Thursday, June 17, 2010

Wading into poignant memories of old Lewisville

Hump Day
By Brian Cormier
Wednesday, June 16, 2010
Moncton Times & Transcript
Editorial section

Although fall is my favourite season, I'm starting to like summer more and more. With central air conditioning in my house, I can actually sleep during those hot and humid days. Also, it's so nice to see all the life around the neighbourhood in the summer.

The construction crews have been working overtime around my house installing new water and sewer pipes on several nearby streets. The city is also installing a new wading pool in Lewisville Park across from my house. There was a wading pool there years ago, but it was taken out after its life had run its course.

As a kid, I remember playing in that pool often. It was painted light blue to give the water the illusion of a blue tint, I suppose. I also remember my parents telling me that there had been a plebiscite in the old Village of Lewisville (amalgamated with Moncton in the early 1970s) when I was very young.

The plebiscite was whether to build a wading pool or a full-fledged swimming pool. The wading pool won, probably due to cost, but also because there were so many young families in the area at the time and they would get more use out of a wading pool.

Lewisville Park has gone through a lot of changes since then. Because I live just a few houses up from where I was raised, I've watched the trees grow from mere saplings to large, majestic trees. I remember spending many hours during the summer in the old village hall that was converted to a park clubhouse after the village amalgamated with the city.

The hall was built in 1967 as part of Canada's centennial celebrations. The village only existed for a few more years after that, so most of my memories of the place were of making crafts and playing pool with the counsellors who worked in the park during the summer.

Eventually, with the neighbourhood changing and getting older, there weren't enough kids to require counsellors during the summer. Years later, the building was demolished after it fell into disrepair and became a hangout for loiterers.

There was also an elaborate fountain in the park that never seemed to work after it was built. It was quite artistic, actually, and made of rocks. I barely remember it ever working and it pretty much became a repository for broken bottles and garbage. Like the hall, the fountain was eventually demolished, too.

It's funny to think back to some of the old playground equipment that was there. There was a large red metal horse that several kids could sit on and push back and forth. When it worked, it would go quite fast and boy, did it squeak!

Thinking back, it was probably about as safe as playing with a chainsaw, but we always had fun. It's gone now as well and was likely sold as scrap metal. And there was the big sandbox, long gone, where we spent many hours playing and getting our shoes full of sand.

There were the monkey bars. Someone always got hurt every year on them by falling off. A photo of my brother hanging upside down from the monkey bars appeared on the front page of this very newspaper way back in 1974, I believe.

The paper also took photos of the rest of us playing in the park. Always wanting to be a journalist, I read the newspaper every day - even way back then. I remember literally crying when the other photos did not show me - except for my elbow. Nearly every kid on the street had their photo in the paper that day except for me. I was distraught.

One of the photos that made it into the paper was of a bunch of us pushing a merry-go-round - at least, that's what we called it. It was round and metal with several handles to hang on to. Your friends would grab on to the handles and twirl you around as fast as possible as you hung on for dear life. Sometimes, the bigger kids in the neighbourhood thought it was funny to really give us a scare and would twirl us with all their might.

They thought it was great fun. We just cried until they stopped. Good times.

Frankly, in today's protective world, I can't imagine that merry-go-round contraption in a playground these days. It was incredibly dangerous and someone always went flying off it like an airplane taking off from the runway. I'm surprised the paramedics weren't on standby.

During summers in the park, we'd always come home tired and played out. Our parents never really knew where we were. Times have changed, because now parents who don't know where their kids are every second of every day are considered to be negligent.

Back then, it was just normal. If someone got hurt at the park, they walked home crying. We went home for lunch. If it rained, we stayed home and watched television or did crafts in the old village hall at the park.

I remember playing with my dinky cars in the ditch in front my house. There are no more open ditches in the neighbourhood today, thankfully. They were filled in more than 35 years ago, but back then they were just as much fun as the park.

I remember crawling through drainage pipes under streets and listening to traffic drive over us. We dammed up the ditches and made roads for our dinky cars. One day, a huge rat the size of a horse popped its head out of a pipe. We screamed and told our parents.

Seeing a wading pool return to the park across the street certainly brought back a few memories for me this week. I hope the kids who use it over the coming years have memories to tell their own kids later on.

That park holds a lot of memories. I marvel at its evolution and the thousands of people who've used it since its creation in the 1950s. Long may it live. It will always hold great childhood memories for me.

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