Out of Our Past

Growing Up in Boothbay Harbor in the Early 1900s, Part III

Posted:  Wednesday, May 16, 2018 - 7:45am

This is the last of Jean Chenoweth's articles about her mother's life at West Harbor. She, Virginia Frey Huskins, was born in 1912 and lived all her 84 years in the family house at formerly 57 Western Avenue (all street numbers were changed in 1999) where Jean also grew up. Besides the nuclear family of her mother Alberta and Virginia's three brothers, Park, Bert, and Ken, extended family also lived in the house when Virginia was young — her grandmother Mary and her great-uncle Bill. I'm very grateful that Jean wrote up her own and her mother's memories for this column. Barbara Rumsey, Boothbay Region Historical Society

Mollie the Cat

She loved cats and they had a stray called Mollie who was a terror to the neighborhood dogs. My mother said if a dog walked by the house, Mollie would rush out, land on its back with all her claws out and ride as far down the road as she could. After one encounter the dogs would learn and they'd cut across the road to get as far away from the house as they could and try to sneak by without Mollie seeing them. Mollie would also take a hunk out of the shin of anybody who got to close to her. She had probably been abused before they got her. But Mollie had lovely, peaceful kittens. One in particular, Jake, was exceedingly gentle and intelligent. She wanted to be a part of the family in everything they did. She loved board games, especially Parcheesi and would have her own piece to move which she did with her paw when it was her turn. She would also reach her paw into the small brown paper bag of candy and hook out a piece to lick. Another of my mother's sorrows was that Jake got distemper and died too young.

Christmas and Pastimes

Christmases would have been bleak, if not for her aunt Carrie who married a second time, an older man who was "well off." She fondly remembered the large brown paper packages that would arrive every year for her and her brothers with warm jackets, mittens, other needed items of clothing and maybe a few "fun" things. Carrie also took her to New York City and they stayed in a rooming house in Harlem. She said everyone was pleasant and dressed so nicely for Sunday church.

Her favorite things to do were read, listen to good music, pick blueberries, swim in the ocean, and ice skate. She also loved movies and walking to town to hear the band concerts on the library lawn every Thursday night. In her later years she became very interested in astronomy and read everything she could get her hands on, including the text book my college roomate sent her. My roommate found the book to be very difficult, my mother thought it was easy reading.

The Household's Family Again

My mother didn't marry until she was 26 years old, in 1938, and I was born the next year. All her family (except Gram) was still living in the house so my father, Cliff Huskins, didn't move in with us until I was three and a half years old, after my uncle Park died and Bert decided to move out. Ken lived in a camp in back of the house. My mother called the 1940s our "black" years. Park died in 1942; he liked to drink although I don't think he ever missed a day of work. His body was found floating in the harbor one morning, caught in the line to a lobster fisherman's buoy. They thought perhaps he was drunk and fell off the wharf but the autopsy showed there was no water in his lungs. Her beloved aunt Carrie died in 1945 in NYC from a brain aneurysm. My grandmother was very sick and bedridden for several years with Parkinson's and heart failure. My mother had to tend her day and night and became so tired I remember her sitting down to dinner and falling asleep in her plate. My grandmother died in 1948, just before Christmas. And Bert died in a fire one night in 1949 at his camp on Reed Road. His body was found near the door, apparently overcome by smoke before he reached safety.

All things considered, I'm not sure the “good old days” were all that good!