Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Don’t Go Near That Quarry!

Hi Bill

Once again, I have been thinking about the acreage on West Plank Road (Route 220) that our family moved to during the summer after I finished 1st grade. Uncle John and Aunt Helen lived next door with their little dog (Tippy) on an identical acreage between us and the Alto-Reste Cemetery (now known as Alto-Reste Park). We had been living in Altoona with our grandfather, but we had moved to the “Country” into a very small, and crude, house that was on the acreage, which Dad eventually rebuilt into a wonderful home for us.

Anyway, moving from Altoona to the acreage was a traumatic move for both of us. However, the parents let you finish high school (10th, 11th and 12th grades) by commuting to Altoona HS, but I had to attend a different school.  I wasn’t the most outgoing kid and it took some time for me to adjust, although you helped me meet other kids in that rural neighborhood and you hung out with us sometimes.

Eventually I adjusted to the new environment and made friends with the local country-bumpkin kids. In fact that neighborhood turned out to be a wonderful place to grow up. I quickly gained an array of both younger and older friends who welcomed me into their midst.

Clark: 1959
 Today I remembered a very interesting area in the mountain woods behind the cemetery hill. I believe you and some of the older kids, possibly Mike H or Michael O, took some of us younger kids into that woods sometimes to play or just to walk through the dense foliage and over the steep hills that were there. It was always very exciting for us younger guys to accompany the older guys into the wilderness. Surprisingly, I don’t remember any of us younger guys getting lost during those treks in the wilderness. I guess you older guys were responsible and good people.

One of the big attractions in that mountain forest (at least for us little explorers) was the old abandoned rock quarry. The walls of that old quarry revealed a longstanding and relentless struggle with the elements and we always wondered who had worked that quarry in the distant past. Huge portions of the rock had dislodged from the steep and very high quarry walls and piled up at the bottom. I and the other kids close to my age were always excited to hike to the quarry, but we were strictly warned to not visit it without older chaperones. We were also warned not to attempt climbing the walls of the quarry or climbing over the big rock piles on the ground of the quarry canyon. It would have been very easy to slip and fall among those huge rocks and sustain serious injuries.

Clark: 1961 with the forest on the mountain
behind the cemetery in the background 
Well, us younger kids adhered to those admonitions for a short time. However, once we had learned our way through the forest to the quarry, we visited it whenever we wanted. We also discovered a path that provided an easier, and much safer, access to the bottom of the quarry instead of climbing down the quarry walls. However, it was fun (even though it was also frightening) to climb down (and up) the quarry walls. Parental warnings were forgotten and we often climbed on the quarry walls and over the huge rock piles at the bottom of the quarry. It was an extravagant-fantasy wonderland for us youngsters. We played monster attacks, hunting safaris, lost-in-the-woods scenarios, and any other adventures that we dreamed up while we were in the quarry. We mostly didn’t worry about following our parents’ orders to stay away from dangerous places. Why worry about the dangers of the quarry cliffs, e.g., falling while we were hanging on the rocks, or getting pulverized by a huge piece of rock falling on us from above, or twisting our ankles trying to walk in the rough terrain among the rocks, or getting bitten by huge (possibly prehistoric) poisonous snakes, rats, and ponderous nasty bugs, or getting poison ivy or poison oak, or getting kidnapped by some demented criminal who might be hiding in the quarry, etc. Why worry! None of that would happen to us strong, and invincible men of the forest! 

Clark: 1959/60 5th or 6th grade
Believe it or not, I don’t remember any of us sustaining any serious injuries while playing in that quarry.  However, I do remember that we encountered plenty of toxic plants and animals that didn’t hesitate to sting, bite or irritate us in that quarry area. I remember crawling over a nest of nasty yellow jackets on the quarry cliffs and they left me with several very painful stings. I screamed bloody murder for a while until my friends got me under control. It was a long trek home that day and my parents were not pleased that I had wandered into a nest “in the open field behind our neighbor’s property” (of course). It was only one of many injuries that I sustained while trying to grow up in the wild and magical environment that surrounded our property. I often suffered injuries and pain, but they taught me to be vigilant, to be tough, and eventually (after much pain and frustration) to be smart.

I wonder if that old quarry is still entertaining inquisitive and imaginative children! I doubt that those exciting quarry walls and rocks are providing adventures for current children. I believe at least some of the woods still remains on that mountain above the cemetery, but I doubt that many children are exploring it. That neighborhood area has been overtaken by big-box chain stores and other retail establishments, which provide much more appealing stimulation to young children these days.

Bill, I am grateful that you helped me and my friends to find that quarry in the mountain forest. It has obviously left fairly vivid (and wonderful) memories for me. I would be pleased to hear your recollections about that quarry and any other magical memories from back in those days.

Well, it was fun to revisit some of those long-past exploits near west plank road today and I hope memories of other adventures from the past will surface in my brain, or yours, sometime in the future. Also, what’s happening in your neck-of-the-woods these days?

Take good care of yourself and your family.



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