Fishing memories -- 07/31/10

My father loved fishing. Actually, my mother also loved fishing. I do not know how much of this was influenced by her father (as I had mentioned back in the late spring, her father had been a Hudson River fisherman) or if it was something that she took up under my father's influence. Of course, during the Depression, it was also a way of putting dinner on the table. I know that prior to the war (and prior to parenthood) they did a lot of fishing, including weeklong camping trips into the Catskills where they would fish in the mountain streams.

When I was a kid, nice weather on a Sunday meant a long family hike. Sometimes in a hilly and rocky wooded section, complete with cliffs and deep holes and caves, surrounded by city neighborhoods on three sides and on the fourth by strip mining where clay was being excavated for use in brick-making. (Land that for more than three centuries was deemed too rugged to bother with, but more recently they have relocated a highway through part of it and leveled one section to put in a small industrial park... on a road they named "Corporate Drive.")

Our alternative route was along the wetlands and tidal marshes and the train tracks to the Hudson River Day Line docks and to the former Kingston Point Park (where my parents would point out the circular area where once had stood a carousel and where the bandstand had been and where the trolley line had come into the park and how much fun it had been and I would miss the glory of those days I had never known). We would fish in the sheltered tidal basin (the Hudson is a tidal river and has high tides and low tides all the way upstream at least as far as Albany) formed by the more than half mile long narrow strip of land built to carry the railroad tracks to the Day Line docks). I'm talking about the 1940s, when it was safe to eat fish caught in the Hudson River. It wasn't until 1947 that General Electric began dumping Polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) into the Hudson -- over the next thirty years they dumped 1,300,000 pounds of PCBs from two capacitor manufacturing plants. (Ah yes, "At GE We Bring Good Things To Life." Yeah, thanks a lot.)

So, here I am with Dad, two fishermen...

And below you can see who caught a fish!

This was a typical family Sunday hiking and fishing outing from my early childhood. Obviously my mother was along with her Brownie camera to take these pictures as well as to do some fishing of her own.

The fishing trip that I remember with my Dad, however, came earlier than these pictures. It was a trip -- to this same spot -- just the two of us, a father and son fishing expedition. The little bridge I am standing on in the picture leads to an island (the first picture shows us at a fishing spot on that island). On my first trip there with my Dad, and I mean that literally, it was our very first fishing excursion together. We were at the far tip of that island -- not a big island, probably 400 feet long. Ah, in fact, the Google eye in the sky will show you what it looks like today -- except it is no longer an island, starting back in the sixties the city filled in acres and acres of wetlands with trash (they called it a "sanitary landfill project") and now, decades later, it has been landscaped it into a park a ball field, etc.

So my father and I are on this point of land and the current is sending ripples of water past the tip of the island and there is an illusion of movement -- like that situation where you are on a train stopped next to another train and one of you starts to move and for a moment you aren't sure if it's your train that's begun to move or the other train. I was worried that this land might not be fastened down -- hey, the world was still a pretty strange and mysterious place to me and big things like trains and cars and boats and buses could move so why not islands, especially one that you had to cross this little bridge to get onto in the first place. I asked my father if we were moving, if we were floating away (there was a breeze, maybe it was blowing the island) and he assured me that it only looked like that, we weren't really moving. And I think I asked him if he would know how to get back home and he said he knew the way. So I was quiet and held my fishing pole but I was watching the water rippling past the tip of the island and I was worried that we would be lost and would not be able to find our way back home to Mommy. Dad said we would be okay, but I think I was worried until we actually came back to that little concrete bridge and I could see for myself that the island was still attached.

Oh, and about that snowman picture yesterday. Given that it was January of '45 with my father still in Europe, I would guess that the construction of the snowman may have included some assistance from cousins Carol or Jackie. That looks like a discarded Christmas tree stuck in the snow behind the snowman. I am standing in our backyard and those are the houses and backyards of neighbors behind me.

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