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long road home Signposts and Junctions      

Barbara Ridgway - Manchester, Ct

(note: I put this together from several emails Barb sent. It is a fine memoir in its own right.  Thank you,     Laudizen)



Thank you so much for your reminiscences of Manchester. I was one of the of transfers from Highland Park to Bowers, so we must have known each other somewhere along the way - I certainly recognized many of the names you mentioned. Your writing brought back so many memories, almost all of them good ones. I'm still in touch with 3 or 4 friends from the area, but have only been back a couple of times, and feel a little lost when I do - so much has changed. You were quite right; it was a good place to grow up, even though I didn't appreciate it at the time.
My early years were spent on Helaine Road, and I went to Buckley Elementary (the neighborhood was called Rolling Hills? something like that...). Then we moved to Boulder Rd, off Pitkin St, and that was my Highland Park era. As I recall, the school was just plain overcrowded and that was why the older students were bussed out. I believe it was only temporary, as sometime later they built a large extension on Highland Park. I actually did both Grade 5 & 6 at Bowers. After that, it was Bennet JHS for 2 yrs, 1 yr at East Catholic, & then 2 yrs at MHS - so you can see I managed to hit a lot of territory in town.

I particularly enjoyed your recollections of Salter's Pond, something that had mostly slipped from my mind. We went there most days in the summer, swimming lessons followed by a picnic lunch on the beach. I only saw the BAB once or twice, as my older brothers insisted that it was BOB - Boys Only Beach. They also assured me it was full of leeches, which was enough to keep me away. Most clearly, I remember the concrete dam on the far end of the pond, that had "Keep Off" painted on it in big red letters. In order to be allowed to swim over your head, you had to pass a "Dam Test" that involved swimming to the Keep-off & back while a lifeguard supervised. For years, I thought keep-off was a real word that meant 'big concrete dam'.
The amount of freedom we had as children is almost impossible to believe now. On summer days, we simply left the house & went wherever we wanted, as long as we were home for dinner. After supper, the rule was home when the streetlights came on. I remember games of baseball in vacant lots like Pitkin's Field (there's a church there now) and games of hide & seek or Red Rover that seemed to involve the whole neighborhood. No limit on teams, anyone who showed up could play, and we did - for hours. We also spent a lot of time on Case's Mountain, and a place on Porter Street we called the Lily Pond. We built snow forts, tree houses and dammed brooks. Boulder Rd was fantastic for sledding, although many trees made it like slalom course and there were a few semi-serious crashes. Apparently, everyone trusted we would be safe, and amazingly, we were, for the most part.
We went back about 10 yrs ago & spent a week exploring the old haunts. So much was changed, but some things remained. Shady Glen, as you say, was a joy. We spent a day at Marlow's store downtown, too, which was like walking into an episode of the Twilight Zone - exactly as it was in the 50's. Mr. Marlow actually came up to us and gave us a tour, telling us how they had managed to stay in business by specializing in obsolete & hard-to-find objects, for which they received orders from all over the country. He was hopeful that one of his grandchildren might take over the business, but sadly, I have heard that it was sold a few yrs ago.
I do have some old home movies that my mother converted to DVD - I'll have to go back & see if there are any of Salter's Pond. I know there were several of the Memorial Day Parade - I guess every kid in Manchester probably marched in that at least once. I'm not sure if my computer has the capacity to edit them, but if so, I will try to send you any snippets of things like that.

Once again, as they say, Thanks for the Memories.
Barbara Ridgway (nee Donovan)
April 3, 2009