gone, but somehow I acquired a 4-speed transmission and the needed parts to convert my Chevelle from an automatic to a 4-speed. And somehow Mouse agreed to help in the conversion.

My dad worked a half day on Saturdays and it was on a Saturday that Mouse arrived at my house and we went to work. The conversion from automatic to 4-speed was done before my dad returned from work.

I imagine my mom said something to my dad about Mouse being at the house and us working on the car. And perhaps this created a curiosity that had him inspect the car. I don’t know for sure, but the next morning my dad was in my bedroom waking me. He stood in the room and said, “I see you got your 4-speed.” I replied, “yes.” He responded, “I hope you’re happy.” I doubled the length of my response, “I am.” And he left the room.

My room was filled with his disappointment that morning, but I don’t recall the subject ever coming up again. Indeed, we never spoke of it again. Perhaps it was his knowledge, and respect, of the fact that our children grow up. That in spite of all our well-intentioned advice they go off and do things their own way. We can only do the best we can. I believe my dad felt that when it came to supporting the family, standing by his children, and doing what he felt was right. He was comfortable and at peace with the self-knowledge that he was doing the best he could. A goal worthy to aspire to.

Footnote. The Chevelle met its demise a number of years later when an elderly couple ran a red light and I t-boned their car. The Chevelle was totaled. In the trunk at the time was a 3.70 ratio, positraction rear end due to replace the 3.08 that was married to the original automatic transmission. To the end, I continued to tinker with the Chevelle and it continued to give back great fun and satisfaction in return.

→ 1 CommentTags: College

Happy Days

October 18th, 2008 · No Comments

My childhood memories are happiness. They smell like fresh air.

Once, my daughter, when you were little, we were driving in the car with the windows down and you were enjoying the fresh air. You proclaimed with a voice of contentment, “It feels like God kissing my cheeks.”

On another occasion, as I was to set off to work in the morning, I leaned over to bring my face before yours to say goodbye. You placed your small hands upon my checks and gave me this advice, “Be brave. Have fun.”

I doubt we have anything to teach our children. I think the craziest of people are believed to have been touched by angels.

I remember the feel of my father’s cheek. I remember the odor of his skin. It was like being home. It was home. Arriving home from his day at work he had grown a small, raspy, stubble upon his face. I liked it, the texture. He hung his jacket on the banister of the steps that lead upstairs. In the mornings he had a cup of coffee, no sugar, condensed milk. And if it was winter he would go out and start  the car to warm it up for the drive to New Brunswick. He worked at Rutger’s Chevrolet as the parts department manager. He had a head for numbers, as I do. For a time, I worked for Bug Parts. We sold Volkswagen parts and I had hundreds of part numbers memorized. The were usually nine digits, in groups of three. It was a form of music: 119 139 009 – oil sensor switch.

There is the signature of divinity in numbers. Numerous authors have written concerning that science, that art, that mysticism. We are taught mundane math in schools. In schools we are driven to find answers, yet life would have us pursue questions without answers being the goal.

My dad liked white meat, yet always gave it to my sister and I, never once letting on or complaining or asking us to share. My mother is old, counting her last days, and wants to go because, as she says, “What use am I to anyone?” The Tao says, “He who feels used, must have been useful.”

There is bliss in sacrifice and that cannot be spoken or rationally understood.

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The Flight of a BB

October 13th, 2008 · No Comments

I can’t find the word to describe the sound of a bb gun. The combined release of air with a mechanical snap. Whapkah! I know the sound well as I’ve had a few bb guns in my life. And  taken a few lives, I don’t say that proudly.

It was a short walk from the main buildings, along the bank and through some brush. Moving silently as possible I carried my bb gun – the hunt was on. The main prey was frogs, bullfrogs. Sneaking silently along the edge of the bank, scanning the algae surfaced water, looking for those two large eyes, the bulbous head, the back sloping, disappearing into the slime. Take aim. Whapkah!

