Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Revisiting an Old Childhood Swimming Haunt !!



Ever since I moved back here I'd been eyeing the old City Burner site ( long ago abandoned ) and wondering what it looked like down there nowadays  ..... some 60-65 years later .... where many of us learned how to swim .... no real beach , mind you , but simply an outcropping of rocky ledges and pebble-strewn strips of "beach".... nothing to rival Miami , Old Orchard or Daytona , of course..... but it was handy , available and ours for the taking on a hot summer's day. Once into the water the bottom was covered with rocks ... both big and small..... scattered helter-skelter all abouts and coated or matted with very soft , slippery eel grass. So yesterday I slipped my camera into my pocket so as to free up my hands and started down the steep hill leading to the base of where the old burner shafts once stood ...... fighting my way through fallen trees , thick undergrowth ( even experienced raccoons would steer clear of this jungle!) and piles of rubble until I finally reached the last obstacle .... a 20-25-foot slope of jumbled , jagged rocks piled up higgledy-piggledy all the way down to water's edge. Taking no chances at my age I turned around , bent over and backed my way gingerly down the slope .... on all fours ....... making good use of all four limbs as I scrambled over the rocks to the "beach" below ( tide was out ). I stood straight up, looked upriver and the above picture tells the rest.

P.S. This whole span of water between the Burner and the sheer cliffs is referred to as Welch's Cove and that rocky beach a bit farther up river is where my friend , Gerry Sherwood , lived with his Mom , Dad and sisters. His grandparents , William and Katherine Walsh also lived there.The two houses that once stood there have since then been demolished. From Pokiok Road above we always spoke of this area as the ravine or the gully .... just below Caddell's and Maxwell's. 


This photo shows Milford situated directly across from where I am standing. I've always been an avid swimmer since my early childhood and back then would reassure my Mom every time I left the house in summer time that I would not go out into deep water above my waist.One day when I was maybe 12 years old she collared my friend , Tommy McDonald , as he was walking by our house on his way home ...... asking him whether he had seen me. Although poor Tommy didn't want to snitch on me Mom ended up getting him to cough up the truth ! He told her I was halfway to Milford with two young sailors ..... and down the big hill she flew until she met Roy Meade coming up from the river who informed her I had turned back and was safe and sound on the rocks below with the other kids. Mom didn't  scold me that evening and from that day on she never put any limits on my swimming activities. Guess she knew I could handle myself in the water. Anyways about 150-200 meters out into the crossing that day I somehow realized that I was beyond the favourable up eddy drift and into the current heading for the Falls ....... so I had the good sense to make about face and head back to shore. The two sailors did likewise.

Picture on left looks downstream towards Indiantown whereas on right the rocky slopes with underbrush where burner smokestacks once stood.



Manys a day I sat atop this rock .... shivering myself dry ... and dreaming of sailing off to distant lands. Notice the iron cross embedded deep in the rock to which in days gone by our forebearers used to moor scows and log booms. Just seeing it once again after so many years tugged a wee bit at my heartstrings...... great to see an old friend I guess.


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