The 1950s were a much different time for kids to grow up in. Our parents didn’t keep us on a leash like today. From a bowl of cereal in the early morning until we fell through the front door for supper, our mothers didn’t see us. They seemed not to be overly concerned about what we kids were up to. I think they just accepted that we were boys doing what boys did, which was pretty much live a Huck Finn existence during the summer months.
Much of our time was spent hanging around bodies of water, either fishing, seining for bait, skipping rocks, building rafts, of swimming. To my knowledge there was only one privately owned swimming pool in Greenfield in the 1950s and the freshly completed Rocky Fork Lake was too far away. The bodies of water we could reach by foot or bicycle included Paint Creek and its many tributaries along with a few farm ponds.
The principle water hole was Paint Creek between the mill dam and Red Bridge. Red Bridge was the old iron structure that crossed over Paint Creek at the bottom of 2nd Street and was then a part of SR 41. One of the rites of passage for every boy my age was jumping into the creek from road deck of Red Bridge. To further your level of machismo you had to dive head first or climb to the top of the bridge and jump. Only real men did the latter.
Another great attraction of Red Bridge was a large sycamore tree that hung out over the water and to which someone had attached a strong piece of rope. It was great fun arching out over the swimming hole and letting go of the rope. One rule that nobody dare risk at Red Bridge was swimming below, or to the South, of the bridge. This was before the EPA and was where the village’s sewage plant discharged questionably treated water back into the creek.
At about where Felson Park is today there was a small rock dam that held back the creek’s flow and created a deeper pool going North to above the DT&I depot. The water in this pool was used by the municipal electric plant to supply their boilers. Because of the increased depth the area near the rock dam was an excellent swimming hole and that whole area, all the way to the mill dam was great for fishing. All along both sides of the creek were paths going down to the creek’s edges where people sat and fished. At night you could almost always see one or more kerosene lanterns belonging to people fishing for catfish. The entertainment along Paint Creek wasn’t just for daylight hours. Nighttime was the right time for frog gigging and each summer brought several nights of creek wading in search of big bull frogs.
Once Santa had delivered bicycles to us all our range was expanded. In addition to Paint Creek there were also several small “runs” we could now get to. Nearest us was Holiday Run which empties into Paint Creek just below the mill dam. We didn’t know it by that name and simply said, “Let’s go to the mill dam and swim. Below the Island Grove Rd. bridge there was an enlarged hole that was pretty good for swimming.
Armed with transportation our favorite runs became Farmer’s and Possum which were south of town on the Creek Rd. Farmer’s Run went under the Creek Rd. at the intersection of Crosley Rd. Possum Run was a little further south and right below the bridge was the best swimming hole on our earth. It was large, deep, and very sandy. Where it emptied into Paint Creek were shallow rapids great for catching soft-craws, hellgrammites, and minnows. These areas can still be visited since the bicycle path was extended several years ago.
Another popular run was Sugar Run. West of Greenfield along SR 28. The stream ran under a highway bridge and then under the B&O railroad line. At that point it widened into a swimming hole that was very popular with the kids from that end of town. I seem to remember that there may have been two Sugar Runs, Sugar One and Sugar Two. I didn’t like going there because whoever owned the land raised hogs and the hogs used the swimming hole to waller in. The first time I saw a big sow drop a load where we swam was the last time I went to Sugar run.
This article resulted from some folks on Facebook talking about growing up in Greenfield back in the day. One of them mentioned finding a leech attached to their leg after wading in the creek and that got me thinking. The only time such happened to me was in the very small stream that flows under South Washington St. and behind the Waddell home. While splashing around in that stream on a hot summer day several of us came to learn about the presence of leeches in our waters. After that we hunted them for fish bait.
In today’s world, where so many families have backyard swimming pools and kids stay mostly indoors playing video games or texting each other about not having anything to do, the creek and its tributaries go mostly unnoticed. In the world of my youth, however, we never lacked for something to do. All we lacked were enough hours in the day to get it all done.