a newspaper man adjusts his pen

Sunday, January 16, 2011

A Sunday afternoon

Ebenezer Covered Bridge at Mingo Creek County Park, Nottingham Township, Pa. (Scott Beveridge photo)

By Lorys Crisafulli

Mingo Indians? Mingo Creek? Mingo Park?

Each of these terms brings back different memories to me, but Mingo Creek means the most.

As a child in the 1930s Mingo Creek was the destination my dad chose to unload a 1933 Chevy full of kids so they could play in the "crick." One wide spot in the creek was near Ebenezer Covered Bridge in Nottingham Township, Pa.

It was deeper and more interesting than it is now, and that was our goal.

We could sit on a stone ledge and the water would flow over us. It was probably only one foot high, but sitting on that ledge and feeling the water was so great that we had to take turns.

The pool of water was large enough to float a couple of kids in an inner tube. Of course in those days tires on cars had inner tubes. We took the tubes out of tires, pumped them up with a hand pump and voila! - a child or grownup could fit in the middle with head, shoulder and arms above water with feet and legs dangling below. What heaven! 

Sometimes other families would come along - and yes - with food. A picnic. Myrtle Caldwell, my best friend's mother, always brought the best homemade pies, cakes and even cupcakes. My mother always had fresh baked buns. (We never had Town Talk Bread or store-bought rolls. Her ham that she had baked the day before was to die for.

Dad always sharpened the butcher knife with a long stone called a "honer." He would slice the ham so thin you could almost see through it. Mom piled each bun high with ham, wrapped it in waxed paper and put it in a basket lined with a fresh tea towel. We also had water in half gallon milk jugs. That was our picnic.

We were never allowed to go in the water after eating because "WE WOULD DROWN TO DEATH." Instead, we explored.

In those days Mingo Creek County Park was just several farms.

Mr. Barr had told my dad we could use that part of the creek anytime - just avoid the animals.

Of course there was no parking lot, only a huge swamp with cattails and frogs.

We loved it. We also collected "minnies" (minnows) in jars and the crayfish that snapped at our toes.

The best sport was skipping stones across the water.

We spent a lot of time looking for the perfect flat skipping stones. We also hunted round, white stones, which were considered to be lucky stones.  We would carry them in our pockets for days. They were small, maybe a half inch wide at most, and probably took centuries to get that way. Lucky us. 

If we had a big picnic it included relatives from Hazelwood and Bridgeville. We would have ball games in the big sheep pasture, using "roundies" or dried sheep droppings for bases. Aunt Molly always made sure she took home Uncle Ray's handkerchiefs full of that sheep manure to fertilize her house plants.

This was the era of the Great Depression.

Even into the 1960s and 1970s it was still a rustic area that was ideal place for a child to spend an afternoon with grandma and pap. We - my parents and son Dan - would excitedly put together a picnic basket and head for Mingo.

Pap and Dan would look for stones and minnows, toss a ball and wade across the creek. After an hour or two we would head home - a 15 minute drive - for an afternoon nap while I thought about the chores I should have done.

Now Mingo Park with its rest rooms, picnic tables and bike trails is as restorative and delightful as it ever was, even though the frogs and cattails are gone. 

It is still the best place to spend a Sunday afternoon.

Lorys CrisafullLorys Crisafulli is an entrepreneur and retired schoolteacher from Monongahela, Pa. She is known around the globe as Miss January, producer of a 2008 calendar featuring older women posing semi-nude for portraits to raise money for charity.

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