Picturesque trek cause for envy

It was mid-May 1947, and I was finishing up the sixth grade at Garfield Elementary. I overheard Dad talking to Mom about a proposed “business” trip that he was planning. It turned out that he and his boss, Mac, were planning to take Mac’s newly re-fitted cabin cruiser from its small shipyard on the Nanticoke River near Seaford, Delaware, to the Henlopen yacht basin close to Rehoboth Beach, Delaware.

This would require a somewhat arduous nearly 300-mile journey down the Nanticoke River to the Chesapeake Bay, up the Chesapeake, across the Chesapeake and Delaware Canal to the Delaware Bay, and down that bay to the Henlopen yacht basin where it was to be docked.

It would take about a week, if conditions were right, to make the trip. The reasoning was that, even though the boat’s destination was a mere 20 miles from the shipyard, that big, wide 30-foot cruiser would have to be trailored overland to get it there. This would be a bit cost prohibitive. Besides, where’s the adventure in that?

Oh, boy! The sunshine of opportunity had burst upon me! I told Dad that I really, really wanted to go along. Really! I petitioned Dad and Mom with every sort of reason to go that I could conjure up.

Dad called Mac about it and, after some solicitous reasoning by Dad, Mac relented. Now, for the biggest hurdle: Garfield. After Dad very convincingly told Principal Lovira Alderman of the great educational opportunity this presented, she gave the go-ahead. There would still be a week of school remaining when I got back. My teachers gave me some books to study while I was away. Ha!

It was Saturday. The 400-plus mile journey from Warren in Dad’s 1946 Chevy to the boat’s dock site in Seaford, Delaware, took about 10 hours. Mac drove his own car. The Pennsylvania Turnpike began on the other side of Pittsburgh at the time, and ended in Carlisle. I learned a few choice swear words when Dad got lost again in Pittsburgh.

Even though Mac’s boat was built by Chris Craft in 1940, it looked absolutely brand new. It slept four. This would be where we would live, sleep and usually eat on the trip. I met the skipper of the boat who would be the fourth person on our sojourn. His very sea-faring name was Winifred Brittingham, or Brit.

Fresh salt air, fishing, sunburn, occasional sea sickness and just plain great adventure were with me all along on that wondrous trip. We sailed every day, nearly all day, for seven days. I guess you could call it a picaresque journey, because there were new people to meet, new sights to be seen and new types of seafood to eat. The fishing was fabulous, and Brit showed me a lot about deep-sea fishing, and how to land a big one.

We arrived at our slip at Henlopen late Saturday. All aboard were tired but happy to have made that trip. Early Sunday morning, Dad and I said our goodbyes. We piled into the Chevy and headed back to good old Warren. Dad had marked my height on the back porch pillar before we left. I had grown an inch!

Back at Garfield, I could feel the envy that the other kids had for me. I had to present a talk about my adventure before my English class. I didn’t exaggerate one bit about my magnificent adventure, and the other kids were fascinated.

My English teacher, Miss Ada Alderman (Lovira’s sister), seemed a bit envious. She took the opportunity to make a few sly remarks about my not paying attention and told the class that it was time I got off the boat and came back to class.

I often think back to that great time that was part of growing up. It has always been great to return to Warren after these adventures — as you may see in subsequent offerings.

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


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