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Naught now but the fondest of memories.

Nice autumn weekends were the ticket.  My Uncle Bob Clingan and his wife, Mary, of Teeter Road in Taneytown, were the wonderful, accomodating hosts.  From the late 1960s into the early 70s, they invited my mother & father to join them regularly at Potomac Shores, my 'favorite place on earth'.  For my folks, it offered a special form of relief - an affordable escape.  McDonogh & Garrison Forest tuitions, and a college savings program, didn't leave room for 'normal' vacations.  Instead, we motored down the road some 40 minutes to enjoy the best times kids (and adults) could ever have.

It's important to understand just how special the place was.

In the 1930s, a group of dedicated outdoorsmen established & incorporated a rustic fishing & hunting camp on the Maryland shore of the Potomac River, between Harpers Ferry and Brunswick. surrounded by mountains.  Potomac Shores, Inc. (PSI) was founded and led by executives from Thomas Bennett & Hunter, John S. Teeter & Sons, Thomas Insurance Agency, Drs. Marone DDS, Larrick Heating & Air Conditioning, and their relatives.  They bought hundreds of acres of River bottom between the Maryland and Virginia shores ('land' they still own), along with what they thought was legal title to scores of acres situated between the River and the C&O Canal towpath.  They built approximately 8 small cabins (only one of which could be used year-round), installed electric lines & lights, dug wells, and poured concrete docks.  They applied Teeter crushed stone to the towpath and maintained it using our heavy quarry equipment.  They repaired annual flood damage.  They excavated a swimming hole into which we kids dove from suspended tires and which attracted big carp at night.

Cabin owner Bob Clingan taught me how to catch catfish & bass.  I even learned to catch those big carp using Bob's special dough-bait, tiki lanterns, and bourbon (which he drank).  He taught me to enjoy rip-snorting jokes of questionable taste.  My Aunt Mary, Dad's sister, would interpret nature's beauty through wonderful watercolor paintings of River scenes. Trains rumbled by on the hour, enhancing the gentle roar of the River, the honking of geese, and the leaping splash of fish chasing insects at dusk.  The old gas stove near our bunk room would swoosh quietly on and off all night.  I remember Bob banging around the great room (& cursing) on dark mornings, trying to start a fire in the hearth and make coffee, before we headed out in the boat at first light.  When I was in college, and for some years thereafter, friends and I entertained at the camp following lanquid innertube trips.  It was idyllic.  It wouldn't last.

In the early 1970s, the National Park Service declared the 1930s deed invalid and announced that it was assuming ownership & control of PSI's camp.  Washington intended to 'restore' the Canal & towpath, and add it to the national park system.  The only way to do that, reason seemed to dictate, was by 'evicting the squatters'.  Compensation would be paid to cabin owners, who would be permitted to use their cabins for a certain number of years.  PSI sued and lost.  Uncle Bob died in May, 1991.  Government bulldozers razed his cabin soon thereafter.  The last of the homes & the docks, along with the wells, followed suit in the 1990s.  Funds to restore that portion of the Canal & towpath were never allocated.

Concerning the destruction, you may be wondering 'why'?  After all, PSI was nothing more than an oft-flooded base camp for fishing & hunting activities.  The compound didn't block public access to the River.  Cabin owners maintained, at PSI expense, the towpath which the public used freely for hiking and biking.  Nothing about PSI prevented the Park Service from restoring the Canal.

You may also wonder why Washington didn't take the far cheaper 'land preservation' route of buying PSI's development rights to lock-in the compound's existing uses, density and size.  Or perhaps you think Park officials should've converted the perfectly suitable structures to create a summer camp for kids.  Good questions & suggestions, all.  I've never heard salutary responses.

I took most of these pictures during one of my family's final Potomac Shores outings. I hope you enjoy them as much as I enjoyed shooting them.

Click here to view the photographs


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