We Gotta Get Through March, People
Positive Thoughts, Warm Nostalgia, on the Homestretch To Spring
"Springtime is the land awakening. The March winds are the morning yawn."
LEWIS GRIZZARD and KATHY SUE LOUDERMILK, I Love You
March can be the cruelest month. It is still so much winter and bluster and cold, and yet the month in which spring commences, technically. Hope springs eternal –but you still need spring to … well … spring. We will get the taste in March, but not much more.
More light, longer days, sure. A bit warmer, yeah. Yet still so much chill.
I present here a bit of harkening back, a nice dollop of nostalgia, to those warm days of Easton past – of spring through summer. Return with me. As for those of you who did not live in town at the time, or are too young to remember, imagine – and let the thoughts bring you to the places you knew in spring and summer.
I’m thinking of the late ‘60s through the ‘70s.
For some reason, memories of warm days in Easton get me thinking about a big raspberry flavored Slush Puppy (blue in color) from the Easton Country Store on Center Street. You’d grab a Slush Puppy – and get to slurping it and invite the dreaded brain freeze or “Slush Puppy Headache.”
Young kids and teenagers hung around in front of the store. Some of the guy teens would sit on a stone wall across from the Country Store. That group of guys was known, appropriately enough, as “The Wall.”
Ponds, rivers, and streams afforded wonder and engaged us kids. My buddies and I would troll along the banks of Shovel Shop Pond, or near the mouth of the pond where it was fed by Queset Brook, or maybe up at the dam on the east side of the pond, and we would hunt for pollywogs, crayfish, frogs, and turtles. Nothing cooler than to capture pollywogs – or tadpoles, which are the next stage along – and to be able to sufficiently care for them so that they transform into frogs all the while in your care.
We had our bikes – as in bicycles – and we pedaled them mile after mile.
As spring arrived, and the days got warmer and longer, there were the Little League Baseball games played at Frothingham Park, at the field behind the Easton Junior High School, and at Father Hannah Field, which was behind Holy Cross Church.
Some things get even better. I'm talking about where young people now play youth baseball in town –the expansive Militia Park Complex and its beautiful six fields.
Easton Huskies games at Frothingham Park on Sunday afternoons. Remember those? That tradition remains. The Huskies are still playing on Sunday afternoons at “The Park” – still on the same field, now called the Robert “Buddy” Wooster Field.
Ah, yes, Frothingham Park and summer – and that means the “Park Program” – the weekday day camp that the Easton Recreation Department ran. What fun. I was talking recently with a Park Program warrior from the ‘70s, and he was relating how kids would take turns “getting locked in.”
What that meant is that when the daily session was winding up in early afternoon, one kid would hide in the storage shed where all the bats and balls and tennis racquets and other equipment were stored. Once all the equipment was put away for the day, and the shed was locked, and the counselors had gone home, the kid who “got locked in” would open the door of the shed from the inside, and the equipment was doled out and play began anew.
There were many days when a kid walked out the door in the morning, and then found his or her friends, and then played and had fun all day – a day made complete without one organized activity – and then returned home for supper, famished and exhausted.
Thirty to 40 years ago there weren’t that many in-ground private pools in town. But we had the Town Pool, our community swimming reservoir off of Lincoln Street. It was a busy place throughout the summer. There you swam for fun and play – and the town offered swimming lessons there as well. You might get to the pool in the morning – or arrive there in early afternoon after leaving the Park Program – and you would stay until the pool closed in early evening.
Ah, the nice anxiety, and anticipation, as you walked or coasted on your bike down the steep hill that descended from Lincoln St. to the pool, and you heard the shrieks, laughter, splashes, and occasional whistle toot of a lifeguard.
The Town Pool was our own beautiful retreat in the woods – sandy beaches, docks, swimming areas, all buffeted by pines. The Red Side, which was about three-feet deep at its deepest, was open to just about anyone to paddle and wade without an adult alongside, save for toddlers, who needed a parent or guardian with them.
Now, if you wanted to swim on the other side of the dock – the Orange Side – where the water was over your head, you had to pass a swim test. A more rigorous test had to be passed to gain the privilege of swimming in the Green Side, where the water was deep and the area was much larger than the Orange Side.
There was also up in the woods, about 75 yards or so from the swimming areas and docks, what was called the “Itty Bitty Pool” which was no deeper than a foot and where parents would wade with infants and supervise toddlers kept on a short tether.
I attended for a few years, and a couple weeks each summer, the Wheaton Farm Day Camp on Bay Road. It was a sort of nature camp, and we learned a lot about wildlife and the weather and plants and water; we also got into discussions of the Native Americans who had lived on the land. While taking hikes through the woods, discovering an arrowhead was a big treat.
Here in Easton we used to have a “car hop” food joint that was busy during the warm parts of the year. The establishment was called Dog 'n' Suds, and it was part of a national “root beer and hot dog” chain, that, during the ’70s, had as many as 850 restaurants (18 remain today). Our Dog 'n' Suds was located on the spot where now is the Subway and Honey Dew Donuts on the corner of Rte. 138/Washington Street and Rte. 123/Belmont Street.
Ice cream cones and frappes and sundaes and root beer floats at Maplewood.
The end of summer had a distinctly Easton event – that was the Labor Day Weekend festival at the Villa Rosa picnic grounds located out in the are where is now the Queset on the Pond housing community. The festival had rides, games, field day type activities, music, food and drink, including of course the “meat on a stick” cooked over wood coals.
Think warm, Easton. Think longer days.
Think spring and summer.
We’re getting there.