In My Little Town Revisited 3

This is part 3. If you have missed Part 1 and Part 2, please feel free to click on the links to get up to speed on what this is all about. But before getting to Part 3 and reminiscing about what the town I grew up in had/has to offer, I want to give you an update. I had previously stated in Part 2 that, unlike when I was a kid, the falls were now a trickle and that it was fenced off from being able to climb on the rocks. I need to report that this is no longer true. The last time I went to Devil’s Hopyard was well over 15 years ago. There were fences preventing anyone from going on the falls, signs everywhere stating "keep off the rocks", and there wasn’t much water flowing down the rocks. I stopped going there because it had lost its "nature-like" appeal. But this week, I had some business to take care of in Salem (well, okay, it was to take my daughter to Salem Valley Farms for ice cream. Yummy!) We were right up the road and knwoing she had never been there before, I decided to take her to Devil’s Hopyard. Much to my surprise, the fencing that had been there years ago on my last visit was no longer there. Instead, there are nice wood post fences that allows one to climb through to the rocks if so desired. My daughter so desired, but I said absolutely not! Also, I need to correct my previous assertion that the falls were now a trickle. Untrue! Maybe due to the recent floods we got in Connecticut, the falls were roaring rapids as they were in my youth. And there were no more signs posted anywhere. It was lovely showing my daughter the paths and having her “hop” and climb on the rocks. I highly advise a trip out there if you haven’t been in a while. Even the forest-like drive to the park was enjoyable. I have posted pictures. Click here if you are interested: Chapman Falls at Devil’s Hopyard

Now on to Part 3.

I’ve been asked this week about the experience I alluded to at Devil’s Hopyard, when a fish jumped out of the water and started talking to me. I was going to address it this week but then found out that my daughter has been showing her friends at school that her mom has a blog. As much I have told her not to read my blog, she is curious and therefore I will not be going into that story here. Maybe when she’s a bit older.

But I will say, the fish story brought back other places in Norwich to mind. (Obvious segue approaching.) Does anyone remember the head shop that was in downtown Norwich? The name of the place escapes me. (If you can remember the name, please post it in the comments of this blog.) The place I’m talking about was on the corner of where the old train station used to be. You didn’t know there was a train station in downtown Norwich? Sure there was. And it even had one of those cool underground walkways that went under the tracks. Before going to the movies, we hung around in there. We made our own game up of scaring each other by telling creepy tales of the people passing through. It was very quiet down there and was basically a cement tunnel. There was a great echo which lent itself to us making creepy sound effects to scare each other. When we were quiet, all we could hear were footsteps coming down the stairs into the tunnel. We’d tell tales of who it could be. “It’s the Boston Strangler.” Then you would see the person’s feet coming down the stairs. We’d whisper, “He’s coming closer.” Then we could see the knees. Then… Then we would face towards the wall, giggling, as the person walked by us, I’m sure wondering what us hoodlums were up to, only to ascend back up the stairs to go to the other side of the train tracks. We never got on the train and didn’t really know where it was coming from or going to. But we were sure that it was just going to Mr. Bigs. The train tracks at Mr. Bigs. Another place we hung around at. We’d walk the tracks, looking for loose change. As if people on the trains were throwing loose coins out the windows for us to find. But on occasion, we would find a dime or a nickel and then we could go into Mr. Bigs and buy some gum. If we found a penny, we would lay it on the tracks and come back the next day to see if the train had flattened it.

What can I say. This was before the casinos and there was NOTHING to do in Norwich for us kids. Nothing! There was only just so much duck pin bowling one could do.

Anyway, back to the head shop. I’m not sure if the term head shop even means the same these days or if they are called head shops anymore. But this shop I’m talking about was where the Red House Restaurant is now. (Click here to see where I’m talking about.

