Wednesday, July 28, 2010

My first Command

Diamond Lake had a gathering place called 'The Pavillion'. It was popular during WWII. I remember watching our young Mom and Dad dance to a band. The Pavillion was heated by a big giant pot bellied stove. The inner walls, surrounding the dance floor, were very wide and painted a pale blue.

I crawled up into the big open round holes to view the goings on. I remember hearing a particular song one evening. Mom and Dad were slowly turning, on the wooden dance floor with other couples. I recall asking a nearby young soldier, quietly standing in uniform while watching the other young couples, "What is that song"? His quiet demeaner and reply is as clear in my memory all of these years later. "ALICE BLUE GOWN".

The little amusement park on the beach nearby, had an engine driven set of swing chairs, each on four chains, that flew out from the capstan as it spun. The engine would shake it's radiator and backfire as it was throttled by the operator. A Merry-go Round (Carouselle), driven by a similar engine, and the little 'kiddie boats' in a round tank of water, were the other 'rides'.

During the WWII years the little amusement park rarely was operated, and a big local event when it did. All too soon our entire little amusement park fell into disrepair and neglect. The Merry-go-Round with it's colorful horses and musical pipe organ, was eventually dismantled, as was the twirling swing ride and little boats. The Roller Rink was still in use for a few years from what I recall.

The little old wooden boats from the 'kiddie ride', were stored in an old screened in shed, under the roller Rink. Some crows that talked, were held in captivity in there, with the little boats.

Infonote: from younger sister:>)
Alice Blue Gown was a popular WW I song from 1919 Broadway musical ‘Irene’...then made into a film in 1940 (although doesn’t list it). Teddy Roosevelt’s daughter Alice favored the pale tint of azure which was referred to as ‘Alice Blue’.....

I vaguely recall a dilapidated merry-go-round and the round set of swings on metal chains at Diamond Lake Beach, but not the boats (note from brother: they were long before, 'set to sail' your older brother and his Pirate crews:>). The roller rink was popular when I was in 8th grade but it became a hang-out for more daring a ‘bad name’ so I stopped going there.

Adventure Story of the 'little boats':
In the midwest where I grew up on a very little farm, My first 'Command' was a pirated Derelict from an old abandoned amusement park from the 30's. The little planked wooden boat was just one of several left in storage from the very old 'kiddie ride'. Several of them escaped during a late winter storm..... and neighborhood kids.

After school, a half dozen of the most adventuresome 6th graders, held a meeting at a friends lake side dock, where the pirated boats had been pulled ashore. The future of the little boats were our discussion topic. Myself, being one of the tallest 6th graders...'Took the Con'... on one of the most seaworthy craft.

Three 'Pirated' ships were in my 'flotilla'. Only two (6th grade elementary school) 'men' per boat. A Bow man and a Stern man using sticks for oars, and even then, if not fer her skinny mates 'dancin' lively, she was often 'to the gunnels' and near swamping. Constant Baling was the Only way to keep her afloat. The planks were shrunken from years of storage, and took a bit of 'pounded rag' to keep her caulked and Seaworthy.

One crew had rigged a bedsheet amidship on their Pirate Scow, for sail and shelter. The most dangerous crossing was the deep lake with a bit of ice, runnin' a brisk and cold Chop at the time. No margin fer error. Our pirated ships, having lived their working life in a circular tank, had no flotation chambers. Definetly Not designed fer 'heavy weather' at sea.

The heavy winter thaw overflow from the spring fed lake, was sufficient at 'High Tide' to launch our fleet's voyage over the top of the overflowing retaining dam and flooded roadway.
The adventure was on. The Armada was underway, the uneventful float ride through neighborhood back yards and vacant lots was interesting, but mild in comparison to what was to come.

Each day after school, in the pouring rain, we repeatedly returned to our fleet, set sail for a couple more miles (nautical of course). Minor depressions of terrain in dry times, became navigable waterways during the major flood. Eventually the little fleet was destined to cross flooded fields, at first under and then over fences, shooting through fast running concrete drainage tunnels, over flooded roadways, under railroad trestles, and around flooded barns. Excitement and problem solving came while ducking under a mesh of 'Iron wire' telephone lines and navigating around the flood engulfed poles and crossarms.

Several times in open water, we came around in a 'Blow', and listed almost to the 'Point of No Return'. The tops of the fence posts were a hazard, Barbed wire on fenced fields, lurked below the waves. Each evening 'Shore Leave' was any firm place we could dock. The cold, water soaked crews, slogged through the mud, back to home port. The returns to warm shelter and 'Bisquit', became longer and longer each night.

The waters current became faster and wilder as we approached the larger flooded streams. Eventually all hands were busy to exhaustion, soaked and chilled to the bone. The other two ships were lost when their crews conspired, abandoned them in a mutiny, and never returned from 'shore leave'.

Me 'Flagship' stayed the course alone into the unknown and never before seen vastness of the flood. Our 'wreck at sea' came about during a wild ride down a majorly swollen River course that was way outside its banks. Gradually the current increased in speed. The distance that took us an hour to do previously, was speeded along within minutes.

The flooded fields were being covered by our craft at an ever increasing clip. As the minutes went by, the increasing current volume steadily speeded up. Quickly we were sucked into the fast moving more powerful current laden with flood debris, with no way of escape. Becoming totally out of control and mildly concerned, we became reduced to only hanging on for the ride. A rapidly approaching, major tree and fence line of flood debris, snagged our once proud vessel. We learned immediately about river 'Hydraulics' and it's dangers.

As our ship breached and slowly rolled under, in the deadly grasp of the long fence line of debris clogged barbed wire hundreds of yards from firm land, survival became very real. Me and me 'mate', grabbed on and began the crawl hand over hand along the debris laden barbed wire fer a hundred meters. The shipwreck and icey long trudge back to home port, took me and me mate, a couple of hours in the night rain..... in mutual silence..

Only By the Grace of God (truly), and Mom's Prayers, I am here today to tell the story of 'men' at sea. :>)


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