Wednesday, July 25, 2012

All Aboard!

By Paul Dugan, Groovy Reflections Team Member

When I was growing up my Grandfather owned a rustic camp on a small pond not far from Plymouth Mass. Besides the obvious joy of having a camp to go to every summer was the fact that this one was just a short distance from a narrow gauge steam train park.

Edaville Railroad, named for founder Ellis D Atwood, ran through his extensive cranberry plantation, past the bogs and a couple of small ponds. There were little “storybook” type villages along the way and at Christmas time there were lights everywhere.

We lived a short ten minute walk through the woods from the park and a neighbor at the camp was the conductor, so we were “allowed” one free ride per day! There was so much to do there, like climbing on the “retired” steam engines that seemed as big as houses. Pretending that I was the engineer, rolling down the rails, just like Casey Jones.

They had a very extensive playground with all sorts of the typical playground activities and there was never a wait to use the swings or slides or pretty much anything else. There was also a Railroad Museum that I didn’t appreciate as much until I got older. It had very realistic train sets that you could make go through the villages and tunnels, just by pushing a button!

Of course like any park there was food and some days if we were lucky Mom would give us kids each a nickel for a Popsicle! There were other vehicles scattered around the grounds as well, like old time fire engines and farm vehicles that were great for pretend games.

Some years later when I got married, we only had a weekend for a honeymoon and one of the places we went was back to my old boyhood haunt for a ride on an authentic steam engine. I didn’t make my bride walk through the woods; this time we paid and went through the front gate. Much to my surprise, the conductor, who was ancient when I was a child was still there and remembered me!

The park closed for a while and has undergone a lot of ownership changes but I’m happy to report it has re-opened, seasonally. While there have been a lot of changes, for example, Thomas the Tank Engine is there twice a year and there are now amusement type rides, including a Ferris wheel and merry-go-round, other things are still the same.

The retired engines are still there to climb on, although they don’t look as big as I remembered, until I see my grandsons clambering over them and realize how big they are in their eyes! It seems like there’s more food places, but that’s okay ‘cause there’s more of me to feed. Sadly the museum is gone. The gift shop is now gift shops. However, more people seem to know about this place now. Edaville Railroad lives on!

Taking my grandchildren there is like having my own personal “way back machine”.  The huff of steam as the trains pull in and out of the station, the long low whistle as they approach an intersection take me back to my childhood and best of all, it can still make a young child’s eyes grow wide with the wonder of it all and that’s what’s important in the long run, All Aboooooaaaaard!

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Friday, July 20, 2012

Sunday Mornings with Leon

By Gerry Wendel, Groovy Reflections Founder and Team Member

I have a brother that’s several years older than me; eleven years to be exact. He served in Vietnam, he heard Rock ‘n Roll right when the term was coined, and he was out of the house before my age hit double digits.

My brother savored Sunday mornings; no, not for church, but for going on little excursions. And he liked taking me along for the ride. I was in my early teens and was at a point where home was boring and parents were uncool.  

My brother lived in an apartment at the rear of a house a block away and I’d wait on my front steps where I could see him pulling out of his driveway and coming down the road. I could hear him too; he was driving a muscular Dodge Coronet at the time. It was a noisy car!

So we’d make the trek to Valley Fair, about 8 or 9 miles away. Valley Fair was a regional store and sold items similar to Kmart; it had a full supermarket too. The store even had a second floor where the toy department was; I loved looking at all the games since I enjoyed playing including Sorry, Clue, Headache, Trouble, Bash, and Operation. 

My brother liked the automotive department. That was tucked under the part of the building that had a second floor, and the ceiling was quite low there. The smell of brake fluid and other assorted items contributed to an unpleasant scent in the air. I patiently strolled through the aisles with Leon; sometimes he’d select some items for purchase. Turtle Wax was a favorite, since he was always polishing his car. Did that keep the rust away? 

