Flashback to the 1950’s

derby pond aka lake edith In 2012 I wrote about the coal tower at the B&A; Railroad Shops in Derby, Maine, as viewed from the Iron Bridge.

Flashback to the 1950’s. That coal tower was surrounded by a wonderland within a quarter square mile.

Viewed from the bridge and to the right of that tower through a small stretch of woods was the baseball field.

Again, to the right further along and next to the tracks was the playground and tennis courts, plus the old hotel on the hill.

Past that, and still on the right was the Derby Pond aka Lake Edith shown here except 50 years later, plus drained and overgrown.

Unless told, my friends from that era could not recognize or identify that as Derby Pond from this photo.

A tad further was the Derby train station. Past that on the right a gorgeous park with large rocks painted white went the length of the village.

Not much for a simple small town. Fact is, that little piece of real estate was a childhood wonderland that provided 100’s of kids 1000’s of memories that last to this day.

Except for the coal tower, everything described “on the right” from the 1950’s is gone, drained, overgrown, or demolished.

I wouldn’t trade that childhood for all the gold in the world.

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Not So Funny Practical Joke

little boy practical joke graphic Childish juvenile pranks can sometimes backfire. Pull my finger is harmless enough. You become the victim once, then pass it on.

One of the Hogan boys, not naming names, came up with a not so funny practical joke he thought was really cute.

His trick involved getting “caught” picking his nose.

Standing nonchalantly in front of someone, he buried his middle finger up to the first joint aggressively digging deep with his boogar hook.

Next, he would quickly extract the finger, reach out with that same hand and pull a switch by extending his index finger instead.

He would immediately wipe that clean finger on the other person’s shirtsleeve.

The illusion worked every time. A shocked or angry reaction was predictable as everyone else burst out laughing.

Once you were a victim of the switcharoo practical joke, it was entertaining to watch him pull it on someone else.

To his credit he was quick to demo what actually happened – especially to the angry victims, and everybody had a good laugh.

Not so funny was the time he was too slow to explain and a guy retaliated in silence… with a right hook to the face.

Never saw him pull that trick again.

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Fond Memories of Derby Hill

derby hill in derby maine Growing up in the 1950’s with an appreciation of the simple things in nature brings back fond memories of Derby Hill in Derby, Maine.

The photo shown was taken in 2011 with a view looking south from the top of Derby Hill, and at the bottom of the hill you can see one of two 4 way intersections in our small town.

What made Derby Hill so special was not apparent during my childhood. It was always there. Looking back, one realizes the wealth of enjoyment that hill provided year round.

On the left, and from the foot of the hill to the first house, was a large field half way up the hill. In summer, we played ball there. In winter, we rode sleds or toboggans.

On one occasion, the opportunity came up to ride a homemade soapbox car from the top. Built by the Hogan boys, that streamlined machine was a beauty and as nice as any in the national soapbox races.

However, the distance and estimated top speed would be at least twice a normal race. Out of a half dozen or more teenage boys, my older brother was the only volunteer willing to drive.

Guards were posted at the intersection to stop traffic in the unlikely event cars came along. Cars aside, this was still an extreme and dangerous ride.

To left was a deep ditch from top to bottom. On the right were light poles, mailboxes, and trees.

Long story short: He almost made it half way. Nearing top speed the steering became a problem as my brother adjusted to keep a straight line. The soapbox car fishtailed slightly as the rear end zigged and zagged just enough to lose control.

As the homemade soapbox car left the street hitting the grass on Perry’s lawn, car and driver flipped sideways turning over and over several times. Both survived.

Though the car was salvaged and repaired, the challenge of conquering Derby Hill was a one time event.

In winter, however, we did create a sled trail the full length of Derby Hill along the 30 foot easement clearing between the woods and backs of the homes. That we rode from the top to bottom all they way to the schoolyard of the Derby Grammar School.

Ayuh. Derby Hill was a gift of nature. Fun back then. Fond memories and more appreciated now.

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Is It a Bird Is It a Plane

high altitude jet exhaust trail High altitude exhaust trails from aircraft flying by was rare in our neck of the woods Growin’ Up in Maine back in the 1950’s. Television brought the prospect and reality of flying closer to home and easier to imagine.

Space related shows like Buck Rogers gave rise to reports of UPO sightings, and the cold war kept people on edge, too.

The phrase “Is it a bird? Is it a plane? No! It’s SUPERMAN!” was a well known opening line on television with George Reeves as Superman. Us kids would point and repeat that same phrase on the… again rare occasion a jet would fly over.

Jet planes at 20,000 feet were a mere dot and silent at that distance, so the only evidence of life was their trail of smoke marking the sky. I first rode a jet at 19. I last rode one at 59. Drugstore rides at a dime don’t count.

As kids, our idea of high altitude was climbing a 50-75 foot pine tree to scout the countryside from an eagle’s point of view. A lucky few from our neighborhood enjoyed the adventure of climbing the 5000 feet up Mount Katahdin in Central Maine. That’s gorgeous, too.

Looking back and recalling simple moments of childhood wonder, I believe most Maine boomers long for the past because they truly love and appreciate that place and time Growin’ Up in Maine.

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Fallen Tree and Power of Nature

The huge fallen tree in the photo here shows the true power of nature, and finds like this as a kid Growin’ up in Maine were something you don’t forget.

huge fallen pinetree down back

Other examples of nature’s power viewed on occasion were similar sized trees split down the middle by lightning. That was never witnessed as a child, but was as an adult. There’s better reasons to avoid getting wet and running inside when a thunderstorm comes through.

More than anything, this photo reminds me of the joy of exploring the woods and enjoying the natural beauty.

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Halloween Party with Cider and Donuts

labrees chocolate coconut donuts Unlike unfriendly encounters selling door to door, Halloween is a magical time for kids Growin’ Up in Maine to get free candy.

Social events at church back in the 1950’s are especially memorable like going to a Halloween party with cider and donuts.

For some reason that combination of sweet and tart flavor still makes me smile.

The donuts in the photo here are the LaBrees brand, and represent just one of their lines of top quality baked goods made in Maine.

Food at parties included stale sandwiches slightly dried from being left out, and sometimes made with odd ingredients that I’d never eaten like cream cheese and grape jelly.

Halloween parties in the 1950’s meant good clean fun with no tricks, just treats. Bobbing for apples was a spectator sport for sure. I tried, and did okay. It was more fun to watch.

Yes, we dressed up as ghosts, goblins, or ghouls, plus super heroes, royalty, or cartoon characters.

Trick or treatin’ door to door was our family tradition, yet the few times I opted for the church event was without regret.

Good times. Great friends. Oh, and yes… cider and donuts.

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Posted in halloween, maine, stories
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