Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Sketching the Park

Barbara sketched Virginia Field Park
Calvert, Texas
My photo of the bandstand in the park is at the top while Barbara's sketch from about that same angle is below. This is a great old park dating back to 1868. It is across the street from the cemetery.
As we were sketching, I looked at the tree lined street we were on and thought about an article I had just read saying that children who live on tree lined streets in cities were less likely to have asthma.
Growing up in this area of many trees along the streets and in yards, as well as the park and the cemetery, I think that might be true. I never knew anyone who had asthma in our town. Sinus trouble, yes, but we blamed that on many things like the cotton gins in the summer and early fall, or flowers or weeds blooming. I never heard of mold, or mildew, unless it was on clothing that had been left wet too long before it was washed.
This park has changed some over the years. It used to have huge Crepe Myrtles and shrubs, along with many flowers growing from bulbs, filling the flowerbeds and surrounding the park. There was a circular drive around the park, just on the other side of the flower beds, and one corner of the road was very sandy.
My dad liked to tell about driving around there as a teenager and almost wrecking cars when they hit the sand. Personally, I got my great-aunt's 1950s model Nash hung on a big rock, when my aunt was teaching me to drive. Her husband had not wanted to let an inexperienced kid drive his car, so, when he was at work, she took me out to learn to drive. She said that I had to learn to drive. We made it through the wide streets just fine, but I was sweating bullets on that curved drive in the park! I just turned a bit too wide and ran over a huge white rock that marked the entrance. She had to call her husband to come get the car loose from the rock.
I was scared to go over to their house for a while after that! I was sure that my great uncle would be angry with me for running over that rock with his car!
But, my great-aunt just laughed about it. She told me of the time when she, my grandmother, and my grandmother's sister first got automobiles. Their husbands didn't have the patience to teach them to drive so, while the men were at their stores during the day, the young wives took one of the cars out into the country to teach themselves to drive. All went well and they were having a good time together. That is, until they tried to turn around and come home. They couldn't turn or change gears, so they backed all the way back into town. The husband who owned the car just tried to remember backing the car into the garage instead of driving it in forward. The wives never said a word to let on what they had been up to during the day!
The Nash didn't have any damage, except for a tiny scratch below the door. But it stood out to me-a glaring reminder of my attempt to learn to drive.
Beside the drive around the park, there was a large bandstand in the center, with a walk around it, and walks coming up to it from all four entrances. At each corner, there was a smaller gazebo.
On the west side, there was a baseball field, with bleachers. And on the southeast corner, there were clay tennis courts. There were large gliders beneath the trees on the east side, where people could swing. Nearby, a piece of wood had been placed between two oak trees, and, as the trees grew, the wood became a nice place to sit and talk. A concrete drinking fountain was on the south side of the bandstand. On the northeast side of the park, play ground equipment was added for children. A merry go round, swings, see saws, and a concrete table for playing table tennis .
Inside the bandstand, there were basketball hoops where kids could play before the school built the gym. Benches still surround the interior of the bandstand-a place for an audience. The wooden floor was great for roller skating, dancing, band concerts, programs, memorial services, weddings, picnics, basket ball, and just a shady, spot to talk.
The Crepe Myrtles and flowers were thinned out to make the park more open a few years back. The road was closed and filled in. The baseball diamond was removed. The clay courts were covered in grass after most people preferred to play tennis on the new concrete court at the school. The big, white gliders fell into disrepair and it was decided that upkeep on them was too expensive. They seemed to rot quickly. So, they also were removed.
There also used to be large beds of those big red ants in the park. And lots of horned toads. I guess the fire ants did away with those.
During the park's history, Hood's Texas Brigade of Civil War fame, met there for reunions. And, during the "time of unpleasantness", a sky prison was built at the park to imprison Southern sympathizers. A similar sky prison was at the location where the courthouse is located in Bryan today.
Some things that I remember about the park are the time that the First Cavalry Band from Ft. Hood, and a unit of mounted troops, came to the park to give a concert and to march in our Sesquicentennial parade. Indian dancers from the Alabama Coushatta Reservation also came to perform about that time. We had some art shows in the park and local dancers entertained us. Old restored automobiles looked perfectly at home around the park.
Another memorable event was when part of the Houston Symphony Orchestra came to give a concert. They filled the bandstand, and spectators enjoyed the music from places scattered through the park. Some of us took picnics to enjoy.
Easter sunrise service in the park was nice, and I remember when we, the Calvert High band, played for the service. Hunting Easter Eggs in the park was special too, although I worried a little that someone might think that we were attempting to pick flowers instead of finding eggs that Daddy had hidden while we struggled to wake up.
Twinkling lights at Christmas time, strung through the bandstand, seemed extra bright.
Cool water from the water fountain on a hot summer day, and meeting with friends after school among the shrubs to talk about our "mystery club" or boys, a place to rest or get out of a sudden rain shower when walking from town to home, children's birthday parties, and touching services are all a part of my memories of the park.
At night, I could look out my bedroom window, and watch the streetlight by the park. There was a time during WWII when those street lights were out. The town was dark and we stood as a family at the small bathroom window, watching the searchlights from Hearne, worrying if bombers might have made it through this time and the air raid was more than a drill.
When Barbara and I were sketching in Calvert during the spring tour, we chose to work downtown first, then set up where we could see both the cemetery and the park. It was on the opposite side from where we could watch the park from our house. But all sides of the park are interesting.
Now, I need to work on developing the sketches that I did during our outing. Barbara has an oil painting of Main Street that she did that day also.
I would have liked to have seen Sunday afternoon concerts, with people strolling around the park, when I was growing up. Dances would also have been wonderful. Community programs, too, but most of those were held at the school, the City Hall, or on Main Street.
From what I have heard, the German Park was quite active in the old days. Nothing remains of it, and most do not even know where it was located. My great aunts and my grandmother told me that it was where a cemetery on the south side of town is now. There are a few faded pictures of it, that are in Baker's "A History of Robertson County, Texas". My grandmother wouldn't go to the German park because she said they had beer there, and that was not a place for nice girls to be.
Stork Update
I just looked at the stork nest in Pryzygodzice and found that 4 eggs have now hatched! And, just as I was thinking that I had not seen the babies yet, the adult bird stood up (I can't tell Mama from Papa!), and there were the tiny little ones, and one egg still remaining to hatch.
So, if you want to see some cute and some beautiful birds, look at the links on my sidebar, under Stork Sites. The Pryzygodzice site is quite interesting.

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