Sunday, February 22, 2009

School photos

Here's a Richmond Junior High class photo from 1955-56, my 7th grade year. I guess I missed the photo day, because I'm not in this one. Or perhaps this wasn't my home room? These faces are very familiar to me, however. Do you recognize anyone here? Note on the back: Miss Doherty's Home Room.

Do you remember the Friday night dances at Richmond Junior High? I'll be writing a few memories of "Canteen" in my next column.

I was trying to find a 7th grade photo of me, but instead I found this school photo from 10th grade, Holton High School Room 28, 1958-59.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Potholes in winter

This month I have written about the potholes near my childhood home. Icy conditions made them worse. See
[Link not working 4/6/21, so I've copied the original text from my computer and inserted it below.]

Note: the section of Nichols Street that I describe has been rebuilt and renamed. It is now called Conifer Hill Drive. I hope its pavement is in better condition, without potholes.

Potholes and Patches
By Sandy Nichols Ward

The street in front of our little house was challenging to navigate in winter. It curved around a narrow bend and sloped slightly downhill. An underground spring north of us added moisture to the soil and caused rivulets to run across the road just as it turned by our house. In winter this flow could spread and freeze into a broad sheet of ice, making the corner particularly treacherous. Uneven spots would develop into potholes, collecting more water. As cars hit the potholes and splashed water out, it froze on the pothole rims,  building the edges higher.   

I remember deep ice-ringed potholes that looked like frozen volcano tops. Down inside each volcano was a cold puddle skimmed with new ice.  I was tempted to tap it with the toe of my rubber boot or poke it with a stick. I was ready to play with these winter puddles, but of course my parents enforced a strict rule about not playing in the street.  So I had to walk briskly across, firmly held in a parental hand, navigating between the potholes without stopping to play. We walked up the hill to go sledding or skiing or tobogganing on the Locust Lawn hill.

My mother worked hard to prevent the dangers of the ice-encrusted street. She complained frequently to the Town of Danvers about the on-going drainage problem, hoping that THIS year they would really fix it. Not waiting for town action, however,  she would take hoe in hand and create her own ditches along the east side of the street to direct the water down past our house and toward a hollow where it could run without causing harm. She did this each fall in anticipation of winter. Snowplows, however,  often dug too deeply into the dirt mounds beside the road, thus destroying drainage ditches my mother had labored to create. It was an on-going battle. She repeated this work each spring as snow and ice melted and the water flow increased. My sister and I and other children in the neighborhood were enlisted into her ditch-digging crew. Sometimes we resented this forced labor, but at other times we relished the permission to play in the water and become our own civil engineers, re-directing streams this way and that, using hoes, rakes, and sticks. We played more than we worked. I'm not sure how much we really helped. 

One year my mother decided to take pre-emptive action and build a "thank-you-marm" (a ditch with a larger mound, like a speed bump, all the way across the dirt road above us) to divert the flow of water higher up the hill before it could approach our house. This worked fairly well, but never completely eliminated the seepage of water along our street.  

I remember Nichols Street as an endless series of potholes and patches. My mother thought it had never been properly paved. It evolved from a dirt road with a few patches,  to one with layers of patches upon patches. That was the story we heard in the 1950's.