Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Memories of Springs Past By Harold Spencer, Jr.

Another essay from our Carson Cousin—Harold’s grandmother was Anna Carson Spencer, sister to our Emma Carson Taylor

Aaaaahhhh, Spring - time to go trout fishing. There’s a little trout stream that runs through the middle of the village of Springville, NY running under the stores in the downtown section of the business district. Named (of course) Spring Brook, it’s a creek in which all the boys in town fished at one time or another.

Harold Spencer, Jr. with creel, Cousin Liol Washburn with can of worms,
 friend David with fishing rod circa 1942

Trout season, in early days when we were kids, opened at daybreak the second Saturday in April. Nowadays, it’s open all year long. Since cousin Liol (Washburn) and I lived close by the creek, it was a natural that we would go fishing as soon as the season opened, sometimes even while there was still snow on the ground, and ice on the creek. But we always had a good time, as cold as it was. We then fished through the summer months until we were in high school. Later, other matters and interests took precedence over fishing. We continued to fish that creek into high school days, but Liol found greater interest in sports: football, basketball and baseball. Being short, and lightweight, yours truly found it difficult to compete in those sports, so my interests stayed with the outdoors: hunting, fishing, hiking and Boy Scout activities.

Rainbow trout season in New York opened on April 1 each year. A close friend from high school had acquired an older model car. About 1950 we decided we’d make a trip to the Finger Lakes for the opening of the rainbow season. We’d try our luck at fishing the larger fish supposed to be in those creeks. It nearly turned into a fiasco, since it snowed hard, it was very cold, and the creek at Hammondsport was shoulder to shoulder with fishermen. And we never caught a fish. In addition - the heater and defroster in the old car didn’t work. By the time we got home, we were nearly frozen, and starving, since we didn’t think about food when we left Springville.

Spring Brook rises from a swamp close to the hamlet of East Concord (NY), north of Springville. It runs south through the village, and empties into Cattaraugus Creek, which forms the boundary between Erie County and Cattaraugus County. The Cattaraugus flows westerly and empties into Lake Erie. As young kids, (and I mean my cousin Liol and our friends from our class at school) we would explore the length of the creek from the East Concord swamp to the village of Springville. Rarely did we venture along the creek south of the village.

We all had our favorite spots for fishing, for hunting snapping turtles in an abandoned ice pond close to the village, and a deeper section of creek, hidden in a large patch of brush, where we could go skinny-dipping on a hot summer afternoon. Only problem with swimming in the creek: it (the creek) ran through a pasture upstream from our swimming hole, and if it was hot enough, the cows in the pasture would stand in the creek to cool their udders, and during their cooling off period, would do their natural business in the creek, Well, that stuff eventually reached our swimming hole, so out of the water everyone, until the ‘danger” passed. Then it was back to swimming. Our creek--even in winter, we knew where it was safe to cross on the ice.

Harold Spencer Jr. on the right, buddy David on the left--1942

Years ago the State Conservation Department (now named the Department of Environmental Conservation - DEC) would stock trout in Spring Brook at three or four sites along its length north of the village. This happened usually sometime in the spring. In the 1970s they decided to forego replenishing the stocks of trout in the creek. It appears the fish biologists, after testing the creek and the naturally occurring fish, decided that it was a waste of time and money to replenish the fish year after year. I think the fishing pressure from humans has lessened considerably in recent years, so there is not the demand for more fish from this creek. Today, there does not appear to be much water left in the creek either, perhaps due to the number of houses built in recent years in the area of the creek between East Concord and Springville. Since we were kids, there were one or two farms in the area adjacent to the creek. Today I estimate there are 15 or 20 new houses built in the area. And each house has a well, drawing water from the ground, which in the past went into the creek.

And it’s all progress, good or bad, depending upon one’s viewpoint. Kinda glad I’m not a kid today.


Pat Herdeg said...

Love this, Harold--thank you! So good to know more about Springville, the town our Emma and Bryant had a store in for a few years, a store your grandmother helped out in.


cousin Lucille said...

IT does sound just like a regular little boy, growing up ,in his heaven! And did you dig the worms or watch for night crawlers after a rainy nite? [ as we used to ! ] And did you break the big ones in 2 parts as we were taught to do?
Your story took me back to mine, altho I did not do that much fishing. But my brothers did and we used to go with my Dad when he went to Cayuga Laketot fish .
Yes, time does change areas and spoil places that we loved BUT aren'r we lucky to have such memories?

Sue Kinsella said...

I love the way that the creek is essentially a 3Dimensional character in these memories almost as much as the fishing buddies!