Creek Walking: Growing Up in Delaware in the 1950s

Creek Walking: Growing Up in Delaware in the 1950s

Creek Walking: Growing Up in Delaware in the 1950s

Creek Walking: Growing Up in Delaware in the 1950s

Synopsis

This is both the story of a little girl growing up in Christiana, Delaware, in the 1950s and the history of an American crossroads. Wedged between two dramatically different extended families, she tries to make sense of the social signifiers that crosscut even this tiny village in New Castle County—differences between blacks and whites, men and women, Presbyterians and Methodists, migrants from Appalachia and migrants from New England, and members of the business class and the working class. In the process she chronicles a series of economic and social changes that span the last four hundred years—the transformation of Native-American hunting grounds into a colonial port on the busy Christina River; the decline of that port when it was bypassed by canals and railroads; and finally, the emergence of a thriving service and consumer economy in early twenty-first-century northern Delaware.

Excerpt

This book is about a small town and the people who lived there in the 1950s, as seen through the eyes of a little girl then and as interpreted by a social historian now, forty years later. in the following pages, several overlapping stories unfold—the story of a Mid-Atlantic trading post transformed over the course of three centuries; the story of a tiny, virtually all-Protestant community nevertheless crisscrossed by a variety of social groupings; and the story of a child wedged between two extended families, strikingly divergent in style. Like all lives, mine consisted of layers, compressed but still distinct. My temperament was shaped by a peculiar family culture, which was in turn enmeshed in the institutions of church and school revealing of a particular time and place—the first twelve years of my life, from 1948 to 1960, in Christiana, Delaware.

Christiana was and is a commercial crossroads, albeit one that has changed dramatically over the generations, producing sets of winners and losers at each stage of development. in the seventeenth century, the Leni-Lenape Indians, situated between two major rivers, the Delaware and the Susquehanna, in what is now north-central Delaware, began to abandon their subsistence way of life in favor of trading beaver pelts with European colonists. This switch—from hunting and fishing for food, to hunting for commercial exchange— eventually contributed to the dispersion and demise of the group. Subsequently, in the eighteenth century, a village called Christiana Bridge grew along the banks of the Christina River, a waterway connecting the Delaware River to the Maryland hinterland and beyond. By the 1790s Christiana Bridge was a bustling entrepôt, its wharves piled high with barrels of flour milled in New Jersey and Pennsylvania and bound for the backcountry. Within a generation, however, canals, turnpikes, and railroads had bypassed the town, causing it to fall into a stupor from which it was not aroused until the latter part of the . . .

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