Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Moving to the Homestead

Hi Bill

I have been thinking about when our family moved to the homestead on West Plank Road back in the summer of 1956. I was 7 and you were 15 when we left Grandpap’s house in the city for our own house, which would remain under-construction for almost a decade. 

Our parents were very happy to move to their own property on a few acres in a sparse but slowly growing rural neighborhood. Previously, that property had been part of a large apple orchard. Many of those trees still remained and supplied us with apples to eat, to make cider, and (for us kids) to throw at each other for many years. Dad cut them down gradually. The property also had a compound of sheds on it and eventually Dad turned one of them into a chicken coop for a while. Later he got rid of those sheds and built a large garage. The property was on a busy highway (route 220) and there were no sidewalks, stop signs, signal lights, street lights, etc. In fact there were no intersecting roads for miles in either direction from our driveway.

Needless to say, little Clark was not overjoyed to be kidnapped from his beloved city neighborhood and released in the lonely wilderness. My friends were in the city where we could ride our bikes on the streets and sidewalks (although the memory of screeching tires and finding myself under the front bumper of a car in the city made the new neighborhood more tolerable for me). Regardless, I was now in a rural neighborhood with no friends and I had to accept it. We had a few neighbors across the road, but we didn’t know them. Uncle John and Aunt Helen had moved to the property between the cemetery and our property, so we had relatives nearby, but they didn’t have any kids for me to hang with. Art and May lived a few vacant lots away on the other side of our property. But they didn’t have any kids either, although Art turned out to be a very entertaining man as I got older.

Bill, you probably remember that move better that I do, but I remember spending a lot of time hanging with our parents and you. I believe Dad took some time off work when we first moved and he let me hang with him and help with little jobs. I believe Mom was not working at that time so she certainly helped entertain me. However, Dad and Mom were usually busy with chores or whatever.

At first, exploring the property was a fascination for me. The back section, which ended at the top of a hill where the still undeveloped/unused section of the cemetery began, was full of adventure. It was a wild area of the property crammed with weeds, brush, and unfriendly plants and creatures, including: poison ivy, thorny wild bushes, bees, wasps, ground hogs, snakes, and other wild creatures. I had unfriendly encounters with all of them over time. The trees also provided adventure for me. I got lots of practice climbing (and falling out of) those trees. Eventually, I became an expert tree climber, which didn’t really get me very far in life. All of the interesting stuff (and critters) in the old sheds, also provided interesting explorations for me.

However, I was very lonely for what seemed like a long time. I remember you spending a lot of time with me and I was very grateful. You were a teenager and you retained your friends in the city (you did not switch schools and graduated from HS in the city). However you made time for your little brother. 

Luckily, Grandpap visited the new homestead almost daily in his 1952 Oldsmobile and he kept us entertained. Occasionally, he would take us back to the old neighborhood, where I could see some of my old friends. He also took us with him on errands and to stores and restaurants, etc.

Occasionally I saw some kids that were about my age, and maybe a little older than me, in the new neighborhood. However, I was too timid to approach them. Therefore, I had no friends in the new neighborhood for quite a while. Luckily you decided to fix that for me and dragged me across the road to meet some of those kids. I believe the first new neighborhood kids that I met were Mike O. and Tom T. You also helped me meet others, including Tim T., Bob D., Pat & Mike H., and Billy & Victor P. With your help, I became comfortable with my new neighborhood friends, and I will always be grateful to you.

You were older than most of our new friends in the neighborhood, but you quickly became a popular member of that gang. You even became an organizer of that neighborhood gang for a while. You were already into music and band in the city HS and you eventually got the new neighborhood gang into marching exercises and all kinds of other activities. You also played sports with us, which were important bonding activities in that neighborhood.

You graduated from HS in the city about three years after we moved to the West Plank Road acreage. I (and all my new neighborhood friends) missed you very much when you left for college. I didn’t need your help to make friends anymore, but I still missed you.

That move was a traumatic experience for me, but you helped me through it and I had a wonderful life in that neighborhood with those great friends.

In 2011, the West Plank Road neighborhood gang held a reunion and we all visited the neighborhood. The beautiful house that Dad build and the house that Uncle John built were both completely gone. The neighborhood still had a few houses, but it had gone commercial and all of our old rural haunts were gone. Our old West Plank Road friends were disappointed that you could not join us for that reunion. They all wanted to see you very much. Pat and I both had a really good time at that reunion.

As you know, Pat and I drove to your house north of Philadelphia after the reunion. We had a wonderful visit with you and Jane for a couple of days. We were also happy to see Andrea and her children. It was a wonderful visit and I wish we could see each other more often.

It was great to think about that move to the homestead back in ‘56. I now feel very lucky that our parents made that move and I miss that neighborhood and those friends.

Sincerely Clark

The Home that our Father Built 
(many years after his death)

Clark 1956

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