July 13 – 19, 2018Vol. 20, No. 6

A Village Stroll in 1959, Part I

by Rod Johnson

In 2014 I wrote a little piece called "Things They Are a Changin'." It was in Summertime in the Belgrades and incorporated into The Luckiest Boy Season II that fall.

After starting from the bridge by the dam, we proceeded southerly through the village and viewed the homes and spoke to some owners on the Long Pond side of the street. Time ran short just after reaching the triangle where Route 27 and West Road split. It was the last Summertime story of the year so had to be left there, with good intentions to continue our stroll the next spring.

Other stories took precedence in the spring of 2015, and it is past time that we complete our journey back down to the bridge. Thanks for being patient, apparently things don't happen too fast here. We are in no rush, so our return to the dam may be a slow and wordy one.

Let's start where we left off at the triangle and cross Route 27 to what is now 39 Main Street and Hello Good Pie. After each house or building, I will tell you what exists today along with some italicized comments.

It is May, 1959 and we are standing in our little group beside a white house just south of the Catholic Church. Before we delve into a lengthy paragraph or two about the white house we are now looking at, I want to tell you about another home that is nearly hidden in the woods, sitting just south of us on a knoll directly across from the blue colored storage buildings, only seen directly from Route 27 when passing by.

It is the home of Harold and Flossie Webster, long time Belgrade residents who have raised 3 boys there, Maurice, David and John. Harold has started the Great Pond Marina down at the south end of the cove near the Belgrade Camp Ground. He builds cedar wooden boats in his cellar in the winter, is a trapper and hunter. He and his boys run the water mail route on Great Pond, and son David continued that to become the somewhat infamous mailman after the movie On Golden Pond was popular. After Harold's death, the home was eventually sold. The Zambelli family has owned the house for 40 years or so where they have brought up their children Steve and Deanna there. The campground I spoke of is now the location of the newer Belgrade Community Center which replaced an earlier version near the current fire station, just south of the village.

While still standing in the same spot, we ponder the path entrance to the home of my Uncle Albert and Aunt Lydia Johnson. It is spring, and they have just returned from their winter migration to Florida. Their turquoise and white 1957 Chevrolet station wagon sits on the lawn next to the Catholic Church as they pick away at unloading it from the long trip home. They were one of the first families to leave Belgrade in the winter looking for some steady employment until Spring returned. They have been doing the snow bird migrations since 1952. Lydia and Albert have three children, Cary, Carol and Chris, who is a newborn this year. They will open their gift shop, The Brass Knocker, that consumes most of the first floor rooms in their house, and get ready for the tourist season. Albert will do camp work and sell fishing bait from their cellar to make ends meet, as well as help Lydia with setting up the gift shop. They both have endless energy and work until midnight many nights.

After a few welcoming words with the Johnson family we migrate along to see what is next on our hit list, though the history of this family could occupy many hours of chatting. My grandfather Ernest and two of his sons, my father Clifford and uncle Albert built the house after WWII in 1948-1949.

Ernest was getting along in years and died in 1952, but cut every stick of lumber for the entire house with a hand saw, as the two younger sons nailed it together. You may admire the house as a simple cape with acorn dormers on the street side and a wooden fan painted black over the front entrance. (Grampa J. built the fan as Lydia had always coveted the idea of having one over the door).

The gift shop was moved to space in the Village Inn for 20 seasons or so, and eventually came home to roost at 39 Main Street, but in a newly built separate building now occupied by Hello Good Pie. You may know the property as the Brass Knocker Gift Shop where the dressed geese resided on the lawn some years back and today we know it as 39 Main Street, a bed and breakfast, also an evening eatery. The smaller building is occupied by Hello Good Pie.

Lydia and Al continued their migrations until Al passed away in 1998 and Lydia continued until her death in 2011 at the age of 93. She amassed a total of 62 consecutive years of living in Belgrade Lakes and Boca Raton, Florida. We barely scratched the surface here of the family or the house. For more on this ask Cary, Carol or Chris Johnson some day when you both have lots of time.

Note: We are just getting started and hope you follow us weekly until we have finished our journey.

Rod Johnson was born and raised in the Belgrade Lakes in the 1950s and '60s.