With Labor Day weekend, the traditional end of summer vacation, almost upon us, memories of fun on Little Sebago Lake have been on my mind.
Growing up, my family didn’t have a lot of extra money, but we did have a wonderful vacation each summer. That’s because Grandmother and Grandfather had a summer cottage on Little Sebago Lake. My family always made the long drive from New Jersey to Maine, where we spent two weeks with Grandmother, Grandfather and Aunt Barbara at the lake.
Little Sebago Lake Cottage
When we went to the cottage, we really were pretty much roughing it. The Adams camp, as it was called, was the last cottage at the end of a very bumpy dirt road.
I remember the car shaking, a lot!
There was no heating system in the cottage, so heat was provided by a fireplace.
The Only Source of Heat
We did have cold running water, but it wasn’t potable. We had to collect fresh spring water once a week for drinking.
Grandmother and Me, c1956
Notice the water container to the left of me!
Cleaning dishes meant boiling huge pots of water first and there was no bathtub or shower. I took many a bath in this:
When I got a bit older, baths happened in the lake.
My grandparents and Aunt Barbara lived in the main cottage, but there was a guest cabin about 100 feet away. Grandfather enjoyed carpentry and he actually converted the wood storage area in back of the guest cabin into a second bedroom with an attached covered roof for the car.
Two Room Guest Cabin
My parents, brother and I all slept in the guest cabin. There was no heat at all in there, nor was there any running water and the toilet was attached to the outside of the main cottage. If a bathroom stop was needed at night, the only choice was to cross over to the little bathroom that my grandfather had built. It was actually a big improvement over its predecessor, which was an outhouse a couple hundred feet away in the woods!
My grandfather enjoyed four activities at the cottage: puttering around working on projects, relaxing and listening to the Boston Red Sox games on his transistor radio, swimming and going out for boat rides.
Here, he put my father to work, too, as they took down this tree:
In spite of the lack of some modern conveniences (no phone or TV, but there was a radio), time spent at the cottage was heavenly. I learned to swim at a very young age.
Grandmother & Me, c1954
By the age of three, I had picked quite a few blueberries, which Grandmother baked into fresh pies.
A few years later, my brother, Mike, enjoyed his first experiences at the lake, too.
Mike, enjoying sand and water
Grandfather put up a swing for me when I was three years old. I remember being heartbroken when my mother told me one of the trees had come down in a winter storm, but by the time we got to the lake that summer, Grandfather had hoisted my swing up into two other trees.
There were boat rides:
Linda with Grandmother and Grandfather
And birthday parties for Mike and Aunt Barbara:
Mike’s First Birthday Party
We even went horseback riding. I remember really feeling it the next day after an hour in the saddle!
Horseback riding in Windham
The cottage had a porch with a view out to the lake.
The family ate every meal on the porch. I appreciate its beauty now, but, growing up, only the grownups took the time to enjoy it!
Little Sebago, Smooth as Silk
Each year, I posed for obligatory pictures, all taken by Aunt Barbara. I really appreciate her dedication to photography because, if it weren’t for her, I wouldn’t have any of these pictures. She took literally hundreds of photos at the lake through the years.
We spent hundreds of happy family hours together:
My dad, George
Mike and Mom, Doris
Family and Guests
My grandparents had bought the cottage in the late 1940s, before my time. Little did I know that the summer of 1968 would be our last summer at the lake. Unbeknownst to any of us, Grandfather had what later came to be known as mad cow disease. In September, he had what the doctors thought was a stroke. In reality, it was the first appearance of the symptoms of Creutzfeld-Jakob Disease and he declined so quickly that he passed away on Pearl Harbor Day, 7 December 1968.
Grandmother put the cottage up for sale that spring and it sold right away. Dave and I visited New England in 1981 and I was able to find the cottage once again. (Not easy, since the roads had no names and there had been a lot of growth during that time.) Surprisingly, the cottage hadn’t changed. The owners weren’t there, but we walked the property and, except for new tree growth and a lack of blueberry bushes, it looked like I had stepped back in time.
Yep, summers at the lake were pretty special.