Out of Our Past

A 1950s job at Linekin Bay Camp, Part I

Wed, 07/19/2017 - 8:15am

Anne Warner, who has written many articles on local history and the book, “A Bicentennial History, Goshen, Massachusetts,” very kindly allowed us to run her article on Linekin Bay Camp at Wall Point (now Linekin Bay Resort). The owners, the Branches, started a girls' camp in 1919 which endured until 1945. Though the camp became a resort in 1946, it was not renamed "Resort" until after the mid-1950s. Anne's memories of a typical region summer job are a reminder of the conscientious 1950s work ethic. The society is grateful that she let us run these well-written articles.

Bob Branch taught math at Williamsburg High School in Massachusetts and spent the summers in Boothbay Harbor where his family owned a summer resort. His parents had purchased the land on Linekin Bay, a rocky inlet near Boothbay Harbor, with the intent of using it as a family vacation spot. It was said that they had so many summer visitors that they decided to turn it into a business, and they built lodges and cabins to accommodate a summer camp for girls. It was here that their son, Bob, met his future wife, Ida, who was the music counselor. When he left the service after World War II it was decided to convert it to a resort for adults. The drawing card was a small fleet of sailboats (Bob’s passion) although reasonable rates, good food, and the splendors of the rocky coast of Maine made it equally attractive.

The Branches

I was one of Bob's students [and later his colleague as a Williamsburg science teacher]. The summer after I graduated I was hired to do office work at the camp. I was to get a ride there with Lucy, the new pastry chef. The first evening we ate together in the main dining room since guests had not arrived—Bob, Ida, and their children Peter and Christina, Lucy and I, Bob’s mother Mrs. B, and Mrs. A the cook. More about A and B later. After dinner I made the mistake of lighting a cigarette because I was nervous. All eyebrows (except for the kids) shot up. I was learning fast—what I had considered sophistication was obviously not. I spend a good deal of time after that evening trying to redeem myself.

Mrs. A [Asker], was not a trained chef, she was just a very good cook. She was also a gracious lady, a college grad, who started working summers to put her girls through college. After that I think she continued because she liked to do it and we all became her “summer family.” Mr. A, her husband, visited on weekends. I’m not sure what he did, but we got the impression that he was an actor or opera singer. Mrs. A clearly adored him.

Bob's mother Mrs. B was the matriarch and supervised menus and ordering food. She was the ultimate horse-trader and I have seen her reduce the Armour salesman to tears when the meat wasn’t up to her standards. (It was my first experience with well-aged beef. It had a greenish patina but was absolutely delicious.) Mrs. B had drooping eyelids which gave her an imperious and frightening mien. After I got to know her I liked her a lot, and admired her intelligence, kindness, and strong personality. As I recall she was there only the first summer and did not return because of failing health.

Mr. G [Garrabrandt], Mrs. B’s father, also departed after the first summer. He lived in a separate cottage and had a little garden where he raised lettuce for the kitchen. He was a sweet old gentleman, well into his 90s. I was on the dock one day when he decided to take out one of the rowboats. He got in all right, but when he grasped the oars he fell over backwards and couldn’t get up. Someone jumped in and sat him up, and he proceeded to go for his boat ride.

The 1950 Camp Layout

The camp I encountered in 1950 consisted of a main building which housed the dining hall, kitchen, and a small office and a couple of rooms upstairs. Next to it was the Annex, which also had a few rooms available as well as a large recreational center. The cooks stayed in an apartment in the rear. The dishwasher and boat boy had a little cabin in the woods behind the kitchen. There were a number of cabins (I don't remember how many), some of which were still in the process of being converted from girls' camp to adult resort. They were quite rustic, but many guests liked them for that reason. A houseboat had been hauled up onto the rocks and was a favorite with guests. There was also a boathouse, and a long pier with a floating dock where a number of boats were moored.

All of this required constant upkeep and repair. Thayer was the handyman. He had the drawl and wry humor of an old-time fishing captain, and was one of those rare individuals who were born knowing how to fix anything. He and Bob often worked together. Bob also ran errands, took over his mother's job of supervising the kitchen and food ordering, took guests sailing, and carved the turkeys on Sunday. Ida acted as hostess, and was in charge of the dining room, and the cleaning and laundry for the guest quarters. Even though there was a cabin girl and a part-time boat boy, no one had the time for office work, which was why I was hired. Unfortunately there was not enough to fill my time, so I did a lot of odd jobs: sorting laundry, cleaning, making beds. I even painted a set of Linekin Bay Camp signs in red and white to mark the way to camp. They are long gone.

Next time: This series of three articles will be interrupted for an article on the 50th anniversary of the society.