The hot days of July and August bring to mind the simple pleasures we enjoyed in our youth. For those of my friends who owned bicycles it seemed there was nothing better than to ride their bikes through their neighborhood. For those of us who lived either in town or closer to town playing some kind of ball game was the favorite pastime. Sometimes as few as two or three would play on the sidewalks in front of houses or spill over into the street if our crowd became too large. At times we even searched for other places to play, like a nearby schoolyard or vacant lot – sometimes even the empty spaces provided by a nearby cemetery would do.
On hot sunny days my favorite thing to do was to put on my bathing suit while mom hooked up the lawn sprinkler. There was nothing more refreshing than trying to dodge the water from the sprinkler. Within minutes I would be drenched but cool. I remember how good it felt to feel the sun against my damp skin as I dried off.
Weekends were a bit different of course. At least once a month dad would wash the car; but when it came time to wax it he would take me along on the short drive to Riverside Park in Shelton. He would find a shady spot for the car while I explored the nearby hiking trails. I remember thinking how nice and cool it always was under the canopy of trees and sometimes pretended that I was an Indian maid looking down at the Housatonic River. (It wasn’t until about three years ago, while doing research for Honeysuckle Hill, that I learned that Riverside Park was the actual location of a fort built by the Pootatuck Indians all those years ago.)
The highlight of our summers was that mecca of amusement in West Haven, Savin Rock Park. Sunday afternoons we would set off for West Haven. The anticipation would build as dad searched for a centrally located parking spot. My most favorite ride there was the carousel. I loved hearing the calliope music as my trusty steed and I went in circles, waving at my parents as we flew by.
Our next stop was the boats (I don’t recall the name of the ride any longer). Little boats were floated one behind the other and mechanically moved along a channel of water in a sort of maze. Of course I had no control over the boat but it did have a ship’s wheel that I could turn and a bell I could ring.
The walk up and down Beach Street was usually the most fun for me. There were games of skill and chance to be played and I can’t remember a time when my dad didn’t win a stuffed animal toy for me. Dad would always buy mom her very favorite caramel corn – a confection of popcorn and melted caramel. There were photo shops where folks could go and have their picture taken with an old-timey backdrop as well as souvenir shops. Food vendors abounded as well in competition with the elegant sit-down restaurants that managed to survive into the 1950s.
I looked forward at the end of each Savin Rock excursion to having supper at Jimmie’s. Patrons had the option of dining inside the restaurant or eating outside in their cars, which we usually did. I would accompany my dad as we got on line to order our ‘World Famous Jimmie’s Hot Dogs’. Dad would place the order which was then called out by the barker – “Three dogs, one fry, one ring”. We would move along the line watching the grill-man slice the hot dogs open and place them face down on the sizzling grill. The aroma from that open air grill was marvelous; if you weren’t hungry when you arrived, you certainly were by the time you received your food. At the end of the line we received our order and returned to the car where we literally devoured the tasty treats. Nothing I have ever eaten has rivaled the taste of those hot dogs – even years later, wherever I would find myself in my travels – I would have a hankering for a Jimmie’s Hot Dog. Hmm, seems I still do.