RUNNEMEDE REMEMBERED

Growing up in a small town in Southern New Jersey


Sunday, November 18, 2007

Suicide Hill

There is, or was, a place in Runnemede called suicide hill. The rumor was that before the "hill" became a "hill" it was a cliff, and someone jumped off it -- killed himself, thus getting the name suicide hill. How the hill got to be "hill" from "cliff" I do not know.

Anyway we would go up to suicide hill, at the bottom of which was the town dump. The hill was really quite steep, but we would run down the hill, or slide down it on flattened cardboard boxes, and then climb up it, only to slide down again. Funny thing, I never sled down that hill. I wonder why? At least I don't recall sliding down it on a sled. Maybe it was too steep and too long and we figured we'd end up on the turnpike or something, I don't know. My brother tells me that we used to get tires from the dump and use them to slide back down the hill on. That's his remembrance, not mine, but I don't doubt that we (or he) did that.

It was a pleasant walk to get to the hill, most of the way was to cut through people's yards, something we did all the time. Do people do that anymore? Or have we become so polite that we wouldn't think of cutting through someone's yard? I don't know. I just remember that to get to any place in Runnemede, we did a lot of walking through people's yards.

I would guess it was about a half mile from our house, maybe a little further than that. It was at the end of a dead-end street, and from the top of the hill you could see more than the dump. You had a great vista of neighboring towns such as Bellmawr and Barrington.

I suppose somewhere between our home and the bottom of the hill, the town dipped, or the walk was downhill, but I don't recall many hills that had to be walked up in Runnemede at all. I know that Third Avenue on the west side of the pike had a rather steep hill and it was great to ride home from school on my bike, but I must have had really strong legs because I don't remember that the uphill climb on the bike was that bad. Now days I get exhausted just climbing the ramp from the parking lot to the lobby level at Christ Hospital. And Clements Bridge Road, the road that ran behind the house, or in front of the church, had a steep enough hill that they held the annual Soap Box Derby on it, until the late 50s. Traffic was then something to be contended with and the derbies were stopped.

Times changed though and now the dump is a Holiday Inn. When the NJ Turnpike was put in, the dump was leveled, the hill was still there, but as years passed progress hit the small town and a Holiday Inn was built on the dump property.

If I ever return to Runnemede, I think I'll take a drive to the top of the hill -- or where the top of the hill used to be and see if there is still a view of Bellmawr and Barrington from that point.

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