Friday, March 23, 2012

Pokiok Beyond The Ponds : Part One

The above photo is posted here with permission from Vintage Photo and Frame Limited to whom I am deeply grateful.
Every time I look at this picture a warm and fuzzy feeling of nostalgia wells up inside me. Off in the distance Grand Bay .... the basin into which the mighty Saint John and Kennebecasis Rivers flow .... stretches out widely in all directions with the ever-vigilant boar ( Boar's Head ) diligently guarding the entrance to the Narrows between Pokiok and Greenhead.. To the left on Greenhead we see jutting out Swift Point which , much like Miller's ( Robertson's ) Point a bit farther downstream , proves itself to be  a  stubborn obstacle to negotiate and round in a rowboat ... especially when the tide is running out. And there , almost directly across the narrows from the building in the above photo sits the old Armstrong limekiln. This kiln is still standing today and looks as though it could be up and running again with a little "elbow grease" and tender , loving care..... food for thought to lovers of local lore and heritage.   These were my childhood haunts ... my stomping grounds of yore.

At this time of year just before the freshet , my dear friend , Tommy MacDonald and I would set out early in the morning with our lunches tucked  safely away in an old army pack-sack his Dad had brought home from the war. Out between the Twin Ponds we'd go to Snow's Beach where we'd always stop to see what high tides , eddies and currents had deposited there during the long winter months. At the far end of this rocky beach the crumbled ruins of a small limekiln reminded  us that lime-burning had once been more widely practiced by the generation before us than by our own ..... since we knew only the Snowflake Lime at the Crick. In spite of the fact that there were no log-booms being towed down to the mill in Winter we usually found a few stranded logs to set free and watch them sail away .... or even some dead wildlife. In fact it was on Snow's Beach that I saw my first sea dog (seal) up close. The poor animal lie inert at water's edge  , a huge gaping hole in its lower jaw .... the "fine needlepoint" of some heartless sharpshooter ....... honing his senseless skill at the expense of a defenseless beast , simply because he could !

Since a very high rock wall .... nicknamed the Devil's Back by Pokiokers .... with a sheer drop into the river separated us from our next destination ... The Farms ..... Tommy and I would scramble up the mountain behind Snow's rickety old summer house ..... often referred to by my Dad as the chicken coop .... across the plateau on the top and then roughly 15 minutes later descend into a wide field near the shoreline ......The beach here was not very wide but the tiny rocks were so flat and mixed with just enough sand to make it easy on the feet for swimmers. And swimmers there were in my early youth. Every Sunday you would find between ten and fifteen families from all over Pokiok gathered  there after a long , rugged trek through the woods ..... blankets spread out , a few beer and softdrinks in the water to keep cool , lunch baskets brimming over with goodies .... devilled ham sandwiches galore as Art McGuire reminded me recently .... , the fragrant scent of campfires for boiling water and roasting wieners , kids splashing merrily in the shallow water , etc . My Dad told me that a certain McCoskery family once had a small farm near here and hence the name .. The Farms.

    This is a photo of yours truly at The Farms in 1940 with the Greenhead lighthouse and the old Tapley house ... referred by locals as Tapley's Tank , a  well formed from water seeping from the rocks where boaters often stopped to fill their containers. It was reputed to be the purest and coldest water "in the world"! .... so they say !!! The magical Farms of my youth has undergone a dramatic facelift since those days ... alas ! ... and nowadays harbours the water purification plant at the end of Woodward Avenue.

The next place of interest on our way to Boar's Head was a break in the rocky shoreline with a mini beach .... just a few metres downstream from Cedar Point .... site of the Lewis Rivers sawmill back in the mid to late 1800s. The mill burned in 1879. Nowadays this opening in the rocks is public property situated at the end of Rivershore Drive and serves as a boat launching ramp with easy access to the river.      

More than often ... and especially when we were running out of time or tired  ... Tommy and I would break out the lunch right here on the rocks where I took this picture two days ago ... with Grand Bay stretching out before us and Boar's Head looming big just behind Cedar Point ... with the cedars growing out of the crevices , cracks and crannies along the cragged shoreline , somewhat like the "green hair" on a chia-pet ! 

I am adding this old map from the 1875 Historical Atlas of Saint John City & County showing the northwestern overview of the City of Portland ( Family for readers perusal and enjoyment. It shows the approximate locations of the limekiln at Snow's Beach as well as the Lewis sawmill near Cedar Point. Unfortunately the natural beauty of this whole sector has fallen victim to the ravages of the Almighty Buck ...... most of it bulldozed away or blasted to smithereens by shameless , tasteless , money-grubbing developers.   

N.B. With a view to converting my "longwindedness" into something more positive and enjoyable to my readers .... I  have decided to divide this entry into two parts , the second of which will appear in my next post " Pokiok Beyond The Twin Ponds: Part Two " where I shall "ramble on " in much detail about the building in the top photo as well as the area immediately adjacent to it. As a general rule most Saint Johners have never seen the Pokiok shoreline between Boar's Head and Robertson's ( Miller's ) Point  ..... so I shall add a few pictures here that I shot last Summer from Greenhead showing much of this rugged , untouched , unknown , primeval shoreline. Disastrously for us Pokiokers of yore , another true "  Prime Evil "  ... the "Awesome Almighty Buck" ....  is already huffing and puffing at our door just a kilometer upstream.


PS. The house that appears in the last two pictures is the same house ... although somewhat modified and seen from another angle...... as in the top photo. I took these photos from the site of Baker's Mill  in Randolph on Greenhead  .... which was the subject of a previous post.

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