Morgan Memories – The Magical Castle on Willow Street
Once upon a time in a place far, far away (at least from where I live now) there was a mystical and magical castle. This castle, while small (one room), was a wondrous place for local Morgan, NJ kids to climb in, have snow ball fights, or just hang out in. No one ever chased you out – even though it was on private property (thank you, Mr. & Mrs. Bloodgood). It was made of large dark stones held together by cement. It had a thick dark stone floor, open windows on three sides and an open doorway on the fourth side. It was connected by a long, thick, heavy metal chain to another structure which must have belonged to the King and Queen.
This photo, provided to me by the actual subject of the photo, Bill Love, shows what the castle looked like. I never thought I would again see an image of it other than the one apparently deeply etched in my mind. Not only had I not seen the castle for all of these years, I had not seen Bill Love either – until 2010 when I went to the Anaheim Convention Center to meet up with him. Timing is everything and that weekend was the weekend of Bill’s annual trip to the Southern California area for the North American Reptile Breeders Conference. Bill is a legend in the amateur reptile community having been in the industry since he was a teenager and, like his wife Kathy, a pioneer in this personal hobby. Bill gained his love for reptiles from his days as a kid in Morgan. Along with his friends Ross and Jack, Bill would go into the woods to find box turtles (Terrapene carolina carolina) and garter snakes (Thamnophis sirtalis) near the South Amboy Waterworks ponds or at Applegates Pond at the bottom of the hill off of Liberty Street. Bill shared a story of the one time he remembers meeting the Chicken Farmer. He and his friends were getting onto the path at the top of Dodd Place which led into “the woods” (as we called it). Bill was greatly relieved when the Chicken Farmer didn’t pull out his legendary shot gun but instead asked how the boys were. Bill replied that they were going into the woods to find turtles or snakes. The Chicken Farmer told that that if they hurried, they might find the box turtle that he had just let loose near the path ahead (they did).
Bill and Kathy have made careers as herpetology enthusiasts. They breed snakes, sell snakes, photograph snakes and have written books about snakes. Kathy is one of the world’s foremost authorities on Corn Snakes (Elaphe guttata). Their books, including their most recent, “Corn Snakes, The Comprehensive Owner’s Guide”, their herp wall posters, T-shirts and other herp products (including a kit which helps determine if your snake is male or female), are available at Kathy’s web site, CornUtopia.com. Bill is a noted “herp” photographer (BillLovePhotography.com) as well as herp expedition guide. They offer reptile expeditions in Southwestern Florida (ReptileRally.com) as well as expeditions to Madagascar off the south east coast of Africa via their BlueChameleon.org web site.
It was just fabulous to see Bill after all these decades!
Notice the “Bar & Grill” sign with the backwards letters above and to the right of the castle. This belonged to Jim’s Drive-In Bar & Grill which is the subject of another page of this web site. While the castle is long gone, replaced by a house, it is still remembered fondly by many now adults who were able to play in it in a time long, long ago.
Originally posted on September 12, 2010.