Cedar Pines on Pine Creek: a Painterly Project

by

My youngest niece, Kate Oechler, is getting married this August. She and Cliff, her fiancé,  and Banshee, their ever-so-mellow dog, visited us in the summer of 2010, and we’ve been watching their adventures via Facebook since then.

We got the “Save the Date” card about the wedding last winter, and then, in March, Kate wrote and asked if I would be willing to paint the old family homestead, the place we call variously “The Camp,” “Camp Cedar Pines,”  “Cedar Pines” — or just “the old place up Pine Creek”.

Pine Creek is the river that runs through the Pine Creek Gorge, and is a designated National Wild and Scenic River. When the mountains retreat a little and private land begins, the Creek (“Crick”) makes its way south to the West Branch of the Susquehanna River through tiny villages like Cedar Run and Slate Run. It’s between those two hamlets on Pennsylvania Route 414 that Cedar Pines, where my mother and father lived for some years after Daddy retired, sits above the stream in a wide spot in the valley.


This is a photo of the Gorge, taken from Wikipedia. Those are the old worn down mountains that still send my heart singing when I remember them.

But back to the wedding of Kate and Cliff. Between March and June, between family and medical matters, between chewing my fingernails and realizing the difference between being flattered to be asked and actually doing an acceptable job, I painted. By June, I had three acceptable paintings (I refuse to count the “studies” and rough drafts) that I sent off for approval. Kate and Cliff chose one for their invitations.

Here’s one that wasn’t chosen:

JOU, Cedar Pines in the 1980’s, oil on masonite, 2012

The Camp isn’t an elegant house. It’s an old farmhouse dating from the late 19th century. After that early farming family left, Cedar Pines became an adult and then a youth camp for overheated inhabitants of the Susquehanna Valley. The campers came by railroad up the Jersey Shore, Pine Creek, and Buffalo Railway and then, as the highway improved, by roadway.

The adult/youth camp business added to the farmhouse to create a building we called the Lodge (the dining hall), as well as a largish outbuilding known as the Teepee, and a batch of small shacks for campers. The shacks got torn down when my parents bought the place (Jer and I helped on that in the mid-1960’s), the Lodge was reduced in size by tearing out the rotting connection between it and the house, the Teepee got upgraded (a little), and the main house was made livable. Then, after many happy years, my parents died, a small tornado destroyed the trees and took out various parts of buildings, the Lodge became a hazard and was torn down as was the garage that my father added, and the place declined into an almost unusable hunting camp.

However, it seems that in part because of Kate and Cliff’s desire to be married on that property and in part because a whole batch of cousins are newly interested in the area, the house is being painted and put back together again.

JOU, Cedar Pines circa 2011, Oil on masonite, 2012

The Camp means different things to different people: Jan remembers it as a place where she and her cousins “ran feral,” swarming into the kitchen as a gang, devouring food, and then tearing out the back door to jump into the Crick or to build dams in Gamble Run (which ran into Pine Creek along one side of the property). I remember it as a place we retreated to when we ran out of money in graduate school — it was cheaper to drive to PA from Stony Brook, New York and eat all weekend for free than to stay out on Long Island. It was also much more pleasant.

The Camp was always filled with people; my folks were not merely hospitable but easy to be with. Cousins, in-laws, friends of the family, children of friends of the family, old boyfriends — you name it and some of them would show up during any given day. My mother would cook for them, my father would draft them into cutting the enormous lawn and fields that he mowed; all the men worked on their cars; all the women took care of the kids. Jan said she read and reread Invasion of the Body Snatchers during a couple of her teenage summers; the upstairs back room was filled with an eclectic collection of books — everyone’s throw aways, from college astronomy texts to True Romances.

I’m not showing the painting that Kate picked for her invitation. That’s her privilege. But here’s a couple of my favorite photos from the late 1970’s or early ’80’s at Camp:

Ann Oechler (Mom/Grammy Ann) holds the baby at the center.  Charlotte Oechler (now Conser) is probably the teenager on the photo’s left (Charlotte is my brother,  CJ’s, daughter) and my sister Carol Oechler (now Lau) is to the right of Mom and the baby. The fuzzy person in the plaid is perhaps my Dad, although that’s not an angle I ever really looked closely at. And which baby is that? — one that age in about 1979? Ah, the mysteries of old photos. Anybody in the family want to fess up?

And here’s another:

That’s my dad, Carl Oechler, and the collection of cars usually to be found sitting in front of the Camp. I don’t see an Underwood vehicle there, but it must have been somewhere around.

