A secret place

I grew up, in what I considered as a child, a very rural area. I didn’t think living in the sticks was very cool when I was a little girl, but looking back now, I remember our neck of the woods as being ever so fascinating. We lived in the country and were surrounded by hundreds of miles of state game lands and state forests. And, as kids, we spent a lot of time exploring and playing in the woods. I’m sure that kind of upbringing is what gives me my love for cool, quiet walks in the woodlands.

We had a path leading from our back yard into some great woodland. Once there, we could go off in several different directions depending on where we wanted go. One place, we called, “Devil’s Canyon.” This is a very cool pile of big rocks, which from the top is a ten to 15 foot drop to the ground below.

We could go further on the path and turn left to go to The Ridge. Back then, The Ridge was a huge hunting lodge with basketball court, softball field, ski slope, ski lodge, pond, picnic pavilions, etc. The owners rented it to groups and we could hide in the woods and spy on their parties, or hang out there ourselves when no one was there. In the winter, we could ice skate on the basketball court or toboggan down the ski slope.

If you did not make these turns, the path from the edge of our yard ended at an old, washed out dirt road that climbed upward, very steeply at times, to the top of a mountain, known as Peterson Hill.  In the summer, we could hike to the top and pick wild blueberries and maybe see a bear.

I have some wonderful memories of Peterson Hill that deserve their own blog post, and I will probably write about them soon, but, for now, thinking about those woods made me remember my special place. 

I had a secret place that I could go to when I was mad at my sisters or ran away from home. It makes me laugh now, because it really wasn’t so secluded or very far from the house. But, to me, the place was magical – a bed of woodlands grass and ferns as the floor, and a nearby rock, so big, I had to use both hands to roll it to hid things under. 

What I remember most about my special place, though, is that for several hours every afternoon, the sun cast beams of sunlight through the canopy of tree branches high overhead warming the grass. I could lay on my soft warm bed and watch the branches sway with the breeze and the sunlight dance all around me. In the winter, the branches were bare and several feet of snow covered the ferns and grass and even my big rock. So, although I knew approximately where my spot was, I could never find it until springtime again.

I was very lucky to have the woods and the streams as a backdrop for my childhood. I was also fortunate to have a sweet special place to go to be by myself when a situation warranted it.

Do you remember your special place?

P.S. I have no pictures of me or my sisters playing in those woods, but I know I had a picture of Carrie and her cousins playing at Devil’s Canyon. I looked through five shoeboxes and eight photo albums but could not find it. If it ever turns up I will scan it and post it.


Of Dog Days and summer memories

Did you know that July 3rd was the start of the 40 day period in the summer known as Dog Days?

The term, Dog Days was coined in Ancient Rome. It was named after the Dog Star, also known as Sirius, the brightest star in our sky besides the sun. It was thought that since Sirius rose and set at the same time as the sun during this time of year, that Sirius added its heat to the sun’s heat, thereby making the days hotter, thus the term Dog Days.

Dog Days are hot, slow, lazy, languishing, stagnate times. Yep, that’s what this part of summer is – Dog Days.

So, last Sunday, after I worked up a sweat in the garden, I sat on the screened porch sipping an icy cold glass of tea. I noticed how quiet and still the world was at midday. There were no birds flitting about or singing and no breeze rustling the leaves on the trees. The air was hot, heavy and stagnate. This sound of silence was broken only by the cacophony of the male cicadas vibrating their timbals into a loud crescendo before the silence again.

It made me think of summer memories. Those lazy languid days when we had no set schedule of things to do.

Summer memories are days of butterflies and dragonflies and catching fireflies at night. It is the drive-in movie theater, and water fights and sleeping under the stars. It is Bible school, and picking blackberries and playing in the rain. It is sparklers, fudgesicles and pinwheels. It is swinging as high as you can go and bike riding and climbing trees. It is spending a week at my Cousin Tammy’s house and her coming to spend a week with me at mine.  It is our family picnics at Idlewild and at Shawnee State Park and the big one for all our relatives in our yard on the 4th of July.

When Brian thinks of summer, he thinks of his family’s yearly vacation in Florida to see his grandparents and of spending time with his favorite cousin, Ron.

What are your summer memories?


Idlewild Park

I’ve been thinking lately about a place from my youth. It’s called Idlewild Park. Idlewild is a family amusement park located in southwestern Pennsylvania, where I grew up. It is located in an absolutely breathtakingly beautiful idyllic countryside with meandering streams and lush forests known as the Laurel Highlands.

