Windham Life and Times – September 30, 2022

A Cottage on Cobbett’s Pond-

Possible the Most Beautiful Old Cottage on Cobbett’s Pond

When we sold this property, it was owned by Esther Wheatley (Darymple), of North Andover, MA. It was simply a magnificent property on Cobbett’s Pond. The cottage was in the classic shingle style, with a wonderful porch, bay windows and a wide roof overhang. It had long lake frontage, massive old trees and a whimsical guest-house on the water.  With its 230 feet of frontage and nearly 3 acres of land it was one of the premier parcels of land on the lake. After the sale, the cottage burned to the ground in a fire. The guest-house is the only original structure that remains. I wonder what stories that old cottage could have told?

Windham Life and Times – September 2, 2022

Happy Labor Day George Baily’s Tribute to the Workingman

     Frank Capra must have been filled with the Holy Ghost because he was prophesizing about the time we are living in now through his movie: It’s a Wonderful Life. America and much of the western world has become one giant Potterville.

     Here is George Bailey’s famous speech from It’s A Wonderful Life (1946), in which he admonishes the greedy Mr. Potter, “You know how long it takes a workin’ man to save five thousand dollars? Just remember this, Mr. Potter, that this rabble you’re talking about, they do most of the working and paying and living and dying in this community…

    Potter: …and all because a few starry-eyed dreamers like Peter Bailey stir ’em up and fill their head with a lot of impossible ideas. Now, I say —         

     Bailey: Just a minute – just a minute. Now, hold on, Mr. Potter. Just a minute. Now, you’re right when you say my father was no business man. I know that. Why he ever started this cheap, penny-ante Building and Loan, I’ll never know. But neither you nor anybody else can say anything against his character, because his whole life was — Why, in the twenty-five years since he and Uncle Billy started this thing, he never once thought of himself. Isn’t that right, Uncle Billy? He didn’t save enough money to send Harry to school, let alone me. But he did help a few people get outta your slums, Mr. Potter. And what’s wrong with that? Why — here, you’re all businessmen here. Don’t it make them better citizens? Doesn’t it make them better customers? You, you said that they — What’d you say just a minute ago? They had to wait and save their money before they even thought of a decent home. Wait? Wait for what?! Until their children grow up and leave them? Until they’re so old and broken-down that — You know how long it takes a workin’ man to save five thousand dollars? Just remember this, Mr. Potter, that this rabble you’re talking about, they do most of the working and paying and living and dying in this community. Well, is it too much to have them work and pay and live and die in a couple of decent rooms and a bath? Anyway, my father didn’t think so. People were human beings to him, but to you, a warped, frustrated old man, they’re cattle. Well, in my book he died a much richer man than you’ll ever be.

     Potter: I’m not interested in your book. I’m talkin’ about the Building and Loan.

    Bailey: I know very well what you’re talking about. You’re talking about something you can’t get your fingers on, and it’s galling you. That’s what you’re talking about, I know. Well…I’ve said too much. I — You’re…the Board here. You do what you want with this thing. There’s just one thing more, though. This town needs this measly one-horse institution if only to have some place where people can come without crawling to Potter. Come on, Uncle Billy!

    Well the working men and women, will always receive my utmost respect, for the dignity of their hard work that makes my life so much better and whose skills often leave me in awe. 

Windham Life and Times August 26, 2022

The Lost Past-time of Pipe Smoking

According to Britannica, “The smoking of tobacco through a pipe is indigenous to the Americas and derives from the religious ceremonies of ancient priests in Mexico. Farther north, American Indians developed ceremonial pipes, the chief of these being the calumet, or pipe of peace. Such pipes had marble or red steatite (or pipestone) bowls and ash stems about 30 to 40 inches (75–100 cm) long and were decorated with hair and feathers. The practice of pipe smoking reached Europe through sailors who had encountered it in the New World.” Smoking pipes was very popular in America beginning in the colonial period well into the 1960’s. The smell of pipe tobacco is quite pleasant and smoking it was an acquired art.

     Both of my grandfathers smoked pipes at various times. I remember vividly, my grandfather Dinsmore, sitting in his old Windsor chair, in the double window of the kitchen, watching the world go by, as his wife prepared a meal; and on one special day, making the child that I was, a beautiful clay dog, deftly wrought with the help of a wooden match stick.

