Today, I paid a visit to my past. John and CJ were kind enough to come along and listen to me prattle.
The first stop was the biggest: Greenwood Acres, also known as where I spent my summers for over a decade
There was some confusion at the gate, because what I really wanted was a day pass, and they don't have those. They have visitor passes, but you have to know someone in the park already, and that person has to agree that you're visiting them. Since it's been 20+ years, there's no one I know there anymore. They have passes for scoping out a site, which last about an hour, and I was *certain* that I would want to spend more time there. So I tried very hard to pay for an overnight tent pass, and the nice lady at the office Just Did Not Want to take my money. Eventually, I gave up and accepted the hour pass, figuring that they'd yell at me for how long we took when I left, and I'd pay them then.
The woman at the gate looked very familiar, and my guess is that she was someone's daughter and what I recognized was the family resemblance.
The very first place I went was 7th street. Mom's camper was on lot 2; Grandma's was diagonally across the street on what is now lot 51, but used to be 48. Where they found three extra lots, I do not know.
There's a "scorched earth" feeling to the area. Lots 1, 2, and formerly-50-now-53 are occupied, and everything else is completely bare. It used to be bustling with the Hydes on lot 3, the dear-god-why-can't-I-remember-their-
names, the folks with the blond daughter who taught me very early on that one could be a little heavy and still be very pretty (Linda? I think) on lot 4, the Plews on lot 49-now-52... and, of course, the Loos on lot 1, the Kellys on lot 50-now-53, Mom, Grandma and Grandpa, and the Newsoms right behind Mom on 6th street. Not only were so many lots empty, I got the sense that the three remaining did not have the same open camaraderie that I recall from "our crew".
We took pictures. This is the Plews and Grandma & Grandpa's lots
, which includes the back of the camper on the Kelly's lot. Grandma & Grandpa's lot backed up to a playground
, which is exactly how I remembered it and yet completely wrong. There was a sandbox to the right of the slide that is no longer there. The slide should be orange. The green and yellow thing at the left side of the playground wasn't there; it's the carriage of the big swings that used to be behind the Rec Center
. (The tall black supports for the big swings are still there, but the swing part has been removed. And apparently scattered throughout the playgrounds.) But it's still the swings I fell off of and broke two of my fingers. I had intended to park the car and walk the rest of the park, but it had started to drizzle a little, and I didn't want to get caught out in a rainstorm. So, we kept driving instead.
Next, we went down to the Rec Center area. I remembered the carousel, but I'd utterly forgotten about the tank
. To my utter glee, as I was pointing and saying "The tank, I'd forgotten about the tank!", two little boys ran over (with moms lagging behind) and demonstrated what the tank is there for-- climbing on and in. (Though a nagging voice in the back of my head keeps telling me that I think they might have welded the top shut so that you can't climb inside anymore.) I made everyone walk through the Rec Center, which was... loud. It was always loud, but somehow it was more bearable when I was young. The candy counter is still there, though it's been moved a little to make room for a snack area (by which I mean burgers and hot dogs, so more than just snacks but not really full meals). On the way out of the area, John took an excellent picture of it.
The monkey and goat pens are no more, and I saw nary a peacock, so I have to assume the little zoo was demolished. I had thought that the putt-putt course was new, but as we drove past it some of the decorations looked familiar, so I have revised my opinion on its age.
We drove past the little canal where Grandpa and I sometimes went fishing
on our way to the beach. We didn't stop and go in, but the General Store
at the edge of the sand brought back a flood of memories for me. Since by then it was actually raining instead of drizzling, we did not get out and tromp around on the beach, but I did note that the swimming area is no longer marked off with buoys, and the diving raft is gone. Both of these make me sad.
I missed the turn I had intended to take, so we came back up 7th street, which is when the pictures above were taken. Next, we headed down to the boat dock
, which took us right past where I fell off my bike when I was 8
and earned myself 3 (more) stitches. If you look closely, you can still see the goose egg on my forehead, which is why I always wear bangs (and why my bangs always have that little cowlick that doesn't want to lay flat). I knocked myself unconscious with that stunt, and when I came to, I was laying on a picnic table under the pavilion
, which is where they had carried me to until the ambulance arrived. Incidentally, whenever a book or story describes an outdoor party under a pavilion, that shot there is what I picture, because the boat dock always had music and dancing in the evening on weekends. I do this even with movies, where they are *showing* me the pavilion-- in my mind's eye, there's always the little pop-and-snack counter behind me (I didn't take a picture of it, and I should have), and the restrooms are where they are at the boat dock, and whether they are shown on-screen or not, there's picnic tables off to the side. I KNOW it in the depths of my heart.
