As members of the Parks Commission meet monthly to formulate a vision for City Park, a Salisbury octogenarian is happily remembering its heyday.
Memories of a sliding board at the edge of the cool water, swimming by pilings, tramping down seaweed and digging toenails into the river bottom to find mussels are pleasant for Naomi Tarr.
The 81-year-old grew up just two streets from the park, at a time in the 1940s when musicians played from the top of the bandstand on Sunday nights and children frolicked.
“After school was out for the year, every morning my sister and I would grab a towel and the 10 cents my father left for each of us and off we’d go to the park. For 10 cents we could each buy a soda and a snack because they were five cents each. A bottle of Pepsi was a nickel and a candy bar was a nickel, or a small ice cream cup,” she said.
“The water was so clear and clean, you could see the pebbles at the bottom. I always swam with my eyes open and it would have to be pretty clean to see that,” she said with a laugh.
“We dove off the side to see who could swim all the way across. Oh, swimming at the up park was all I cared about. There would be 25 or 30 kids down there. There were paths worn down from the children’s feet. There was no diving off the bridge because the water was too shallow but some kids had to be smart alecs and do it anyway,” she recalled.
Born in 1933, Tarr was about 10 when she took her little sister, Joyce, seven years her junior, to the park day after day during summer vacation.
“Oh, I am filled with good memories of that park,” she said.
“My name was scratched on the cannon up on the hill. I’m sure I scratched it in there with a nail or a nail file. Of course, it probably was painted a dozen times after that,” she said about the cannon, still at the park.
Showers were available for sun bathers and nearby American Red Cross workers manned a building for instructors and bandaged scraped knees.
“I went to the park into my teens, in my courting days, when I would stand by the car with a boy, just hoping, you know? A guy would just get his driver’s license and he’d sit down by the park and talk to the girls,” she said with a slight laugh.
After she was married, her husband would get angry when prankster teens threw green park benches into the river at the park. She still has the swing he made her from two broken benches.
“You know how things are when they get lost in time, when nature kind of takes over? Now there’s foliage all around it. I’m going to have to take a picture of that,” she said.
Today, as plans evolve for upgrades to City Park, there is talk about adding disc golf and rebuilding horseshoe pits, along with the existing paddleboats.
Of course, those boats weren’t operating when Tarr was a girl gliding through the water day after glorious, carefree day.
“The park was my second home, I tell you, from sun up to sun down. My father sat on the porch and listened to music from the bandstand and when that last song was playing he wanted to see us coming up that sidewalk, coming home, but it was a place of safety. My dad knew where we were and there was a lifeguard down there,” Tarr recalled.
“And, oh, I loved it.”
Reach Susan Canfora at email@example.com.