Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Grandpap's Swimming Hole

Hi Bill

Today I was thinking about the property that Grandfather Hallman “Grandpap” owned in Clearfield County. No doubt, you remember that he had some relatives and friends near Curwensville in Clearfield County, PA, which was 45 miles north of Altoona on the West Branch of the Susquehanna River. During the early 20th century, coal mining, tanning, and the manufacture of fire bricks provided employment in that area. Some of his relatives and friends worked in the coal mines, which was an extremely dirty, exhausting, and dangerous job. They were strong, loyal and hard workers. However, you could recognize a retired coal miner when you saw how sick and crippled they were. They were good people, and Grandpap kept in touch with some of them and would drive up to that area to visit them every once in a while. It wasn’t a long drive, but back then the highways and local roads were not as efficient as they are today. Anyway Grandpap visited them fairly often and sometimes my parents, you, and I would accompany him. 

Grandpap William S. Hallman and me

I’m sure you remember that Grandpap especially visited Pauline and Cleo and their son Eddie, who was a few years older than me. They lived in a large farmhouse on a large piece of ground with some beautiful old and huge trees. While Pap (as my father referred to Grandpap) and our parents visited with Pauline and Cleo, you and I would hang around with Eddie, and we would climb trees, throw a ball around and generally act like bored idiots. At least you and Eddie were bored. I was usually too stupid to be bored and was often fascinated by some bug and stone that I spotted. Actually, that still happens to me.

For me, the best part of those trips came when Grandpap drove us to the nearby land that he owned in the country. Somehow he inherited, or maybe he purchased, that land in the country in the Curwensville area. It was a large area of wilderness, which included woods, weeds, water and wildlife. My recollection is that a river ran through that property and there was a wonderful area within the property where the river filled a pond surrounded by large trees, weeds, poison ivy, critters and bugs that were there to fascinate little biped critters like me. Yes, I loved to run among the insects, four-legged creatures, snakes and infectious plants. At least I loved it until the insect bites, scratches, cuts and poison ivy became too painful or itchy to tolerate. Or until I irritated some four-legged furry critter that didn’t want me on their turf. Then I would come running to you, Grandpap or Dad for protection and/or treatment.

While the wildlife was exciting, nothing could beat the water. We always had our swim trunks on under our clothing when we went to Grandpap’s wildland, and the swimming was great fun. When I was little you or Dad or Grandpap would chaperone me to make sure I stayed in the shallow areas of the pond. However, you always kept me happy in that area by splashing around with me. Of course, you also were able to frolic in the deeper area near where the river left the pond to continue its journey to wherever it went. That pond area had some large trees on its banks and there were some ropes tied to branches above the water that you used to swing over the water and then plummet into it with huge splashes. I wasn’t allowed to do that (and probably wouldn’t have been able to get to the rope anyway) when I was young. However, I remember as I grew a few years older I was able to jump off the riverbank into a little deeper area. Those trips to the “Swimming Hole” were great fun. 

Unfortunately, we didn’t make that trip very often. Dad and Mom both had jobs and they could not take the time off to go to Clearfield County very often, and Mom was never thrilled to go to the “Swimming Hole” anyway. I do remember that Grandpap took us in his 1952 Oldsmobile sometimes, but not very often. I also remember Pauline, Cleo and Eddie visiting our parents once or twice, but we had no “Swimming Hole.”  

Grandpap, me and Timmy

Years after those trips to the “Swimming Hole,” when I was in Junior High, Grandpap wanted to visit his property in Clearfield County again. We hadn’t made that trip for several years and he was getting older then and I reckon he knew that his travelin’ time was running out. Therefore he decided to make another trip to his river property. I seem to remember that Dad and Mom were not happy about him making that trip. They did not want him to do it by himself and neither of them wanted to take time off work to make that trip. I’m fairly sure that you made that trip with Grandpap and me. You were driving then and you probably helped as a driver. In addition, I decided to invite one of my friends along on that trip. Unfortunately, I can’t quite remember which friend I invited, but I think it might have been Frank A, although I can’t be sure. Anyway, I told him about the “Swimming Hole” and how much fun it was and he decided to join us. We had our swim trunks on and were eager to act like idiots in the pond when we got there. However, when we arrived, we did not see a river. Instead we saw a very small and shallow creek that wondered through the weed covered ground. We looked everywhere for the pond but found only a mud hole with a few inches of water in it, or maybe a foot of water in some areas. I was quite distressed. Where was our river? Where was our deep pond swimming hole? Where was the large tree that enabled us to swing over the pond and plummet to the water? 

I don’t know if those vivid memories of the river, the deep pond, and swinging over the pond from the tree were accurate or not. Maybe the river, and pond, dried up during the years before our last visit there. Or maybe my recollections were informed by my very young vision and very active imagination. Anyway, poor Frank (or whomever endured that boring drive to Clearfield County to frolic in the mud hole) was very disappointed and irritated. 

I’m sure you remember that Grandpap eventually sold the land that he owned in Clearfield County. However, he retained the mineral rights to that property, which provided small gas royalties to him for many years. He was a very wise man and a great grandfather. 

Grandpap on our Farmall Cub Tractor

Did you make the final trip to Clearfield County with us, Bill? I can’t remember for sure. Please let me know your memories of those trips to the “Swimming Hole.” 

I hope you and your family are well and happy. 

Take care. 

Sincerely Clark

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