Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Stories from Mom: Part 10, The Potomac River

The Potomac River.
This photo was taken by my nephew, JC Williams in the spring of 2012.
The location is right in the area where we liked to camp.



By Virginia Williams Kelly

I have had a lifetime love affair with the Potomac River. The happiest childhood memories, by far, are the summer vacations we spent on the Potomac River. Each year around the middle of July our family took a week’s vacation and it was always spent on the river. Dad had an old Ford with a running board and as we left Frostburg we were loaded down with all the essentials needed for a week of camping on the river. One summer we had an unfortunate thing happen to us. We had a flat tire and since a lot of our stuff was on the running board, including our extra tire my Dad had to unload everything to get to the tire and it made for a very uncomfortable time for a while.

We had tents that were set up on the river banks and as soon as we got there and as the tents were up we were allowed to go into them and get into our bathing suits and head for the river. Oh how happy we were as the river met our bodies and even though it was cold we never realized it because we were that happy to be there. After we stayed in the river until we were really cold we headed for the tents and what a blessed feeling it was to enter that ever so hot tent and let it warm ourselves. Just lying on our towels was ‘heaven on earth’.

In the meantime Dad was fishing for our dinner and since he was an expert at fishing we always had a nice fish dinner in the evening. Sometimes he would go ‘gigging’ for frogs and then we would have a nice mess of frog legs for our dinner. I know that this does not seem very appetizing to many today but to us it was a veritable feast.

Since it was summer and they had many orchards in West Virginia our parents always bought us a bushel of ripe peaches and we always thought they were the largest most juicy peaches ever.

Since we were allowed to eat as many of them as we wanted I think the families had a few children complaining of a stomach ache. We also had our fill of fresh corn on the cob and we could buy fresh country butter for it, which was always a great treat since we could not afford it at home. There we only had margarine which we called Oleo, and we had to color it with a yellow dye which always came with it. You worked it in the margarine with your hands, and that was a mess, I always thought. I hated that job and I disliked it with a passion.

We always went with another family, the Conrad’s, namely Pete, Elsie his wife and Max, Mae, Betty and Harold. Harold was my sister’s one and only love and they were married later on and lived a very happy life with their two sons Harold Jr. called Butch and Stephan. These two families got along very well and spent many years together on vacations. 


One episode I can remember I call the “cigarette caper” was when the girls, all early teen-agers, decided to smoke a cigarette. Because Pete was the only smoker we raided his pack of Lucky Strikes and tried our luck at smoking. We were four girls all about the same age, give a year or two apart. We walked up the road a little way from the camp and lit up our cigarette with each trying to take a puff or two. No one got sick because we didn’t inhale. We finally put it out and then got the bright idea of saving it until next year so we buried the stub in some leaves and walked home. Talk about na├»ve, stupid young girls: that was us.

We also had inner tubes from old cars which we inflated and we would walk with them up the river as far as we could go and then float down the river and do this exercise many times a day. Oh, how great it was to drift along, with not a care in the world and dream, dream, dream. At least that is what I did.
 
We vacationed along that river for many, many years and as our families grew and we got married we had another generation to introduce to the river and they fell in love with it as much as we did. My sister Dot and Harold and their family bought a cottage on the river and that is where my children spent their vacations. We lived in Cleveland, Ohio and it was great to have the river to go to each year with our children and they all learned to love it. My son had bad allergies and he also loved to sit around the camp fire at night but the night air was very conducive to bringing on the worst of his allergies. Since he was only two years old, the only way we could get him to bed was to put him in the car and drive him around until he fell asleep, so that is what my sister and I did each night.

Our older three children were all close in age, cousins, and they were teen agers together. There was a very large rock on the other side of the river where it was very deep so they would swim over to it climb up the back side of it and sun themselves and then when they got too warm dive into the river to cool off. They spent many, many hours on that rock. Today they still talk about what a wonderful time they had there.
But as time has a way of moving on the children grew up, married and had families of their own. And then we had several storms so severe that the cottage was washed away, never to be built again.
Today we still go to the river and still see the old rock and watch the people that now camp where we used to. They have mobile campers so that when the rains come they can move their homes away from the storms until it gets nice again.

There's Dad fishing. We all loved to fish!
Cambria "Camey" Williams (1897-1960).
 
That's me fishing. My brother took this picture. I was about 18.
 
 That's Dad and the truck that took us to the river. The running boards were always loaded.
 
 
Here's another photo taken by JC of the river near where we camped. 
 
And here's the big rock everyone lounged on and dove off.
 
That's Mama on the left with me and Dot. Possibly Elsie Conrad on the right.
 
Here's our family with the Fuller family sitting on the big rock. That's Mama on the upper left and me sitting just to her right, with my brother Camey below. Next to me and to the right is my sister Dot. That's Mrs. Fuller (Helen) on the upper right and Dick hanging on her neck. Sitting in front is Helen's daughter.
 
That's me, the tallest one on the left, with my sister Dot and our little brother Camey. Some other kid, possibly one of the Fullers, is holding the fish up. That's Dad's truck in the background.
 

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