Slow and easy for Dutch challenge

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Me on the Ball Fields Across from the Home I Grew Up In
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Image by ursusdave
And that’s me, at about 15-or-16-years-old over in the Baltimore County Recreation and Park’s ball fields across from my former home on Dunmanway.

There were four Baltimore County Recreation Department baseball fields right across the street from our entire block. Plus two soccer fields; one of which was also used as a football field. The competitive sounds along with the spectators’ cheers of little league baseball, football or soccer games being played there was a lively and welcomed addition to the soundtrack of my life. I never got too into playing organized team sports, but I sure had fun over there watching games and hanging out with all the other spectators.

I did play in a lot neighborhood pick-up baseball and football games over there though. I preferred the casual atmosphere of pick-up games to the oft uncalled for dirty tactics of trophy-minded parent-coaches, plus the aggravating rule book pounding antics of player’s parents. And, as you probably also know from national new reports, it gets a lot worse with some parents and parent-coaches at 21st Century children’s competitive games.

Dunmaway was a good place to live.

A half-a-block down the street from my childhood home on Dunmanway was Baltimore County’s Merritt Beach.

If you take a quick look at the baseball backstop fencing at the top, right side of the photo, you can almost see through the fencing and into the entrance for Merritt Beach.

When I turned 11-years-old, I began taking Red Cross swimming courses "down the Beach". We neighborhood folks rarely ever said, "Merritt Beach," it was "down the Beach" to us. I took Red Cross swimming lessons down the Beach every summer, from when I was 11 until I was 14–when I passed the Red Cross Junior Life Saving test. The only difference between Senior Lifesaving and Junior was that you had to be 16 to take Senior, they swam more laps than us and had to swim out three times as far to save a ‘drowning life guard’, to pass their test.

In 1965, Merritt Beach was closed to swimming. It was the summer before I turned 16 and was old enough to take my Senior Life Saving there. It was closed due to the terrible water pollution caused by the Bethlehem Steel Mill, in Sparrows Point, over across the back waters of the Chesapeake Bay that we swam in down the Beach.

Entrance fees for the Beach were a quarter for anyone 15 or under, and fifty cents for anyone over 15.

But then, I was a neighborhood boy, weren’t I. And there was a locally well known way to sneak into the Beach without paying. It was a path through shoreline trees and bushes, way across the other side of a school field from the ticket booth. It was on the other side of Merritt Elementary School–my Alma Mater. And young Dave, that’d be me back then, was probly the best there was at utilizing that free path to fun in the sun.

If you got caught sneaking in, the lifeguards told you that you had to help them clean up the day’s litter from the beach, along side them at the end of the day. I never got caught more than twice. But it was a lot of fun when two or three of us younger teen sneakins on litter patrol got to making horse playin’ challenges with any of the 16 to 20 some-year-old lifeguards, who would gladly wrestle any two or three of us aggravaters into the sand. I never knew any guy who got caught sneaking in to not show up at the end of the afternoon to pick up beach litter, like the lifeguard had ordered them to. It was all part of the fun. The Beach was one of the best local teenage hangouts there ever was, anywhere, in any century. There was no way we locals would ever get ourselves barred from there for not showing up at the end of a great day at the Beach to work for the entrance fee we had tried to sneak past.

Anytime I snuck into the beach, that two-bit ticket price I saved by sneaking in bought me one ten-cent twelve-ounce soda, full sized candy bars were a nickel, so were small bags of pretzels or chips and also any one great Rock n’ Roll song on the jukebox played for a nickel. But there were times I snuck in ’cause I didn’t have a quarter. Even though my father had a good full time job in a steel mill, and my mother had a good part time job at Hutzler’s Department Store in Eastpoint Mall. That’s the way it was with all middle class Americans back then. We always had a nice, comfortable home, enough groceries and good clean clothes to wear though. And I never heard of any family around us ever loosing their home due to foreclosure or eviction.

The Beach was often packed with picnicking families, especially on weekends. Down there at the former Merritt Beach, there is still a very cool, breezy, large, nicely spread out picnic area under great shade trees at what now is called Merritt Point Park.

Dunmaway was a good place to live.

The Way That I See It Is…
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© David Robert Crews {a.k.a. ursusdave}

email: ursusdave{at}yahoo{dot}com

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