While the summer is still here, and memories of our vacation time on Kezar Lake, Maine are still (fairly) fresh in my mind, I want to post about it. But – this time I want to go into much more depth about the history of our “camp”, my childhood experiences there before I mention how we spent our time in camp this year.
There is something very special and “lasting” about vacation memories made as a child. They are the kind of recollections that create new “brain wrinkles”, so to speak, which are so strong that they become part of one’s soul. It’s so special, that I’m struggling now to find the right words to describe how it feels! Our time at Kezar Lake may only have been for two weeks a year, but the memories have taken over a lot more space in my heart than the actual time spent there. The views from the dock on Kezar are seared in my memory. I can “see” them always – without a photograph….
Our camp, consisting of two rustic cabins located on the north end of Kezar Lake, used to belong to my grandfather, then to my parents. Now, camp is owned by my three siblings and I. The South Cabin, with it’s 2 bedrooms upstairs and living area downstairs, including screened in porch, is our main living space. The North Cabin is used mainly as bedrooms – including the living room area downstairs. It also has the same configuration of bedrooms upstairs and porch, but with a third bedroom located off the living area downstairs. When we were kids, we slept on army cots out on the porch “under the stars” and to the sound of the loons. The kitchen was never set up as such, and only has an old wood stove which I suspect was there when my grandfather purchased camp, and hasn’t been used in many years.
1. South Cabin – where the living happens
2. North Cabin – a place to sleep
When we were children, the chemical toilets in both cabins were “yucky”. One must remember, however that this was CAMP, and “part of the experience”, or so I told myself ~. The waste had to be manually lifted and dumped in a pit which was dug first thing at the beginning of each summer – not a pleasant job. In the mid 1990’s my mom finally installed flush toilet facilities in both cabins, as well as hot running water, which we pump up from the lake. However, that is just for bathing and use in the toilets. For drinking and cooking, we have (and have always had) running spring water in both cabins. We have a personal stake in making sure that Kezar Lake remains a pristine, clear lake, because of how we use lake water! I’m grateful to Mom for making these changes, which weren’t simple to implement, as town codes had to be followed and approval had to be given to ensure the lake water would not be harmed.
With the exception only one summer (right after my youngest sister was born), our family went to “Maine” each summer during my father’s two week vacation. It was a 10 hour trip back then – and our car was crammed full – with the family and often a friend or two and everyone’s luggage, making it double the fun! My grandfather was usually in camp, as well, as it belonged to him at that time. It was he who called the shots as to how our daily life would be “in camp”. He told us when to get up – and when to go to bed, when to eat, when to swim, when to do chores, when to shop for groceries, when to rest. Our time in camp was amazingly structured, almost military style, but not so rigid that it was unbearable. However, I admit that I have no desire to recreate that kind of regimen anymore!
We had an old army bell which still hangs outside of the South Cabin which he’d ring when it was time to get up (about 8 a.m) – and again when it was breakfast time (about 8:30 a.m.). For a few years, my brother, who played the trumpet (and bugle), would play both Revile in the morning and Taps at sunset. My grandfather would raise the flag each morning before we sat down for breakfast, and take it down at sunset. At breakfast my grandfather had morning devotions with numerous Bible readings, and would ask each of us to read them. It was a good 15 or 20 minutes long – (or so it seemed) – too long I thought. It was was frustrating, as we “watched our orange juice get warm”. After breakfast came chores – – dishes had to be done, and Grandpa always wanted more kindling (for fires in the fireplace). This was was our job, and we’d spend about an hour or so looking for dead twigs in the woods, which would find their way into a fire in the fireplace on a cold morning. Finally at about 11 a.m. (and no earlier for sure!) we finally were allowed to get in our bathing suits, hang out on the dock and swim. I love my memories of the black inner tubes we played on. We’d bunch them in half, shove them between our legs, jump in the lake, and ride on them like horses! Kezar Lake was where I learned to swim, and the “rite of passage” was swimming across the lake, with my father along side in the boat. At about noon my mom would leave the dock to make lunch, and the rest of us had to be ready (and dressed – no one came to the table in bathing suits) by about 1 p.m. for lunch. Yes – the bell was rung again when lunch was ready! Following lunch was “rest hour”, no matter what our age. We didn’t have to sleep, and could read or play solitaire, but we could not talk. After our rest we often had free time, and sometimes we got a chance for another swim. However, on many days groceries had to be purchased at the North Lovell store. Most times we drove there, but sometimes on really nice days we’d take the motor boat to the town landing, then walk to the store, pulling a little red wagon to carry the groceries back to the boat. That was always fun. Dinner was about 6 or 6:30 and that bell was rung for that, too. Following dinner – and after the dishes were washed – we’d spend our evenings playing cards or reading before going to the “other cabin” to bed.
The Bell that told us when to do what!
There was only a few times when this schedule was changed. After breakfast on Sunday morning, we’d change into our good clothes for the worship service at the Center Lovell church at 11 a.m. That was the only day when I didn’t care if it rained. To sit inside the (usually hot) church building with the sun shining through the windows meant that we were losing precious time on the dock swimming. At least we got a brief chance for a swim after church and before a slightly later lunch.
About once (or twice) a summer we would also change our schedule if we took a day hike or climbed a mountain: Baldface, Chocorua, Speckled, Blueberry Mt. Then there were short climbs up Sabbatus Mountain where we’d take a picnic dinner, watch the sunset from the top, then climb down.
Rainy days were actually fun in camp. They were lazy as we’d read, play cards or board games (my favorite was “Clue”) to the sound of the rain on the roof. Sometimes we chose those days to go into Norway, Maine to do laundry and have lunch out. It was relaxing – and especially relaxing to go to sleep to the rain sounds at night. However, if it went on for more than two days, we’d all get antsy.
These childhood memories are what make the lure so strong to continue the traditions there each summer. Things are different now, as Grandpa is not around to invoke his regimen. For that I admit I’m glad. We linger over morning coffee on the dock now. No one is there to tell us we can’t eat a meal in our bathing suit! The bell doesn’t ring anymore, nor does anyone play Taps and Revile. Before dinner we have cocktails on the dock (or porch), something Grandpa wouldn’t have allowed. And – meals are when we want them – not at specific times. As I’d mentioned, The family has made improvements to the cabins in the form of flush toilets, running hot water, as well as replacement of those old army cots – to name just a few things. But – the basic mood and ambiance of camp and the surrounding area remains mostly unchanged. The North Lovell store has been closed for many years, forcing us to travel a little further for groceries, but the store building remains as a landmark. We eat out a lot more now, as a few more restaurants have opened up nearby.
Next post I’ll mention some of the specifics of this years time on Kezar.