Summertime in the Belgrades
August 17 – 23
A Village Stroll in 1959, Part V
Click any blue-bordered photo on this page to enlarge it.
by Rod Johnson
Let's refresh the location where we ended strolling last week. We had discussed the Pulsifer house and Sybil's Store, then called it quits for the day. So close your eyes and get your head back into 1959 Open sesame!
There is a very narrow driveway going from Main Street toward the Mill Stream bordering Sybil's store. It can't be more than 10 feet wide and a huge white clapboard wall on the north side gives the sense of walking through a tunnel. The wall is the south side of Maggie and Deke Damren's towering two-story barn.
The narrow drive is the main access "down back" and opens up to a huge lawn once past the buildings. The lawn is partly the Damren's on the north and Pulsifer's on the south, the property line is ambiguous to most. The huge Pulsifer boathouse is straight ahead on the Mill Stream.
This is the path walked by many over past multiple decades, in route to the now defunct Association Docks. The docks were effectively where guides picked up "sports" to take them fishing, the morning hubbub and gathering spot if you will.
Maggie is a local character, loved by all, who is a nurse by trade and is always on-call to the locals. She comes to village homes when asked to render an opinion about someone's sickness. She does everything fast, including driving, and is often in fender benders. She and Deke are hoarders and the huge barn and house are full to the brim. (Deke passes a few years after we are there. Maggie continues on until her house burns to the ground in the winter and she survives several more years in other locations. The MLRC buys the property several years later and builds the current building.)
As we scuffle along and finally pass the north end of the Damren house, a little tar driveway appears. This is Eddie Fletcher's home and barn. As a motorhead local kid, I recognize Eddie's almost new, black Studebaker sedan and note that the body style has changed from the beloved '57 Hawk. Eddie is old and ill and seldom goes anywhere. He is seen sitting on the long glassed-in porch that borders the driveway. Ken Bartlett, ex store owner, is an old friend of Eddie and is occasionally seen driving the black Studebaker when he takes Eddie to doctor's appointments.
(Eddie passes not long after this, Ken B. sees to it that the house is sold and I believe that Dick and Joan Tripp are the next owners. They raise their three children Krishia, KB and Paul there and still own the house today. At the time, Joan's parents, the Smiths, have purchased and remodeled the interior of the stone house across the street.)
Proceeding along a hundred feet or so, we stand in front of a huge old rambling place with a sign hanging on a big steel bracket. It says "Locust House." To our backside, we gawk over our shoulders and see a magnificent view to the west over Long Pond and a gazebo down near the water. This is Ed Megill's hotel that has a number of rooms, a large dining area, and a kitchen down under on the stream side. Ed also owns and lives across the street in The Manor, which acts as an overflow and rentals for more short term customers. The building looks as if it may need more help than it is getting.
Many of the repeat customers that we locals have come to know, stay for one or two months. They rent boats from my father Clifford and hire us kids to take them out fishing. Many of the old guard are too old and fragile to pull the starter cord on the motor or pull up the anchor. We get their bait ready and help them into the boat. This is a dying breed of both customer and facility.
(Not many years after our visit, Ed throws in the towel and Mr. and Mrs. Paul Provandie purchase the building. The next winter several of the local men are hired to completely remodel the place into what became The Village Inn. Currently, it is operated by Kate and Heather.)
We move in a huddle past the north end of the Locust House and a small home stands not far back from the road. I know it as Ray and Florence Barker's home. Their oldest boy is Ray Jr. is one of my classmates. His two younger siblings playing in the yard are Cheryl and Marty. Ray senior is kind enough to tell us the house was moved from Hoyt's Island on the ice many years before. This seems like a feasible story to me, as I know from hunting deer out there, a houseless foundation of granite stones exists on the island.
(The history is confirmed concerning the house once belonging to Adam Hoyt and we all try to imagine the logistics of getting the house across the lake and through the stream being towed by oxen on precarious ice. The old-timers are magically admired.)
Next, we meander a bit further and another white house sits even closer to the road. It is the home of Frank and Beverly Megill, who not long ago moved into the house and are both working to "fix it up". They have a young child and more on the way. The whole concept of finding and buying an old house for not much money and re-doing it over time was so possible, and opportunities were available.
(Frank and Bev end up raising three girls here in the village. They are Debbie, Judy and Terri. Frank becomes the local carpenter; Bev works for the State in Augusta. They both continue to live here today.)
Moving along, but not far, maybe five giant steps, yet another narrow, but long white house exists. I know it as Uncle Karl and Aunt Florence Johnson's house. Cousins Skip, Karleen and Ruthie are their kids. Karl and Flo run the local marina right beside the house.
This year or shortly thereafter, the Day family who bought the store across the street a year ago, purchase the marina and house. Darryl Day and Linda Tukey Day move into the house and have children Brenda and Jack. The marina grows, needs space, and the house is sold and is moved two miles south on Route 27, where Maurice Childs moves into it. The extra space allows the marina to expand, which it does. (Nearly 50 years later, remnants of that expanded part are what we know as the Post Office today, and the original north side has been removed.)
Wow, we have finally neared our goal. The last two homes on this side of the street before the bridge belong to Everett and Harriet Johnson and Charles Hulin respectively. The Johnson home is small and neat with three small docks on the stream.
Everett once owned the marina that was later run by his son Karl noted above. Everett and Harriet are aging nicely and still go out to "catch some perch" most evenings in the summer.
Everett's primary job in his elder years is to maintain and care take the south end of Hoyt's Island, known as Camp Mandalay. He has worked for the owners Mr. and Mrs. Mitchell for years.
The new owners soon to come are Leonard and Amy Dowse. They buy Everett's house as a land base for parking cars etc., but deed a life estate to him and Harriet. When Camp Mandalay changes hands some 25 years later, the Witkin family continues to use the small home as a mainland base and winter get-away.
In the final gasp here, the large rotund home of retired guide Charlie Hulin appears. A large two-story affair with interesting roof lines and a dormer or two. It is literally in the road's right of way with zero parking space, except for a short driveway at the north end. It has 2 boat house slips for Charlie's boats, but the big old guide boat hasn't been in the water for several years. We local kids have been swimming and fishing along here for years and know what's happening.
Among other things, old guide Fred Ellis likes to come in the boathouse after stopping at the store, pretty much a twice-a-day pilgrimage. He sits on a wooden box in the semi-dark silence and sips a Narraganset. In our earlier years we would plague him in different ways such as stealing a beer or popping up under the lifted boat when he sits there. My father shooed us away from bothering him or else.
(Charlie passes away not long after our visit in '59 and the home is sold. Arthur and Dot Frazier live there for a couple of decades. Other than the missing boathouses, which were taken down over the next two decades as they fell into decay, the basic home appears relatively unchanged.)
Author's Note: Thank you all for following us in our lengthy stroll. I've had some nice comments so I guess at least part of you found it a bit interesting, especially those who have come here for many decades. Thanks too to Mo and Esther who somehow fit it all in to the paper. Rod J., The Luckiest Boy
Rod Johnson was born and raised in the Belgrade Lakes in the 1950s and '60s.