They used to call it “Big Tree.” Apparently “Dartmouth Road” was either too difficult for SEPTA drivers to pronounce, or it was just too insignificant a street to be worth remembering. The appellation was earned by the presence of a giant deciduous tree, the trunk of which had penetrated the curb, threatening to stray into the middle of Conshohocken State road.
The imperious size and ominous proximity of Big Tree to the roadway spooked more than one motorist barreling west on Route 23 heading towards the Wawa at Rock Hill Road, heading for a cup of coffee, a half gallon of milk, or just access to the expressway. The road is downhill and far enough past the traffic light at Levering Mill Road traffic light so that a driver can really get rolling before realizing that there’s a slight jog to the left. You have to be careful, or at least consider putting the cell phone down long enough or you might suddenly find yourself wrapped around that tree’s trunk. In fact, in the more than 27 years that I have lived close by, more than a few unlucky souls have lost their battles with that stretch, some fatally.
Just as it is with all things in Lower Merion Township and elsewhere, there is no such thing as a permanent fixture. It has been decades since there were three gas stations at Montgomery Avenue and Old Lancaster Road. The building that once housed the Bala Cynwyd Library is now just the plain old Levering Mill House and the “new” Bala Cynwyd Library is being overhauled.
So it was with some measure of sadness that I saw them cut down Big Tree a few months ago, leaving just its trunk for a time, towering 20 feet in the air as if to say, “You can’t take me! I am invincible!” It reminded me somewhat of Shelley’s “Ozymandias” --- a broken statue lying in desert sands crying defiantly “My name is Ozymandias, King of Kings, look on my works, ye mighty, and despair!”
Last Saturday I heard the buzz saws going again, and even Big Tree’s defiant trunk was cut down to size, leaving only a stump. I wandered across the street over to the carcass and counted rings, losing count well into the sixties. I wondered how many near misses the tree had endured, and how many others had noted the landmark when getting off the bus or otherwise hurtling down Conshohocken State Road.
I don’t ride the bus into the city much any longer, as I did when I commuted downtown. I work in Montgomery County now, and have for some time. But I imagine were I to take that trip out from City Avenue one day and gradually work my way to the front of the bus to disembark at my street, I will have to lean over and say “Big Stump” to the driver, hoping he or she understands and remembers, so I don’t have to walk up the hill from the Wawa to get home.
When some state contractor grinds the stump down to oblivion, as is inevitable, what will we then call the bus stop?