Summer camp

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(HOST) Some of commentator Edith Hunter’s best summer memories recall days spent at the shore in surroundings that were simple – but thoroughly satisfying.

(HUNTER) When I was a little girl, our family spent four glorious summers in a garage. Well, not exactly a garage. It was Mr. Grant’s camp. This ingenious man had converted a garage on the top of a hill looking out over Buzzard’s Bay, into a summer camp. My parents rented it from 1925 through 1928. Mr. Grant had installed screens all across the front. When the garage doors were opened, the sparkling waters of the bay stretched out in the distance below us.

There were cots along the walls for my sister Anne, my brother Andrew, and me, and one that could be pulled out to make a double bed for my parents. On pleasant nights, we almost slept under the stars.

There was no electricity, but we had running water, thanks to Mr. Grant’s windmill. The sink and kerosene stove were against the back wall, with a table for meals, and games just in front. Down the hill was a natural spring into which the ever-resourceful Mr. Grant had fitted a sturdy box for butter, milk and other perishables.

Our bathroom was a two-seater outhouse. My mother named it “Ultima Thule”, the “End Of the World” that we had learned of when she read us Van Loon’s The Story of Mankind. A teacher before she married, Mother valued our education above everything else.

Dad came down from Boston on the Friday afternoon train. The tracks ran through the back field. Late every afternoon, we three children ran down there. A conductor threw us the Boston Evening Traveler, and the Boston Transcript, left by other commuting fathers. At summer’s end Mother drove our Model-T to the station to present the conductor with a thank-you gift of her beach plum jelly.

When Dad arrived, if the tide was out, he put on his swim suit, walked down the hill to Squeteague Pond, a salt water inlet, to dig “a mess” of quahogs and clams, or gather scallops and oysters. For swordfish and lobster we went to Uncle Tom’s fish store on the road to the pond. He showered us with penny candy because our dog Kim (Kipling was another author Mother introduced us to) kept the woodchucks out of his garden.

Our scratchy wool bathing suits never dried between tides, but on they went, twice a day. Until we could swim, we wore white canvas “water wings.”

What adventures we had in an old flat-bottomed rowboat discovering minnows, eels, blowfish, and blue claw crabs!

Writer and historian Edith Hunter lives in Weathersfield Center.

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