Creeks – Swimmin’ Holes, Part III

In the summer, the Valley had a constant stream of nieces, nephews, cousins, and friends coming to visit relatives. We developed friendships and always looked forward to their return. We were always intrigued by those who came from the city, because they knew nothing about the life we led. But of all the features in our little Valley, the creek seemed to be the most fascinating to our visitors.

I have mentioned here before that we often ‘jumped rocks’ to get across the creek or travel up and down the creek. It took a bit of skill to evaluate the available amount of dry space rising above the surface of the water and the possibility of making a firm landing so as not to end up in the creek. We did not try to wade across, because under the water, the rocks were covered by a very slick moss. Our cousin Mark from New Jersey almost always ended up in the creek at least once on his visit.

Neva’s visiting kin would often ‘swim’ in the pool of water behind her house. You couldn’t really swim there, but it was a safe bet for a place to splash around and get wet and not worry too much about safety.

Inner tubes were a huge part of swimming in the Valley. The inner tubes were truly from tires with the valve stem intact. Those valve stems could cause some damage if not careful. Down at the ‘big bridge’ the older and bolder boys would toss an inflated inner tube into the water on one side and try to jump into it as it floated to the other side from underneath the bridge. Not a safe endeavor! As far as I know none of them ever got hurt other than some long scratches from the valve stems. The creek was not that deep at the bridge, so missing the inner tube could have had severe consequences.

American Press Association wire photo, 160803 – Chicago Tribune – A Brand-New Way to Keep Cool, marked as public domain, more details on Wikimedia Commons

The favorite swimmin’ hole was the millpond. The land leading to the millpond was owned by Vernon and Ruth Esther. There was a worn path through a thicket that opened onto the rocky beach. In the summer, it was filled with kids of all ages. Towels were draped over the rocks and there were often teenage bodies covered with a combination of iodine and baby oil (yikes!) lying in hopes of getting a summer tan. This was WAY before sunblock!

The millpond floor had a gradual slope then a rather quick drop off into the deepest part of the water. On the other side, the cliff gradually sloped down and jutted underneath the water providing a great place to sit and rest. It was important to know where the cliff started under the water so no one got their head busted open.

I don’t know how many of us learned to swim in the millpond . It was where I finally got up the nerve to dog-paddle across the creek for the first time. When I made it across, one of the bullies started continuously splashing water in my face. I thought I might drown. Once I finally made it safely across and sat on the edge of the cliff, it took a long time for me to get the guts to swim back across. I am still not a terribly confident swimmer.

Further up into the holler was ‘the slickie’. It was the water hole where many of the kids from the holler chose to swim on occasion.  I never swam at ‘the slickie’ so I do not know much about it.

Summer in the Valley always rang out with the sounds of kids at the swimmin’ holes. It was our way of life and a great way to grow up.

20 thoughts on “Creeks – Swimmin’ Holes, Part III”

  1. Great read – water holds a huge fascination for kids. We had a small burn (stream) at the bottom of our garden – maybe two to three inches of water above several inches of soft squishy mud. Every kid in the street fell into that burn at some point.

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  2. I am so loving these memories, I hope you don’t mind if I share this …same but so different.
    letter to my long dead parents who I owe everything to and who I love and miss daily still. I wrote a letter to them before on my blog but this new letter is all encompassing and full of things I wish I had told them more when they were alive. I have also included the poems I wrote about Mum and Dad below the letter.

    Dear Mum and Dad
    I don’t think I ever made it clear enough how I appreciated exactly what you did for me. It is only now as a parent and grandma that I see what you must of gone through.

    Nine children , you had, nine. You lost three but that was never your fault. How did you cope Mum it must of been hard, and Dad worse for you because in those days grieving was not the done thing. I lost three babies too I could not openly grieve either but you knew you silently gave me strength.

    I am in awe of how you always managed to feed and dress us all. There was always food on the table and somehow the doors were always open to waifs and strays who needed help. No one was ever turned away from our door without help of some kind. I can remember there being an endless stream of family friends, or distant cousins with problems arriving on our doorstep. Some stayed longer than others but no one was ever turned away. I really don’t know how we all fitted into that three bed roomed terraced council house, it must of been like the TARDIS.

