by Rod Johnson
One never knows when some person or some event is going to come to town which kind of riles things up a bit. Before you know it, there's chatter amongst the locals and summer folk about what is or isn't happening in our midst. Most always, the rumors get modified over and over to the point that the gossip has no relation to the original event.
Well, that happened in the greater Belgrade area in the late '70s. Word was out on the street that one of our own summer folks had written a play called On Golden Pond. Not only that, but the movie folks from New York and California wanted to make it into a movie. Keep in mind that none of this was verified by the local establishment, but they were diggin' for clues as to whether or not it was true. There were more questions than answers flying around town.
Next thing we knew, someone said Dave Webster was going to be on the six o'clock news that night. Most folks had their televisions tuned in and sure enough, Dave and his wife Barbara were interviewed down by Great Pond Marina. Dave of course, was the REAL mailman on Great Pond for decades, his dad Harold before that. I suppose they wanted to pick his brain and see what info they could get to create the movie's mailman. We locals all stood pretty tall that night, watchin' Dave with his corncob pipe tell about the movie and that he and Barb had been offered complimentary tickets to either the play or movie once it was made.
We boys who were working at Day's Marina found out the day before that there was some definite truth to it. Our boss Darryl Day announced, as we paraded into work one morning, that some folks from the Big City were coming over midmorning and needed a ride around the lake.
Apparently they were gonna look it over a mite and get a good idea if it fit their plan for making the film. I got the chauffeur's job and when the pair of city folks showed up, Darryl pointed to the 17' Boston Whaler that sat at the dock. If memory serves me right, we had hooked up a new V4 Johnson 100 horsepower the day before for the owner Walter Frame, and it needed a good test run anyway. By the way, I think that boat is still on the lake today, towing grandkids around Sahagian Cove.
The folks pretty much kept their thoughts to themselves as we headed out Mill Stream, and when we reached the mouth and got some open water, I put the boat up on a plane and set a nice cruising speed. The weather was a bit chilly as I recall, but I was comfortable behind the wind screen and they toughed it out sitting in front of it. I was still young enough to have go-fast urges, and knew this boat would fly like the wind if I let her go, but the motor wasn't broken in and more than likely it would have scared the daylights out of them.
After a good hour of looking over the lake and background hills, we returned to the stream and idled back into the marina. The folks had a short chat with Darryl and headed along.
It was weeks or months later that we heard through the grapevine that the movie was to be filmed over in New Hampshire, where the mountains in the background were larger and likely other reasons we weren't told.
I think at first we were all miffed and felt rejected. Of course that quickly turned to derogatory statements about the movie folks and their decision-making abilities. To this day, I still hear statements like, "It was for the best" or "It would have been a pain to have them around anyway."
Regardless of all the above, I for one, and I think the rest of the world, are grateful that Ernest Thompson grew up on our lake, wrote the play that became a movie and for all the great actors who came into our living rooms. Doris and I as a couple, have yearly On Golden Pond nights, when we set up the living room with extra chairs and snacks, invite the neighbors over, and watch the magic. It takes us home from anywhere and helps us remember where we came from.
Rod Johnson was born and raised in the Belgrade Lakes in the 1950s and '60s.