The old tree in the middle of the Morris Canal was a noted landmark to a lot of the kids who walked the tow path of the old canal during the 1960’s.
The Old Tree in the Middle of the Morris Canal
By Richard Mabey Jr.
It was early summer of 1964. School had just let out for the entire summer. That morning, I got up early and after breakfast, walked the half-mile down Route 202, in Old Lincoln Park, to the corner sweet shop. And, lo and behold, on the comic book rack, there it was the latest issue of Batman. I remember that they only carried about a half-dozen copies of each title. Sadly, I had been too late for last month’s Batman comic book. But, alas, this month I got the first one off the rack! It was definitely going to be a great summer!
I walked home that beautiful summer morning. When I got home, I did some chores for my mom. Then we ate lunch. After lunch, I asked my mom, if I could take a walk down to the old Morris Canal. Mom was reluctant at first, but then finally agreed to allow me to walk down Mabey Lane to the old canal. Simply put, it was a great place to read a comic book. There was something very magical, mystical, and wonderful about the still, murky, muddy waters of the old canal.
Batman #164 from June of 1964. I loved to read comic books when I was a kid. There was something special about reading a comic book along the old Morris Canal.
I remember rolling up my newest Batman comic book and putting it in the back pocket of my Wrangler dungarees. Back then, we had no idea that our comic books were going to be worth their weight in gold. So, it wasn’t unusual for a kid to roll up a comic book and put it in his back pocket. And, alas, with the latest issue of Batman in my back pocket, I began my journey down Mabey Lane to the old Morris Canal.
The end of Mabey Lane, where the path to the old canal began.
Mabey Lane was about two blocks long. When you reached the end of Mabey Lane, you had to walk the rest of the way down the old path, which led to the still, murky, muddy waters of the Morris Canal. There was a certain peace and serenity to walking that path. Squirrels would scurry about the forest floor and run up and down the maples and oaks. Birds would be chirping, as if providing song for the walk along the forest path. From time to time, an owl could be seen, perched on the branch of an old maple tree.
From time to time, you would see the old owl perched on a branch of the tall maple tree, in your walk along the forest path to the Morris Canal.
Upon reaching the tow path of the old Morris Canal, there was a sense of going back in time. Of returning to a simpler time. There was something very special and magical about the old canal. There was a tree that had grown smack in the middle of the old canal. It was amazing to say the least. The tree had a bowing curve to it. And, it was simple amazing that it had grown so strong and so tall, with such little solid ground to support and nourish it.
The tree in the middle of the old canal, was really something to see. It was a little eerie how it had grown so strong and so tall, with such little soil to support and nourish it.
There was a basic, rudimentary, no frills tree fort that stood majestically beside the tow path of the old canal. It was just a little ways in the forest, away from the tow path. I remember very well that it was in direct line with the infamous tree in the middle of the canal.
The tree fort that stood near the old tow path was a basic tree fort, with no frills and no accessories.
I remember how I bravely climbed up to the high platform of that old tree fort. It was a wonderful feeling to be able to see so far and so wide from those old planks of wood. I read my newest Batman comic book, alone atop the world that early summer’s afternoon. There was a certain feeling of accomplishment in all of it.
And, when I read the last panel of the last page of that comic book, there was a certain sadness to it all. I’d have to wait an entire month for the next Batman comic book to come out. And, hopefully I would get to the corner sweet shop in time to buy it, before it got sold out. Batman comic books were among the most popular comic books on the comic book display rack.
I remember rolling up that Batman comic book, putting it in my back pocket, and climbing down the makeshift ladder pegs nailed to the tree. There was a certain joy and splendor that I felt in walking home that afternoon. It was the dawn of a new summer.