Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Time Travel - Highland Park

Recently I was curious what I would find if I "googled" the old park we used to play at when I was a kid. I remember it being a lovely place with a public pool; us kids used to pay 5 cents for a basket to check in our clothes and towel, and in return we'd get a pin with a number that matched the basket. When we were ready to leave, we'd turn in the pin and the counter person would retrieve the basket with our belongings. Many a summer day was spent going to and from the pool. On the way we would go through one of the alleys and pick wild raspberries to eat en-route!

The major grassed in portion of the park was kept mowed by my friend's dad. He worked for the City Parks Department and drove a big tractor. His skin was tanned and leathery, with deep crevices from the sun drying his skin. (Big Al. That was his name - and he had our horrified admiration for being able to suck an egg out of its shell and eating it RAW!!! OOOOO!)
The manicured lawns were used mostly by golfers that came to practice their swings. I know that because my dad was one of them! Many a Saturday my brother and I would shag golf balls for dad - he'd hit them out to us at the far side of the park right about where that soccer net is located. When we got home, it was my job to wash the golf balls and scrub all the dirt and grass stains off them. I got paid 50 cents for this chore!

There was a wooded area in the park, with trails, and big rocks nearly hidden by the weeds and trees. (Dad said Magoochi the Indian was buried beneath one of those big rocks! I wonder if Magoochi was part Italian??) I loved the trails the very best! There were Tiger Lilies growing in the woods, and my friend and I liked to pick them for our moms. The trails weren't marked - and we never got lost. They were easy traveling, and one trail even led to some cemented rocks that served as steps. They crumbled and a few were replaced by railroad ties, but time removed those as well.

There was a creek running through the park, with large man-made tunnels at either end. Dad said he used to go through the west tunnel when he was a kid, and it went towards downtown - it was kind of a drainage below the streets. We were forbidden to go in the tunnels - it wasn't safe, and the Boogieman lived there looking out for little children to steal! I also remember a big walking bridge that arched over behind or alongside the public pool. Dad used to take us there on hikes - that was before it was torn down to make room for the new-fangled expressway.

I did find this photo when I googled the park association - it shows what the park used to look like many years before, perhaps even before my dad was a kid! I never remember seeing any of the park that looked like this! I suppose they couldn't afford to keep it up any more and decided to simplify things for the city budget - and now, there is no longer any public pool for the kids. Too expensive an upkeep for the city.When taxes were raised to fund the park and the upkeep, it makes me wonder if they considered lowering the taxes when the flowers and the pool and the other attractions were removed.....Obviously it is cheaper to maintain, right?

Here's what Google had to say about Highland Park:

The Highland Park neighborhood is a transitional urban neighborhood with close proximity to the downtown area of Grand Rapids. It is currently a single-family residential neighborhood with scattered apartments and multifamily rental units.

The neighborhood's geographical makeup consists of a valley section to the south and west and an elevated hill section to the north and east. A natural wetlands creek and woods bisect these two contrasting topographies. A focal point of the neighborhood has been Highland Park itself over the years. The park was assembled from many small purchases that began in 1873. The park contains approximately 30 acres of fairly rough terrain, as some of the park lies in the Coldbrook Creek Valley between College and Grand Avenues.

Historically the area was an ethnic neighborhood of Polish and Czech families, mainly centered around St. Isidore's Catholic Church and parochial school. St. Isidore's remains a focal point in the community today. The housing in the neighborhood ranges from 40 to over 100 years old and presently remains well constructed and maintained.

Walking back in Time,


LV said...

What an interesting feature today on the park. You did a lot of research and your memory bank for all this good information. Nicely done. Do not forget to visit me Thursday.

Angela said...

Hey Monica!

How cool that you lived near a park with a pool when you were a kid! We didn't have anything like that when I was a kid.

That sure did look like a beautiful park in it's hay day! That is something how long it has been a park too! I'm sure back in the late 1800's they never dreamed that their park would have soccer fields on it in today's times!


^..^Corgidogmama said...

Loved today's post Monica.
I grew up doors away from the city park in tiny town USA, and always considered part of it my back yard.
It had a swinging bridge that crossed the river with missing wooden planks back in those days, and we'd get the bridge to swinging, as it was suspended by cables. We swing and sing at the top of our lungs...the burning of the school, to the glory glory hallejuiah tune...oh my, such good little catholic girls were we!
Thanks for reminding me of my own park experiences. Loved hearing about yours~!

Chatty Crone said...

That sounded like a wonderful park when you were growing up - a lot of good memories. Beautiful and so nice with the pool.

So this is progress?

rose said...

I have the same memories like you do of the old times were you feel like nothing could stop you from enjoying the outdoors. HAVE A GOOD DAY.

Anonymous said...

I, too, have wonderful memories of city and state parks from my childhood. Your post sent me down memory lane.

Brenda@Cozy Little House said...

Makes me want to start Googling some old places I remember! Thanks so much for filling me in about that old table.

Whosyergurl said...

Sweet memories! Our pool used the same basket system.
Your blog looks good. I've made changes and I'm not so sure...I'm using the new design layout. we'll see. I had a heck of a time trying to get my photos uploaded & couldn't get everything right!

ocmist said...

A trip down Memory Lane... Sounds like a really beautiful place, when you were young, to play in. We spent a lot of time at the pool downtown when I was a kid, and we had the same kind of situation with the baskets and the pins. Interesting that you were able to Google it and find it.