In My Little Town Revisited 2

When we last left off, we were at the salt mines. If you didn’t read Part 1 to this story, go to My Little Town Revisited Part 1 and read it first. Come on, you’re lagging behind the rest of us. We’re not waiting for you. We’ll catch up with you at the end.

What was I saying? Oh yeah. So there we were, my friend Joanne and I, teenagers, in a deserted sand and gravel pit, alone with the two men who had picked us up hitchhiking to Mr. Bigs, who we were convinced were going to kill us. Now, you know they didn’t kill us because I’m writing this story. But when we left off, we were trapped in a two-door car, with one of the men claiming he had lost his sunglasses in a salt mine in Montville. We hadn’t bargained for going for a side trip. We just wanted to save some bus fare money.

As we drove down into the pit, surrounded by nothing but mountains of sand, salt and gravel, I kept thinking that this would be the perfect place to rape and kill us and bury us in one of those mountains. With nobody around to witness it, who would know? And if we went missing, how would they find us? We were supposed to be on a bus, not going to a salt mine! We sat in the back of the car, looking for some kind of weapon to use should it come to that. Nothing. I kept thinking, “if they don’t kill us, my mother surely will for being so stupid and getting in this car!”

The car came to a stop. My heart started to beat out of my chest. I prayed to God that if they let me walk away from this nightmare, I would never hitch hike again. The passenger man, the one who lost his sunglasses off his big fat head, got out of the car. I wanted to push the half seat forward so that I could get out too but he closed his door too quickly. The driver stayed where he was in the driver’s seat. He turned the car off and took the keys out of the ignition. I thought, this is it. They’re going to drag us to our deaths. The passenger disappeared for a minute and then I heard him open the trunk. I couldn’t see him but was certain he was getting his gun. Silence. The car was shut off which meant the radio was off too. I was certain the driver could hear my heart pounding, although the silos were making a loud hum noise as they crushed the gravel. Nobody would ever hear our screams of despair, our pleas for help. The trunk closed and made a loud bang like the sound of a gunshot. My friend and I both jumped. I thought that if I made conversation with the driver, he would like us and wouldn’t kill us. Rape us, yes. But maybe not murder us or shoot us and leave us for dead. We made small talk. I can’t remember what. I remember not being able to see his friend anywhere and the longer he was gone, the worse my imagination got. He’s out there digging the hole he is going to bury us in. “Where’s your friend?” I asked. “Looking for his sunglasses,” he said in a low-grumbling voice. He was a man of few words. But aren’t they all in scary, blood-bath movies?

About 5 minutes later, the front door of the car swung open. It was the passenger. He’s back. My thoughts in my head were, “Oh no, this is it. Brace yourself Sharon. Just go along with what they want and maybe they won’t shoot you.”

“I found ‘em”! I found my sunglasses! They’re a little dusty, but they’re not broken.” The car starts up. “Ok, girls. Sorry about that little detour. We’ll get you to Mr. Bigs now.” And that’s exactly what they did. They drove us right to the top of the hill and before they could think of an evil plot, we said, “We’ll get out here. Thank you very much.” We got out of the car and they drove away. Sticking true to my word, I never “thumbed a ride” again. Never.

Norwich had some scary places, didn’t it? Devil’s Hopyard. Just the name alone indicates trouble. Devil’s Hopyard years ago was the place to go and just hang out, to get away from the metropolis they call downtown Norwich. It was (and still is) a park where people go to observe nature and have picnics. Lots of hippies used to go there, get high, and just take in the serenity of the place. How do I know this? Ummmm. Uhhhh. Anyway, years ago, Devil’s Hopyard had a roaring waterfall. Back then, you could walk on the falls if you were agile and inclined to do so. You could jump or “hop” as it were, from rock to rock in the middle of the falls and cross over to the other side. I was always afraid to do this. I did it a few times. But even watching others do it made me nervous. But now, you can no longer go in the falls because the state has blocked it off. You can’t even sit on the rocks. No doubt some stoner froze up halfway across saying (in a Cheech and Chong voice) “Oh man, I can’t make it, man. I’m too stoned. I’m just gonna’ sit here until the water evaporates man.” Or worse yet, someone probably fell in and got seriously hurt. Therefore, there is no more hopping at Devil’s Hopyard. Now you can only look at the falls from a distance and admire the trickle of water that used to be running rapids. Whoop-di-do!

My friend Joanne had me convinced that Devil’s Hopyard was so named because the Devil lived there. I was always afraid to walk on the paths in fear of coming face to face with Lucifer. She showed me a little 4” painting on a rock of the devil and said “See?” This was the proof that the Devil lived there. Lame. Someone painted it on there. It could’ve been the first graffiti in Salem but don’t quote me on that.

I have some fond memories of Devil’s Hopyard and some not so fond, like the time a fish jumped out of the water and started talking to me. A story for another blog.

