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Marg-ins - Blasts From The Past

POSTED July 6, 2011 1:25 a.m.
Ah, the wonder of the Internet and the remembrance of things past.
My sister recently returned from a visit to our hometown in upstate New York and while she was there, we stayed in touch via text messages and through email. We did also talk on the phone once or twice but more often than not, it was electronic communication.
We got reminiscing about things particular to New York or the East Coast area in general, things that just aren’t available out here on the West Coast. She emailed me a photo of a package of Bachman Jax – I have no idea why they are called that — that we loved as kids. Jax are a ‘puffy cheese curl,’ according to the company’s website, that are a corn-based snack, individually made and then dusted with cheddar cheese as the final step in the baking process. None of which mattered when I was 11 and came home from school hungry. It was just a great snack. Unless my sister got to the bag first.
When you’re a kid, your perspective is so different. I just assumed everybody knew and loved Jax but out here in California, no one knows Jax. They are a Pennsylvania-based business and now can ship worldwide thanks to the Internet but it was one of those regional things you loved as a kid.
My cousin, also a New York transplant to California, absolutely loved the regional Freihofer’s chocolate chip cookies. I think she always brings back a few boxes when she goes for a visit.
Drake’s cakes are another staple and as a kid, the father of a friend was a delivery driver. A couple of times during the summer, she and I would get up at 3 a.m. and go on his delivery route with him. Again, at 11 your perspective is different and an early morning wake up call to take packaged snack cakes to stores in a 100-mile radius seemed like fun. It was interesting and since we helped him check off the inventory and kept tabs on where we had been and where we still needed to go, he always had a couple of our favorite treats set aside. Drake’s cinnamon coffee cakes — two to three bites and they were gone — were the best.
My brother at one time was also a deliveryman, for a local dairy that bottled and sold its own milk and cream. Remember, this is upstate New York, the heart of dairy country that was also known as the ‘bread basket’ of the Revolutionary War for all the grain that is grown there. He needed help one time getting the route done quickly so he could go to a wedding — be in it, actually — so I went along that time as well. Much older then, as we were both out of high school, it’s amazing that they still delivered milk to the front door. The order forms were left on the front porches of homes and we filled them in the early morning hours, leaving bottles of cream, milk and chocolate milk, almost like out of a ’50s movie or TV show. Who gets milk delivered anymore? Of course we’re talking nearly three decades ago now, so I guess at that time it was still common practice. Milk in glass bottles, amazing. More amazing is that my husband, who is a nut for digging up ‘treasures’ — other people’s castoffs — probably has some of those ‘Mountain Dairy’ milk jugs. His idea of fun when we vacationed and visited my parents was getting permission to go dig in the old town dump. But he had plenty of treasures to box up for the trip home. They can fetch a good price from the right collector.
Perspective is a funny thing, this whole reminiscing with my sister over childhood made me think of summer camp and that opens up a whole new avenue. She and I were both in 4-H, did the county fair competitions and all, and even attended 4-H Camp.
Most of my camp memories are good ones, except for the first year when my sister (five years older than I) told all the kids in her tent what they could do at night to scare me and they did a lot of scaring. I survived but never really forgave her for having every kid come up to me and recite the scariest part of a story I absolutely hated. Something about a china doll coming to life and attacking the whole family and known by the ‘pitter patter, pitter patter, pitter patter, c-r-r-r-e-e-a-a-k-k-k’ noise the doll made as it went down the hall and opened the bedroom door of its next intended victim.
Childhood trauma notwithstanding, as my sister and I texted about our memories, I Googled the 4-H camp just to see if it still existed. You don’t forget the name Camp Shankitunk. I probably still have a hunter green sweatshirt somewhere with that name on it.
In the foothills of the Catskill Mountains, the name is Indian for ‘woody place’ and there it was, popping up on my search, still in business, but now co-ed (the horror of it all) and still allowing 14-year-olds to be Counselors-In-Training so they can annoy their 9-year-old siblings at camp as well as at home.
But the funny thing? This 4-H camp that was so far removed from my ‘normal’ life, such a major daylong journey to get there to spend a week away from everything I knew and loved … was 45 miles away from my house.
A different world. Right next door. Gotta love perspective.

Marg Jackson is editor of The Escalon Times and The Oakdale Leader and assistant editor for The Riverbank News. She may be reached at mjackson@escalontimes.com or by calling 847-3021.
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