Now, where I grew up, there were Blue Laws that still exist today. Basically, certain things weren’t for purchase on a Sunday. The big item was clothing, which meant that half of Valley Fair was roped off. Yes, they were actually areas of the store roped off. Of course, you could skirt right under but what was the point? The cashier would catch you if you tried to buy a restricted item anyway.


The diner has had a major redo but it's still there.
After an hour of looking around, we’d gather up our purchases and head to our next stop, the Red Coach Diner which we lovingly referred to as the Dead Roach. Time for some nourishment after all that shopping. 

The food there was excellent and the portions were generous; in just a few short years I’d be coming here at 4 or 5AM after a Saturday night out to pig out on cheese blintzes. I could eat those and not gain an ounce on my skinny frame. Sigh.

We got to know all the waitresses. Our favorite one we nicknamed “The Wicked Witch”. She was very nice but somewhat resembled a certain character from the Wizard of Oz. It was her nose that greatly influenced the nickname we bestowed upon her. She was probably in her 30’s then; twenty plus years later, she was still there.

Those Sunday mornings were special. I really didn’t know my brother very well until we started taking these little trips together. We got to talk and explore things and find some common ground. Today, I really appreciate the fact that he took the time to be with his “little sister”.

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Monday, July 9, 2012

Why Me?

By Paul Dugan, Groovy Reflections Team Member

When I was but a wee lad the world was such a wonderful place! I had it made, being the youngest child and as such was Mom’s spoiled brat. Not that I was ever a brat mind you.

I had an older brother and sister that went to something called school but since I was only four I didn’t have to go; so the days were all mine and Mom’s. Sometimes I’d help with baking. Most of my “help” consisted of licking the icing off the mixer blades. Tried my hardest to get them clean enough so Mom wouldn’t have to wash them but I must have missed spots ‘cause she always did.

I also got to watch television with no big brother or sister to change the channel on me. I watched Howdy Doody and wished I could be in the Peanut Gallery. Tried my hardest to be a Good Do Bee so Miss Nancy would look through her magic mirror and see me, but she never did!

Mom and I used to go picking evergreens for making wreaths. She’d sell the wreaths for extra Christmas money. This I never understood. Why did she need extra money for Christmas; wasn’t that Santa’s problem?

We’d fill paper grocery sacks with fresh evergreens that would shoot up in the woods under the larger trees. Well, Mom did; I’d get maybe half a sack. After an entire morning out in the woods there was usually a treat, like an ice cream.

Life was good. Then one day Mom said these horrible words: “You’re going to have a new brother or sister.” Nooooooooo! We don’t need one! In fact we got a couple too many now! She assured me that she would still love me just as much and we’d still do things together. I asked if we had to get one, could I pick it out? Apparently it’s different than kittens.

As luck would have it Mom picked out a girl! Whyyyyyyyyy! They’re no fun. I won’t even be able to steal her toys! Well, I could but why would I? She’d have dolls and girl junk!

Sure enough the baby came and Mom still loved me, but the doing stuff together thing? Sure, if she wasn’t too tired after feeding the baby and burping the baby and changing the baby….woah! Changing? You could change them! Wow, gotta see what Mom’s gonna change her into. “Mom, what are you changing…oh Gross! Mom! Phew!” So THAT’S what change means; did not need to know that.

Anyway things, while still not ideal, were pretty good. I still did things with Mom, just not as much.

Then came that fateful day when the other shoe dropped. Mom woke me early and said “Get up and get dressed for school.” Whaaaaaaat? Me? School? What happened to me and you Mom?

“I don’t want to go!” I think those were my last words as the doors to that big yellow bus closed on me and tore me from the only life I’d ever known.

I was going to get educated whether I liked it or not. Who knows, I might even amount to something someday! My bus drove down the street, and with tears in my eyes I looked back and saw little sis waving bye bye to me. The smile on her face said it ALL; there’s a new youngest child in town!

As I look back I realize one thing. Mom loved all us kids and she put me on that bus so I would get an education and eventually make her proud. I hope I have, but there’s one thing Mom couldn’t do and that is …..make me grow up!

Gotta go now. Popeye is on!

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