This period probably affected my social interactions more than my feeling about nature. Souderton is a community dominated by Mennonite culture. That being said Mennonite culture is more diverse than one might think, and it varies from the fairly secular, albeit politically conservative- to extremely devout, leaning libertarian politically (if political at all).
A large area falls under the Souderton Public school umbrella. Souderton could roughly be considered on of several districts in the Indian Valley area. These would be the other districts: Schwenksville (home of the Philadelphia Folk Fest), Harleysville, Salfordville, and Telford all are considered part of the area. Souderton and Telford have a small town feel, whereas the other areas are more rural- featuring Mennonite farms and the large homes of successful people escaping city life.
It was always very strange growing up in an area clearly named for, and proud of having an American indian heritage, but with absolutely no signs of those orignal inhabitants. Lake Lenape, the Souderton Indians football team- very strange indeed.
In high school everyone hangs out in or near the woods, listening to classic rock and doing the normal things that adolescents with nothing to do, in rural areas do. While I always appreciated the nature aspect of my area- the suffocating nature of the local religious community combined with generation after generation clinging to the worst of the 70’s gave me a taste for exploring urban life. One of the benefits of leaving Bucks county and moving to Souderton was that there is a bus stop within walking distance to my house. The bus would take me to Lansdale, where I was able to take the regional Rail line into the city before I could drive. This changed my life.
As kids we spent a lot of time at West Street Park, in the woods and by the creek. But mostly we just roamed the streets to entertain ourselves. I would say I spent most of my time there trying to escape the place. The bus stop was probably the most significant thing to me geographically.
It was definitely Souderton that motivated me to get out of the suburbs. I will say that is true of a lot of my peers from high school. Having attended elementary school in Perkasie, and spending the majority of my senior year in Upper Darby- it is very interesting to see who has migrated to the city and who has remained in the burbs. Hands down- I know at least two dozen people I went to high school with that left Souderton and moved to Philly or another city. However, the residents of the other places I’ve lived have stayed behind.
I attribute this to the pleasantness of actual country living, versus the oppressiveness of suburban living. In the case of Upper Darby- well that I can’t explain without going on and on for another few paragraphs :)
I lived in house in an area commonly referred to as the ”sticks,” with my mom, her sister, and my grand parents. The “woods” separated me from my neighbors to the west, who lived in an extended family commune like setting- with multiple houses situated on their large parcel of land, and several more of their relatives dispersed along our road. Our house was modest an indicative of the 1970’s pre-fab architecture. But we had an above-ground pool and a basketball court in the backyard. The backyard is four acres and extends into the woods on two sides. I spent a lot of time in the woods exploring, often with neighbors, and often solo. There were lots of very small streams, which all eventually flowed into the Green Lane Reservoir. There were small tree stands built into the canopy, that hunters had constructed for hunting deer. Supposedly there is an old “wishing” well back there somewhere but I never was able to find it.
I was completely immersed in nature there. Environmental signs were everywhere. To begin with I lived on Lower Rocky Dale road. I don’t even know what a “dale” is? According to Wikipedia it MAY refer to a “Dell (landform), a small wooded valley,” which makes sense as the whole are was covered with trees, however I would say it’s hilly, and not exactly a valley. My street was in West Rock Hill township, neighboring Green Lane- and situated just off Ridge Rd. While there has been considerable development since I lived there- all of those environmental signs are still very evident. Back to the “rocky” part- the area is covered in boulders. HUGE boulders. I later learned in my geology course that the area is actually a geological formation that is fairly unique and was caused by the receding ice of the last ice age.
Nearby, there is a small street called Badman Rd. A man named Mr. Degento lived there, and he used to walk up and down my street. All of the kids in the area were scared of him, and our parents all said he was a child molester. However, these years later- I suspect he was just a eccentric old man who had the misfortune of having a name similar to “degenerate” and also living on a road named Badman Rd.
I absolutely think that spending a few years of my childhood in this environment influenced me considerably. Camping, hiking, exploring the woods, catching frogs, climbing tree stands, eating wild raspberries that grew along the road, smelling the husks of black walnuts in the fall- all of these thing gave me an innate appreciation for the “natural world” and arguably permaculture vs. agribusiness.