Thursday, March 7, 2013

Bringing It Home

An old postcard of Hotel Germania
I found this old post card for sale on the Internet, and just had to buy it!  What wonderful memories I have of this place.  It's changed quite a bit, mostly due to my grandparents.

My grandparents were born and raised in Newfoundland.  They lived in Pouch Cove where Grampie was a lobsterman and Nannie was a seamstress.  As a young couple, in the late 1920's, they moved to the states and settled in Chelsea, Massachusetts.  My grandfather had a scrapyard there.  My father told me that he loved being at the scrapyard with his dad and playing in the all the old cars.  My grandfather told me that it was dangerous.  I couldn't imagine any more magical a place to play though!

Nannie was a seamstress, making clothing and doing alterations.  We lived close enough by to visit pretty regularly in their second floor apartment.  I remember watching tv on their new roundish screened television set.  Lawrence Welk was a favorite, along with Howdy Doody.  They were the first to own a tv in our entire family.  They were the first to throw out the old to embrace the new.

My family moved to Maine, and soon after that my grandparents followed.  We moved to a big old house out in the country, but my grandparents moved into a newish 1940's tiny look alike house community in town - which is still there pretty much unchanged from when I was 6 years old.  My grandmother became the manager of a dress factory, and my grandfather worked there, too, first unloading huge bales of fabric and then loading dresses.

Though they had tried to throw out the old life, being from Newfoundland, they still missed the fishing life.  So, unbeknownst to my grandfather, my grandmother bought a little place right on the ocean.  He was livid when he found out...at first.  I imagine she just laughed at his sputtering.  I can hear her laugh now.  Her eyes would twinkle and she'd look down trying not to laugh.  Then she would start a small chuckle that would develop into an uncontrollable belly laugh that made everyone start laughing.  My dad had that laugh, and sometimes when I start laughing and can't stop, I hear her.  And I can't help but laugh all the more!

My grandfather's sputtering was because this "little" place she bought was the Hotel Germania.  It was located in South Harpswell, which in an earlier era had been host to cruising vessels and would drop off summer tourists to stay at these elaborate hotels on the coast.  It was a large building that had not been used in years.

I remember going there and quietly peeking in all the guest rooms and finding a dead bird in the corner of one of the rooms.  I felt a bit like Alice in Wonderland as I opened and shut doors to little rooms and nooks. The number of doors to choose to open seemed to be endless.  I had dreams about that big, old empty house years later even.

The dining area was huge.  It still had all its tables and chairs set up, ready to serve at a moment's notice - except there was no water or electricity.  I wish I could remember more about some aspects of the house.  But I was probably only 8 years old at the time, and I was mostly fascinated with this glimpse into the past on a surface level.  I enjoyed the exploring more than the questions of how did they cook, was there ever electricity there and such.  I do know they didn't have bathrooms that worked anyway.  If we needed to go to the bathroom, we had to find a nice quiet spot under the pier.  That was impressive evidently!

They soon set to the task of selling off the furniture and fixtures, removing the long pier, tearing off the huge dining room and paring down to a nice sized home that overlooked Pott's Harbor.  And there, my grandfather set up his lobstering life again, while my grandmother continued to work as manager of a dress factory in town.

We spent many summer days and nights at my grandparents' home on the harbor. Gramp trapped lobsters.  Nannie cooked lobsters, and biscuits, and cabbage with corned beef, and deep dish apple pies.  And I climbed rocks and rowed boats and pulled a trap or two and fished and walked deserted islands, and pocketed bits of glass and rocks and shells, and learned to sew and cook.

And now my husband is Grampie and I am Nannie to our grandchild.  He has begun to recognize our laughs.  I want to bring Pouch Cove and Pott's Harbor to him.  The new is good, but it needs the old to bring it to life.

Arrow shows hotel - not my postcard
* Information found when I was looking for more pictures of Harpswell:
Edna St. Vincent Millay had a summer home in Harpswell.  She died one week before I was born.   Here is a link to her collection A Few Figs From Thistles.  Just so happens that was my grandfather's last name - Thistle.  My favorite poem in this collection reminds me of my post yesterday, though I had never read it before.  It is Portrait by a Neighbor.
Oooh, and I just found http://www.gutenberg.org/ebooks/4399 to get this for your Kindle:

7 comments:

  1. Donna,

    What great memories. I am glad you shared them. I have only been to Newfoundland once. I was flying home from my tour in Germany. The plane landed for just a short time before heading to our next destination.

    Dan said if you're going to have breakfast at the Prairie Winds you might have to start early.

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  2. We'd start tonight if my husband knew about it.

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    1. If you ever decide to come to Montana let me know. I think you would love the state.

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  3. What a wonderful story - I had to laugh when I realized that the "little cottage" turned out to be this magnificent hotel. What a lot of work it must have been. You paint such a vivid picture of that time, Donna - and of the people in your life.

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    1. As a child, it was fascinating to go through the house, but the enormity of the work was just beyond my interest at the time!

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  4. The little details you shared of your childhood impressions as you explored the house were priceless! I love the image of you as a curious Alice! The way you wrote about your family makes your love for them so evident. Thanks for sharing, and thanks so much again for all your comments on my students' posts!

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    1. And this is not even close to where I thought my writing was going today, though still about my grandparents. Another day for that, I guess! Loving your student posts!

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