Posted by: Bill Tracy | May 3, 2017

Baptism at Bargaintown Pond

There will be no cure for melancholy as long as there is spring. Nature itself is taken ill in springtime, this sensual and cruel season which makes you want to love and die.
– E.M Cioran

On an hot August day in 1973 I ended my trucking career. I was 26 and returning to school full time, “…to go to college and see what they know,” as Jimmy Stewart’s character said in the movie, “It’s A Wonderful Life.” I continued working part-time after that, but this day was the last as a “truck driver.” It’s a day I’ve never forgotten.

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Bargaintown Pond
It had been a hot day on my usual route, the Jersey shore from Atlantic City to Ocean City and Pleasantville to Marmora on the mainland. I had to say goodbye to a lot of nice folks I’d come to know over three or four years. By 6 PM the packages had all been delivered, and I faced a 45-minute or more final trip back to the terminal. Driving down Central Avenue in Linwood, Bargaintown Pond loomed into sight. There was a beach there in those days, an informal beach, and lots of people were cooling off in the tidal waters of Patcong Creek.

I’m not a water person. Generally I believe in the George Carlin take: “The only purpose for swimming is to save your life.” But this was a different sort of day. It needed something outside the ordinary. I pulled over at the pond. I cut the legs off my pants, removed shoes and socks and shirt and ran into the water. I recall it being delightfully cool and refreshing. I swam around a bit, dove down to the bottom a time or two — and got my fill of refreshment. On the drive back to the terminal I knew things had changed. The very feel of life was different, clearer and cleaner and more free. Or maybe it was just the missing pants legs!

Yesterday I visited the pond for the first time since that day. They don’t have a beach anymore. I guess legal liabilities, lifeguards, etc. killed that sort of thing. Back in 1973 there were no lifeguards, and people accepted the consequences of their own actions; it was just a nice place to jump into cool waters on a hot day. There is still a small place to park a car, and you can see the remnant of what was a beach. It looks like a good place to put in a canoe or kayak. It was a pretty day in springtime, and I took a picture. To me it’s just as inviting as it was on that hot summer day 44 years ago. I guess there are days you don’t need a picture to remember.

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Patcong Creek

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