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roachpic.jpgAl Roach Reminisces
Al Roach, raised in Walkerville, wrote for The Windsor Star for 43 years. He is the author of two books on local history, All Our Memories, and All Our Memories 2.

Click here to read Swimming in the Detroit River

Al Roach Links

A Prohibition Story
The Jargon Jungle
Education Begins in Walkerville
Lazy, Hazy Days of Summer
Assumption College: Class of ’46
Springtime on the Detroit River
All About Kids and the Snow
Give Me a Dime to Spend...on Wyandotte in the 1930s
The Essence of Boyhood
Poetry, Pigeons and Pugilists
Girls of Grace Hospital
A Christmas Story
Chocolate Malts & BBQ's
Sunday in Detroit
A Visit With Grey Owl (at King Edward School)
The Last Ferry
Alleys of My Youth
Of Boys and a Bridge
The Lake Erie, Essex and Detroit Railway
Lowe Tech: Knuckle Sandwich

Swimming in the Detroit River

boysswimming.jpgCrawl along the wood log just above the Detroit River past the NO TRESPASSING sign to the ferry dock. Keep out of sight of the customs men. Slip onto the stern of the tubby grey Wayne or Halcyon.

Ride it out a few hundred yards.

"I told you kids I'll call the cops if you don't cut that out!" roars a furious deck hand.

"Watch out! He's got the fire hose! Jump!"

Swim to the twin boathouses at the foot of Hall Avenue. Walk back along the cinder strewn CNR tracks to the Walkerville Ferry at the foot of Devonshire Road.

Watch Dennis Harris ­ "deep-sea diver" earn 50 cents for each automobile wheel he retrieves from the river bottom after  a truck crashes into the dock.

Some unwritten law compels the older teenaged boys to throw any ten-year-old in sight into eight feet of water at the end of the Walkerville sewer.

"Cut it out, you apes! I can't swim!"

Somehow you struggle back to shore. They never lost a youngster off the sewer but a boy was lost in the weeds between the ferry dock and Beard's Boathouse. That summer we watch in horrified silence as the Walkerville Fire Dept. carries his body away. Stories circulate of the boy who had been chopped to bits by the propeller of the old Essex ferry.

No jobs. Nothing else to do.

Skinny brown boys lying around in the sun. Long, lazy summer days punctuated by hobos arriving in empty boxcars. Terminated by five deep-throated blasts of the distillery horn and the whistle's piercing scream from the Parke Davis Company at the foot of Walker Road.

Time for the swimming boys to go home for dinner.

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