A photo of the old cedar on the mound.
The Old Cedar On The Mound
By Richard Mabey Jr.
The old cedar on the mound was an old landmark of the old gang, from my childhood. The old cedar on the mound was an important landmark in the woods, where my buddies and I would play. During the summer’s days, we would run around the woods from early morn till dusk. Of course we disbanded to our individual homes for lunch and supper.
There was an old tree fort that we had built by the old cedar on the mound. As you faced the north, which is the very direction from which the above photo was taken, there were two tall maple trees on your left hand side. They are still standing in this photo taken in the early 1990’s. Support plankings were nailed into the four main vertical trunks of these two trees. Then we had nailed down boarding onto the support plankings.
This tree fort was in a strategic position. It was just south of the remains of the infamous Incline Plane Ten East of the old Morris Canal. Believe it or not, when you climbed up the tree fort, atop this hilly mound, you could see the Morris Canal AND the railroad tracks. Why was this so important?
The reason that it was so important to see all the way to the Morris Canal and to the railroad tracks, is because just beyond the railroad tracks was a large apple orchard. The apple orchard was in Towaco. And, that was the domain of the Towaco Apple Orchard Gang.
The Lincoln Park Canalside Gang. From a photo taken in September of 1964. The best friends that a fellow could ever want in his childhood. It was one for all and all for one.
Being part of the Lincoln Park Canalside Gang was an honor. It was all for one and one for all. It really wasn’t a joke. It was important to maintain and defend your territory. This was done with a series of tree forts and clubhouses, built in the woods along the Lincoln Park side of the old Morris Canal. Believe me, the Towaco Apple Orchard Gang were not ever going to invite us to an ice cream social.
The TAO Gang would have loved to secure the Lincoln Park side of the old Morris Canal and claim it for theirs. Why? It would have spread out their domain to new vistas. The tow path was on the Lincoln Park side and it provided a great place to ride mini-bikes on. There was a vast network of tree forts and clubhouses that took blood, sweat and hard work to build. If you think that I’m exaggerating about the blood part, I still have some scars on my arms and legs from building some of the higher level tree forts.
A rare photo of my old buddy Stu, atop one of the top-notch tree forts of our tree fort syndicate.
We were all about the same age. So, when we got into high school, we more or less abandoned all the tree forts and clubhouses that we had built. They were more or less, informally passed onto the younger kids of our neighborhood. I think that I was in the summer of 1969, between our sophomore year and junior year of high school, that my old buddy Stu and I took a walk down to the old cedar on the mound.
Our old tree fort was still there. The rope to climb up to the tree fort landing had recently been replaced. We climbed up the rope and checked out the view. A silence fell over us. Somehow, it just wasn’t the same. The magic had died. There was nothing we could ever do to get it back. Nothing.
From time to time, in memory, I return to the old cedar on the mound. But the woods of my childhood, at the end of Mabey Lane, are all gone. The greedy developers have attacked those woods, cut down all the trees and built huge McMansions on postage stamp lots. Progress.
I think it’s wonderful that children and young people have all these state-of-the-art computers and wowzy-zowzy gadgets. But, still, it’s a bit sad to think that the woods that I knew and loved as a kid are all gone. And, now all those kids of today, living where the old woods once thrived, are almost prisoners of their huge mansions and postage stamp backyards. It’s all kind of sad.