Things have changed. It used to be that once Memorial Day hit, there would be released this pent up frenzy of activity, on the waterfront in Windham. Well, OK, there still is, to a degree, but it’s nothing like it was when the summer people were trying to squeeze in as much waterfront frivolity, family gatherings and buzzed activities as possible, with the little time they had to enjoy it. It was a time when summer floated on Budweiser, Schlitz and Narraganset, not craft beer, white wine and martinis. And food, there was always copious amounts of food, all of it bad for you! The smell of roasting meats on the barbecue, ethnic delicacies and home-made deserts wafted over the water. There were buckets and boxes of Granite State Potato chips that you picked up warm in Salem, on the way to camp. Maybe in the morning your mother would pick out some whoopee pies or other treats from the back of the Cushman baker’s van. Ah, heaven! Family and friends packed the waterfront, chairs in a neat row overlooking the water. Time was spent on the screened porch or the yard, after all there was no air conditioning. You could hear the frivolity and laughter of all of the other people enjoying themselves around the shore of the pond or lake.
I still remember all the great people that rented summer cottages from my grandfather on Cobbett’s Pond. These were rustic affairs, with used furniture and bare stud walls, which had mellowed to a rich, reddish brown and all the cottages had huge screen porches facing the water. People lived on the porches and at night, they glowed with the ambience of a bare yellow light-bulb. There was a mixture of people from Lawrence, northern Massachusetts and Rockingham racetrack. Horse owners, trainers and hard-working folks who also played hard. It wasn’t golf on the links, it was horseshoes and Bud. I still remember my friend’s Dad, coming home after working long hours as a pipe fitter, taking all of us out on the lake to go water-skiing. A beer in hand, he put up with us, as we asked to go again and again.
Now if you think it was all low brow you’d be mistaken. One of the best summer theaters in New England was located right on Range Road as was a pretty nine hole golf course. In New England, the point was that summer was short, and warm sunny days were few and far between. If you were paying the taxes and expense on a summer ”camp,” that you could use, maybe 3 months a year, you were going to make the most of every minute that you had on the water.
This summer, as the people of the lakes and ponds, lets make a commitment, to pay our respect, to our for-bearers in lakeside living. This year lets “go for the gusto” with non-stop partying, eating, drinking, boating, water-skiing, floating on rafts in the sun, sailing, skinny-dipping, nocturnal boat cruises away from prying eyes, fire-pits, and enjoying family, friends and neighbors. As a tribute to those who floated before us, let’s give it hell, along the shores of Windham’s lakes and ponds! Maybe we should turn off the AC and open the windows, and enjoy the sounds of boats and laughter as they pass in the night. None of us know what tomorrow will bring, a little joy in the small things is good for us all. Stop what you’re doing, stop worrying, crack open a beer and enjoy the moment! This little lecture is as much for me as for anyone else.
Happy Memorial Day
Go forth, grill meat and drink some beer, in memory of our lakeside for-bearers. And get a little too wild while your at it !
Many thanks to Robert Caron for the photographs and stories about his family and uncles Moe and Lucien on Rock Pond, in Windham.