How did ya’ like the heat wave we had? For the younger generations did you ever stop to wonder what it was like before central air or for that matter any type of air other than an open window and a fan?
When I was a kid, many, many moons ago, we simply learned to adapt to the day, no matter what the weather, including heat waves. Water was our rescue resource on hot days and in the Village of South Meriden, there were four water resources for getting cool. They were The Quinnipiac River, Hanover Pond, Morin’s Grove and The Ice House Pond.
I was reminded of this last week when Edna and I were taking a ride and stopped at the boat launch on Hanover Pond. There were a couple of young gents swimming right off of the boat launch and they looked like they were really enjoying themselves.
Of course one of the water sources for Hanover Pond is the Quinnipiac River. Back then, Red Bridge was still used to get a vehicle across the Quinnipiac River and it also served as a diving tower for the young and reckless youths of the Village.
Today a dive off of Red Bridge would surely result in some type of injury, maybe even fatal because the river is much shallower then it was back then. But we had other choices for getting cool. The shady shoreline where the Quinnipiac River Watershed Association (QRWA) is now located was once a sandy beach, and in fact the building once served as a bathhouse complete with lifeguard stand.
Further down the shoreline towards Sodom Brook there were a couple of other miniature beaches. One was called Double Beach and the other carried the moniker of “B.A.B.” and was known by just about everyone as “Bare Assed Beach.” Even today, I run into some of the old-timers like yours truly and they mention B.A.B.
Even though in the early ’40s and into the ’50s the waters of the Quinnipiac River and Hanover Pond were considered unfit for swimming, but that did not deter many of us from seeking a cooling swim in the river and pond.
During the hot and boiling days of summer, a trip to Red Bridge or the beaches on Hanover Pond could be an adventure in itself. The roads back then were mostly tar and sand and the tar would sometimes melt in the broiling sun. This plus the fact then many of us were relegated to bare feet for the summer months (other than do go to church or the movies) made for some difficult traveling.
I can remember running from shady spot to shady spot on the way to the swimming holes, and stopping to let our feet cool off a bit before the next race to a shady spot. Hey, nobody whined about not having shoes or the heat of the day, it’s just the way it was.
Another oasis for cooling off in the Village was a trip to Morin’s Grove located up on the end of what is now Melville Avenue. Now the former picnic grove is occupied by the A.O.H., but back then it was a favored picnic and outing area and had a small pond with a dock and diving board for swimming.
The water in the pond was spring fed and the pond had all kinds of fish in it as well as a heavy population of bullfrogs that were the source of some really tasty frog leg lunches.
The only residents that time were the Dehnel family who had a house just before the entrance to Morin’s Grove. Many of the residents in our area would go up to the spring that ran into the pond to get the clear spring water for their own use. Just about all of the neighborhood families used Morin’s Grove to get cool in the hot summer days.
And just about all of the kids had an old rubber car tube (remember them) that was covered with patches that was used as a makeshift raft to float around the pond in. They were also great for sneaking up on bullfrogs that were in the shallow water on the edge of the pond. Let me know how many privately owned ponds you can find today that are open to the public free of charge. The Morin Family were hard workers and gracious neighbors to the folks of the Village.
And of course the Quinnipiac River always welcomed the Village youths who used a number of locations on the Quinnipiac River to while away a hot summer day. Just above Red Bridge was a huge tree that hung out over the Q River and it had a rope swing attached to one of the branches that would allow us to swing out over the river and drop into the cooling water. Going up what is now the Q Gorge walking trail there were a couple of other spots that we would use for a cooling swim.
As we ventured into our teen years and began to drive, we would congregate on the Q River off of Johnson Avenue just below the bridge at a spot we called “Millers.” It was a deep hole in the bend of the river and was just made for a cooling swim.
And then there was the Ice House Pond. It stood on the corner of Bruce Lane and has disappeared in the sands of time, but it was also a gathering place for us when we were kids. It is now known as Hunter Trail and while I am glad that some of it was preserved, it is too bad the pond wasn’t saved so kids could have played and swam in it.
Oops, I forgot, in this day of suing for just about everything, an owner of such a pond would have to carry insurance that would surely bankrupt them so the dam on the pond was taken down and the pond emptied. Other than a few sunfish the Ice House Pond played home to a couple of huge snapping turtles and a horde of leeches (blood suckers). When we were swimming, the appearance of the leeches in our swim area would result in a panicked retreat from the water until the ‘danger’ from the leeches was gone.
I know that we now live in a more modern time with air conditioning and electronic gizmos you can even talk to and get a response, but I would not trade those ‘good old days’ for anything. Maybe that’s the best part of being an ‘old timer,’ having memories of a time that will never be duplicated.
Big Doug’s Saltware Shootoff
The catch and release striper and bluefish tournament is Saturday, July 14 and Sunday, July 15. For more information, visit www.BigDougsFishing.com.
Hanover Pond Fishway
To date, the Hanover Pond Fishway has passed 24 alewife, four gizzard shad, nine lamprey eels and 21 American eels. Hey how is the electric generating screw working out?
See ya’ and God Bless America and watch over our troops wherever they may be.