There was one time, one particular time, when my hunting came into judgment. I was carrying my gun but not along the wooded bank, rather, the bank not far from the swim area. There were no trees, just the grassy lawn dropping a few inches to the sandy bottom, the clear lake water lapping lightly. What I saw next I had never seen before, or since. It was a large frog swimming, swimming under water, just a few inches from the bank. I watched as its legs contracted-extended-kicking, sending the frog smoothly, silently, gliding, mystically, beneath the waters surface parallel to the bank. I watched. I took aim. I took aim and followed the speed of the frog, keeping the sight on the gun’s barrel on the frog. We moved together, as one. Whapkah! Instantly, a red spot appeared, centered on the frogs back. With its last kick, its final glide, a stream of red came from the spot and left a trail in the water as the wake from a boat. When the energy of that last kick was expended the frog stopped, motionless, settling to the bottom. A beautiful glide ended.

I remember thinking at the time how “cool” it was. Like the time we put a fizz bomb in a plastic model of an armored  personnel carrier and when the fizzing sparks stopped flying out, the plastic model burst into flame. “Just like a real shell hit it!” we screamed and jumped with excitement!

I think there is probably still a speck of DNA within us from ancient times that urges us to hunt. A time before grocery stores. An ancient cell that says, “provide for the day, get on with the hunt.” I think that what kids like about playing various hunting games, or, shooting a BB gun. They are responding to some, ancient, nearly silent call.

I never hunted again. And wonder if my recollection of the incident isn’t somehow a tribute to the frog. My friend once sat by a rabbit that he had accidentally hit with his car. He sat with it until the injuries its physical body has sustained could no longer be home to rabbit spirit and it died. He sat with the rabbit feeling like a guardian, a priest, a friend. I doubt too many frogs are remembered so well.

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Paradise Lost

October 6th, 2008 · 1 Comment

It’s even hard to type it, s-t-e-a-l-i-n-g. There was a time my friends and I were little thieves. I believe we were introduced to this by Alex, a boy that lived up the street who my parents referred to as a “bad kid.” We would go to Mr. Toth’s candy store and Alex would ask for some item that he knew Mr. Toth had to go down the steps to the basement to get (seems odd, but true). Mr. Toth was old and moved slowly, so while he was away on his journey Alex would slip behind the counter and take some handfuls of candy. We saw no consequence to this so we starting taking candy, but not from Mr. Toth. We fell upon Jack’s. Jack ran the store across the street. He made it clear he didn’t like kids hanging around in the store as he would say, “chop-chop, too nice outside to play inside, chop-chop” and chase us out. We didn’t like Jack and felt no guilt in taking candy from him.

One day I was at a friend’s home. He had an older brother and I noticed a jar with money in his brother’s room. I went in and took some money from the jar. Obviously, the idea of stealing had spread from Jack’s. I don’t recall giving it much thought. I figured I’d share it with my friends. Later I proclaimed I found a wallet, took out the money and threw the wallet away. That was my story. (It’s amazing what ridiculous and transparent lies children expect people to believe.) But unforeseen forces swept into my life.

A short time later I was confronted by the owner of the money. He accused me of taking the money from him. I was terrified. I denied it and recited my pathetic story of how I found the money. He claimed he actually saw me take it and it was time to “fess up.” I was terrified and stuck to my story. Besides, my friends and I had spent the money.

I don’t recall how this all played out. It seemed over the days that followed that nothing had happened, nothing had changed.. Except.

Except it is over 50 years later and I still live with the shame, the guilt. It won’t go away. There has been no sufficient forgiveness to date. Amazing, over 50 years. It is a very clear and real indicator of this fact: everything you say and do becomes a part of you — forever (at least in this bodily form).

I’ve thought about this event too many times to count over the years. We seem, as a society, to be unawares of how things we do and say become part of us. At least it appears that way as I don’t recall or see this fact being taught. Yet, from a different point of view, perhaps this event has worked a “good work” within me. For, I can now teach by my own example; I find myself much more generous to strangers than most other people; I realize what I own doesn’t create peace; and, that we must learn to live with all we do and all we say.

I ask my religious education students (ages 1st through 8th grades over the years) if they have every stolen, told a lie, done something that goes against some inner feeling that says they shouldn’t do it. Everyone, every single child, has answered yes. It seems the theory that we have fallen from grace and need forgiveness and redemption has some merit.

Know this, a small amount of money has never created such change. If the owner of the money were the first person I were to meet in heaven it would be a relief.

