Summertime in the Belgrades
August 3 – 9
A Village Stroll in 1959, Part III
by Rod Johnson
Last week in the small village of Belgrade Lakes, we migrated (very slowly) from the Catholic Church down to the first house North of the Union Church. The owners are Ken and Katherine Bartlett.
As we pick up where we left off, we scuff our way one building to the North and find ourselves in front of the Belgrade Lakes Post Office. The Post Office is located in the street side of the building and the back portion is the home of Donald and Marion Lord. He is the Postmaster and she is an assistant. They had the building built earlier in the decade and are raising their children Sara, Susan, and Peter while working at home. Donald was my Little League coach and is one of Earl Lord's children from the Point Road. Marion is daughter of Larry and Christine (Teeny) Damren from Belgrade Depot.
A couple of cars come and go while we gawk and talk, including the bait man from School Street, Cass French. Cass and his dog are seen daily at this spot as they shuttle around town in the beat up '52 Chevy pickup. Let's move on.
(After the Post Office was moved to its current location the building became Great Pond Financial, then the Lazy Lab Café, and later Pete's Pig. I may have missed others and it is now for sale.)
Next is a rather dilapidated sprawling garage with big overhead doors and a semi-rusted ESSO gas sign dangling off a metal post. It's Ken Baker's "everything" garage. He changes everyone's oil, fixes old tires and sells new ones, tinkers with lawn mowers, and is the area's Evinrude outboard motor dealer. Ken is always attempting to do 15 things at once and his wife Ethyl, who handles the gas pumps, comes out to say "Hi."
(Somewhere around 1968 Ken sold the garage to Leland (Red) Buzzell from New Sharon. He did more or less the same jobs as Ken for a decade or so. The building's use from then on was less defined, but Maurice Webster was next in line and continued to pump gas and sell odds and ends.
The building has since gone through several owners who sold antiques and curiosities, during which time it became more and more run down. The current owners have completely rebuilt the building and it has separate space for at least 3 businesses to the best of my knowledge. Currently, Happy Girl Apparel and the Intriago and Ferguson CPA office reside there.)
As we take 20 steps to the North, we cross over the end of Skunk Alley, as it was, and still is called by the locals. Apparently someone ran over a skunk down there 50 years ago and the name has stuck. The real accepted name is Hulin Road, as an old guide Charlie Hulin used to live there.
One can never be too careful right here as we know Sadie Yeaton lives down Skunk Alley and she is known to drive like a bat out of h. We all love her and don't care, just remember to give her a wide berth.
At any rate, voilà, there is a long, shabby white building with a sign saying FIRE STATION over the single overhead door. The building is literally on as in 2 or 3 feet from the tar of Skunk Alley. My parent's house is only two houses away, so I see the men run to take the truck out whenever the siren on top of the building blows.
I can't wait till the day comes that I can drive the firetruck. Oddly enough, it was only about four years later at the age of 17. In those days, the first person with a driver's license to get to the station jumped in and roared off. What a thrill!
We see the old 1937 Dodge open cab firetruck quietly sitting inside as we all peek in the glass windows of the door. The place reeks of smoke and water from firehose and other equipment. The truck has done its job commendably for the town but there's talk of retiring it and ordering a new one in the next 2 or 3 years.
Two years ago the old Dodge's flathead six motor seized up after pumping for hours when Don Clement's chicken house burned but not without saving the building before the motor's meltdown. The motor was replaced with a used one to tide us over until we got a new truck.
(And so it was, four years later the Lakes village got a new 1963 GMC pumper truck which took over residence in the old building. Somewhere around the year 2000, a new firehouse was built just south of the village and the old building we saw in 1959 was torn down.)
Next, and only 30 feet north, is a big old house crammed between the firehouse and my parent's home. It appears vacant. I know that it belonged to an old guide named Pudge Farnham and that he died within the last year or two. I've heard my parents talking about buying the property and tearing the house down.
(In the next year the property is in fact purchased by my parents Cliff and Elsie Johnson. It becomes a community project to tear it down and we have small bonfires whenever there is a work bee. The fires get rid of the wood scrap and create a festive atmosphere. People take used wood home for their own projects. Paul Hammond fills in the cellar hole next spring and my mother plants the flower garden that may well still be there.)
We have reached my parent's home. It sits directly across from the big Tillson house. My parents bought it right after WWII and have, little by little, made it into a fine home. My older brother is in the army and I live here with my folks until it's time to go off to school and military in the late sixties.
(My parents pass at a young age in 1971 and 1972. By brother and I rent the house for 3 or 4 years, then sell it to Maurice and Becky Webster. They live there for 20 years or so until the current owners purchase it from them. The Tillson house I spoke of is what we all now call the Lime House.)
Author's Note: There's one more installment left before we get to the dam where we started in 2014 on the other side of Main Street. Hope you hang in there and stay with us also hope that a little history is shed here for all to learn.
Rod Johnson was born and raised in the Belgrade Lakes in the 1950s and '60s.