A big part of my life growing up in Quincy, Massachusetts, was my many trips to Harpswell, Maine. Harpswell is a small town outside of Brunswick. Harpswell is made up of several islands as well as the peninsular known as Harpswell Neck that extends out into Casco Bay. My grandfather’s camp was on the western shore of Harpswell Neck. Those vacations spent at my Grandpa Locke’s camp will always be among my fondest memories.
My Grandpa Locke’s father, Frank Locke, was born in Nova Scotia but emigrated to Boston with his mother when he was very young. In his later years, he spent a lot of time travelling around Maine, and eventually purchased a small lot on the western shore of West Harpswell. He erected a small tent there, and later enclosed the tent with wood and erected a permanent roof where it could be used year-round. It only had a single room, but it was shelter from the weather, and he left it open to travellers and hunters who needed a place to spend the night. That enclosed tent was still standing years later when I first went there.
The camp was about a mile from the nearest utilities. It had no electricity and a deep well and an outhouse was in the camp.
After his father passed away, my Grandpa Locke took over the camp. He had a small cabin built next to the tent structure. On my trips there, the adults usually slept in the cabin and enclosed tent. The kids slept in a temporary tent set up nearby. The camp never had running water or electricity when I visited.
However, it was just a few steps up the trail to the well. I still remember the taste of that well water. I think it was the best tasting water I have ever drank. That water was always ice-cold even on the hottest days. I guess my least favorite part of vacations there was using the outhouse.
I remember spending many hours on that porch in the cabin facing Casco Bay. From that porch, we could look out on the bay and the islands in the distance. Uncle Bryant and Grandpa Locke would test me on my knowledge of the island names. I still remember spotting Big and Little Whaleboat, Upper and Lower Goose, The Goslings, and several more. On a very clear day at sunset, we could even see Mount Washington in New Hampshire, over seventy miles away “as the crow flies.”
The first trips from home in Quincy, Massachusetts to Harpswell that I remember must have been in the mid-1940s. I remember getting up early in the morning, before the sun came up, riding all day, and finally arriving at the camp that night after dark. Of course, those were the days before Interstate highways, and the roads were sometimes poor and often closed by road construction and repairs. Today, that drive takes less than three hours via Interstate 95, traffic allowing.
In the years before I was born, my family spent a lot of time at the camp in Harpswell. About a mile up the dirt road to the main road now called “Harpswell Neck Road,” was an inn that today would be called a “bed and breakfast.” It was named the “Guernsey Villa,” and served meals as well as rented rooms. In 1936 when they got married, my mother and dad spent part of their honeymoon at the Guernsey Villa.
My grandfather eventually sold the Harpswell camp to my mother’s sister, Louise, and her husband, Bryant Minot. The Minots lived in New York for many years where Bryant was a high school teacher and music director and they had summers off. They spent their summers in Harpswell for many years. After Bryant retired, they sold their home in New York and purchased the Guernsey Villa. When my mother dad visited them each summer after they owned the Guernsey Villa, mother and dad slept in the same room where they had spent their honeymoon thirty plus years before.
A big part of my summer days spent in Harpswell was the time I was able to spend with my cousins, Louise and Bryant’s two daughters. Sydney was a couple of years older than me, and always considered me her “little brother.” When she got older and started dating, she even let me tag along on some of her dates with a local guy named David Sparks. Sydney and David eventually got married and lived in nearby Brunswick for many years.
David had a jeep that he loved to show off by driving through the rough areas around the camp. Of course, my rides with them in that jeep are a highlight of those times for me.
Many years later after I had retired from the Navy and had my accounting practice in Florida, Helen and I visited my aunt and uncle in Harpswell. Their home was now the Guernsey Villa, but they still owned the camp. We all went down to the camp and it looked very much the same as had when I was a kid spending part of my summer vacations there. I was amazed to find that a place that always seemed so remote to me, now had a good Verizon Wireless signal on my phone.
Here are a few more of my many photos from the camp in Harpswell
Thanks for taking a look!
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