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.


  1. Margaret...this was so eye opening! I had no idea you went through all this. The foundation? I thought it was part of the cottage when you bought it. It really tells the story of how hard it can be to live on an island and get good help. You and Betty have done an amazing job on that place and now I can really appreciate just how hard it was and how long it must have taken you! Please keep on writing are a wonderful writer..and the pictures are just the icing on the cake. Great job!!

  2. Oh...I forgot to say that I would have loved your friend Fred! What a kind and loving soul he was...even if he was broke all the time...he really cared about people that were downtrodden in life. I love that. There are so many people that take advantage of others, it is really refreshing to read about someone who is just the opposite. I'd love to meet him some day.

  3. ... Absolutely fantastic! Your home pulsates w/the beating of determined hearts creating an award-winning home. It is strong, artistic, loving and long-lasting.
    It is also a work of art. Welcoming. Comforting. Embracing.
    I am very impressed w/the amount of effort it took to take on such a project ... You must have run into hidden problems and mounting costs and your commitment stressed to it's limits.
    But, dear Margaret and "B", what was created will be ever long-lasting, exemplifying and adhering to, true island compatibility and adherence.
    You both created a 'marker' on your ' Island Paradice'! Bravo!
    Love ... GeeGee

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