Sunday, July 5, 2009

Final entry of: A Picnic Became A Lifetime

Little did we know what owning a cottage meant, I should mention that this all took place in mid August, ours was rented for the month so that meant we were unable to take ownership until right after Labor Day as a result we spent our time along with everyone else at Bobs place. Then it finally happened Labor Day was on Sept. seventh that year, and on the eighth we were able to go in and check out our cottage. Realizing that September brings on cooler weather and with an unheated cottage plus its being unfinished and unfurnished, this meant mighty cold nights. Believe me, we got cold nights and a short stay, it seemed that no sooner had we gotten inside to find out what we would need for the next summer season, and this season was nearly over and the water would soon be turned off. When Betty and her sister spent their first night there; I was unable to go for some reason.  They said their night was sort of mysterious and creepy, the fog horn blew and the buoy bells rang all night long. The cottage made all kinds of creaking sounds, and during the evening all of a sudden two eyes peered through the living room window, first one window and then another. Betty’s sister was really freaked out, they later found out it was a neighbors dog which they had not seen before, it had made it’s way up the hill and onto the porch and kept looking in the windows, it was a white dog with one black eye. When the light of day came Betty’s sister was ready to get out of here, she has never been back since for an overnight.  Then around four A.M. the black crows welcomed in the dawn.  It is strange how different the sounds can be on an island.  By the way the crows are still cawing their heads off.

The next weekend proved to be a disaster of a different kind, the first time we flushed the john water hit the ceiling, fortunately there was a card pinned on the wall above it with the name of a local handyman, he proved to be an all around do it yourself guy, plumber, electrician, carpenter, what ever, you name it,   he considered himself, “a professorial” what ever the problem was, he could fix it, plus he was a real nice guy.   Hey! This is an island remember, what could you expect.  

I went across the street to my neighbors, introduced myself and asked if I might use their phone.  They were, more than obliging, and over the years they proved to be our closest friends and we spent many nights with them before our cottage became a year round house.  The repair man arrived by taxi carrying what looked like a doctors bag, it proved to have a variety of things in it, and I’m sure a prayer that he would find among his treasures, something that would remedy the problem.  He or we, which ever way you want to look at it, this proved to be a lucky day.  He took out a ball of cotton twine and explained that he would wrap it around the joint and nut which was a little worn and that it would swell.   He then explained that the worn part was called a ball cock, nothing to worry about.   Well it took more then several flushes I can assure you before we saw results.  The next weekend water hit the ceiling again.  One more call and the taxi arrived with Jack, that was his name, this time he came with a larger bag and out from it came this long rod with a big round ball attached to it.   Now remember we are new at this ownership stuff, so we were all eyes and ears as this kind old gent proceeded to fix the problem.  All the time explaining how he could not believe the twine hadn’t solved the problem.  This he said as he proceeded to replace the part is “a ball cock,” glory be, at last a new repair job.  This old gent by the way turned out to be a very good friend.  Always willing to show up when needed, never upset when it was necessary to make return trips, which was often, but like I said this is an island, right?

The long winter ahead gave us time to get some things together to help furnish the place, thank heavens for the dump, thrift shops, family and friends.  We were not as lucky as Bob.  Our cottage did not come with all the furniture; however the four bedrooms did have high oak beds with designs carved on them, without mattresses. They were an odd size, and proved to be good for nothing except a great source of heat on a chilly night.  We wish we had them today; they would be worth a fortune.  There was a large flat grand piano

in the living room which was really out of tune, I’m sure that because of its weight it was one of the very few things left behind.

Spring finally came; after a long, long, winter. Now  

  for a cottage of its size the bathroom was so small it felt as though one needed to put a leg in the tub in order to sit on the john, and after our spending time here we realized that the under pinning was in need of some repair, not only did you feel like you needed to put a leg in the tub in order to sit on the john, but when the wind blew you felt like you were on a boat. The cottage sets on a hill and really it was not safe to just neglect the under pinning so we decided that before we could ever live there year round we would have a basement built. Little did we realize the expense and the time involved in a job like that, so we decided to take a chance and put it on the back burner for a later date, keeping our fingers crossed that it would be ok, three years down the road we got the job done, a major accomplishment.