This head shop sold candles and Spiritual Sky oils. (My favorite was the watermelon. Yum! It smelled like how a Jolly Rancher Watermelon hard candy tasted, if you can imagine that. They don’t make it anymore. But just recently, my sister bought me a candle that smelled like the oil used to smell. Unfortunately, rubbing the candle on myself didn’t have the same affect.) They also sold drug paraphernalia like pipes, bongs, rolling papers, roach clips, smoking stones, and ash trays. Everything one would need to get high, with the exception of the drugs themselves. Although, I had my doubts, because it always smelled like pot in there. Of course they blamed it on the Patchouli oil. They also sold tie-dyed t-shirts, black lights, and black light posters. Remember them? Oh, and they also sold incense and incense holders, to cover up the smell of what the other paraphernalia was for.

Purchasing anything from the head shop and then utilizing said purchases, had an end result of this little thing called “the munchies”. Before the casinos came, there were very few places in Norwich to go eat. If you travelled outside of Norwich there were restaurants like Peter’s Family Restaurant in Uncasville/Montville (right by where my friend and I would get the bus, or hitch hike to salt mines!). I never liked Peter’s because they had a very large, extensive menu, like 12 pages long, but everything they cooked wasn’t fresh. In order to have such an extensive menu, all things had to be frozen. Therefore the quality wasn’t there.

One of my favorite restaurants back then was The Chopping Block which was located in East Lyme at the Ponderosa campground. The Chopping Block was like a Chuck’s steakhouse, but better. They had the best pina coladas around, made with real whipped cream and their mix was superb. They also had the best artichokes around. My younger brother married the girl whose father owned The Chopping Block. And although my brother and she are now divorced, I made sure I got the artichoke recipe in the settlement. Score! (If anyone wants the recipe, let me know.)

If we were in the Norwichtown Mall, we’d go to BeeBee’s Dairy. They had the best footlong hot dog with cheese and bacon; the roll, griddled with butter to a golden brown, was just right. I can still taste it. And can still picture the booths and counters. Is that still there? A friend of mine from high school worked there. She worked the morning shift, slinging coffee and eggs to all old retired gentlemen who couldn’t cook breakfast for themselves. They’d leave her pocket change for tips. We’d go out drinking at night and she’d always be paying for drinks with quarters. Her purse weighed a ton.

My first job was at Kentucky Fried Chicken (aka KFC. My daughter didn’t know the real name of the place. She only knows it as KFC. Are we lazy or what? That we can’t say the whole words? I believe they even changed the name to KFC officially. Geez. Colonel Sanders is probably rolling in his grave.) I loved KFC before working there. But as with anything else, if you’re around stuff too long, you lose the hankering for it. Once I saw how they did things and how they made stuff, on top of coming home smelling like a deep fryer every night, I couldn’t eat it anymore. It took me years to be able to eat it again. And I never did get the Original special recipe. :-(

On to grinders. Grinders are pure comfort food to me. And I don’t mean the crap that you can buy at Subway or Quiznos. Those are not grinders. Depending on what part of the country you are from, they call these types of sandwiches different things. They can be called “subs”, I guess from the shape of the bread looking like a submarine, or a torpedo (but still called a sub). Some people call them “hoagies”. In my experience from eating in school cafeterias, a hoagie is a sandwich that consists of a hard roll (not grinder bread as we know it in the Northeast), and has all the ingredients of a grinder with one major distinction. The cheese. A grinder has to have provolone cheese to be called a grinder, in my book. A hoagie has American cheese and sometimes its orange American cheese. Not even CLOSE to a grinder. Don’t even insult me by serving me a hoagie and calling it a grinder. I’ll get up and walk out.

I had a friend who worked at M & M Pizza in Taftville. She used to give us free grinders. That is, if we could get there. It was too far to walk. But if someone had a car, we would go there and she’d make us great ham grinders, with onions, and extra oil. Couldn’t beat the price. Free. Although, sometimes, we’d find a way to get there, just to find out her boss was there and she couldn’t give us a free grinder. Nothing more disappointing than that.