→ 1 CommentTags: Early Years

Washington School

August 23rd, 2008 · No Comments

Washington Elementary School, later named Moss School after the principal I schooled under, was about three blocks from my home, up Amboy Avenue. Myself and the other kids in the neighborhood would walk to school. I don’t recall anyone arriving by car or anyone having a parent along for the journey.

The school had an enormous playground area, part was paved and a larger part was dirt. The paved area was home to games that required a field drawn on the ground while the dirt area was home to baseball games.

The back of the school was sort of U-shaped with one side of the “U” being shorter than the other. This created a small, 3-sided alcove. We played various games there but the cool thing about this area was the mini-tornadoes that formed there. No more than 2-3 feet high, the wind would whirl in the alcove and create this phenomenon, which would dance about, carrying dust and debris, having a life span measured in seconds. Fascinating.

The school was three stories, a basement level and two floors above ground. It was an old-type school with large windows that opened and lots of natural wood. At Christmas time there would be a large, decorated tree in the middle of the second floor. The classes would all gather round and sing carols.

At air-raid test time we would all head to the basement and line against the walls, or, remain in class and get under our desks. Interesting times. We were fed the idea that the Russians might attack us any time and we needed to be prepared. I don’t recall this “living under fear” to have much of an impression on us kids. Certainly no where near the effect the thoughtless, paranoiac fears the population of this country is currently living by, fed by the constant propaganda of threats of terrorism. My, my.

All in all, elementary school was an uneventful experience. It wasn’t until high school, when the Kennedy brothers and Martin Luther King were assassinated that the world seemed to fall apart, the divisions driven by distrust of the very people who were supposed to be the care takers of our well being: our own government.

A story about Dr. Moss. She was my second grade teacher, an older women who looked a bit terrifying to the kids and had a personality that somewhat justified those fears. In our classroom she sat behind a large wooden desk which sat on a platform that extended across the front of the room about six inches higher than the floor. I guess this was to raise up the teacher and create a sense of control and power. On the wall behind the desk was the blackboard and also a door that lead into Dr. Moss’s office, the principals office.

Having played in fields and woods all my years, ticks were neither a mystery or a horror. One day in class I noticed a tick crawling on me. I pulled it off, walked up to the front of the room and threw it in the trash can. Dr. Moss asked what I had done and I told her. At this she promptly pulled me and the trash can into her office. As she called my mother to tell her what had happened I searched through the trash for the tick as instructed. I don’t know what became of the conversation with my mother. Maybe she told my mother that I must not be sent to school with ticks on me. Anyway, I found the tick and Dr. Moss took a straight pin and drove it through the tick pinning it to the window sill by which I sat. Staring at the tick, still alive while pinned down like some museum specimen, I started to cry. The entire series of events and the irritated and astonished attitude of Dr. Moss were beyond my understanding and completely overwhelming. I don’t recall anything else about the incident but I would let a tick suck me dry before throwing it into the trash of a class run by Dr. Moss.

I’m sure Dr. Moss is no longer walking the planet. I wonder if she ever thought about the incident or shared it with friend or family. Probably not. Adults tend to lose an understanding and appreciation of how events are seen in a child’s eye. Instead, they lose patience or say things like, “it won’t hurt you,” “what are you afraid of,” etc. Maybe if adults stayed in touch with a child’s perspective they would not only be more empathetic but would not lose touch with what a wonder living on this orb, spinning through space, really is, tics being of little consequence.

→ No CommentsTags: Metuchen N.J.

Penn Yan Stories

August 13th, 2008 · 1 Comment

My dad had a really nice boat. It was a Penn Yan, and based on limited research it appears to have been the “cartopper” model. Indeed, it was light, as my dad and I had no trouble lifting the boat and placing it on top of the car, strapping it down, and heading to Washington Lake.

This photo is of an older model but the boat is pretty much the same. Yet, the photo doesn’t do the boat justice. The interior ribbing was a beautiful blond wood that had a protective, clear coating. The body of the boat was actually canvas that was then painted with a resin to give it strength. It was a strong, light boat, that would easily plane.

