18 October 2008 Visiting the Past
It was a strange day today. I grew up on the near West side of Cleveland and haven't really been back since my parents passed. Today we were out with GG on a mission to hunt some of the remaining Cleveland Metroparks caches. We started with a cache in Bedford Reservation, but after that we were off to the west side to hunt a cache in the Brookside Reservation. I lived a few minutes from here and played here when I was young. Before it became a part of the Metroparks, it was a Cleveland park with an old New York Central steam engine in one of the parking lots. I played baseball here in th e summers when I was in elementary school. Later in high school, I used to come here with a girlfriend to play tennis. The road into the park used to be an old brick road down a really steep curved hill. As a youth, you needed to ride your bike down that hill (without killing yourself) to prove that you belonged. Next to the brick road was a ball field with seats mounted on a grassy hillside where locals could watch baseball games.
The curvy, brick road is paved now, but it doesn't matter since Cleveland Metroparks permanently closed that gate years ago to keep people from my old neighborhood out of the park. They won't say so, but it doesn't take a genius... The train is gone as well. It's funny how so many towns I visit proudly display old steam engines. The park is a lot more like a park now than a playground. It was great to see a buck so very near where I grew up. It was also nice to see wildflowers here too. Maybe they were there when I was young and I just didn't notice.
We left Brookside and made our way to Fernhill. When I was a child, we were here at least once a week for a cookout. My dad would cook hot dogs and burgers while my siblings and I splashed across a small stream to a ball diamond and hit the ball around. We continued that tradition a little less frequently until my mom and dad were in their seventies. Our last picnic here ended with my mom in the emergency room. Like her dad, my grandfather, she insisted on pitching into her seventies. Unfortunately, you can still pitch when your reflexes aren't what they were. She didn't dodge a line drive quickly enough. She was okay, but the regular picnics seemed to give way to that event and my nieces and nephews complete lack of desire to do anything physical or outdoors. I was surprised today to see a very large suspension bridge has been built to cross that very small stream we used to splash across. The ball diamond is gone too. It has been replaced with a solitary sand volleyball court.
After Fernhill we stopped at the Memphis Kiddie Park. I don't think I ever rode the rides here, but I remember all those great looking kids rides from the days we would stop on warm summer evenings and play pinball in the game room. We played putt-putt here once in a while, but always preferred the one on nearby Brookpark Road where we could also visit the driving range. Very little has changed here since my nieces and nephews rode these rides. Oh yeah, the game room is still there.
Rocky River was yet another stop for us. This area is a bit of a double memory. In high school, this was the place we would bring our cars and hang out after school if we didn't need to work that evening. After high school, this became a place I would go fishing with my dad, or brother, or brother-in-law. We were never very lucky with steelhead here, but we always had a great time. The marina is a lot bigger now than it was then. It was probably quiet here this summer when gas was $4 a gallon. Other than the bigger marina, not much has changed since I used to come here as a teen.
Things seem to change faster as one ages. At least today, I got to remember some fun times and gained a new great memory.