Bean Creek: a playground supreme 2008.10.29

Written by David Green.

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.swimminghole.bean.jpg

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.

Bean Island

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.

  • Front.nok Hok
    GAMES DAY—Finn Molitierno (right) celebrates a goal during a game of Nok Hockey with his sister, Kyla. The two tried out a variety of games Saturday at Stair District Library’s annual International Games Day event. One of the activities featured a sort of scavenger hunt in which participants had to locate facts presented in the Smithsonian Hometown Teams exhibit. The traveling show left Morenci’s library Tuesday, wrapping up a series of programs that began Oct. 2. Additional photos are on page 7.
  • Station.2
    STRANGE STUFF—Morenci Elementary School students learn that blue isn’t really blue when seen through the right color of lens. Volunteer April Pike presents the lesson to students at one of the many stations brought to the school by the COSI science center. The theme of this year’s visit was the solar system.
  • Front.leaves
    MAPLE leaves show their fall colors in a puddle at Morenci’s Riverside Natural Area. “This was a great year for colors,” said local weather watcher George Isobar. Chilly mornings will give way to seasonable fall temperatures for the next two weeks.
  • Front.band
    MORENCI Marching Band member Brittany Dennis keeps the beat Friday during the half-time show of the Morenci/Pittsford football game. Color guard member Jordan Cordts is at the left. The band performed this season under the direction of Doyle Rodenbeck who served as Morenci’s band director in the 1970s. He’s serving as a substitute during a family leave.
  • Front.poles
    MOVING EAST—Utility workers continue their slow progress east along U.S. 20 south of Morenci. New electrical poles are put in place before wiring is moved into place.
  • Front.cowboy
    A PERFORMER named Biligbaatar, a member of the AnDa Union troupe from Inner Mongolia, dances at Stair District Library last week during a visit to the Midwest. The nine-member group blends a variety of traditions from Inner and Outer Mongolia. The music is described as drawing from “all the Mongol tribes that Genghis Khan unified.” The group considers itself music gatherers whose goal is to preserve traditional sounds of Mongolia. Biligbaatar grew up among traditional herders who live in yurts. Additional photos are on the back page of this week’s Observer.
  • Front.bear
    HOLDEN HUTCHISON gives a hug to a black bear cub—the product of a taxidermist’s skills—at the Michigan DNR’s Great Youth Jamboree. The event on Sunday marked the fourth year of the Jamboree. Additional photos are on page 12.

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