Random Thoughts

The coming of spring in Melrose

... the woods were our playground in the forties

by Ann Robbins Talbot

We loved winter sports. Skating, hockey, sledding, anything that included snow. But the first hint of warm weather sent us into the woods. I lived in the Stoneham/Medford corner of Melrose, so we had plenty of woods to choose from.

Sometimes, on weekends, we would gather the neighborhood gang, all ages, and we would take the "short route". A brief walk to the Jerry Jingle, a dash across the Fellsway and we were facing the lowest of three waterfalls.

Water cascaded down under a bridge, splashing on the rocks below. The running water was mesmerizing. At the top of the fall, the surface of the water curved in such a regular pattern that we just sat and watched it. The younger kids would throw sticks into the pond on the upper side of the bridge. They would lean over the railing to shriek with glee when the sticks appeared under them ready to travel tail-over-teakettle down the falls.

Next we hiked through the woods around the small pond to a second bridge with a second waterfall and eventually to a third set of pond/bridge/waterfall. We thought nothing of flopping down on the wet earth or climbing up onto rocks being warmed by a few rays of sunshine. We knew our play place was called the Kissing Bridges, but we didn't quite know why.

Frequently on a balmy Sunday afternoon, the same neighborhood gang would set out for the "long route". We dashed across the Fellsway at Crystal Springs, the source of delicious, cold water drunk from our cupped hands. Then we set out on the bridle path, walking on the sides where it was free of mud and horse droppings.

Our destination was the zoo in Stoneham. It was small and not too fancy, but we loved it. Each of us had our favorites and we fanned out to our usual spots. Some watched the monkeys, others the deerlike animals climbing the rocky hill. My favorite was the pool where the seal swam round and round. He never varied his pattern, never turned around and swam in the opposite direction. The pool was only three or four times the length of his body so he didn't have a very long route. I loved his dark eyes and his ears, little holes on the sides of his head. He was there for my entertainment and I never considered that he might be unhappy or bored repeating his short journey over and over through the years.

I cannot remember the signal for everyone to meet near the house made of stones. We certainly did not own wristwatches. We hiked back past Crystal Springs to the corner of Wyoming Avenue. At Howard Johnson's we pooled our money, perhaps enough to share a couple of hot dogs encased in rolls grilled in butter and coated with mustard. We passed them around, each taking a bite, until they quickly disappeared. An ice cream cone deserved a special trip from home on another day. We felt very safe on our treks through the woods, the site of happy childhood memories.

April 4, 2008

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