By MARTY RELLES, Valley Community Newspaper columnist
Early one morning, in the summer of 1961, my friend Al Wilson and I set out to fish on the American River.
We walked across the pit (the vacated sand and gravel site behind the houses on the east side of Janey Way), crossed Elvas Avenue, and then climbed over the levee to Sacramento State College.
There we crossed the campus to Alumni Grove Park and walked upriver to a spot we called the “marina.”
As we approached our fishing spot, we made a discovery: a crude wooden raft constructed from pieces of driftwood and scrap lumber. We dragged the boat back into the brush and concealed it.
A week later we returned, prepared to board the raft and float down river. We pushed the raft
down into the water. Al boarded first and went toward the front.
I followed, pushed off with my trailing foot and the raft floated out into the river. A little water dribbled through the cracks, but the boat proved to be seaworthy.
Once in the river, we used makeshift oars to steer the raft into the current, then off we went. Soon we passed Alumni Grove Park where some students waved at us as we floated by.
Next, we approached the H Street Bridge. We had to use our oars there to avoid hitting the bridge’s concrete columns before floating by the northern edge of River Park.
Eventually we drifted by the area called Paradise Beach. Swimmers waved at us there and yelled, “Where are you guys headed?”
That was a good question.
We never thought much about that. We began to keep an eye out for a place to end our little
Eventually, we spied a place to land under a black railroad bridge that crossed the river. Using the oars we rowed the raft onto the beach.
We barely made it, almost running into the bushes at the far end of the small beach. There we pulled the boat up, disembarked and sat down to ponder our next move.
After eating our last candy bar, we walked up a path to the top of the levee. From there, we headed east, back toward River Park.
After walking about an hour, we reached Glen Hall Pool at the end of Carlson Drive in River Park. Finally, we reached the H Street Bridge, walked down to the street and headed west.
When we reached 57th Street, we turned left and walked over to J Street. There, in front of Shakey’s Pizza Parlor, we parted ways. Al headed for his home on 56th Street, and I returned to Janey Way.
We felt very satisfied that day. Just like Huck Finn, we had floated down a mighty river.
That was more than 50 years ago, but it seems like only yesterday. Friends tell me that Al Wilson passed away a few years ago.
Now, the day Al and I floated on a raft down the American River is just another, swashbuckling Janey Way memory.