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Sunday, September 28, 2014

The "My Southern Sweetheart" Story

Heading through the southern end of Lancaster County.
It was an ordinary day.  Carol and I decided to take a ride down south.  Not necessarily what you may think of as the south, but to the home where Carol lived as a child in Martic Forge, Lancaster County, PA.  Carol and I met when she was 18 and I was 21.  Her mom, Grace, and my dad, Paul, worked together at Meiskey's Jewelry Store in downtown Lancaster.  
The pioneers who settled "Frogtown".
One day they decided that it was time for the two of us to meet so they set up a blind date for us.  I headed to Carol's home about two blocks from my house on my Honda motorcycle.  We seemed to hit it off right away and after a few more dates I knew I was going to marry her.  Sounds good, right, except I now had to convince her that it was a good idea.  
County marker for Marticville.
A year later we were married and moved into our own apartment on the other end of town.  During the year of dating we got to know all about each other and that included a few trips to the south of Lancaster to visit with her best friend Betty Ann who lived near Carol's old childhood home.   But, not once did we drive back the private road where Carol had spent most of here life so I could see where she lived along the Pequea Creek.  Carol and her parent's moved to Martic Forge when she was ready to enter 1st grade.  
The scenic farmland of southern Lancaster.
Often told me of swimming with her neighbor- hood boyfriend Billy Myers in the Pequea Creek and caring for her horse "Blackie", who lived in a small barn that she and her dad built across the road and next to the creek from her house, but we never ventured along the narrow winding road next to the railroad trestle bridge that led back to a few houses along the creek.  
The old Martic Forge where we turned into her lane.
Well, today that changed!  I told her I was ready to see exactly where she lived and played.  I didn't have to ask twice if she wanted to go, as she was ready within minutes to hop in the car.  Headed south on Rt. 324 until we finally reached the small town known as Marticville.  Used to be named "Frogtown" and was founded in 1711 by a family of pioneers, but Carol had no idea why it was ever named that.  
The forge as it used to look.
We had a good time suggesting why, but I'm sure none of the suggestions were correct.  We then began to look for a Railroad arch that we used to go beneath, but never found it.  Shortly we realized that another road had been built to eliminate the arch.  A mile or so more and we headed down an incline. "There's the road to my house.  The houses on the hill before the road used to be the forge." 
The sign at the start of the lane where Carol used to live.
I admired the buildings and began my entry on the narrow stone road.  Right in front of us stood a sign that said "Private Drive" and something else about being prosecuted if you didn't listen.  I drove right by it and Carol said, "Maybe we shouldn't drive back.  What will we do if someone comes towards us?"  I told her we'll never be able to see where she lived if we turn back  and kept on driving.  
Old railroad trestle bridge that we saw first.
First drove under the extremely tall railroad bridge that no longer carries rail traffic.  This area of Lancaster County is so beautiful that I wondered why it wasn't more heavily populated.  To our left is the creek that she used to swim in with her friend.  
The Pequea Creek was to our left as we drove back the lane.
"We were both pre-teens and both our parents worked, but they still allowed us to swim and jump off the rocks in the creek without adult super- vision."  "Wow!!" was all I could say.  The first house appeared.  "That's where the Alexander's lived," she told me. I remembered her mentioning them as friends of her parents.  
 Carol's childhood home.  She recognized it as soon as
she saw it.  Some of the retaining wall was different and
a porch was added, but it was her home.
A short distance around a slight turn and there it was.  "That's it!  That's where I lived.  Looks pretty much the same as it used to except for the wall in the front."  We stopped so I could take a photo.  No one was anywhere to be seen.  
Carol's 1965 Austin Healey Sprite sitting in front of
her house in 1965.
Across the road was where Carol had her barn for "Blackie."  Bo lived in the next house.  He was young and single and Carol couldn't recall his last name.  We passed two more houses where the Grimms and Myers families lived.  "Wonder if any of them still live here?" she said.  "I guess they might all be dead."  We had reached the end of the road.  
The field across from the house where "Blackie" lived.
Managed to turn around on the grass and headed back in the direction we had come.  Still not a sign of life as we took one more photo of her old house and continued on the narrow gravel road.  "One last thing I want to see and that is where the old Martic Forge Hotel once stood," I said.  
Only thing remaining from the Martic Forge Hotel was
this walk that used to be in front of it.  
Many times when our children were young, we traveled to the Pequea Creek with the kids and friends to go tubing on the creek.  We would take one car to the park a couple of miles away and leave it there.  Return in the other car to the hotel and hop in the creek on our tubes.  
Photo I found of firemen fighting the
fire at the Martic Forge Hotel.
An hour later we would reach the covered bridge that was at the park.  Oh the memories!  Well, we exited her drive, turned right and then a quick left.  There on the corner in a mass of overgrown shrubs and weeds was the remains of the hotel which was set on fire in 2004.  Luckily a policeman was parked nearby and he and another officer who arrived quickly were able to save 11 residents from the building before it went up in flames.  The building was a total loss with a value of $450,000.  About the only thing left was part of the foundation and the cement walk that was in front of the hotel.  "That's were I had to walk to catch the school bus.  We never knew if would make it up the hill in front of us."  Our day was a success and I got to finally see where my wife spent about a dozen years of her life.  As for the forge we passed . . . . well, that's a story for another day.  It was an ordinary day in the life of an ordinary guy.     

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