Painting the Camp and reviewing old photos took up a lot of head space during the spring. It was definitely a Good Thing. I began to yearn over those gentle mountains and the scent of PA forest. God willin’ and the Crick don’t rise, Jer and I might head east this summer to attend a wedding and do some work of our own at the old homestead.

Well, god willin’ and the Camp being available for civilized living, that is…. –June

22 Responses to “Cedar Pines on Pine Creek: a Painterly Project”

  1. Susan (Scruggs) Tedde Says:

    Before reading your text I also thought that picture was of my mother on the left. As we are planning a trip up to camp over the 4th, when the traditional family reunion was held, we have been discussin’ old times with the kids. My son had to explain to his North Carolina classmates what a ‘crick’ was, and my flat-lander husband Googled ‘crick’ to try to set us straight – but mom and I know that you can’t explain it to a ‘foreigner’ from Ohio. I explained to Ethan that he didn’t need to know the name of the crick, just to let me know if he was going swimming in the ‘little crick’ or the ‘big’ one. I also remember we were never allowed in the ‘big’ crick until one of the adults came down. The wait was traumatic! I remember playing army with the Wyant’s and using the lodge as the hospital and mixing up medicine with grasses and weeds and crick water. My children haven’t had the same experiences that we share here but they have learned to love and appreciate the camp for the memories that they have made with us over the years. We even spent Christmas Eve there one year and waited for Santa. I’m happy you are sharing some of these old photos and stories. I printed your last blog out and had mom show me all those locations on the map so we can hike some next week. I tell everyone that my favorite part of camp is the smell. When you step out of the car and get the smell of the crick and the forest in your nose you can’t help but feel wonderful.

    • june Says:

      Oh Susan, your comments make me homesick even more. I had forgotten the little crick was “the little crick” but I remember vividly the rule about the Big Crick, because I was one being bugged to to down and literally be bugged while you guys swam. I love the notion of playing army; I have memories of being in Pine Station and playing cowboys and Indians with my two older brothers. Very non-PC: they made me be the Indians, every time.

      I wish we could see you while we are staying at Camp; I’m hoping we’ll be able to be there from about August 20 through Sept 30. Any chance…..? I won’t make Mary carry me up the West Rim trail, like she practically did the last time.

      We haven’t finalized our arrangements with Mike and Kitty yet, but if there’s any chance of seeing you or any of the family, let us know. I’m practicing my painting, but secretly hoping that there will be too many visitors for me to do much:-)

      Thanks for checking in and for showing the blog around.

    • Tani Says:

      Those “army” days were such fun Susan! I don’t think you and I ever allowed Steve and Jeff to be in charge . . . we were such tough little girls.

      We must have had just the perfect childhood climbing over those mountains . . . I wish I had known back then how good it was at the time. I wouldn’t dream of giving my own kids quite the same amount of freedom that we had at such young ages and yet we seemed to do just fine roaming around with no adults. The only time I remember being worried about being by myself was when I once saw a snake.

      Susan, you are so right about the smell . . . living in Lancaster county, I truly miss that mountain/mountain stream aroma. I can also close my eyes and smell the smokey fireplace of the Lodge. I also miss eating tomatoes with sugar . . . Pappap and I used to do that. I just ate one the other day and thought of him.

      Ahh . . . memories . . .

  2. Tani Miller Says:

    Could the baby perhaps be Christopher? The red bibs look like the type of clothing Kitty preferred. I forget his birth year but did frequently babysit him during my secondary school years. That would have been close to this time.

    I love your paintings and can’t wait to see the one they selected! The first one needs to include Grammy Ann’s chairs on the porch . . . . Just a thought!

    Yes, I remember spending lots of time in the “crick” with Jan and Charlotte. Those weeks were always my favorite parts of the summer. Grammy would always end the week by allowing us to pick out a piece of jewelry from her large box of sparkly costume jewels. PapPap and I would sit and eat sliced tomatoes sprinkled with sugar . . . Something no one else would touch! Such wonderful memories!

    • june Says:

      Um — that could be Christopher, Tani. The age sounds about right. I was working from photos, none of which had chairs on the porch. I wish I could remember what they looked like — I would have liked to include them. In fact, I could include them still — do you have any photos? I think I have a picture of you and Jan as teenagers — perhaps the year that Jan and I traveled to PA by ourselves. She would have been maybe 15 (or a bit younger).

