Kenwood Pools

Growing Up in the Greenbelts

March 20, 2015 2:22 am0 commentsViews: 150
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xCreekThe work that GOAL does in restoring the area’s woods, waterways and greenbelts is not only about ecological science; for many who grew up in and around Levittown, the woods and creeks hold a special place in their memories. Local kids spent a lot of time in the woods. Fish were caught and treehouses built, ghosts were seen, girls were kissed, and many fine adventures were had—all out of sight of the grownups.

I was always in the woods getting dirty. There was a tree fort somewhere that the older kids had built, and we haunted places we had christened ourselves, like Skunk Cabbage (because these stinky plants grew there) and Indian Rock (a huge boulder in the middle of the woods). We dug clay out of the embankment for school projects, climbed trees, played shoot ‘em up and had a blast getting wet in the creek while drinking what we thought was clean water. No self-respecting kid ran home to get a drink from their kitchen faucet when we had clear water bubbling over rocks in a shallow creek. —Alice Deeny

 Mill Creek section had a creek wrapped around it, surrounded by woods. It came out at one end between Mill Creek and Plumbridge, at the other end by the turnpike… We used to skinny dip in the creek—if we came home with wet clothes, we’d get in trouble. The water there was 4-5 feet deep in some spots. We found a big aluminum tub on a jobsite, it was meant for mixing concrete and mortar. That was our boat. We sailed it up and down the creek. But one day the Italian masons from the jobsite got wind of it, and came down and took their mixing tub back. —Darren / Levittown

I grew up at the bottom of Holly Drive, across from Bolton Mansion. The creek and the surrounding woods ran between Thomas Jefferson Elementary and George Washington Elementary. The weeds there were six feet tall. We would carve out tunnels through the tall weeds, leading to our fort, where we always had a stash of pretzels and Charlie’s Chips. We would sail down the creek on a raft we made out of an old wooden pallet. Once I took one of my Mom’s bed sheets, and we used it as a parachute for jumping out of a tree into the creek.

There was still, in the 50’s, an absolute abundance of wildlife in the Levittown greenbelts—rabbits, snakes, fish in the water, and snapping turtles that could take your finger off. We used to catch frogs and tadpoles. Some kids would stick a lit firecracker up a frog’s butt, but even as a kid I was more interested in learning about the rocks, trees and animals. I would eat wild blackberries, and with my knife I would cut off pieces of root from a sassafras tree. I would take the root home and boil it in water with some sugar. I would make my own root beer.

In 2009, after many years, I entered the woods again as part of a GOAL cleanup project. It was a heartbreak. The place was trashed. Why would anyone carry a bathtub down here, or a motorcycle, just to dump it? I stood on a rock and looked out over the whole mess. This had been our kingdom.  —Ed Armstrong