Saturday, February 19, 2011

Savin Rock And A Soggy Sock


Looking at my phone to see what time it was became a puddle-skip fail.

The first day of 50 degree temps in the northeast brought a full parking lot at the Savin Rock boardwalk. The cement path stretches alongside 1.6 miles of West Haven, CT beach that was once the home of New England’s Largest Amusement Park.

Melting piles of dirty snow dripped into the Long Island Sound signaling spring to stay for a while. The grassy park that saw 50,000 people each weekend in the late 1800s, now displays picnic tables waiting for visitors to share a lunch.

“Excuse Me,” I said as I sped past two ladies walking their sweater-wearing lap dogs. They kindly stepped aside.

My view caught the movement of a mom with three young kids sitting in a beach chair while her little ones shoveled sand into their buckets. They played at the edge of Liberty Pier where 10 cents would buy you a ferry ride to the east side of New Haven in 1870.

A grandfatherly old man with a tree-branch cane took two startled steps to the right as I went around him. He was shuffling past the swing set. It sits on the spot where The Thunderbolt, an 85-foot high roller coaster screamed over the water in the 1920’s. Children of his generation would have been found on the carousel or ferris wheel; in a funhouse or an arcade. Now, those men gather for a game of bocce ball or horseshoes. The Great Hurricane of 1938 destroyed the theme park attractions of their youth.

On a steady pace, I nodded to the Latino man on a bench. He didn’t move or divert his gaze. Mesmerized by the Spanish sounds coming from the radio next to him, he stayed fixed on the slapping surf.

The warmth of a mid-winter day reminds those with cabin fever that summer dances will soon return to the center square at Savin Rock. The rides and hotdog stands are gone; the magic shows and cockfights have disappeared. West Haven’s landscape has been transformed but the spirit of recreation continues to be handed down, steadfast as the incoming tide.

On this pleasant day at the Savin Rock boardwalk I got more than a jog in time... I also got a soggy sock.

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