I was surprised to see Pacific County workers taking the asphalt of Stringtown Road one day. Then my surprise turned to delight when I thought to myself, finally we are going to get a decent road, wider, no potholes and new paving. The next day when I came home from work, there was gravel on the road and instantly my mind was filled with memories of Snake Lane, Oldcastle, Ontario, Canada.
I have to give you a little background to explain Snake Lane. The first home my family had in a new country after World War II was on Snake Lane.
I was born in 1940 in a small town in the province of North Holland. Our house was the last house on the street. It was a nice two story, brick home with indoor plumbing. At the time of my birth, Dutch soldiers were mobilizing in the "plein" square at the end of the street to defend The Netherlands against the German invasion. It was an army doctor in this group that delivered me in April 1940. An auspicious beginning in this world. In a very short time we were an enemy occupied country. Though we were deprived of many material things and life was dangerous at times, we survived in our nice brick home on our nice brick street. Actually, I remember brick and cobblestone streets and a concrete highway to Gramma's house. Never saw a gravel road.
1945 was the year of liberation but our troubles were far from over. Much of North Holland is reclaimed land, meaning it was below sea level. There were and are large dikes to keep it safe from being flooded. However, as the Germans retreated they blew up some of the dikes. Just a little added destruction you see. We escaped in a rowboat to higher land in another town. Fortunately we were not destitute and our parents were able to provide us with another home but we were definitely displaced.
By 1947 my parents decided, in their late 40s to make a new start in another country. Australia, the U.S.A. and Canada had opened their doors to immigrants if you were willing to become an agricultural farmer/worker, which my Father was not. I personally think all Dutchmen want to have ingrown dirt under their fingernails, whatever their profession. To qualify you had to have a sponsor and we received word that the Reeve of Essex County in Ontario would be our sponsor. So we moved to Canada and Snake Lane.
The reeve had many farms in Canada and raised black Angus cattle for beef and grew corn for silage, hay, grain and whatever else cattle need to thrive. One of his farms was on Snake Lane. The house was a two-story stucco. The kitchen had a hand pump which you had to prime every morning to get water and we had an outhouse which we had never seen before. That was quite a novelty.
We did not have a great command of the English language when we arrived in Canada, so when we saw the road sign saying Snake Lane, we pronounced it Snaa-ka - Laan-a. We pronounced all the letters plus some.
Snake Lane was a wonderful, adventurous road. It had lots of jagged, odd shaped, gray stones and lots of dust - when it had traffic, which was seldom - usually traffic was a tractor. Homes were few and far between. My brother, sister and myself had a two-mile walk to a one-room country school. Also a novelty to us and very strange that all three of us were in the same room. Because Snake Lane was so fascinating and the walk to school so long we were often late and in trouble. It was just that around every bend was something new to look at. We always walked because our father did not own a car yet and he had not learned how to drive one. In Holland he had his bicycle and public transit. Sometimes a neighbor gave us a ride. People on Snake Lane were kind to the three Dutch kids. We were among the first to arrive from Europe after World War II and start building a new life. One day as we were slowly sauntering home from school the neighbor lady asked us in and gave us a pie to take home for desert. After that, we thought we should stop in every day to see what kind of goodie she had for us. We did not want to disappoint her. I'm sure, when she saw us coming, she said, "Oh no, here come those pesky Dutch kids again." However, all we ever experienced was love, kindness and acceptance of our differences.
In summer Snake Lane had wild flowers, wonderful, massive oak trees to hide in and many wild animals. We discovered that the lumbering porcupine had quills that hurt. In winter the road to school was horrible. Sometimes my brother, who was the oldest, had to bodily plow through chest high snowdrifts to carve a path to school. When it started to thaw and freeze again the road was a treacherous, slippery, washboard. Never the less, some of our best years were lived on Snake Lane.
Isn't it odd how gravel on beautiful Stringtown Road can trigger such memories? There are a few major differences though. I do not recall any broken windows from gravel on Snake Lane. I do not recall people speeding as they do on Stringtown Road. It would be nice if people slowed down and enjoyed the scenery of Stringtown Road as we enjoyed all the wonders of Snake Lane.
One other thing. I have had Dutch citizenship, Canadian and am now a citizen of this great country. This is my third country and home. I live in a two-story, stucco house but fortunately it has indoor plumbing and not an outhouse. However, it is still a gravel road. I feel like I just came fall circle. Memories, memories.
Lis Tureman is the broker at Anchor Realty in Long Beach.