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My Summer Working At Highland Park

November 28, 2011

 My Summer Working At Highland Park – By Darlene Oolie

In the summer of 1977, when I was 16,  I was hired by the Youth Conservation Core to work at Highland Park.   About 15 other teens were also hired, most of them inner-city at-risk youth.   I, on the other hand, was a somewhat privileged Brighton kid.  Our supervisors were quite the taskmasters (it almost felt like we were in military camp the way they barked their orders to us). We were paid minimum wage, which I think was $2.25 at the time,  for working 6 hour shifts that began at 8:30 a.m.

Tree Tour  November 2011

The group is out on the trail during the HPNA November 2011 Tree Tour that brought back memories of the Summer of 1977 to Darlene. Click on image to see more tour pictures.

It was a particularly hot and humid summer, and we had two primary tasks:

Winding Steps Highland Park, Rochester NY

Postcard from 1912: Winding Steps Highland Park, Rochester NY

The first was to clear the brush on the park border hillside facing Goodman St. This was because there had been a couple of recent rapes in local city parks, and they wanted to minimize the chance of someone being able to hide in the brush and attack someone. That job wasn’t too tough. Just a little bit of clipping, raking, and bagging.

The second task, however, was particularly grueling to perform. We were given a bunch of railroad ties of varying sizes, long stakes and hand saws (some 1 person saws, and some 2 person saws), and shovels, and told we would be building a trail up the hill toward the reservoir. I cannot convey to you how difficult it is to cut through a railroad tie with a handsaw, even when sharing the job with a person at the other end of a two person saw. We constantly grumbled and complained, and begged for power tools. We were dripping wet by the end of the day with very sore muscles, and could do nothing else but take a hot shower and crawl into bed and read or watch tv (maybe that was the point – to keep us out of trouble?). By the end of the summer, we did finally complete the trail, and were so glad not to have this job anymore.

Post Card from 1940s: A Walk in Highland Park

Though none of us would have admitted at the time, afterward, I bet all felt a sense a pride of what we had achieved, not only personally, but also in bettering the park for others. When I came back on November 26, 2011 for a Pinetum Tour and saw the trail I had worked on 34 years ago, a spark of that pride returned to me. Highland Park will always hold a special place in my heart.

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