This photo may not look like much. It appears to be a small cement house in the woods near some water with a dog investigating.
But, for many children who played in those woods this spot is rich in memories. I could tell you at least a dozen stories from the memories sparked by this photo. I will offer you one.
This is a photo of a dam that was built to block a stream called Donaldson Run, in Arlington, Virginia, about a quarter mile from where it empties into the Potomac River. This dam, built to form a swimming hole, some time in the 1930s or 1940s, didn’t function terribly long, in large part because it cracked and the bathhouse, visible in the photo, separated from the rest of the dam, and tilted away toward the river as you can see in the photo. By the time I was old enough to play in those woods in the late 1950s, that dam was already cracked. But it remains, as a thing to clamber over, an obstacle for creatures human and otherwise. Early on, you could still walk across it from one side to the other, but over time, the housing end sank further and further away from the hillside.
In 1964, a bunch of us kids from the neighborhood, 10 or so, were down in the woods, playing at the dam. As I recall, Kenny Herrell slipped and fell down that hillside hitting a beehive on his way down. The angry bees swarmed. We all ran. But my little brother who was only 7, was too slow and the angry bees stung several times. By the time we got home, his leg was badly swollen, revealing an allergy to bee stings. The thing is, we were supposed to be piling into a car that day to drive to New York City to visit the World’s Fair. Our trip to the fair was hallmarked by my brother visiting the fair in a wheel chair, his leg too swollen to walk.
You see, one photo, can spark so many memories. This one sparks memories of life in the 1960s, bee stings, the World’s Fair, playing in the woods, a mysterious and currently useless dam. We all have lots and lots of stories stored in our minds. And these stories matter. They add to our understanding of life, to our understanding of our history. Your stories matter.