Foundation material


Foundation being  put in

In progress

Foundation finished


Hosta 6-5-07


We did however decide on the last week of that first summer that we would have some friends of ours remove the big claw footed tub and during the winter we would look for a smaller one to replace it. Our two friends Ron and Ron did just that. It took a heck of a lot of work trying to pick the claw footed cast iron tub up and over the John and out, but after sweating, swearing and damn near passing out from exhaustion, they finally got it out and put it into a back bedroom which was right next to the bathroom, at that time we were using it as a storage room. Like I said we planned to buy a new tub during the winter and have it shipped to the island in order to have it installed during the spring.  I called our old handy man and asked him to replace all the old galvanized piping with new copper sometime during the winter, no hurry.  Two weeks later he called to say the work was all done, and that he sure was glad he and his helper had opened the door to the back bedroom and found the tub, but not to worry, that it was all piped in and ready to use.  I damn near fainted after all we had gone through to have it removed.  After telling him this, he assured us that we would be thanking him down the road. Well it’s been over forty years and I cannot tell you how many times  we have thanked the old guy for saving that tub, oh we have remodeled the  bathroom and even moved it to a knew location but the old tub got moved as well.

Bath rm. w tub 1 (4-09) The Tub that was

Right up until this very day when our plumber removed it, he said “you’re not going to get rid of this are you, you should keep it” so we had him put it in the basement.  You see the years have taken their toll, as a result our poor old backs and knees make it impossible for us to use it, but we just couldn’t part with it.  Perhaps someday someone else will find it in the basement and decide to put it back in again and enjoy the pleasures that we once had.

Bob has been gone for years.   His job with Delta airlines took him to Arizona and his wicker furniture and gold leaf frames became a part of our home.

Fred and I were still working together in the department store.  I was still in display and Fred had become assistant manger he was great at his job, he liked every one. On his lunch hour when he didn’t join Betty and I he would go to the hot dog counter in the back of W.T. Grants, it seemed that every kid from the poor side of town would follow him there; needless to say each one got a hot dog. Fred was that kind of guy he had a heart bigger then his chest and as a result he was always broke.

  He and I worked together for about three years before the store went into receivership. All the other stores that belonged to that company  sent their inventory to our store. Truck load after truck load would arrive daily and the merchandise would just be unloaded into bins, our store looked like a warehouse, no rhyme nor reason as to its method of display, nothing ever got checked in. Women’s dresses would come packed with men’s shoes, men’s jackets would come with pots and pans, toys with towels etc. The Toys were put into a large net like pen right in the middle of the first floor and every one of Fred’s hot dog friends would come in to review the new stock that arrived daily, it goes without saying this tugged at Fred’s heart strings. As time went by and the store got closer to closing its doors for good Fred started bagging up the toys, you can be sure there was a bunch of happy kids before the doors were closed for good.

Now it seemed that for at least two years before the closing of our store every month without fail, this older couple would get off the bus right in front of our store.   They would with out fail always enter the store and the old man would look at the same mackinaw month after month, it never got sold and each time they would look at it and he would try it on,  his wife would say “ it will go on sale and maybe we’ll be able to buy it”. Fred hated to see them coming he would tell us about it and how he felt sorry for them, he said they were well into their late seventies, if not eighties. He said month after month they would come in and he would try on that damn jacket.   After the store went into receivership he said to me one day “if you see them getting off the bus let me know”, he knew the chances were that I would be in one of the windows and see the bus when it stopped. Sure enough one day I saw them getting off the bus so I yelled to Fred,  I saw him running out side with two coat box's, I heard him say  “just take it and don’t ask questions”, the poor old man was shocked he didn’t know what was happening. That noon when we went to lunch he said “Gees I thought the old guy was going to faint when I told him to take it and leave” Oh he said “I gave his wife a couple of dresses, and some other things I thought she might like, what the heck they would only job lot them out to some crook”. But that was Fred, always broke, always giving his money away. A week or so later he was down where they had put the baby furnishings, one day this young mother came in carrying her baby, she looked like she wasn’t able to buy much, after looking around for quite a while she put the baby in a stroller, perhaps wishing she was able to buy it, well crazy Fred propped the back doors open, he grabbed the stroller and pushed it out onto the sidewalk with the mother running after him, he stopped and said “get going, it’s yours”.

After the store closed Fred got the wander lust and found himself in Florida.   Betty and I decided that the island was the closest thing to heaven that we would ever find or could afford, so we're still here.   

Like I have stated before with determination and persistence we made it, we held on for dear life , and so with a great deal of hard work and lots of money,  that did not come easy, it has been our home for forty plus years, how quickly the years come and go. There never have been any regrets. So let me warn you, be aware if you visit an island, be prepared to either like it enough to stay or walk away without looking back.  And yes I do think that after forty plus years we have made the grade and that the real old-timers consider us inlanders, it takes a long time for a title like that. Right now there are a lot of cottages for sale, but not ours,

Tref. Home

no I would say we are here for the long haul, and now you know how a picnic became a lifetime.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Continuation of ….. A Picnic Became A Lifetime

Saturday morning came we packed a picnic lunch and we were off on our adventure, we took my mother with us, she was excited to see parts of the island that she had not seen before and she was anxious to see the cottage.  We took Bob over to see the former owners; he needed to go over some things with them.  We said we would be back to get him later. Then  we were off to tour the island which consisted of one paved road that went around the perimeter of the island and many unpaved side roads and streets.  The scenery was really beautiful and the cottages were of all shapes and sizes.  We located two churches, Methodist and Catholic, three grocery stores, a few little gift shops, a bowling alley, a gas station, a laundry mat, a fire/Police barn, a Post Office plus two dinning places, and that pretty much sums it up. 

