A recent story about a walking path along Bean Creek got John VanValkenburg thinking about his childhood in Morenci.
He has many memories of the role that Bean Creek played in the lives of Morenci children. Following are three.
By JOHN VANVALKENBURG
The Roller Mill Swimming Hole
Before the swimming pool was built in Wakefield Park, for years the “Roller Mill” was the place to go on a summer Saturday or Sunday afternoon. At any one time there were 20 or more boys and girls swimming at the Roller Mill.
Every spring we would re-stack the rocks on the dam. The original purpose of the dam was to run the belt equipment at the roller mill. The rocks would get washed downhill in the spring rains and numerous floodings. We would re-stack the rocks and deepen the water.
These were not just the youth of Morenci, but adults, too, would come to swim at the mill. It was not just the working class, but a cross section of the community. They would come not only to swim, but parents would bring their children to play in the water while the older adults sat on the bank to look after younger children.
Once in a while a family would bring a picnic lunch and enjoy a summer afternoon—just to enjoy the atmosphere.
On the east side of the “Mill Hole” was grey sand, not too muddy, where castles and digging could be done by younger children. This shallow side gradually sloped to the west side of the area where the water was deeper.
The west side of the mill hole was a steeper washed-out bank where every year with adult and kid ingenuity, a diving board was built. It was just a 2 x 12 plank, but it was strong and adequate. Mr. Fether (Wayne and Arnold’s father) helped on this diving board project at least once. The water on the deep side was about five feet deep.
Behind Fred Clark’s residence where Bill and Sammy Clark lived in Clarksville was an island that for years was in the middle of Bean Creek. It was reached from the Clark’s side by walking on a fallen tree from the east side and wading through the shallow water.
It was on this island that eight or 10 boys would meet on some periodic basis during the summer and sit around a wood fire with a circle of dragged up logs forming a triangle for guys to lean back on.
We would gather there in early Saturday afternoon and stay until supper time with guys coming and going. The Clark boys would often bring a couple of quart jars of their mother Myrtle’s canned beef with a pan to warm up the contents.
A few boys were the King boys, the Van Wagners (Bobby and Hal), Vernon Harper and several others from town. Maybe someone will remember more of these boys who came from time to time. We would just talk about whatever the subject seemed to drift to.
This island was also a gathering place in winter for Bean Creek ice skaters. The fire and lean-back logs served the same purpose. We would warm our bodies and feet before going back out on the ice. We would skate up or down the creek for quarter to half mile and then back again.
Just north of the island was a wide spot where we could play hockey with a tin can and a stick.
We would always have a few hot dogs and be able to roast marshmallows.
Fishing from the Bridge
The two areas mentioned above pale in comparison to the Fishing Hole by the old Creamery/Egg Plant. Every year as fish went upstream or gathered to spawn, one of the favorite fish gathering places was at the edge of Wakefield Park, the Bridge and Creamery/Egg Plant.
For about one month the fishing above the bridge was tremendous. Men and women gathered here at this spot to fish, with 25 or 30 people lining the banks to fish with all types of bait (fishing dough, worms, night crawlers, crickets and minnows.)
There was barely room to crowd in another fisherman. The number fishing was out-numbered by those watching. The bridge walk was lined with people watching.
The fish were so plentiful that no one went away without a fish. The fishing was good here because the Dairy dumped its residue off the vats into the water creating wonderful fish food. The same thing was true with the Egg Plant. The residue that washed into the water must have attracted fish.
Fish caught were largely carp, suckers and bullheads.
A picture in my mind is when Mart Swaney came down to the creek on the Wakefield Park side and bought three or four carp from the Nuoffer boys. I remember him going across the bridge toward home with his fish supper for Martha and him on a willow twig. Many spectators bought fish from the fishermen.