Saintbridge is the Flickr handle of G. Scott Craig, a native and resident of Roanoke, Va. He has dabbled in writing and photography most of his life. He retired from the Daily Press in Newport News, Va., in 2007 after 20 years as an editor and designer and now works for the Western Virginia Water Authority in Roanoke. His photography can be found here . His writing appears throughout the universe in unpredictable locations.
three photo essays
Growing up in the 1960s and 70s, we lived in Roanoke, Va., 500 miles from most of my aunts, uncles and cousins in Muncie, Ind.
My father’s parents had died before I was born, so the only grandfather I really ever got to know was Jack Foutz, my grandma's second husband. He was a real treasure to the entire family. He treated Grandma Foutz royally and doted on each of the grandkids despite having no known biological relatives of his own (he was adopted).
Grandpa Jack had suffered a stroke and spoke with a halting but strong voice and walked with a stiff gait. But he did both; he was an active sort well into his 80s.
Being a plumber by trade, he used surplus pipes and supplies to build a swingset in the back yard. I remember seeing it the monstrosity the first time I passed through the gate leading from the alley parking spot to grandma’s back door.
This was no skinny-piped, rickety colorful apparatus you saw at Woolco. No this was industrial grade galvanized pipe! It was sturdy as a battleship and easily handled the roughest play we kids could muster. I was always jealous of the cousins who lived in Muncie because they got to play on it so much more than my siblings and I did.
I was never a thrill-seeker or daredevil as a child, but I loved the feeling of flying so high and then swooping back down in that giant swing! I thought I would surely hurl over into a neighbor’s yard if I ever had the nerve to jump off the thing.
When I went back for an uncle's funeral in March 2008, my younger sister and I went by our grandparents’ old house to see what it looked like. Predictably, it was rundown and unkempt and the decline of the neighborhood that had occured in the 1980s had removed any semblance to the house I remember.
Still, we ventured down the alley behind that once grand structure and saw it: The swingset still stands and one swing still hangs from the sturdy pipes and chains erected so long ago by Grandpa Jack.
The wooden seat is mossy and is severely pitted and weathered, but it is still rigid and suitable for any child who might happen to climb up for a session of hurling back and forth through the air.
Grandpa Jack's handiwork endures and might even last longer than my memories of playing in their back yard and swinging almost up to the sky on that glorious apparatus.