     Of course the pipe is making a bit of a comeback, however, it isn’t tobacco being smoked in them. It is doubtful that widespread social smoking will be seen as exciting and socially acceptable as it was in the smoker’s age when most everybody had a pack, or a pipe or a cigar. 

Windham Life and Times

Searles Castle

I used to have a nice view of Searles Castle from my spot on Cobbett’s Pond, but not anymore, with the exception of wintertime. The trees have grown up and totally obscure the view of the castle beside one small central tower. This is a Eastern Illustrating photograph near the time of the castle’s construction by Edward Searles. Indian Rock Road, bounded by stone walls, can be seen just behind the shed and piles of wood.  I wonder when the wooden observation tower disappeared?

Windham Life And Times August 12, 2022

Shady Shore Cottage – On the Porch

They Sit Together on the Porch

Wendell Berry

They sit together on the porch, the dark

Almost fallen, the house behind them dark.

Their supper done with, they have washed and dried

The dishes–only two plates now, two glasses,

Two knives, two forks, two spoons–small work for two.

She sits with her hands folded in her lap,

At rest. He smokes his pipe. They do not speak,

And when they speak at last it is to say

What each one knows the other knows. They have

One mind between them, now, that finally

For all its knowing will not exactly know

Which one goes first through the dark doorway, bidding

Goodnight, and which sits on a while alone.

Windham Life and Times – August 5, 2022

Armstrong Shore

They’re almost all gone…the summer cottages that once lined the shore of Cobbett’s Pond. This is a beautiful view of Armstrong shore with the newly constructed summer cottages overlooking the water. Rural Oasis Says, “A neat little cottage was built by Mrs. Pallester of Lawrence on land leased from George F. Armstrong. There are still a couple of the original cottages left, but most are gone, removed to make room for more commodious year round homes. I remember the red cottage that was once located on the knoll where Richard and Megan Armstrong’s home is located today. The farms of the Windham Range are shown in the background. This photograph and others of the pond are available to purchase on beautiful archival paper from the Penobscot Marine Museum who has the Eastern Illustrating (postcard) plates.

Windham Life and Times

Hidden Valley Farm – The Vayens Family Part II

    These photographs provided by Bill  Vayens show Hidden Valley Farm in the 1950’s. I went to Center school with Heidi Vayens who is pictured in the photograph below. She is in the front row, right. According to “Rural Oasis” William Vayens was an organist at the Windham Presbyterian Church and served on the Windham school building committee. The photograph on the top right shows a Windham Grange Meeting in the town hall which was a farmers association founded in 1867.

The Vayens Family
Windham NH Grange Meeting

Windham Life and Times – July 22, 2022

Annette Vayens working in her new home.

The Hidden Valley Farm – Vayens Family Part 1

Bill Vaynes provided these really interesting photographs of the farm owned by his family in Windham from about 1944 until about 1967. Arthur and Annette Vayens purchased the Hidden Valley Farm on March 8, 1944 from Fred K. Duston of Salem NH. The date on the photograph is 1940 but the deed seems to confirm the date of 1944. The old farmhouse was in need of a lot of work and was located on an old gravel road, on the Windham/Derry line that ran between Fordway Extension and Beacon Hill Road.  The old deeds show that they paid One Thousand, Three Hundred Dollars. The photograph shows Annette sweeping out the home. They soon set about making improvements and turned the old farmhouse into a comfortable place for themselves and their family. The house was located near what is today the intersection of Gertrude and Hidden Valley Road near the brook. Bill says that they used to cool off there in the summer heat.   Oh, and did I mention, that for the 1,300 dollars they were granted approximately 106 acres of land with the house.

    Bill Says, “Our family moved from Chester back to Windham in the summer of 1959 and it appears we rented the house from my grandparents until July 15, 1964 when they sold most of the original farm to my parents, William and Lorraine Vayens. My grandparents retained portions that bordered Fordway Extension, including the corner lot at Fordway and Hidden Valley Roads where they had their mobile home. They later sold the remaining portion a few years later….” This property was subdivided and homes built by William Gordon on Hidden Valley, Gertrude, William, Thomas and Gordon Roads.  Bill’s mom, Lorraine Vayens, is still living and is 96 years old.