Here it comes — the hot steamy summer.

On days like these in the ’60s, it was White Bridge time.

White Bridge was the swimming hole in Skowhegan we frequented as kids. I don’t think the bridge was really white, it was so marred with dirt and dust from traffic on West Ridge Road, but that’s what we called it.

“Dad, can we go to White Bridge?”

We’d pile into the station wagon, crowding in there like wiggling piglets, hot, sticky and ready to hit the cold water.

It was only a couple of miles away, White Bridge. We parked beside the road and were out the doors before the car came to a full stop.

It was a steep incline, as I recall, and we raced down and took flying leaps into the water.

I think it was brown water, too, but we didn’t care. As long as we managed to stay away from the bank on the right where the dreaded bloodsuckers lurked, we were golden.

I do remember some neighborhood kids straying from the safe zone, emerging from the muddy water with bloodsuckers all over their ankles, their mothers hauling out the salt to rub all over them until they fell off.

I was never so unfortunate as to suffer the ravages of a bloodsucker and was glad of it.

As the years went by and we were a little older, Lake George in Canaan was the swimming hole of choice. Patty’s father drove his pickup down our road, stopping at every house inhabited by kids. We’d climb into the back and hang on tight. The six-mile trip to Canaan was bumpy and wild.

We giggled and gabbed, hair flying, towels wrapped around our torsos, bugs splattering in our eyes and getting caught in our throats.

The old truck rocked and lurched and we squealed in unison. It was all part of the excitement.

We turned north toward the lake, rumbled up the dirt road and piled out of the truck, tossing out towels onto the rocks and diving into the cool, pristine water, which, to this day, remains clear and unpolluted.

Ah, the long days of summer.

On July 4, we swam in the ocean at Pemaquid Beach, emerging blue and quivering from the frigid water. We loved the salt and sun, buried our bodies in the sand and ran again into the waves.

When I was 13, we found a particularly special swimming hole at Walton’s Bridge in Cornville. We drove east down a dirt road off the West Ridge until it turned grassy, left the car there and descended a steep incline onto large rocks that arched down into the water.

We’d dive into the deep, cold pool over and over again and then lie, exhausted, on the rocks, gazing up at the old bridge that once connected the west to the east ridge but had long since been discontinued.

I got my first camera at Walton’s Bridge — a Kodak Instamatic. I found it on the rocks one rainy day. It was a small, metal rectangular camera that took great pictures and became my prized possession, launching me into a lifelong love of photography.

It’s interesting how we are drawn to water, wherever we go. Over many years since childhood and in the various places I’ve visited or lived, I always sought out the best places to swim — lakes and rivers in Massachusetts and Connecticut, the ocean in Oregon, Florida’s Gulf Coast, the Caribbean, even the gorgeous blue Mediterranean Sea off the Isle of Capri in southern Italy.

They were all lovely, but none compare to the old swimming holes of my childhood, which drew us in and called us back every summer.

They belonged to us. We didn’t have to ask for permission to go there or pay admission.

Waking up in the heat of summer and anticipating a trek to the swimming hole was exhilarating. I can’t think of much else that lent such pure joy.

Amy Calder has been a Morning Sentinel reporter 25 years. Her column appears here Mondays. She may be reached at [email protected]

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