Growing up in Dunsmuir, the canyon itself was the entertainment
Anywhere from my house was downhill. Usually when we planned a bike ride, it was a necessity to pack a lunch, because we would be gone the whole day. And you know what they say about kids? They never forget their lunch! Well, thanks to our mom, she never let us forget ours. Thanks, mom. Anyway, it was always downhill one way.
At this point, I would like to express my opinion on the engineering of the layout of the residential construction of the town. I think they built houses in the STUPIDEST places they could find. Like maybe they built the houses first, then added streets to connect the dots, similar to one of those, um, you know, connect-the-dot puzzles. In some places, like on Walnut Street, if I remember it correctly, the street pavement runs right up against the houses and on Surrey Street, if I remember that one correctly, they built houses on stilts to accommodate the creek.
I remember the Nakao’s house was half suspended over the river like many others at that time and ended up somewhere downstream, close to the Pacific Ocean or at least relocated to Sacramento in the 1964 flood, along with several bridges, numerous cars, trees, stoves and kitchen sinks – but not too many people, that I recall, thank goodness.
But living in a canyon had its perks with regards to underground tunnels that allowed the creek to free flow towards the river, with a little bit of guidance. They provided lots and lots of petrifying but exciting entertainment for us as little kids to explore. We could start following a tunnel from Congi’s Ice Plant clear down to the river. The creek and tunnels ran under the street, which added to the thrill of the passage because we never knew when the street might cave in, from the rumble of the cars, did we? And you didn’t dare go barefooted because of the slime, you might end up on the slide of your life all the way to the Pacific Ocean, for cryin-out-loud! What a thrill that was! And the very best part was that our mother didn’t know. At least not until now, that is. Hi mom! Instinctively, we knew not to tell her because with her history, we didn’t want her to make it rain on our underground parade.
Also, we found it great fun to follow the hatchery truck and try out our well-honed fishing skills to catch us some trout. The bubbling, foaming, rushing little creek would be teeming with trout after that. Limit? We didn't know what a limit was. But we did know when opening fishing season day was, because the Rotary Club had their annual Opening Day Breakfast, which we never missed. They probably hated to see us coming, because we put the "all" in the All-You-Can-Eat. We would eat until our ankles hurt. That’s when our mom started kicking us under the table to signal that we had had enough. I'm sure they lost money on us. We had no dignity. Directly after that, we hit the creek for all it was worth.
Meanwhile, back on the bike path, what goes down, must come up. Right. We could coast all the way from our house on the uphill corner of Branstetter and Dunsmuir Ave. to Champion Park. What a glorious ride that was! All downhill! That had to be at least 10 miles by a child's estimated distance, because it had to be at least 20 pushing the bike back home! Well, there were some parts that didn’t require heavy force. Just enough to soothe the tired, weakened soul into seduction of the possibility of making another trip. Which seemed to work, because we made that stinkin' trip many, many times! However, just enough exhausting energy was required to push our bikes to cast gloom and despair on the idea that we might not make it home in time for dinner. After all, it had been several hours since lunch, and that was at least 30 miles ago and we were conditioned to eat not only lunch, but dinner too.
Don’t ask me what the attraction to Champion Park was. It wasn’t even a park, was it? No swings, slides, or picnic tables. Just a good place for a kid to sit in the sand by the river and have lunch. That is, if they weren’t burning at the dump that day. I can remember that smell to this day thanks to the Smith family but I never let it interfere with my appetite for a bologna sammich.
And why didn’t you call your mom to come and get you, you ask? Because, number 1, there wasn’t a phone in Champion Park and, number 2, if I had a nickel, do you think I would have risked it by calling my mom and asking her to come and get us? What if she said no? There would go my dream of a Three Musketeers bar! That is if I had a nickel in the first place.
And such were the days of growing up in the canyon, where the canyon itself was the entertainment committee. It provided many memorable moments for my childhood from the tunnels under the streets, to really unabashedly eating all you can eat at the annual breakfast, to following the hatchery truck for a guaranteed abundant fish supply, to going on an all day bike ride, which by the way, only provided half of an enjoyable memory to those of us who grew up on the streets of Dunsmuir.
Marilyn Quinn White of Medford, Ore. writes about her memorable childhood in Dunsmuir.