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Past Landmarks on South Hill gave people a sense of direction

by Carl Vest

We all do it!  When meeting a friend somewhere on South Hill we’ll say something like, “go down Meridian to just before the new Safeway store.”  Or, “you go toward Graham, turn left at the Shell station, and we’re on the right.”  That is, we use physical places (landmarks) to describe directions and locations.  I suppose it’s always been that way.  But there was a period on South Hill when there wasn’t a new Safeway store or a Shell station.  Back then, what did people use for landmarks?  Here are some examples of what was used in the 1940s, 50s, and 60s.  Some places still exist.

THE DUCK POND: This was a large natural pool, located at the present-day intersection of 122nd Avenue and 152nd Street.  Pope Elementary School now sits on the site.  The small lake was filled in to build the school.  Ever wonder why 152nd Street curves to the south just before 122nd Avenue?  At one time the road went around the duck pond!  “Meet me at the Duck Pond” was once a common direction on South Hill.

MASSIE’S POND: This is another natural lake, named after the Massie family.  It’s on modern 152nd Street, near Mystic Falls Water Gardens & Nursery (Tom’s Nursery).  Older residents recall it as being three pools: ”big,” “middle,” and “little.”  Local old-timers remember skating there during the winter months.  Others recollect it as a good fishing hole.  Parts of this water hole are still visible and what is left of the Big Pond can still be seen from 152nd Street. It was a well-known destination for the young folks during the 1940s and 50s and everyone knew its location.

STARKEL’S POND: This pond is no longer visible.  It was directly behind the president day Mormon Church, just off 94th Avenue and named for the nearby Starkel family.  Because of the extensive development of parks and trails in this area, only some “wetlands” remain from this once popular destination.

THE POTATO PATCH: During one growing season, probably in the 1940s, a land owner just off contemporary 122nd Avenue planted a field of potatoes: at about the present entrance to the Sunrise development (156th Street).  Apparently they weren’t harvested thoroughly because year-after-year thereafter a spotty crop of potatoes would return.  They were in effect growing wild.  Many of the local young folks seeing this unclaimed bounty would use the field as a place to gather and party.  Potatoes would be dug, fires built, and potato roasting would be done.  It was a destination for many-many years, until the open field gradually became covered with brush and the potatoes were forced out.

THE FIR THICKET: Almost adjacent to the Potato Patch, across what is now 122nd Avenue, was the Fir Thicket.  It was an area of big fir trees growing in a clump so that a type of natural park was created.  It was a well-known location, and a popular directional marker, e.g., “meet me by the fir thicket.”  This area is now part of the Springfield Estates community.

Carl Vest, PhD, is a founding member and Research Director for the South Hill Historical Society.