Al and Jean Aderante were friends of the family. One year they were at the lake and Al had a bit too much to drink. My dad had the boat by the dock in about 3 feet of water. He was pulling folks around on water skies and had come in for a change of rider. Al waded into the water towards the back of the boat where my dad was sitting. He then proceeded to lift a leg into the boat. My dad screamed in response but it was too late. The weigh of my dad, the outboard motor, and Al was too much in the back of the boat and the water poured in, the boat sinking in a matter of seconds. Oddly, I don’t recall the boat being retrieved. I doubt there was any harm done to the boat but the motor may have needed a thorough drying and cleaning.

We spent a lot of time in the boat, but some of the best were when we went trolling at dusk. The fishing gear would be gathered and a metal, perforated basket that contained live minnows, tied off the side of the boat. An electric lamp was placed on the front seat of the boat and we would leave the dock at dusk, the Johnson outboard motor sounding like an old motor car – putt – putt – putt, as it turned over at a slow idle.

And so, for the next couple of hours we circled the perimeter of the lake as the darkness fell and the wonderful sounds of the evening came across the water. A bass or two would usually attack the minnow at the end of one of the lines, occasionally a pickerel, but the deep satisfaction came from being with my dad, out on the water under the dark, star-filled sky.

As I recall my dad and I didn’t talk much. We were very comfortable with one another and neither of us found silence awkward. In fact, just the opposite. I think we both enjoyed just “being,” and allowing our senses to gather information from the world around us. Nothing else to do – no where else to be.

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Smatterings & Custer’s Last Stand

August 1st, 2008 · 5 Comments

The Dock

Dock 2007

The dock at Gregory’s stretched out to infinity (as seen by a child) from the bank, rising as it went out to a height about 5 feet over the water (photo shows dock in 2007, changed, but still amazingly using some of the original construction). I used to sit on the end of the dock at dusk, the swimmers having abandoned the water and the day’s wind having slipped away, the lake glassing over. I would fish. I would cast my line out aiming at a specific hot-spot that would land a fish nearly every time. But the memory is not the fish. The memory is the darkness of evening smoothly growing as a tailor slides the perfectly-fitting coat onto the customer’s shoulders; the echo of voices from various points on the lake arriving clear and understandable; the first croak of the evening bullfrog; the sounds of various other insects drifting out of the woods onto the lake; the site of the first star. I was whirling through space on a wooden dock, surrounded by wonder and magic.

Tadpoles

To the right of the swim dock the bottom was clean and sandy. Along the edge of the bank, in the water, was a small log. Tadpoles would hang around this log and they would play a catch-me-if-you-can game with me. There may be nothing as funny feeling as a live tadpole wiggling around in the palm of your hand. Delightful, happy little creatures. If a motor boat went by on the lake it would send a set of soft rolling waves to the shoreline. These waves would come in and slap against the log. The sound felt like this: being held by a parent, your entire baby-butt resting on their arm, your chest laying against theirs, your head laid on their shoulder, touching their neck or playing with their ear with one hand, and feeling the pat of parental love on your back; the beat of your parent’s heart into your own chest. Rhythm.

Sunken Boats

One of the tricks naughty children would play would be to untie the rented row boats and set them adrift late at night. In the morning they would be scattered around the lake’s shore and someone, sometimes my dad, would go out and gather them up. In the very far end of the swim area, an area where not many ventured as the sandy bottom ended and gave way to muck, were sunken row boats. They had been filled with rocks and sent to the bottom. I don’t know the history of this prank, but I would put on my swim mask and float on the surface looking down through the 5-6 feet of clear water at the resting boats. It was somewhat like an elephant grave yard in that it had a strange, almost holy, feeling to it.

The Swim

Nearly ever night after dinner one of the waitresses would walk out to the end of the swim dock and dive in. She would swim across the lake, and back. It would be dark when the splash of her returning strokes glisten, catching the lights from the hotel.