      Anyway, if you have any photos of the camp hanging around, scan them and send them to me. I’m collecting them as part of my “research” prior to the wedding. We think we may come in for it, and then we’ll stick around so I can do some more painting.

  3. Kathy Says:

    Did you ever sleep in hammocks from the rafters in the lodge? Worst memory of camp was WAITING to go swimming. I couldn’t ever figure out why I was the only one who wanted to go swimming as soon as breakfast was over! I have TONS of wonderful memories from camp. It was a second home for many years.

    • june Says:

      Kathy, you may have spent more time at camp than any of the rest of us because Doris and Mom were such buddies and Doris was such a good worker. I never slept in a hammock (I was, after all, “grown up” — in college when they bought the camp, I think. And we lived in Wyoming while they lived in the apartment in JS, so I was a young wife and mother and teacher during those early years. I love hearing about the various experiences people had.

      • Tani Says:

        I never slept in a hammock but I did sleep many ‘a night in the lodge’s metal bunk beds. I even survived a couple of visits by bats that would fly around after dark when we were toasting marshmallows in the fireplace.

  4. Carla Says:

    Thank you for sharing June. It makes me want to travel north to Pennsylvania and discover more of valleys and gorges there.

    • june Says:

      Carla, the northern tier of PA has some wonderful back country. The gorge was a result of the receding of the ice age (20,000 years ago). The Crick originally flowed north, but an ice dam and subsequent floods created the gorge. Or at least that’s what Wikipedia tells me. The mountains are special to me; my mother’s old home farm was high up above the gorge, and when we were small, the whole family would go up into the woods and out onto the still intact meadows and camp there. That was before they bought Cedar Pines but it was always one of the six landmarks along the way. My folks loved it for a long time before it came up for sale. My mother, by the way, rode that railroad down the gorge to go to school when she was still in elementary school. She stayed down creek for the week and came home on the weekends. Old stories, intertwined with landscape…..

  5. Kathy Says:

    Umm is there a chance that this was 1987? That ADORABLE baby looks suspiciously like mine.
    Can’t begin to count the weekends we spent at camp. Probably easier to count the ones we didn’t.
    I remember when we had to use the outhouse. yikes! I was afraid of snakes in the dark.

    • june Says:

      Kathy, I don’t think it could have been that late — we didn’t go back any summers after the late 70’s. I was there a winter or two but I’m sure that that photo was one of those big family gatherings. Other photos make it look like a fourth of July or some such.

    • june Says:

      You know, I don’t remember the outhouse — or not clearly enough to have a sense of it. Your mom, Kathy, was one of the primary workers, if my memory is correct. I remember her and my mom helping get rid of the old freezers and rotted wood. I bet you did spend a lot of time there. Luckily I was unavailable (college, young mother) and so didn’t have to do too much of the work:-)

    • Tani Says:

      Kathy, that couldn’t have been as late as 1987.

      Grammy Ann and Pappap were living in Jersey around 1987. Once they moved away from camp, Pappap really didn’t want to go back. His health was starting to deteriorate, sadly, by then and Grammy was starting to have issues as well.

      I don’t remember an outhouse either. Thankfully!

      Tani

  6. Vicki Fenstemacher Says:

    LOVE, LOVE, LOVE! I have very fond memories of the summers I visited Camp.

    • june Says:

      Thanks, Vicki. You must have been one of those kids, like Jan, who swept through the house like hurricanes. Good to hear from you.

  7. Jer Says:

    Isn’t that Mary rather than Charlotte?

    • june Says:

      Jer, I think she was identified as Mary in your files, but when I looked at it, I didn’t think it was Mary. But I could be persuaded — by someone other than yourself, of course. BTW, Jay, Mike Thomsen, and the Van Gundys are visiting in West VA, and they had been talking about the Gorge before seeing the blog.

  8. Kathy Says:

    I LOVE these!! umm are you sure of the 1979 date?

    • june Says:

      Kathy, not sure at all of the dates. It looks like Charlotte was about 16 in the photo; I suspect it was a 4th of July gathering, given the number of cars Dad is sitting on. But our dates are very fuzzy. I have a bunch of photos like these that have dates, recovered much later, around 1979. Maybe it was more like 1972?

  9. Del Says:

    Lovely memories. Thanks for sharing. Love, Del

    • june Says:

      Thanks, Del. You are a trooper with your blogging. I’m hoping to get back to a more reasonable schedule. Hope springs eternal, however, and good intentions are the road to hell. So, I’m not too optimistic:-)

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s


Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 45 other followers