As June slides towards July I think of summers at Pinedale when I was growing up. Remembering summers naturally brings up images of Conniesville, a complete miniature village of doll size houses we four youngest of ten built in the woods one year.
Stanley was the oldest of the four. He and Charlie had the best ideas and the engineering skill to develop them. Suzanne and I were happy to follow their lead most of the time. None of us objected to Stanley’s choice of a name for our village. He was smitten at the time by a little girl named Connie so we all agreed on Conniesville. I truly believe Connie never had any idea she had a village named for her.
As I suppose happens with many villages, ours had an overall plan but developed into further buildings and streets as the weeks went by. We chose an area where the topography was nicely undulated to give our village slopes, as well as even terrain and a mountain or two. The whole village was only as large as a normal living room. We each picked the site for our own house. I think mine was on the northeast corner not far from a leaning sourwood tree. I liked the patch of soft green moss which would be the lawn for my manor. We each also chose a village business or institution on which to work.
We hauled small rocks and stones from a nearby brook. From time to time someone would visit a clay bank, wet the good malleable gray clay until it was almost soupy and lug it up the hill in an old worn out kettle. Finding the perfect sticks for ridge poles and rafters was very hard. My roof collapsed several times before I learned how to strengthen it by watching the boys’ tactics. I was careful and subtle about my spying for fear they would shoo me away to make my house on my own, or that they would become even more prideful than they already were.
Charlie had a toy dump truck he’d received the Christmas before. We used that to help build the streets. Our streets meandered romantically around hillsides, had tunnels even where they weren’t needed and, of course, bridges. I can just see right now Charlie’s earnest expression as he created one of those tunnels, as if it were the construction of a tunnel in the Smoky Mountains.
I know we were awfully grimy when we went in from playing. But I only remember Mamma being slightly frustrated a time or two. When we explained what we’d been doing she smiled and shrugged her shoulders before grabbing a bar of Octagan soap.
After some weeks our village really took shape. Charlie had created a bulldozer business in a low place where he could dig nice red clay. Stanley built a grocery store with a semblance of a gas pump in front. Suzanne built a shop for selling fabric and made a sign that she would take in sewing. I thought a bakery and a library were musts but the roof kept falling in on the bakery and my library was quite crooked. We all worked building a church which turned out really nice except that the steeple ended up like the leaning tower of Pisa.
We held a town council over which Stanley presided. Our main order of business was the naming of the streets. It boiled down to each of us naming our own street and then voting on the main streets, whether they would be Hickory Avenue, Rosemary Street, Churchill Boulevard or just plain Main Street. Or maybe one was Spruce Mountain Road.
Okay, so I’ve taken a few writer’s privileges in describing our village. After all, it was a long time ago. How would I remember all those particulars? But I do remember vividly the fun we had, the finished village, how Mamma and Daddy were so impressed they brought house guests to look at Conniesville. I remember the disappointment when a big rain came and several of our charming buildings collapsed. That soft clay melted in the deluge. I remember we endeavored to plant small trees the appropriate size for the little houses. As the summer turned into the hot days of August those trees wilted and turned brown.
It was a magical summer of innocent play. Yet now I can see foreshadowing of who we were to become. Stanley became an entrepreneur owning, among other small businesses, a gas station with a line of groceries. Charlie followed several careers including years as a forester, running a sawmill and other large equipment. Later, both boys teamed up in building car washes all over Georgia, now known as Carwash Specialist. Suzanne and I became happy homemakers. She developed seamstress skills, making wedding dresses for her twin girls, along with a doll repair business. And I–well, I’m just telling the story.
In later years I told my children about our village. We were even able to find remains of our little houses, piles of small stones here and there in the underbrush. But mainly, in our minds, something of that playful summer even still survives, echoes of a village named Conniesville.