Life in West Denton in the 1920s, on Choptank River, Caroline County, Maryland

Below is text from the cover, title page, and introductory pages of Bridges To My Maturity,  Delightful Memories of What It was Like to be a Young Lad in the 1920s Along the Choptank River on the Eastern Shore of Maryland, by George W. Swartz.

Digitized, edited, and prepared for re-publication by CCHS volunteers Dave Ellis and Don Barker.

See all of our republished stories by George Schwartz about West Denton here.

You can download the full text here:   PDF   DOCX    RTF


** **Bridges To My Maturity 

Delightful Memories of What It was Like to be a Young Lad in the 1920s Along the Choptank River on the Eastern Shore of Maryland 

George W. Swartz 


Copyright 1983 by George W. Swartz 

Printed in the United States of America 

by The Brethren Press, Elgin, IL 60120 

Cover design by Kathy Kline 

Illustrated by Kermon Thomasson

Special photo credits: 

pp.16 (top), 24, 30 (top) — Chesapeake Circle by Robert N. Burgess, Cornell Maritime Press, copyright 1965 

 pp.64, 71 — The Country Store — The General Store of Yesterday by Elmer L. Smith, Applied Arts Publishers, copyright 1977 

 pp 80, 82– Model T Times, No. 145, May-June, 1973

 ISBN  0-87118-092~S 


[image] George W. and Avis N. Swartz 

This book is dedicated to my first family of my boyhood days — Mother, Dad, Sister, and Brother, and other relatives — whose love and care made my early years happy ones; and to my second family of later years — Wife, Children, and their relatives — particularly my wife whose love, support, and help have made it possible for me to have a happy and successful career and a meaningful retirement. 




Foreword   9 

Introduction            11 

Chapter One           The Drawbridge 13 

Chapter Two           Across the River 19 

Chapter Three Activities Along the River                       25 

  1. Commercial Activities
  2. Recreational Activities

Chapter Four           Truck Patch Experiences            41 

Chapter Five           The Canneries                      45 

Chapter Six The Oil Storage Yards 53 

Chapter Seven The Blacksmith Shop            59 

Chapter Eight           Our Country Store            65 

Chapter Nine           Experiences With Our Model T Ford                      79 

Chapter Ten           Other Experiences 87 

Chapter Eleven The Two Big Fires 95 

Chapter Twelve My Schooling           101 

Chapter Thirteen My Church Experience 107 

Chapter Fourteen My Life at Home 111 

Chapter Fifteen Interesting People; Interesting Stories           117 

Chapter Sixteen The Past Was a Prologue 123 



 [Note:  ** indicates illustration included with the text.  We omitted from digital publication all of the drawings except map, as they were simple cartoons and not specific to West Denton or the Chesapeake Region.  We also omitted photos of bay watercraft, vehicles, and store appliances that were not specific to Denton.]

The Denton Drawbridge                                                                 9, 14 **

A Typical Schooner                                                                           16 

Map of Denton                                                                                  18 **

Map of West Denton                                                                         20 **

The Deck of a Schooner                                                                    24 

Boy Leading Mule Unloading Fertilizer                                         26 

Typical Steamboat Wharf                                                                 28 

The Author Watching Steamboat JOPPA Leaving Denton       28 **

Fishing with a Pole; Fishing with a Drop Line                             32 

Crab Fishing                                                                                         35 

Fireman and Boy During Fire Company Practice                         38 

Sugar Peas Being hauled to the Cannery                                       46 

Buggy Used Around the Cannery                                                   48 

Oil Storage Yards                                                                              54 **

Blacksmith Puts Tire on Wagon Wheel                                            61 

Boy Operates Bellows for Blacksmith                                            62 

Interior of a Typical Country Store                                                  64 

Our First Store Cash Register                                                          67 

Lot Upon Which My Dad’s Store was Located                              69 

Another View of a Country Store Interior                                      71 

Author as a Small Boy Dispenses Gasoline                                    73 

1917 Model T Ford                                                                              80 

Front Seat and Floor Board of a 1917 Model T                              82 

The Big Fire in West Denton in 1918                                             96  **

The Knotts Store Building                                                               100  **

Our Home                                                                                         112  **

The Songs Sung by Grant Roe                                                     118  **

The Old Choptank River                                                               130 


FOREWORD                                                                                               Page 9 

 Many of my childhood experiences were centered around the old drawbridge (pictured above) that crossed the Choptank River at Denton, Maryland.  This old bridge, now replaced by a high arch bridge, inspired me to think of it as a symbol — a symbol of the many bridges of learning and experiences that I crossed in the process of growing from childhood to maturity.  Some of these learning experiences came about from the activities centered around the old drawbridge itself, while others came from the community surrounding it.  Most of the opportunities for such experiences no longer exist and it seems only sitting to write about them, thus preserving them for my children, grandchildren, and other interested people. 

 George W. Swartz 

 INTRODUCTION                                                                                       Page 11 

 Everything grows or matures.  People mature — physically, mentally, spiritually, culturally, in their relationships to others, and in many ways.  Crops mature and have to be harvested.  Cities and towns grow…  in size, influence, and in importance.  Growth toward maturity is a never ending part of life, from birth until death. 

 How difficult it is to determine, to visualize, to capture, to record all of those factors that contribute to one’s growth.  And yet, how interesting it is to see that this growth takes places among the young in the same manner in this century as it did in the last, even though times have changed and conditions are never the same. 

 We are told that more changes have taken place in the twentieth century than in all of the other periods of recorded human history combined.  As I reflect back to the ’20s and compare living and working conditions then with those of today, it almost seems impossible that we have advanced so rapidly in short a period of time.  Even more fascinating is the fact that this progress took place right under the noses of many of us who lived during this era who are still unaware of such phenomenal change. 

 Much has been written about the Colonial days, the period during which our nation was getting a firm foundation, and the early pioneer days, but perhaps not enough has been written about the way of life within our own twentieth century. 

 As a young lad in the ’20s, I had a number of unique and varied experiences which do not exist for youngsters today, just as the pioneer youngsters experiences that did not exist for me.  As I have grown older, now retired from regular employment, I have this constant urge to record some of these experiences, for whatever they are worth, especially for the benefit of my two sons and my granddaughters.  Lately, I have regretted that these kinds of experience of my own parents and grandparents were available to me only in very limited form.  In fact, my granddaughters might even find it hard to believe certain things were as they were in the ’40s and ‘5Os before they were born.  That would be the basis for another book, or perhaps my sons will want to write about these as they get older. 

 Thus, this book is dedicated to my family, as well as to others who might want to hear how things were in what some like to call “the good old days.  (The good old days????.. before bathrooms, electricity, automobiles, interstate highways, airplanes, radio, TV, etcetera….)

George W. Swartz 

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