I was about 5 when my family moved to the
Prudential Apartments on Oxford St., Down Neck. We lived about a
half-block from Raymond Blvd. and on summer evenings my parents
would bring me to the little park along the Passaic River. At the
eastern end, there was a Ballantine's parking lot, also bordering
the river, and one day my father told me he would take me fishing
there. I was thrilled -- because my pet goldfish had died and I
hoped to catch some sort of replacement.
The next evening, down to the lot we went. I was armed with a very
small net (the kind you use for goldfish) and a large pickle jar.
We climbed down some rocks and I was able to dip the net in the
river. Within minutes, I had caught a minnow! Then another! And
These were deposited in the jar, which my father had filled with
the cloudy river water. When I had a small school of fish, we carried
the jar back to our apartment, where they were transferred one-by-one
into my goldfish bowl, which was filled with fresh, clean water.
In the morning, all the minnows were dead.
The next evening, my father and I went back to the river and I
caught more minnows and put them in the jar and brought them home
and put them in the fresh-water bowl.
And in the morning, all the minnows were dead.
At that point, my kindergarten brain came to a conclusion: The
river minnows cannot survive in clean water!
We never went fishing again.
I think of this story every time I read a news report about the
polluted state of the Passaic, and I wonder why it took so long
for the powers-that-be to learn what I learned at age 5.