There was also Delia’s which had the best grinders. And the prices were reasonable. There was Delia’s in Uncasville across the street from the Golden Palace Chinese Restaurant. But my friend and I would always go to the downtown Delia’s and have just enough money to buy a small grinder and a coke and we’d split it. Yum!

I can't talk about grinders and not mention this place. In Willimantic, there is a place that sells grinders, or at least used to, I’m not sure if it’s still there anymore, but we used to laugh at the sign. The name of the place was "Giant Dick’s" grinders. I kid you not. Or at least that’s how the sign read.

Then there is the famous Vocatura’s in Norwich. Vocatura’s makes their own bread and pastries. It’s an Italian bakery that somehow teh owners got lost on their way to New Haven and landed in Norwich CT instead. For the locals, Vocaturas is like going to Little Italy. But for those of us that will go to Atwell’s Avenue in Providence or Wooster Street in New Haven, Vocatura’s is small change. In my last blog, (Part 2) I mentioned that I knew a place that sold really good grinders but was hesitant to divulge the information. I’ve given it some thought and decided that a picture is worth a thousand words.

In these pictures, both grinders are baked ham grinders with oil. No special ordering was done. I went to both places and just asked for baked ham grinders and this is what I got.

In this picture, the top grinder is from Vocatura's in Norwich. The grinder on the bottom is from the mystery place.

The grinder on the left is Vocatura's. On the right, the mystery place.

Vocatura's (Note the one slice of ham!)

Mystery Place (Note the half of pig on this thing! I can only eat a quarter of this thing for dinner!)

Now,I know what some of you are saying. Yeah, but Sharon, there's nothing like Vocatura's bread. I do agree they have good bread. But so isn't the bread from the mystery place. If you want to know where this mystery place is, I will post it. But only if I get some comments this week. Bare in mind I can not tell who or where the comments are coming from if you send them anonymously. I can't track it so, why not make a comment and let me know you read this blog and what you think. I do get the comments first to make sure nobody is posting inappropriate stuff, but they are sent to me anonymously and I don't know who has sent what.

And now for my Kaneclusion to all this for the last three weeks.

My Kaneclusion: To sum up all three blogs in this series, before I had kids, I travelled. And although that was fun, I couldn’t help but feel that there had to be more to life than just visiting different places and sight seeing. And now that I have kids, we still travel and I love seeing things through their eyes. But with kids come expenses and we don’t go and see everything I would like to show them. But who needs it really? Who needs to drive 1500 miles to Mount Rushmore to see stone carvings – we have Snoopy Rock right here in Preston! Who needs to drive to Niagara Falls – we have Chapman Falls at Devil’s Hopyard! Who needs Busch Gardens with its many roller coaster rides? We have The Bump in Poquetanuck, soaring us into the air! I have been to all these places and I have to tell ya’. We have it all right here people! People that have to go on trips to “get away” or worse yet, take drugs to escape, are missing out. I don’t have to do drugs to escape from life. If I want to see talking fish, I can buy me one of those Mcdonald’s commercials fish plaques from Surplus Unlimited if I want that. (Big Mouth Billy Bass)

I think Dottie said it best:

"If I ever go looking for my hearts desire, I won't look any farther than my own back yard", and of course, "Oh, Auntie Em, there's no place like home." – Dorothy Gale of Kansas

Tune in next week when I might tell you where that grinder is from.

Chapman Falls at Devil's Hopyard 2010

The fence that keeps nobody out. Note: NO "Sign, sign, everywhere a sign, blocking out the scenery, breaking my mind. Do this, don't do that, Can't you read the sign." - Five Man Electrical Band.

The area of the talking fish sighting.

Rachel Kane looking for the jumping-out-of-the-water talking fish.

Chapman Falls.

Rachel Kane

At arms length, a cell phone shot of Rachel and I sitting in front of the falls.

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