Custer’s Last Stand

In the bar was a jukebox. Above the jukebox hung a painting, or rather a print of a painting. It was of Custer’s Last Stand and was a promotional item that carried a Budweiser Beer label at the bottom center. I would stand and study the details of the painting; Custer looking heroic; the guy getting scalped in the lower right corner; the soldier arching in pain from the arrow in his chest. Many decades later the company I worked for purchased a building that had been used as a restaurant. The restaurant hung old antique items for decoration. There, hanging on the wall, was the Budweiser print. It became mine and I felt I had found a treasure, but it didn’t turn out that way. Having the actual painting didn’t really fulfill anything. There was nothing lacking. There was no need. And I certainly didn’t need an old Budweiser Beer print. I gave it to my wife’s nephew. He’s probably lost it by now. The memory remains.

→ 5 CommentsTags: Washington Lake

Washington Lake Code

August 1st, 2008 · 7 Comments

Washington Lake

Time to look at what the alphabet soup on the lake is all about.

“A” represents the first place we stayed at the lake, Highland Cottage. We only stayed there a season or two before moving on to the Washington Beach Hotel (B). I have only one memory from Highland Cottage, it is this. They had a gazebo where the children loved to play. One day I was playing in the gazebo looking stylish in my jeans and cowboy boots. Also, that day, the gazebo was home to some wasps or hornets. Some of them managed to find there way into my boots and started to sting me. Story goes that I ran across the lawn screaming, trying to launch myself out of my boots. That’s it. End of memories there.

We then started staying at “B” – Gregory’s (Washington Beach Hotel), long gone but still home of some of my fondest memories. There will be many posts about Gregory’s.

“C” was the Yulan Hotel where we stayed after Gregory’s closed. Anne and Pete Boza were the owners and had a daughter, Carol, and a son, Boots. We stayed there many years and there will be a number of posts about this place.

“D” was the boat rental place and across the street from that was, I believe, a small bar/casino. The boat house was still standing in 2007 when I took this picture, but folks said it would be demolished the coming year. They use to rent wooden row boats that people would pile into until the top of the boat rode just inches above the water. Sometimes it looked like people, sitting in the water, moving across the lake. You had to look carefully to see any part of the boat.

“E” was Maplecrest. Although we never stayed there, myself and other kids would swim there from the Yulan Hotel. Why? Maplecrest had a game room with a pool table and a ping-pong table. It still stands today. In the 1980s I stopped by Washington Lake and Maplecrest was open for business. I spent the night there and shared breakfast in the dinning room with about a dozen women who all closely resembled my grandmother, right down to the German accent.

That covers the letters on the lake but one is missing. Right next to “C” (towards “D”) was Cantwell’s. It was a large establishment that shared a border with the Yulan Hotel. We would often cross over to play at Cantwell’s. They had a great U-shaped dock (the top of the “U” touching the lake bank) and off this another floating dock – square, painted grey, resting on 55-gallon drums. The challenge was to dive off the floating dock and see if you could touch bottom. On the way down it got nearly pitch black and the water became very cold. Only if you came up with a handful of goop could you claim to have touched the holy grail. Alas, I was to never attain that mantel of glory.

The other thing about Cantwell’s was this – right there on the lake front was a building that sold candy, soda and ice cream. You could enter the building from any of three sides and each entrance was approached by a pair of steps. The place had a constant flow of kids entering and exiting and there was a steady din of the laughter and yelling of children which echoed across the water. It is certainly one of the purest sounds of joy I have ever heard.

I retuned to Washington lake and spent a night at Maplecrest. In the early evening I took a swim over to Cantwell’s. I didn’t touch the shore but tread water about 30 feet off and stared at the building. Years later I returned for another visit to this buidling, this time on land. The steps were all broken, the window screens (there was no glass, it was a summer building) had been ravaged by the weather and the roof was caving in. I stared in at the tables and chairs scattered about, upside down, broken. A heavy layer of dust covered everything and it was apparent no life had been in the building for a very long time. I thought of all the joy, all the times, all the kids … and now all that remained, all that anyone would see, would be lifeless decay. I was saddened to my core. My next visit to the lake was decades later and the building was gone, taken out of its misery.

I’ve seen this happen before. It happens to us all. Places that carry such meaning, such depth. Places that formed us, are part of our being – going to destruction – disappearing – being replaced. Obviously, they must not be necessary but I can’t help feel something is lost. But, maybe not. It doesn’t matter. To think on it brings no satisfaction. Nevertheless, I tell you now, wondering.

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