Now that spring has really arrived, city parks call out to me. They called Jamestown the “City of Parks,” and for good reason. The original city fathers reserved space for several large parks along the river through town. The one closest to our house was Klaus Park. The other larger parks were Nickeus and McElroy parks. Every one of them felt quite large compared to the city parks we have in Rochester. Maybe my ten-year old mind saw things differently?
Walking south from the Pink House through the alley for just one long block took me to Klaus Park. Nowhere in the world felt better than that park in that town in the mid fifties. Adult supervision was unnecessary, and the neighborhood kids made the most of it. After breakfast I would hop on my bike, or just walk to the park, staying until I got hungry or it got dark. There was much to do, and so many kids to play with. Today, large parks seem to focus on events, such as the “Take Steps” walk for IBD. In those days it was family picnics and kids playing. Wasn’t it just a couple of months ago the police arrested some parents for sending their kids to the park without supervision? Horrors!
Two major features anchored the park: the river and the game shed. The park department hired someone, probably a high school boy, for the summer to check out toys to the neighborhood kids. That little shed held more choices than you can imagine. Croquet, basketballs, baseball equipment, tennis racquets, a tether ball, and more. We dutifully told him our name, took the equipment, played for hours and then brought the stuff back at the end of the day. Tether ball and croquet were my favorites, the other games took a little more skill and training than I had. Baseball was the worst, and the game is still boring to me.
Besides the games was the river. The park was situated at the confluence of the Pipestem Creek and James River. An old footbridge crossed the river on the east side of the park. Just across the river the railroad tracks led to the lumber yard. We played under that bridge, mostly throwing rocks, and I could walk across the bridge to my friend Mark’s house and church. The bridge is still there, and golly, but it’s a rickety old thing. The train tracks are long gone. The right of way is incredibly narrow, I don’t know how they got away with running trains on it. There’s barely room for a foot path today. On the park side of the bridge was a 100-year-old huge and beautiful elm tree. Dutch Elm disease killed the tree in the seventies.
The park is built in an oxbow of the rivers, and throughout the park are old oxbows, now disconnected from the main river, soggy on the bottom, sometimes with a couple of feet of water, or ice in the winter. Where the rivers joined was a great place to fish, although I never caught anything but bullheads, and wouldn’t eat them or even take them home. Just upstream from that was the old CCC swimming pool on Pipestem creek. Remnants of the bathhouse, pool walls, and other buildings covered the site. In the river itself were rocks and broken concrete from the pool. We could explore that area for hours. And we did!
Besides the river and game shack, there were monkey bars, swings and slides, the dangerous steel pipe variety. For some reason, there’s also a collection of petrified wood. I’d be happy if someone could tell me why those rocks were there and where they came from.
I still enjoy driving through Klaus Park, walking on the old paths, and even having a little picnic. Every time we visit Jamestown I try to drive through the park.