When we think of traveling we most often think of going from one location to another. That’s good but I sometimes like to return in reverie to times in my past. Places where I spent my childhood are precious to me.
We seem to race through childhood never slowing down to enjoy the moments we may seek to recover in years to come. I remember the place of my early years. Cameron, Texas was the only world I knew until I was eight years old. Names and landmarks still cross my mind in moments of remembrance.
I still remember the path that led me home hundreds of times from Ada Henderson Elementary School. It passed through a park about two city blocks in size. In this park were the normal things such as those galvanized metal slides polished by literally thousands of khaki or denim clad rear ends. Two slides stood side by side. One was a simple one-hump slide. The other was over twice as high using two humps on the journey to the ground from what seemed to be such a lofty height. The kid sized slide was seldom used after one had experienced the thrill of the ‘big’ slide. There were seesaws that weathered years of teeter tottering by excited boys and girls. There were simple gymnastic pipes that were just the right height to sit on and do back flips, nearly slamming your head into the ground beneath. All these things were so much fun to a kid and his friends as they made their way home from another day at school.
But one fun piece of equipment always furnished the thrills that last a lifetime and are remembered in the fondest reverie. About halfway through the park was a merry-go-round made of the strongest and seemingly indestructible pipe. It, too, was polished by years of holding on by squealing children, lest they be thrown off by the magic of centrifugal force. It was about 12 feet in diameter and the center pipe was about 8 inches in diameter and must have been anchored somewhere in China since all the many years of use it yielded not a fraction. There were some 8 or 10 pipes on the outer portion of the merry-go-round that allowed you to grab and step onto the running board and hold on for dear life. Kids would grab these posts as they came around and spin them as hard as possible. The speed they built up was surprisingly fast and it took some agility to master the art of stepping on and grabbing the handle. I have no recollection of grievous mishaps, just an occasional scrape or bruise. This contraption has served at least 4 generations of school kids and has not changed the last time I saw it some 20 years ago.
Farther down the path home was a giant gazebo with a stage and seats around the outside. It was equipped with public restrooms beneath the gazebo. It has been there for many years and sometimes I can close my eyes and see that gazebo and hear the faint strains of Sousa marches from the brass bands that played summer concerts there. I remember many happy times there on family picnics and occasional reunions.
God watched over the kids and me whose paths home took them through the park. Just past the gazebo was a huge drainpipe, which during heavy rains drained water from the park into a ravine running through the park. It was some 50 to 60 feet in length and about 6 feet in diameter. It was always on a dare that we would walk through that dark, dank and scary tunnel. We were sure there was all manner of creepy crawly creatures lurking in the shadows waiting for unsuspecting kids to slowly make their way through this scary conduit. I remember going through it once and that was enough. I’d rather walk through the cemetery alone …. But that’s another story.