Even though I can be classified as “an old codger,” I still have vivid memories of what it was like growing up as a kid in the Village of South Meriden.
The middle of June would start a whole new world of adventures for us. There were plenty of farms to work at — Raven’s, Godek’s, Slomkowski’s and Philippi’s. We could earn a few bucks now and then helping out with the farm chores, but more often than not our time was donated.
Then there were the days when we would all gather at Hanover School for a game of “pick-up” baseball. Back then there was none of the organized sports for kids as there are today, so we were left on our own to while away the summer hours.
Our baseball was what would be known today as “sandlot.” Nothing was really organized like the fields the kids play on today.
We had our choice of three playing fields. The best one was at Hanover School. The other two were a little bit on the rougher side.
One was located on what is now Melville Avenue. It was called “The Garden” because it was played in a spot that once had a garden on it.
The other was “The Lot.” That was located in back of our grandparents’ and Uncle Nick’s home on Hanover Road next to the Quinnipiac River. Of course, if you look at the lot now it is overgrown with mature trees and bushes.
If we weren’t in the mood for some baseball, there was always a trip to one of the many swimming holes we frequented back in the 1940s and early 50s.
We had Red Bridge on the Quinnipiac River and Dawson Beach, where the Quinnipiac River Watershed Association headquarters is now located.
There was the “Ice House,” now known as Hunter Trail off Bruce Lane and Dee Avenue in South Meriden. The Ice House Pond is now long gone, but the memories of a different era of being able to swim there are still with me.
And would you believe that as kids we would camp out on the hill overlooking the Ice House using pup tents from Dave Clayton’s Army Navy store in downtown Meriden?
The campsite was almost like a second home during the summer months, and our parents never had to worry about us back then. Try that today.
And then there was the jewel of all of our swimming holes: Morin’s Grove in South Meriden.
The pond there was spring-fed, and many neighbors in the area would go there to get spring water for their home consumption. Of course, today such a practice would be frowned on.
Morin’s Grove was also a place for churches and other organizations to hold their summer picnics.
For the kids in South Meriden, it was a special meeting place. The owners of Morin’s Grove, Frank “Dosh” and Vera Morin, generously allowed locals free access to the pond for both swimming and fishing.
As kids, we spent countless hours at Morin’s Grove swimming and fishing for the small, but plentiful sunfish and panfish in the pond. The size of the fish did not matter because we would throw them back unless they were of an edible size.
The Morin’s Grove pond also had some bullheads in it that were of bragging size. During this period, we had upped our fishing “tackle” to a bamboo pole with the fishing line wrapped around the tip of the pole.
When you wanted to “cast” out your line, you would pick a spot with no trees overhead, lay the pole on the ground and stretch the fishing line and baited hook out behind you.
You would then pick up the pole up high behind you and then whip it forward sending the baited hook whistling by your ear and, if you were lucky or skilled enough, the hook and bait would land right where you wanted it.
For many years, the pond at Morin’s Grove served as a source of recreation for the youth of South Meriden. It was located at the end of a dirt road that is now paved with homes located on it. The road is now Melville Avenue.
When Morin’s Grove was sold, the new owners drained the pond and replaced it with a parking lot and lawn. Then it got another new owner and became known as the A.O.H. club. I understand that it now has some new owners.
Back in the late 40s and early 50s, we were also allowed to stay out after dark unaccompanied by an adult.
Our two favorite evening hangouts were the swings and cannon by the armed service honor roll that once graced the Hanover School property and the front lawn of what is now AGC.
Back then, the police knew just about all of us by name and we were allowed to just be kids without being harassed for being there.
However, time has a way of changing just about everything, but the memories live on and I would not change my memories for anything that today has to offer. I only hope that today’s youth has the opportunity to have as many pleasant memories as I have.
See ya’ and God Bless America and watch over our troops, police, firefighters, and first responders wherever they may be serving this great country of ours.