|Saturday, March 5th 2005, by Marissa A Spencer|
Bidwell’s Bar circa 1960
By Marissa A Spencer
Recollections of our childhood experiences are tinged by a rosy sense of wonder. I have often pondered the things we did as a family and the feelings that came with them.
We lived in the northern part of California near Oroville. My grandparents lived in Oroville itself. Grandpa Jay was a retired Chief of Police. He spent his later years writing articles for various historical periodicals. My Grandma Betty was his second wife; I never met my real grandmother. Grandma Betty was perfectly acceptable. Her tightly curled silver-blue hair and her bright blue eyes are forever there in my mind to recall.
We would often go in a group on day trips. The considerable extended family would be there. Aunts, Uncles, Cousins, Grandparents and of course my family would go to one of our favorite places. I usually got to ride in the back of the truck. In those days no one minded.
A place I recall very well is the Feather River Canyon. It is a narrow river with occasional high canyon walls. It runs quite a distance and has many really good fishing holes surrounded by enormous granite boulders. Sometimes we would swim in the water. There was one particular place my mother always insisted we stop at. The boulders were awesome and the pools deep and clear. The reason we stopped though…was not for the boulders. There was a small bay laurel tree that grew at the beginning of the trail to the water. She would pick a handful of them to use in cooking. Their spicy aroma always reminds me of seeing my Mother’s slim fingers plucking half a dozen green leaves off a scruffy looking bush. My Mother continually taught the gifts of nature to me. For that legacy I am forever grateful.
My Father would do the driving. We had a big truck. We always had canvas-drinking bags hanging on the bed of the truck for when we wanted a drink. Part way through our trip he would know exactly where to stop. Along the side of the road where the mountain went straight up there would be a small turn out. He would stop the truck in a cloud of dust he would get out. He would then grab the canvas bags and go over to the solid red rock cliff. There a small pipe would be hanging there with water running out. Very, very cold water as if from the rock itself. He filled each bag and handed them to us. I took a drink. It was mineral water; ice cold, fizzy and tangy. We would pass the water around as we rode in the back, until the fizzy was all gone. Once it was warm and no longer carbonated, it was pretty nasty stuff.
We would have a picnic of course and head for a spot to eat and play in the water. We usually went to Bidwell’s Bar. Deeply surrounded by the canyon walls the shallow water and rough gravel beach attracted a lot of swimmers and day camping. One Aunt was a vegetarian and would always make cream cheese and olive sandwiches. My mom always made potato salad. I remember the cold water and the gravel on my feet.
The bridge that rose high up had its own ghost story. Many saw the ghostly light from a dead signalman’s lantern. When they moved the bridge years later along with moving the original orange tree (first one in California), they found a body buried beneath it. No one has discovered who it was. Maybe it was the signalman, or perhaps some sentimental person who wanted to be buried there.
The shadows cast by the high canyon walls soon brought the whole area into a type of false twilight. It was time to go home. It is funny how you recall certain things so clearly. When I think back at those days, I see that bridge and the blue shadows upon the canyon walls. I wonder if that soda water is still there, of if someone has bottled and sold it all by now. I wonder where the signalman walks now. Does he wade through the water of Oroville Lake, waving his lantern to the gaping fish?
© March 4, 2005 Marissa A Spencer
The original bridge is no longer there, they have moved it to a higher location. Bidwell’s Bar is now totally under water due to the Oroville Dam.
"Mother Orange Tree
The Mother Orange Tree was originally planted near Bidwell Bar, the site of Oroville's first gold discovery. The Mother Orange Tree spawned the entire Northern California citrus industry, and is now located on Glen Drive."
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Other entries in Stories
Friday, October 19th 2007: Mother's Last Gift
Saturday, March 3rd 2007: Parable of the Rock
Monday, August 23rd 2004: The Parable of the Mimosa and Crabapple
Sunday, August 15th 2004: Mary and Jane, are you my friends? Smithsonian part 5
Saturday, August 14th 2004: Going Into the Past: Smithsonian part 4
Friday, August 13th 2004: More pictures
Friday, August 13th 2004: Natural History Museum:Smithsonian part 3
Tuesday, August 10th 2004: Mary Cassatt, do I know you?:Smithsonian part 2
Wednesday, July 21st 2004: FORD THEATER AND ME: Smithsonian Part 1
Friday, May 7th 2004: Cloudy’s Contribution