It’s always great to read what details stick out in people’s memories of their childhood and how they become relevant to who those people became.
Diane Downer Anderson writes:
In the 1950s & 60s, when my sisters and I were children and then in our teens, our dad entertained us by taking us for long drives through the silver-white sand roads in the barrens. He knew where the Jersey Devil was buried, and knew his name and the details of his horrid birth. He knew where Martha Furnace was buried. He knew where a paper manufacturing company had stood. He knew where the glass shards from an old factory lay beneath the water on the Mullica River. He knew the best places to swim, fish, canoe, jump off a bridge, and float down a river. We thought he knew everything!
In the 1960s dad owned a Chevy truck, red and white, the truck with the snub nose front. On a ninety-degree day we would all pile in the back (recall this was before mandatory seat belts) excited to cool down in a tannin-rich stream. On one of those days, during a summer of drought, we headed into the woods. Although a few minor streams were empty, we found Hawkins Bridge and jumped and swam. On our way home the truck got stuck in the sand, deep in the sand. Dad tried hard to get her out, but the wheels dug deeper and dad seemed frustrated and embarrassed. Obviously there were no cell phones to call for help. It looked like a long & hot walk home.
For some strange reason we kids covered ourselves in sand, perhaps going feral since we anticipated a longish stay in the woods. Perhaps we decided to swim in the sand.But somehow we ended up covered in sand, walking in the direction of home,
As we walked, sand crusted in uncomfortable places on our tender bodies, a Model A Ford truck came along. The small driver looked at least as old as his 1920s era truck. We alerted him to our predicament and led him to our truck. Without saying a word he hooked his truck to ours and pulled our modern Chevy out of the sand, with my father laughing generously at the irony of the situation.
On the ride home we were crusty with sand but joyous in our retro-rescue and our father’s cheer.
Post-script: In the mid-1980s, as a curriculum specialist, I was project director on the development of the Pinelands Curriculum of the NJ Pinelands Commission. This curriculum is still in use and can be found in an online version. I am presently an Associate Professor of Educational Studies and Associate Dean for Academic Affairs at Swarthmore College, Swarthmore, PA.
My family still owns a small property on the Mullica River.
What so you remember vividly from your childhood in the Pines?
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