I grew up in a little backwoods area called Dutch Hollow. My grandparents house stood beside a railroad station called Bunker Station. That was long gone by the time I was born, but the trains still ran on the tracks right beside their house. Every morning a train would go by, blow its whistle with a quick “woot, woot, woot” and the engineer would toss off a newspaper which I’d run to collect. Grandpa and Grandma each had a wooden rocker on the front porch where they could watch the comings and goings of the neighborhood. Everyone knew everyone. You could stand in one spot and turn 360 degrees and see thick trees surrounding the entire community.
The school house was a few doors down the street…one room with four grades. The desks were bolted to the wooden floor and the teacher would ring a bell out the side window to call us in from recess. The bathrooms were on the top of a hill…outside. Boys on one side, girls on the other. This was all quite a change for me when I first came to live in Dutch Hollow at the age of seven. I’d been born in a bigger city, lived in a house with indoor plumbing and attended a huge brick school.
In Dutch Hollow, there were no sidewalks, no buses, no public transportation of any kind unless you walked five miles to the city of Belleville. Dad worked third shift on the railroad, so I rarely saw him except on weekends. During the summer, we’d have huge family get-togethers where Mom would fry the fish Dad had caught, make huge bowls of potato salad and baked beans. My cousins and I would play Simon Says or Mother May I.
My friends and I rode our bikes up and down the blacktop hills, played hopscotch, or baseball. Sometimes we’d build tents out of old blankets and sheets, climb inside and eat crackers and read comic books. We walked to church on Sunday morning and every night during Revival weeks. My friends and I.
My parents didn’t attend church. I wouldn’t miss it. I loved sitting in the wooden pews and singing the old hymns. As I grew older, I wrote poetry for the bulletin, sang duets with friends, and was baptized at the age of thirteen along with my friends Mary and Anna.
A few years ago, my hubby and I visited the church. It still looked the same, except perhaps it had a new coat of paint. A wheelchair entrance had been added to the rear of the church, though it was extremely steep. The pastor was a man I’d gone to school with and he’d married Anna, who’d been baptized at the same time as me. Whenever I hear the song “Church in the Wildwood” it reminds me of Pleasant Valley Baptist Church.
Some things never change. Dutch Hollow remains the same although some houses have been remodeled and different people live in them. The trees still surround the area. The mailboxes still stand on the opposite side of the road. A grouping of five or more together. My grandparents house became my parents house but it belongs to a stranger now. The railroad tracks have been replaced by tracks for an electronic shuttle (Metro Link) which goes all the way to the St. Louis Missouri airport. We rode it a couple times just for fun. (That’s another story which I’ll tell tomorrow.)
Sitting on the back patio and watching the barn swallows and hummingbirds. And the evenings when the raccoons would come for Mom to feed them. I’m blessed to be able to go back and visit through my memories. It was a time when things were so much different, and yet in many ways still the same.