The year was 1956, Eisenhower was president, the country was experiencing an economic boom, veterans from World War Two were starting families, the baby boomers were being born, rock and roll was in its’ infancy, exciting fast cars with new v eight engines were being offered by the big three in Detroit, television was about to make its mark on the culture, James Dean was embarking on his career, Elvis the pelvis was making young girls faint, Walt Disney was marketing a loveable little mouse to the country, Davey Crockett was patrolling the walls of the Alamo, drive in movies were full of cars with steam covered windows and the planet could be thrust into nuclear war without notice destroying all life forms forever.
But most importantly, to this five year old child, the Gerrish’s were moving to Connecticut.
My first memory of that fateful summer day in 1956 when my family moved from Rockland Maine to Cedar Springs Connecticut, it was several months later that it was pointed out to me by my first grade teacher that my address was Southington Connexticut and Cedar Springs was a trailer park located in Southington, now back to my memory of the spacious back seat of the 1939 Chevy that my father drove, although the car was loaded with all the families’ worldly possessions, it seemed that my sister, hair all combed, dressed in a little frilled lined pink dress with shiny patent leather shoes secured to her feet by a single buckled strap covering her short frill lined socks, sat there firmly clutching her dollie as if she was going to church, although we weren’t a church going family.
I on the other hand wore a horizontally stripped multi colored t-shirt, a pair of cuffed dungarees with my belt buckled snuggly against my slim waist and black high top Converse sneakers with sweat socks, my short dirty blond hair needed to be combed and my mother insisted that I brush it to the side, I felt like I was sitting on a couch watching all the sights of the world go whizzing by the window.
The entire trip took the better part of the day and I was getting restless. We must have stopped for lunch and a nature call but I don’t remember, again this is my memory of the events so long ago seen through a five year olds eye, lunch and going to the bathroom were not important, they were just intimidating and prolonging the families arrival in paradise.
I was getting bored teasing my younger sister, she cried too easily so I switched my attention to the front seat; if I stretched real hard I could just reach the back of the pale grey cloth seat with my black white trimmed high top sneakers. There I reached it now if I stretch quickly I think that I could reach it again, there I did it again and again and again.
My mom turned ever so slowly starring directly into my eyes. “Please stop kicking the back of the seat Jerry,” she said and with that brief request ended my temporary moment of enjoyment.
My mother was a stunning young bride, she was a French beauty from Aroostook county in northern Maine, she had wavy black hair perfectly styled as if she just stepped out of a beauty parlor, I remember the red lipstick accentuated lips that complimented her ever present smile, she had high cheek bones that supported dark Mediterranean eyes barely hidden by small fashionable glasses, she always wore earrings and dressed as impeccable as she could afford to, my mother was a goddess overflowing with love for her children, when my mother spoke, I did not tune her out, I wanted to listen because she would talk directly to me, not at me as most adults often did.
“Sit still we’re almost there,” my father shouted.
“Yeah I heard that before.” I said to myself, I was beginning to understand when a grownup said we’re almost there, you could be anywhere from one to one hundred miles away from your destination but you weren’t there yet.
Suddenly the car slowed and took a sharp turn, I let myself go limp so that the motion of the car caused me to slide across the seat and pin my sister against the door, after all seat belts were a thing of the future. I looked out the side window as we passed a large factory surrounded by a high barbed wire topped fence with guards posted at the entrances. It looked like the prison we passed in Thomaston Maine I thought. The car slowed again and turned left onto a dirt road. It was summer and the auto was kicking up dust as we slowly traveled the narrow tree lined road further into the woods.
At first I thought we were driving into some deep dark forest since there were so many trees, my father’s window was rolled down half way allowing the sugary scent of pine to permeate the car’s interior, soon I spotted the trailers or mobile homes as they were billed by Mr. Jensen the owner of the trailer park, that lined the road.
“Wow, are we going camping?” I asked.
Trailers were spaced several feet apart nestled back in the Pine, Maple and Oak trees, we passed by shiny silver trailers, brightly colored ones, some with awnings and two tone trailers of every size imaginable, our vehicle slowed as we took another turn, this time to the right.
The 1939 Chevy bounced from pothole to pot hole and finally settled into the two parallel ruts running the length of the road as if it were a train guided by train tracks, I don’t know why my father bothered to use the steering wheel any more maybe he was trying to avoid running over the local squirrels that were playing tag with the four thousand pound intruder. The other dominant local residents were the Starlings perched high in the trees chattering at each other and screaming their disapproval of our entrance into the neighborhood.
Finally after what seemed like several miles to me, but actually was just a few hundred yards, we slowed to a crawl in this canopy of trees, swerved to avoid a large tree stump protruding from the middle of the road like some misplaced traffic circle and turned into a small crushed stone parking spot. There it was, I could begin to see it immerge in all its’ glory from the dust as the cloud settled, a two tone green eight foot wide, thirty six foot long Elcar trailer, complete with fold out metal steps, resting on its four new tires, propped up by its trailer jack just behind the hitch in front resting on two cinder blocks sporting two small white propane tanks resembling two protruding frog eyes.
Sitting alongside the trailer like a miniature tennis court was a newly formed concrete slab that my father identified as our patio, I can’t count how many times I tripped and my hands followed by my stomach slammed down on that cold, hard, rough piece of manmade ground. In front of the patio and alongside the lots short driveway was a maple tree, I ran to it, jumped and grabbed the lowest branch swinging back and forth feet tucked behind me, great I thought just my size. I ran to the end of the patio and surveyed my new kingdom, our trailer was situated on relatively high ground with our side and back yards slopping away, I viewed a small river flowing behind the rows of trailers and to top it off there was a miniature swamp in my back yard. Wow, it doesn’t get any better than this, I had explored about every nook and cranny in the old two story colonial house overlooking Penobscot Bay in Rockland Maine, the place I used to call home, this new place was going to be awesome.
My father opened the front door and I bolted up the one extended metal step and gazed in wonder at my new domicile, the interior looked spacious to me it was already furnished just waiting to be explored, the living room was in the front and the kitchen opened to the first bedroom containing bunk beds, this was great you could eat and stare out the front window down the street at the same time, I thought the arraignment was great that is until I got to the first bedroom, I had my own room in Maine complete with my train set and toys scattered all over the floor, here in the trailer my bed room was the top bunk bed in the hall between the kitchen and bathroom partitioned off from by folding doors. My parent’s bed room was at the end of the hall just a few feet away at the back of the trailer but it did have a door. My first night of hearing my sisters bunk creak with her every movement and intently listening to my parents’ conversation trying to hear what my punishment would be for tormenting my sister that day would be demonstrated to me how cozy the set up of my new home really was. I eventually fell asleep.