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Tuesday, 19 October 2010

Munjoy Hill

By Ralph Lymburner

I was born and raised in Portland, Maine, a v-e-e-e-e-ry long time ago. A prominent feature of the city was an area called Munjoy Hill. Munjoy Hill was the highest piece of land, located at the extreme northeast part of town. This location has given me some very nice memories of my childhood and youth.

Munjoy Hill was where everyone went to go to the beach. We lived at the farthest southeast part of town, which would be classified as lower middle class. It was right after WWII, we had no car and my father was still away in the army.

My mother would pack a lunch and with my brother in tow, we would head for the trolley stop. The trolley stop was about a two-mile walk. We would ride the trolley the five miles up the hill to spend the day at the beach.

They had free locked changing stalls where my brother and I would put on our bathing suits and spend the day being kids at the beach.

Then mother would reverse the trek and we would end up walking another two miles home to complete a very successful outing.

Jumping ahead about eight to 10 years, my friends and I discovered a much better use of Munjoy Hill. This is where they held the submarine races. “Held what?” you ask. I’m sure in other parts of the country there were different names for this unique event.

Munjoy Hill had a park with a gazebo in the middle. Surrounding this area was a half circle drive on about a 40 degree slope overlooking the water in Casco Bay. So on Friday and Saturday evenings, after the obligatory movie and ice cream, we would head for our cars with our dates.

If your date was a freshman or naïve, you would mention how the light from the moon would make it easier to watch the submarine race.

This circular drive probably would accommodate about 25 cars around the perimeter. If your date was a regular or knew what was going on, she would slide over next to you and cuddle up. Remember, these cars didn’t have that console in the middle which would nowadays hinder “making out.”

The naïve ones would ask, “where are the submarines” and you would slide towards her and while pointing to the water, your other arm would “accidentally” drop around her shoulders. Then you would tell her they were probably in the submerged portion of the races and would surface soon.

After an hour of kissing and hugging and a few squeals of “I don’t French kiss” we would get our hormones together and get our dates home in time to keep in the parents good graces.

Of course today, it’s hard to pull this line of submarine races. Everyone knows that the nuclear subs don’t run on the surface at all.

Jumping way ahead, last summer I attended my 55th high school reunion. It was the first I have been to. I located my high school sweetheart on the internet and for 95 cents I bought her address and telephone number. After working up my courage I got in touch and we made a date to meet at the reunion.

We spent an entire day together with her taking me around to see all the advances to the area and the old neighborhoods. The one stop we had to make was the parking area on Munjoy Hill, (daytime of course). So, we sat and chatted for awhile, reminisced some then she dropped me at my hotel.

The next morning I turned in my rental car and took my flight back to Florida. We stay in contact very casually.

Isn’t reminiscing fun? Kids today will never have the wonderful memories that we have been blessed with. They’ll have their own but nothing to compare with ours.

Any Portlanders are welcome to contact me at rlymburner@cfl.rr.com

[INVITATION: All elders, 50 and older, are welcome to submit stories for this blog. They can be fiction, non-fiction, poetry, memoir, etc. Instructions for submitting are here.]

Posted by Ronni Bennett at 05:30 AM | Permalink | Email this post


Ralph, I loved your story and your lame line about submarine races.

You had a great line going there, Ralph. I suspect the girls were on to you and your submarine races but pretended innocence so they could appear to be 'innocent.'

Loved your story and it brought back memories of those "special places" in high school and college.

I grew up by a large lake, and yep, we too watched many a submarine race.
It was kinda hard to see through the steamed up windows though.
I found my first love online, his address, but never got up enough courage to send him a card.
Never went to any of my high school reunions. 56 years ago, my how the time goes by.

I was curiously wounded when I learned 55 years later that my own "submarine race" boyfriend had married someone else from our class a couple of years ago. Why did that bother me! I am happily married and have been for 40 years.

I was so gullible back then...

Thanks for sharing a great story. It made my day!

Those submarines sure got around. My wife has often spoken of driving to Port Washington, Wisconsin, as a teenager to watch the races on Lake Michigan.

Being from a more north woodsy environment, my classmates took their unsuspecting dates on long walks billed as "snipe hunting." Sometimes we actually carried bags, but no snipe catches ever were reported.

My wife and I stopped going to reunions a while back. Too many old people there.

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