In front of the boat dock, there's a walkway around a little bay in the lake
. I took that picture while standing on the section of the dock that serves as the boat launch (for smallish boats like rowboats and canoes, anyway), which feels so very wrong-- I always remember getting into Grandpa's rowboat on the other side, across the bay from where I was standing. I'm honestly not certain why they ever decided to make that squared-off little bit, but it's been like that for as long as I can remember, and I remember standing on that dock and watching fish dart around in the weeds. (I didn't see any today, though.) There were two boys hanging around the area, and a small fishing pole on the dock that we carefully stepped over, so some traditions haven't died. In my world, the bottom of every lake in existence looks like this
. I was tempted to scoop out a little plant and take it home to put in the pond, but I didn't have sort of tools or buckets for such an endeavor, and I didn't think the plant would survive the trip home.
Remember how I was certain that this trip down memory lane would take several hours? The thing that struck me most about the whole thing is how tiny it felt. Perhaps it was because we were driving through the park, when my usual methods of travel were my own two feet, my bicycle, and the tram (which we did see, and which looks nothing at all like it used to. Sadly, we didn't see it in time to take a picture, but it used to be a big wooden... set of seats, not unlike church pews but painted a boring beige, pulled by a Jeep. Now it's more like a little bus with no sides. And it's blue.) Perhaps it's just that I was much smaller then, and hadn't seen all that much of the world. The entire park, from entrance to the far edge of the beach, is less than a mile long, and it's half as wide across. Once upon a time, it was practically my whole world for months on end, and a mile felt huge-- an entire city, to six-year-old me. Now? Even with prattling on about what used to be and traipsing around the Rec Center and boat dock, we were done and handing over our "just looking" pass at the gate in 40 minutes. It took me longer just to type up the journal entry.
It took 2 hours to get there, and I wasn't at all done. We wandered into Grass Lake, where I was determined to stop at the bar. Because once again, I feel like I practically grew up there-- it was where we went when Grandma didn't want to cook but did want to get "out". I'm not sure how people would react to a six-year-old in a bar nowadays, but back then? They knew me by name. But we had barely gotten in when I said "screw it" and hustled us back out. The bar was packed to the gills with no empty space, and it was all, all wrong. It used to be darkly colored, and now it's garishly bright with paint colors that might well have had the word "neon" in their name. Plus, the bar itself was on the wrong side of the room. Who moves a bar? So, we skipped the bar and headed off to get ice cream at The Parlour.
I had printed directions from the campground to The Parlour, because I didn't remember the slightest thing about that route-- or so I thought. I turned onto one road and was about to say "I don't think we ever took this road" but instead said "flagpole in a swamp!" because that's what we passed, and I remembered it. The weird part of that is that a little further along the route, we passed a turnoff and I said "Oh, no, we used to take THAT road." And, in fact, we turned around and took that road, because those memories were crystal clear. The road makes a bend just before it ends, so that the angle is awkward for looking down the main road you're about to turn on. Grandma always asked her passenger to tell her when it was clear, because if you had one, the weird angle for the turn meant that their head blocked your view. Without fail, Grandpa would always tell her she was clear, and then as she started the turn he'd add "... except for that Greyhound bus." (No, there was never a Greyhound, and after the first few times, she just rolled her eyes and ignored him.)
On the way to ice cream, I pointed out The Ground Round, which is where we went to dinner when Grandma not only felt like going out but felt like going out somewhere nicer than a bar. Our plan was to eat at The Parlour as well, but if I had been in the correct lane I totally would have changed our dinner plans to The Ground Round, and just gone for ice cream afterward.
I forgot the cardinal rule of ice cream at The Parlour though, which is "however much you think you want, order about half that." In addition to being pretty rich and creamy (and oh, so yummy), their scoops are HUGE. What they call "one scoop" would be any other place's "two scoops" easily. So even though we ordered "Junior" sundaes, we still got an awful lot of ice cream. I ordered a Junior banana split, and after gorging myself I asked for a to-go cup... into which I spooned two of the three scoops of ice cream. Unfortunately, two hours of driving is a lot to ask of ice cream, so by the time we got home I had some lovely ice cream soup. Which I stuck in the freezer anyway, because it's still good ice cream, and it will probably still be yummy once it hardens up again.