Speaking of scary (but in a good way), have you ever experienced The Bump? No, I don’t mean the 70’s dance craze where you and your partner knocked hips to disco music. (No wonder hip replacement surgery is so common.) No, I’m talking about THE Bump.

When I was a kid, my family had friends that lived in Ledyard. When we went to visit them, my father, who grew up in Poquetanuck, would take the back roads to get to Ledyard. He’d load all us kids in the car (four of us), no car seats (hadn’t been invented yet), no seat belts (cars had them but we never used them), and we got to sit wherever we liked. This included laying on the top of the back seat, nestled in between the real glass (not that wimpy breakaway glass that new cars have now. This was real glass, the kind that would break off in shards and do serious damage if your flesh went through it.) We’d lie on the floor; stand up; hang over the back of our parent’s front seat; do tumblesaults in the rear of the station wagon while driving. There were no safety rules. We were free to roam about the cabin as we wished. (Which also meant that we could avoid my father’s floundering arm over his seat while he was driving, searching for a kid to hit. Singing in our minds, “You can’t get me. Nha, nha, nha, nha.”)

In the Romper Room station wagon, we would turn right onto Palmer Street from Rte 2, which turns into Middle Road in Poquetanuck. We knew when it was coming because we would feel the car start to accelerate. This could only mean one thing…Hold on! Here comes the Bump!! My father would get the biggest kick out of hitting this particular bump in the road as fast as he could, sending us kids flying in mid air, bumping our heads on the roof of the car. We would squeal with delight and ask our father if we could do it again. It’s a two second thrill ride, but worth it.

We called it “The Bump” but now I’m not sure if it was because of the road or because of the bumps on our heads.

Coming home from my sister’s house the other night, I took this route. Rachel was in the back of the car, reading a book (as usual) and seat belted in to her car seat. I wondered if it would have the same impact on her if we hit “The Bump”. Upon approaching it, I sped up just a little (I’m not a daredevil like my father was). I didn’t tell her or give her any warning and then we hit it. Weeeeee! We hit the bump. She looked up and said, “WHAT was THAT?” I started to laugh and told her this story.

If you too want to take your kids, grandkids or just yourself for a quick 5 second thrill, here is a map:

View The Bump in a larger map

Scary places. In that same vicinity, in Preston, was Maciejny’s Farm on Brickyard Road. Maciejny’s was a pumpkin farm and we always went there for our pumpkins. It was always decorated for Halloween with hay stacks, gourds and pumpkins. But the most memorable thing about Maciejny’s was the real, life-size, stuffed grizzly bear they had on display. I was petrified of that thing. It stood about 8’ tall, with arms extended out as if ready to grab you. Its claws were all intact, and its mouth wide open showing all its teeth. The very thing that nightmares are made of.

This is what the bear looked like.

The garage of this house was the market and the bear stood right inside of the garage door. Shudder.

I always loved driving by there though. Across from the pumpkin stand itself, they had a man-made pond and in that pond was this big wood cutout of Charlie Brown, looking like he was standing by the pond. (Or at least that’s what I saw. It could have been another talking fish episode. Yikes!)

And speaking of Peanuts characters, also in Preston, on Rte 165, is Snoopy Rock. Surely everyone who is from the Norwich area has seen Snoopy Rock. Snoopy rock is a rock that juts out of an embankment. Someone had a vision of painting it black and white and created it to LOOK like Snoopy. Obviously someone in Preston was doing the same thing I was doing when I saw the fish jump out of the falls and started talking to me. It’s been there for as long as I can remember and is still there today. And just like my parents did with me, I point it out to my kids when we drive by it. They are equally not thrilled (but they’ll show their kids someday I’m sure.) The rock doesn’t really look like Snoopy. But I'll let you be the judge.

Major debate happening lately over who has the best grinders in Norwich. Everyone says Vocatura’s. Yeah, they’re alright. But I have found THE best grinder in the Norwich area. I’m actually afraid to tell anyone because once I do, the shop will get mobbed and then change. And I don’t want them to change. I need to think about this for a week. Tune in next week to Part 3 of this series and see if I divulge this hidden gem, and more secret places in the town I grew up in. And most importantly, next week I wrap up all three parts with My Kaneclusion to all this.


This is the Charlie Brown and Snoopy across from Maciejny's. To my surprise, it is still there. As I was taking this picture, a woman drove by me and smiled at me. She probably thought I was a tourist.

As you can see, there is no more man-made pond. Just Charlie Brown looking at his Pet Rock. (Get it, his pet rock? Ha!)

This is a close up of Snoopy Rock in Preston, CT.

Before today, I hadn't known this rock had a real name and it wasn't "Snoopy Rock" which is what we called it. As I was taking pictures, I noticed an actual plaque marker on the rock. It is actually a painting of "Spotty" and dates back to 1935. Who knew? Not I! But I'm not telling anybody. It's Snoopy Rock and I'm sticking to it.

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