The entrance to Klaus Park
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! Continue reading
One of my closest friends when we lived in the Pink House was Nathan B. He was really a lucky kid because his mother would make toast for him whenever he wanted it. They lived in a rented house between our house and the park, right along the James River.
One warm summer evening we had one of the most exciting times ever. All summer Nathan and I combed the railroad yards for half burned railroad flares. It was finally time to use them. We found a little cove along the river near his house and started lighting flares. We thought we were nicely hidden and private where there was no way that parents could see us.
I really don’t know what’s in a railroad flare, but they had to be bright so the engineer at the front of a fifty car train could see what the brakeman back in the caboose was trying to say. They may have had black powder, and some chemical that caused them to burn blindingly bright for a long time. Probably not something an eight year old should be playing with. After dark. With a bunch of friends. Let’s just say we had a lot of fun.
Even in those days I was one of the first ones to leave the party. My house was only a block or two away, so it was a quick run home. When I got home and looked up the river towards Nathan’s house there was an astounding sight. A warm red glow lit up the entire river, side to side and from water to tree tops. I could clearly see the other boys playing with the still burning flares. Anyone crossing the second street bridge could have easily seen what we were doing.
Little did we know that the way the river twisted around, the entire neighborhood could see us clearly. Since we were night blinded by the flares, we had no idea who could see us. Why nobody saw us having that much fun I do not understand.
The rail yards gave us boys a lot of fun experiences. By comparison, today’s railroad tracks are incredibly sterile and boring. Perhaps they’re a bit safer, too?