Dearie...Do You Remember When?
Summertime and the Livin’ is Easy
by Dave Bailey, Sr.
Dearie, do you remember when it was summertime in Penns Grove? What was a kid to do growing up in the 40's? We couldn’t wait to get out of
school, but now what?
Well, of course there was swimming - wading, dog paddling, floating, whatever. The “gravel hole” was our Mecca for water from June to September.
Located between North Broad Street and Virginia Avenue, it was THE place to congregate on hot summer days and nights., There were rumors from
time to time that skinny dipping was big after dark, but I never had first hand experience!
Can you remember when one of the biggest challenges was to swim the gravel hold from shore to shore, or to jump off one of its perilous cliffs?
Man, what a challenge! What a way to prove one’s courage! Many a romance started or was maintained on the beach blankets at what was to be
called later Friendship Beach. We really thought it was a big time when a lifeguard was hired, a refreshment stand opened, and protective ropes
Of course, we also had the Delaware River. It was a little more adventurous to traverse the grainy brown sand and large rocks to cool off in the
Delaware. Friends that lived on North Shore or South Shore were envied for being so close to all that water. Sometimes the beach was covered
with wood, garbage, and broken glass and looked like an ancient landfill. Oil slicks sometimes covered the areas of swimming and the catfish were
in abundance, but hey, this was FUN in the Summer! Do you remember when it was a challenge to raft or row across the river to the state of
Delaware? Now we’re talking big time adventure! Only the few accomplished a trip of this magnitude!
But forget the gravel hole. Forget the Delaware River. It was time to visit the pool at Riverview Beach Park. Talk about Fantasy Island! Beautiful
sand, beautiful water, beautiful people - this was the place to be. This was before the age of pools at home in the backyard. We were happy to fill
an old tub and sit in it or hook up the garden hose and squirt each other. Once in awhile after a heavy rain storm, the corner of Pitman Street at
Penn Street would fill up with water and we could wade until the storm drains did their job. But imagine a large pool with blue water, a diving board
and a change room. This was the best of summer! Sadly, the 10¢ to ride Rice’s bus to Pennsville, and the cost of admission to the pool, made
such excursions few and far between.
Enough about swimming – we did come out of the water periodically and there were other things to do. Fishing! Remember when it was a big deal
to catch a “sunny” at the other spot near the gravel hole? Remember using an old piece of screen to try to catch minnows? Remember riding a
bike out to Layton’s Lake and seeing those gigantic carp dish? It was worth all the effort to bring home a trophy of fish only to hear your parents tell
you how bad carp tasted!
Remember the snowball man who would come around selling ice covered with flavored water? Remember baseball on Pitman Street field? The
Pitman Panthers coached by “Connie Mack” Clemente? Baseball on the “Y” field under the lights, Ordmont, Barber Avenue, or in the middle of the
street? Remember playing hide and go seek, tinny can, or kickball until it was dark? Remember battling the mosquitoes and putting the lightening
bugs in a jar and getting all hot and dirty? Remember Camp Carney and “Unc” Crockett, and a week away from home? Remember going to Zonie’s
Drug Store because it was “air cooled?” Remember the DuPont picnic and all the fun at Riverview Beach Park outside the pool? A trip to Shibe
Park to see the Phillies? A matinee at the Broad or Grove movie? Remember a trip on the Wilson Line to Philadelphia? The long lines waiting for
the ferry in Pennsville? Catching poison ivy? Hoping September would never come and summer would never end?
If you remember, Dearie, than you’re much older than I!
"10th Anniversary of: the Historical Society of Penns Grove and Carneys Point & Oldmans – May 13, 2010 "