Old Time Days at Idlewild (Photo courtesy of Idlewild Park)

Old Time Days at Idlewild (Photo courtesy of Idlewild Park)

I loved this place, and still do! I have many happy memories of family picnics there when I was a little girl.

The school district in which we lived had a picnic at the park every year at the end of the school year. All the kids would carry a bagged lunch to the school on the very last Saturday of the school year to hop on school buses that would take them to the park for the day. But, not our family.

Oh, no! This was one of our family’s big events of the summer. And, it was a big day! Dad and Mom and, usually Grandma, would pack up the station wagon with the picnic fixings and us kids and we would drive over the mountain to get to the park as soon as it opened. The three food staples always on hand at this yearly picnic were Mom’s potato salad and pickled eggs and Grandma’s ham salad. Sometimes, we had Dad’s homemade chocolate and peanut butter fudge. And we always packed a few bottles of fix-a-drink (see the story here http://cindyscountrycorner.com/2009/03/25/fix-a-drink/).

What this meant is that our friends from school would go sit under a pavilion and eat a PB&J or a cold cut sandwich, while we grilled hot dogs and hamburgers and had potato salad, ham salad and huge chunks of watermelon. The students who went to the park from school had to leave the park at 5 p.m. But, not us! We could stay till the park closed. Matter of fact, I do recall one time packing up and leaving so late that we got locked in the park! Some park attendant had to come back and let us out! We were the Griswalds before there were the Griswalds, if you know what I mean!

Some of my earliest memories are of this park. I remember going when I was very small, and too little for the “big kid” rides. So, I spent my time in Kiddie Land. My favorite ride there was one that wasn’t even motorized. It was called Kiddie Cars. You got to hop into this little car (that reminded me of a giant ice skate) and you got to pedal yourself (on a rail) around a little wooded area. If some slow poke littler kid (yes, I meant to say littler) was in front of you, then you were stuck! I used to ride the rail as fast as I could pedal and at the end, the ride attendant would tell me that I was the fastest of anyone he had ever seen in his many years of supervising that ride. So, I would naturally, pay another ticket and go around again to see if I could beat my own record! He always said I did!

But, I really couldn’t wait until I was tall enough to ride the big kid rides – the roller coaster, bumper cars and caterpillar. The Rollo Coaster at Idlewild is awesome. It is a Philadelphia Toboggan Company Rollo Coaster built and sent to the park in 1938. It is still in operation today and has been named a Classic Coaster by the American Coaster Enthusiasts.

The Rollo Coaster (photo courtesy of Idlewild Park)

The Rollo Coaster (photo courtesy of Idlewild Park)

The Caterpillar is an old ride, too. According to Idlewild’s website (http://www.idlewild.com/) the Caterpillar is a set of linked cars that speed around a circular track. During the ride, a green canopy covers the riders leaving them in the dark. From the outside, the covered ride resembles a caterpillar. There are only three Caterpillar rides remaining in North America with only two, including Idlewild’s 1947 model, known to still use the canopy.

The Caterpillar (photo courtesy of Idlewild Park)

The Caterpillar (photo courtesy of Idlewild Park)

The bumper cars, known as Skooters, were first introduced at Idlewild in 1931. The cars, themselves, have been replaced a few times over the last seven decades, but the building that houses the ride remains the same.

The Bumper Cars (Photo courtesy of Idlewild Park)

The Bumper Cars (Photo courtesy of Idlewild Park)

The Merry-Go-Round is a beautiful carousal. It, too, was built by Philadelphia Toboggan Company and has been at Idlewild since 1931.

Idlewild was founded in 1878, making it the oldest amusement park in Pennsylvania. I also read somewhere that it is the third oldest park in the nation and the twelfth oldest park in the world.  It has won several awards, including five from Amusement Today as the second-best children’s park in the world.

So, I will be in western Pennsylvania in August having my yearly vacation with my three sisters. And, I want to spend one day at Idlewild. We could pack a picnic! Linda can make Mom’s potato salad. I could make Grandma’s ham salad. Bonnie could make Dad’s fudge. Pam, well, I don’t know what to have her make. We’ll think of something!

And, then, on my bucket list, I want to ride the Rollo Coaster! It’s tame by today’s standards, so I don’t think it will kill us! And, I can post the pictures on my blog! Gosh, I hope there’s not a weight restriction in order to ride!

So, I hope my sisters are up for it! And, dear readers, if you are ever in western Pennsylvania, spend a day at Idlewild Park. You won’t regret it!