Box Hockey and Summertime
by Brian Coll
My dad Jack handed me a stack of black and white photos that he just had printed. Yeah, we still print photos, you should too, there’s something to be said for holding a photo in your hand or looking at a printed photo on a wall or in a scrapbook…. so anyway. He hands me a stack of black and white photos and about two in, I find a great picture of box hockey. Now, it wasn’t my park, I was a Sutcliffe Park kid, you know, the west side of the borough. This was a photo of Mary Wood Park, at the old little building at the bottom of the park that recently got tore down to make way for the new playground equipment.
The photo brought back some memories, and then I flipped to the next photo and sure enough it was Sutcliffe Park. You can see the houses along 10th Ave that back right up to the park. Those kids had it made, their parents could just send them to the park and holler when it was diner time. Me, I had to watch the lights, it was like a science, watching the lights, but lets be honest, I never got it right. I was always late, always late with an excuse. And wet shoes. Always late, with an excuse and wet shoes. Wasn’t that the fun part though? I hope my kids get to experience that, or at least a little of that, not sure I want the wet shoes in the house every day.
I guess I have to explain the wet shoes. There was a tiny little crick at the bottom of 7th and 8th Ave that ran into the park, in fact it still does, it just seems so much smaller now. When I was a kid it was like a different world back there. You’d find all kinds of stuff, old beer bottles, random household items, and there was some always some older kids who would have a stash of old Playboys hidden away in the woods somewhere. Little side note here…I just saw where an author hid a treasure chest in the Rocky Mountains a decade ago that was just found, pretty cool story actually if you want to look it up. So, Conshohocken backwoods treasure to a few ten year old kids may have been that stash of old Playboy magazines. Not that any of us knew what we were looking at back then, and trust me, after crawling out of those little woods and crick smelling like well, a crick, no girl was coming anywhere near us. So, most summer nights, long after the scientific light approach was out the window, I’d lug my bike back up 9th Ave and head for home. With wet shoes. Now, it doesn’t sound like that big of a deal, but when you had one pair of shoes, one pair that had to last the school year and summer, you had to get those shoes to dry before the next morning. So you could get a little wet, but not soaking wet, or else you had to put those swampy sneakers on the next day.
Let’s get out of the woods, away from the wet sneakers and the stash of Playboys and back to box hockey. I’m not even sure box hockey exists outside of the Conshohockens. I know the West Conshy kids had it too, in fact they still do. West Conshy has a great Parks and Rec program in the summer for the kids there. Box hockey was the bomb! Kickball ruled at the Fellowship House all fall/winter/spring under the watchful eye of Frank Z and Floyd, at least for my youth…. if you’re a little older maybe Mr. Donofrio watched you play, if you’re a little younger maybe Darlene watched you play there. Come summertime though…box hockey.
You know what I remember about the parks in the summertime? The lack of everything. No one had money when the ice cream truck came around, somehow I remember having red lips occasionally from some kind of popsicle. Did the water fountains ever work? Kids today have bathrooms, we had the woods and if was the other kind, well, hopefully you could peddle your butt home fast enough, but then you had to get out of the house as fast as possible and back to the park before some household chore caught up to you. The parks were like a sanctuary to a kid. I’m sure that goes beyond just Conshohocken, but hey, I write and publish the articles and stories here on Conshystuff… so I focus on what I know, and I know this square mile and the community at large. I also know that if you waited for the street lights to flicker to life, you would probably be up late enough to catch some lightening bugs, I know, somewhere someone is asking what the hell is a lightening bug, and to them, it’s probably a firefly. I’ll get this next one out of the way…. wooderice. On a hot day if I could bum a buck from my mom, or two so me and my sister Jackie could each get one, we’d get ourselves some wooderice. Yup, said it. I can’t say it any other way. My wife didn’t grow up here and I have to hear it from her all the time because my kids now say wooder and not water. So, in one article, I’ve talked about cricks, lightening bugs and wooderice. Can you tell Conshohocken isn’t too far from Philly?
You know what else I remember about every summer? The fairs or carnivals that would pop up. One church or another, a fire company, a local group of people looking to spread some joy in the community. I’m sure someone besides the carnies were making a buck on the event. We had some good ones here over the years. Most of the carnivals were to raise money for one organization or another and Conshohocken has been lucky with some great volunteer fire companies as well as churches that always seemed to step up in time of need.
And sure enough, about 6 photos into this stack of photos was a fair of some sort from one of the years…. I miss those events. I have taken my kids to carnivals and fairs in other communities in recent years and it brings me back to Spring Mill, or the B Field or even where Santander bank is now at the corner of 7th Ave and Fayette Street.
While I consider myself lucky to have grown up in Conshohocken in the 70’s and 80’s, the parks and Fellowship House helped raise me, and the carnivals and fairs, well, as you got a little older and a little more freedom, isn’t there where you’d go and look for the cute girl or boy that you never had the courage to talk to during the school year… maybe they’d be there. Maybe they’d have a friend for one of your friends? I’d say the summertime carnivals and fairs helped get me through some of those awkward early teenage years. Maybe you’d throw some darts at a balloon, it seemed like the one game that wasn’t rigged, or if you were lucky, they’d have that bb gun game where you’d get 100 bb’s to shoot out the star or something…. The rides at those things…. oh man…. some of them were super lame and others were what seemed like death defying, and they were.
Now, while there wasn’t a picture of Josie’s in this stack and black and white photos, I can’t go back to summertime in Conshohocken and not mention Josie’s and the other great candy stores in the borough. What was your favorite? What block were you on? What park was yours? Totally out of the blue, but I heard Edwards Freeman is opening back up soon, I feel for them and all the businesses in our community through the coronavirus shut downs. Let’s get out and support our local places.
Thanks for looking through some old photos with me and going down memory lane.