Summertime in the Belgrades
August 10 – 16
A Village Stroll in 1959, Part IV
by Rod Johnson
Welcome back, strollers. Like bad pennies, we just keep on returning. Walking the East side of Main Street in Belgrade Lakes has taken us three weeks so far, and we may not finish today. Let's give it a shot. Last Thursday we finished our day at my parent's home which is directly across from what we now call the Lime House. We will continue northerly, which we call down street, contrary to going "up" north. We now step back into 1959.
The Johnson's driveway on the north side of the house actually separates their land from a small lot that has the old Belgrade Lakes Library on it. The building appears rather drab from lack of maintenance. Scaly white pillars hold up the small ornate porch and the outer skin is darkened cedar shingles. A large gold leaf sign saying LIBRARY adorns the area over the door. The building sits back from the road perhaps 40 feet and we all wander up and peek in the windows. The top half of the sash is beautiful diagonal pains of stained glass that is leaded into place. Shelves line the walls and are still full of books. Oak desks and chairs are present and one can imagine people from our past sitting quietly and reading their choice picks. The lawn is kept mowed by my parents and I so it doesn't look like a hay field.
(The history is that the land was obtained by the newly formed Belgrade Lakes Library Association for one dollar in 1908. The library functioned for about four decades and became defunct sometime in the 1940s due to lack of interest and people to staff it. The building was torn down in the early 1970s. The only few remnants that were saved are the pillars, now holding up the porch on Jan Partridge's home and business, the sign, and a few chairs. The books were offered to area libraries.)
Next on the docket is a big rambling house in poor repair. It is owned by Calvin Hanson and his family. There are clearly children here as kids' bikes and other toys are scattered on the small front lawn and in the driveway. Calvin is a truck mechanic by day and he also does much of the work that Ed Megill needs done to keep the Locust House up and running. (The home is sold about a decade later to Robert Stokinger who quickly resells the house to me when I return home from the Service in 1971. I live there until 1985 and my children Brad and Rebecca are raised there. The home now belongs to Carl Cook.)
Another fifty feet north and yet another of the long narrow homes appear. It belongs to Maurice and Becky Webster who have a young family. Once again the yard is scattered with toys. The house sits precariously close to the next one, perhaps 4 feet. We kids who grew up here were forever running down the narrow alley between the two homes.
(The home burns a few years after we visit, is a total loss and the remnants are torn down. The Websters are safe and move to a home on the West Road. Neither adjacent home was seriously damaged due to the good work of the Belgrade Fire Department.)
We move along about ten giant steps to the north. The houses here in the village are crammed together like city dwellings. A very large home sits close to the road and runs nearly back to Mill Stream. This is one of my favorites. The owners named Halstead sell a few Mercury outboards from their stream docks and also some new-fangled plastic boats. My father Clifford says the boats are probably worthless because they are not wood and will break. I say, "I don't care!" The green 5-horsepower Mercury is what I covet, and I soon buy a 10-horsepower instead with lawn-mowing money.
(The Burger family buys the home in the 1960s and raise a large family there. The kids attend Belgrade schools. Perhaps two decades ago the home is purchased by Tony Yotides, owner of Christie's Store in Belgrade. The home is remodeled and now well kept by Tony.)
Wow, it is clear now that we will not make our ending goal today, which is the bridge past Day's Store. There is something like seven more homes and businesses to cover and lots of history with some of them, so Part V will go next week. Let's go one more home. Yup, it's the Pulsifer house, situated directly across from the Lake Shore Hotel. Remember, this is 1959.
Old Bill P. is out mowing the lawn, his shoulders glistening with perspiration around the shoulder straps of his "old man t-shirt." He gives us a nod that went unnoticed by most as he puffs on a Pall Mall while pushing the mower. His old dull red Dodge plumbing truck sits forlornly in the side driveway, with weeds growing up past the rusted bumpers. Bill's plumbing days are pretty much over, although he still tinkers on some camps to keep them going.
Old Bill is one of my best buddies as he gave me a 4-horsepower Champion outboard motor about five years ago when I was 7. Mrs. P. (Sybil) runs her store in the summer complete with soda fountain, lunch bar and knick-knacks. Until 1954, she ran the telephone switch board in their home. My mother Elsie, Violet Meservey and Edna Clement all helped part time with the switchboard, but now the telephone company has built an automatic switching station up the street.
During the summer months the older teenagers hang out at Sybil's Store in the evening and rev up their Fords with glass pack mufflers. I see and hear them from my house and hear them squealing tires when they leave at night. Burning rubber was the term they used. Mother says I can't go down there because I'm not old enough. The place buzzes in conjunction with Ma Nagem's bar just across the street at the Lake Shore Hotel. A big fluorescent beer sign is lit at night over at Ma's and the teenage boys are always trying to get a beer there.
(After the passing of Old Bill and Sybil, young Bill and wife Marie remodel the house and have lived there since 1970. They have raised their daughters Ann Marie and Louise in this house. Now, when I walk by I see young Bill mowing the same lawn that his Dad mowed in 1959. Marie and Bill have made some changes but Sybil's store is still going with a tenant called The Maine Made Shop!)
Rod Johnson was born and raised in the Belgrade Lakes in the 1950s and '60s.