We were very much impressed and thought this must really be a great place to live.  Riding around while we waited for Bob we saw many houses and cottages for sale. After riding around for quite sometime we picked him up and listened to his excitement of just having become the owner of a cottage.  He could hardly wait for the next weekend, when he was to actually move in, finding it hard to believe that all the furniture was to go with it, and just knowing that it now was his. 

While driving around we found a place on the back shore to park and had our picnic on the rocks.

Back shore 1966

Back shore  1964

Then we rode around the island again to show Bob what it was all about, he was excited and impressed.   We rode around the island at least a dozen times, this was not hard to do the island is only three and a half miles long and one and a half miles wide. We stopped along the way to watch the ocean and marveled as the sea gulls performed their incredible maneuvers, and we were amazed at all the boats going by. The lobster boats were busy hauling in their catch, it seemed so different from the mainland, even though it was only three miles from the city. Everyone seemed so friendly and the children were either carrying buckets with fish or fishing poles, it seemed everyone’s life and interests were somehow connected to the water. There just was a different feeling about it.  It was sort of a laidback slow moving way of life.

Then the inevitable happened, we saw a cottage with a sign that read “For Sale by Owner.”  It was a rather large cottage with a wrap around porch, on a corner lot with a nice lawn.  We all said “gee’s this is a great place” but we all knew the price would be too much for us, yet Fred insisted we go in just to see it.  No one else felt it right, just to go in, knowing we had no intentions of buying.  However, he kept insisting and after driving by several more times, he finally won me over.  He and I went in while the others waited in the car.  We knocked on the door and a woman greeted us with a rather gruff voice saying “it’s already rented” Fred said “we saw the For Sale sign and are here to look at it,” with a change in the tone of her voice, she said “come on in.”  I remember the fireplace impressing me as we entered and the room being very large, the whole cottage seemed to be very spacious.  After she finished showing us the rest of the cottage, I asked her how much she was asking for it, she told me four thousand dollars, I thanked her and asked if my friends might come in to see it, she was willing, so Fred went to get the others.  At this point in time there was no interest in buying, although I really did think it would be great. 

Then we thanked her for showing us the cottage and told her we would call her tomorrow, you see I had in the back of my mind that I could get my father to co-sign for me and that it would be a great buy.  My mother was as impressed as I was, and envisioned herself spending time here. 

Margaret's mother

     Margaret’s mother on the back shore that first day

Before leaving I boldly asked if she might consider thirty five hundred and she said she would think about it and let me know. So we left with my promise to call her the next day.

Fred had just gotten a divorce and had no money, I wasn’t making didly squat, my only hope was that Betty might be willing to go along with the idea that we buy it together, I hit it lucky, she was willing, so we approached my dad and asked if he would co-sign. He was willing so now we were going to own a cottage on the island as well.  After calling her the next day as promised, within two weeks we had bought the cottage.

Our cottage 1964

             The Inevitable cottage

Bob was excited to hear we were going to buy the cottage. Things were really starting to look up! We envisioned great times just summering on an island.

The following week when Bob moved into his cottage he got an unexpected surprise. When he inspected his buy more closely, it seemed that sometime in the past years the fireplace had gotten out of hand and burned the underneath floor quite badly. It had been covered with a heavy brown construction paper that camouflaged the damage, but with his love for the place and the price he paid he was not too disappointed.

He called home to Illinois and before long his brother and brother in law were up here and things got put back into shape.  So for the next month they kept his cottage hopping.  His whole family came from Illinois and they all really enjoyed the ocean, having lobster bakes and cookouts down at the oceans edge, that summer was really something.

Edmund, Olive, Joe & George

   Cookout Fun, Yum, Yum!

Youth has a way of making things happen, it seemed as though we were meeting every boat, friends and relatives came from far and wide to enjoy what the island had to offer. We really made the most of that last month of summer, fishing became a new adventure for us all, and hiking through the woods took on a new meaning with new found explorations of old forts built for the soldiers during the Second World War.  Entrance to Battery Steele

            Entrance to Battery Steele

On top of Battery Steele

       On top of Battery Steele

The under ground ammunition forts were still accessible at that time and easy to explore although somewhat on the scary side, very dark and they gave off a hollow sound that made ones voice

echo back sending chills up your spine. Over the years they had become dumps for anything and everything not a pleasant site, Adventure on the island was never dull, it seems everyday brought new experiences.

to be continued……