    Who helped you, did anyone or did you have to struggle through, learning haphazardly! You, no doubt had too and that is why you were both such helpful parents. I am amazed at the sacrifices you must of made to keep us in clothes, shoes and food.

    Dad, you worked as a body maker for LT making seats on the buses and tubes! Off to work at 5am and home at 5pm for dinner then 6pm the BBC News … silence reined! You then spent most of your evenings in the front room either at the table or your desk with your ancient typewriter. You had men visiting you , sometimes one sometimes more all coming for help and advice because you were a union rep and congressman for the NUVB ( National Union Of Vehicle Builders). The last visitor was about 10.30pm. At work you were a union rep you gave so much to others and yet you always saved so much for us. When you retired you were tapped out the length of the factory. ( All the men stood by their machines spanner or hammer in hand and tapped you out of the building, a sign of respect. ) You only live a year or so after retirement.

    Mum you were such a gentle soul I miss you so, You left your body long before you died and that broke my heart because I could not reach you. I used to bring the boys to see you at the nursing home you spent your last years in… although I loved to see you it hurt that you did not know me and you did not see the boys growing up . I think you missed Dad so much that you left in soul leaving your shell behind.

    Mum remember Wimbledon week we had salad every evening because you loved the Tennis , funny thing Mum I can’t stand tennis! 🙂

    You have both been gone so long and I miss you both so. I need you here to give me the strength , kindness and love. See even now I am asking for your help. I am so selfish, I was so angry when you died Mum because you were not there to talk to me and help me, do you know it took seven years to accept that you had really gone. Then the flood gates opened.

    I have so many wonderful memories of you both. Getting up at 4.30am and sneaking down stairs to find you dad shaving in the kitchen, we would share your breakfast, porridge or boiled egg before you went off to work. Going with you to Chiswick Park on the tube on a Saturday. You would have a haircut while I sat and watched then maybe you would buy me an ice cream. Walking Steve the dog in the park … you always called him Brother …because of your union work no doubt .

    Mum you were always there when I came home from school, always played with me , I was the youngest of the family and by a good while so I was almost like an only child but not because everyone else was around but I too young to join them . I remember you telling me stories and teaching me to knit sew and crochet sadly all of which I am useless at! As I grew you helped me with life and although I never lived that near to you you always came to my aid if I needed you . When our first boy was born premature and unable to breath you came down to stay with me when P finally came home from hospital. He did not how to suck so you helped me to spoon feed him until we got him to use a teat. So many many things to thank you for .

    Mum and Dad you took all six of us and taught us everything you knew. How to face the world, how to love how to be friendly, caring and honest. I like to think that you are watching over us all and hopefully being proud of us…. well mostly. . I like to think that our beautiful sister Mary is with you to after her horrendous illness and death five years ago.

    I miss you and I love you !

    willow xxxxxxxx

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    1. Willow, so sorry for the loss of your parents and how hard it’s been for you. What an amazing family you had. This was so beautifully expressed. Thank you for sharing. Hugs of sympathy from afar.

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      1. Thank you Nancy , Mum and Dad died a long time ago but but it strange how deeply I still miss them Dad been gone 40yrs and Mum nearly 30yrs it’s just seems like yesterday sometimes. I wrote that letter to them because we never thank our parents enough do we . Thank you for reading 💜

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    2. Willow, what a lovely tribute and these feelings are often not fully realized until we have children and grandchildren of our own. I was 20 when I lost my mom and 39 when I lost my dad. I still miss them so much. ❤️

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  3. Maggie….just a wonderful post! I think I hit a rock when I joined in with my imagination! Lol…..never was a good swimmer! Thank you for taking us into your childhood!

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  4. Thanks for sharing (and reminding me of) some great memories. I only experienced a swimming hole when visiting cousins in Virginia. No safe place to swim, or even wade in out creek.


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