PERU- My earliest memories of Worthley Pond are of my grandmother loading my cousins Ang and Sis, and me into her car and driving us to swimming lessons across from the store at the beach. My gosh, how I hated swimming lessons.
The mornings were normally foggy and chilly, with dark overcast skies looming overhead threatening rain and the instructors urging us to stand still and pay attention when all I really wanted to do was wrap up in a towel and go back home to my comfy bed, at least until the sun shone.
I remember standing in the water as it began to rain on us and was overjoyed when the lightning would strike and the thunder rolled, because that meant I got to get out of the water and go home or sit in the car and wait for it to pass. More often than not, I got to go home.
Thankfully those lessons only lasted one week during July or August and after a couple years my mother didn’t make me go anymore. Then I got to sit on the shore or go sit out at “the rocks” and watch as my friends and cousins participated in class. I was content watching and eventually learned how to swim by private lessons with my gram, my mom and as I got a little older, my dad.
Later in my teen years, my dad would take every moment he had available to get me, my brother and sister on the pond with the canoe. The task was always to paddle the canoe out to deep water, tip the canoe and for us to get back in while preventing as much water as possible from getting in. We always wore life vests and we always looked forward to spending that time with him. My dad was all about teaching and lessons learned.
On other adventures he would don his flippers and mask and swim around us, pull us under, swim with us and race us. Of course, we didn’t have flippers, so guess who won! It was always nice to know that if dad got out of work before midnight we could always count on an after-dark swim at the pond. Those times have made for some great memories.
I remember having a half day of school on the last day before summer vacation and my uncle Danny picking my cousins, Ang and Sis, and me up, letting us sit in the back of his little white truck and taking us to the pond. We would spend hours there laughing, swimming, competing for the best underwater cartwheel and who could hold their breath the longest.
Those were the days.
During those summer breaks when we turned 8, 9 and 10, we were then allowed to ride our bikes to the pond. Ang and I would be in the lead with Sis following behind. We were always in charge of looking out for her since she was the youngest and smallest of us three. We would leave the house before noon with a couple dollars worth of change jingling in our pockets and our towels around our necks (and no helmets), and more often than not, our parents and grandparents would come down as the sun was setting to go for their evening swim and load our bikes in the back of the truck to head home.
The pond was a gathering place for friends, families and many old friends. Throughout the day young teens and tweens would cover the beach and the older teens would monopolize the dock and the big yellow-painted rock, sometimes bullying the younger kids. I was one of those younger kids who often came out from swimming only to find my dry towel and clothes tossed into the water.
When evening rolled around and the sun began to set, the older generation would gather to catch up on town gossip and to stand in the water up to their knees for what seemed like hours.
After all, we had been there all day in the hot sun, spent all our money on penny candy, soda and fries by three those afternoons and now we had to stand amongst the biting mosquitos while gram, grampa, Bob and Shirley, our parents, Ralph Hazelton, Junior Knox, the Plourdes and other local friends hung out and jabbered into the fading light.
If we had a nice stretch of weather, you guessed it, we would get up and do it all over again the next day. That’s where the Peruvians became friends with the students from Rumford and Dixfield. I remember meeting my friend Becky Wilson there and spending the day hanging out only to meet up again on the soccer field when school started.
I remember several summers when my family came up from Maryland and rented a cabin for a couple weeks in the summer. A couple years were especially exciting, as the cabin was located on Irish Farm Road and I was directly across from classmate Jolene Norris and my cousin, Tammy Arsenault.
Those two weeks were spent swimming back and forth across the pond to one another’s places, taking the canoe out to the middle and jumping off, floating on air mattresses until we were crispy critters and then loading in the car to play a little league softball game under the direction of David Cox.
As I got older and became of “dock monopolizer” age, me, Amy Newton and others in our core group of friends couldn’t figure out what the big deal was about the dock. We spread our towels, acted like the tough kids on the block, but didn’t see why we always thought the older kids were so cool up there.
Today, that dock is in a scary state of disrepair and caution tape encompasses it. The store and the beach have been sold many times and the public is allowed only on “the outlet” portion of the land.
Throughout my teenage years the pond became a place for exercise as me and my cousins and friends became more aware of our bodies and what we had to do to keep in shape. On several occasions I remember getting up early and tackling the 5.2-miles by bike, walk or run, and ending the training session with a nice jump into the refreshing water.
It wasn’t unheard of to see us back out for an afternoon ride, doing it all over again, because we just felt like it and it was still daylight.
When I was a senior in high school I found the pond to be my place to go when we were granted senior privileges and I could leave between class blocks or early on some days. It was a great way to get a little sun and energize for the rest of the day. And, after I graduated my cousin, Sis, and I would load up my little sister, Maggie May, and take her to the pond to play in the water and sand for hours.
The memories I have of Worthley Pond are of fun, relaxation, time spent with family and friends, coming home with several severe sunburns, and once in awhile with my feelings hurt because I was bullied for my not-so-perfect homemade bike or whatever the judgement of the day happened to be. I have delighted in looking back at my experiences.
Do you have fond memories of Worthley Pond? I would like to include you in Part Two of Worthley Pond Memories. Please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org or call me at 364.7893.