Memories of Girard picnic are still vivid

After some well-meaning misdirection, I finally found it. It’s called Girard Liberty Memorial Park. There it was — the lone sycamore tree (now huge) standing in a clearing just over a little bridge by a babbling brook called Little Squaw Creek. Rays of sunshine dappled the floor of this cathedral-like setting.

I got goosebumps as I surveyed that memorable scene.

For a while, I was alone, but a man named Lou Daus appeared on the bridge some time later. He seeks solitude there, and I can see why.

Let’s go back nearly 80 years…

I recall my first genuine outdoor picnic. It was in the summer of 1939. I was nearly 4 years old. Grandma (Dad’s mom), Mom, Sis, Dad and I all got into our 1938 Buick and headed from good old Warren to Liberty Park in Girard. Grandma and Sis rode in the back while I stood on the front seat between Mom and Dad. I was perfectly safe, because I knew that Mom would put her arm out in front of me in case we had to stop quickly.

Dad parked the car in the shade of that sycamore tree near that little babbling brook, unloaded the trunk of the car, and took out the back seat cushion. Grandma seated herself on it, and watched as the other two adults prepared the picnic.

We had roasted chicken and potato salad. I always got a chicken leg. We finished off that little picnic lunch with watermelon. Spitting out the seeds was the fun part.

I was fascinated by that little brook and began wading barefoot in the shallow, clear water. Mom was ever vigilant as I splashed around. The flat rocks were covered with green moss, and I soon slipped and fell down in the water on my rear — clothes and all.

I started to cry, but Mom began laughing. How could she? It wasn’t until I grew up and had kids of my own that I realized this was about the best reaction for a parent to have. The tears were soon dried, but I just had to let my clothes dry as I wore them.

Dad made a water wheel out of a stick and some of that sycamore’s bark that was all over the ground. He placed his creation between two rocks and the wheel spun merrily in the current. I could have watched that for hours.

There was some play equipment a little distance away and there was a little merry-go-round to ride on. The little kids would sit in the middle as the bigger kids (including my sister) would spin it ever faster. I didn’t realize the forces that were at play and soon was flung off my perch onto the surrounding grass.

When my kids were about the age I was then, they, my parents, my spouse and I tried to repeat that experience at Liberty Park. Of course, Grandma was long since gone, and we had folding aluminum chairs to sit on, so I didn’t have to wrestle a back seat cushion out of my car.

By the way, I failed to master making a little water wheel out of that sycamore bark. But my younger son, who was about the same age that I was back then, was flung off that merry-go-round just as I was more than three decades before.

I’d like to repeat that picnic at Liberty Park a third time now. The merry-go-round has disappeared. Sadly, my parents are long gone, and I won’t be able to take my kids or my grandkids there. They live many, many miles away.

Mumford of Warren, can be reached at columns@tribtoday.com

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