Growing Up on Lake Winnipesaukee, NH

A couple of weeks ago, I wrote a post about summers spent on Little Sebago Lake in Maine. Today, I’d like to share memories of Lake Winnipesaukee in New Hampshire.

I really consider myself very lucky to have grown up on both Little Sebago and Lake Winnipesaukee in New Hampshire. They were very different experiences, but I wouldn’t trade even a moment of either of them.

My grandmother sold the Maine cottage after my grandfather passed away in 1968. However, family members still own the cottage on Winnipesaukee, so there won’t be any views of the cottage itself in this post or anything that could compromise their privacy.

Instead, I would like to share some of the vintage postcards I have of scenes from the lake along with a few memories.

First, the vintage views from early in the 20th century:

Cummings Cove, c1910

Cummings Cove includes one of the best known landmarks on Winnipesaukee – the lighthouse on Spindle Point:

Lighthouse at Spindle Point, c1915

The lighthouse hasn’t been used for many decades, but it is still standing.

Winnipesaukee and Little Sebago are very different kinds of lakes.

First, Little Sebago is much smaller and calmer.

Also, my own personal experience at Little Sebago was that there were only a couple of children nearby, and then only occasionally on weekends, so my little mind had to think of activities to keep busy.  The camp was a place for family time with my grandparents, aunt, parents and brother. We did things together and enjoyed the outdoors.

On the other hand, Winnipesaukee is the biggest lake in New England. Ski races have been known to be cancelled because the waves were so high it would have been too dangerous to be racing.

While New Hampshire visits meant family time, it also meant seeing old friends as there were about a dozen children in nearby cottages whose ages spanned only about five years.

Together, we learned to swim – and swim we did, sometimes from one cottage to another four or five houses away. That wasn’t a short distance in the lake! Until we were old enough to handle motor boats on our own, we rowed – up and down the same area in which we swam.

The cottage at Winnipesaukee had a few more amenities than the camp at Little Sebago. The bathroom was actually inside the cottage, we could drink the water and there were floor heaters rather than just a fireplace!

Besides swimming, skiing and boating, we kids would make plans to have a picnic in the woods, we’d take walks quite long distances around the lake and visit The Weirs, site of the Sunday night fireworks, but a fun place to wander around during the daytime as it has a boardwalk on the waterfront.

As we got into our teens, the Weirs was even more fun when it had a few concerts in the hall. I saw Gary Puckett and the Union Gap there and they arrived at the venue by boat!

As some of us reached the age of sixteen – which meant we could get summer jobs, the “in” place to work was the Dairy Bar in downtown Meredith.

Dairy Bar

The left door went into the breakfast, lunch and ice cream parlor. The room at the right could also be entered from the inside and went to a evening dining room where families could enjoy an inexpensive supper.

Lake Winnipesaukee offered the opportunity for all kinds of water activities, from sightseeing trips to evening fireworks over Weirs Beach to family boat rides to Wolfeboro for an ice cream cone.

Sightseeing boats have been on Winnipesaukee for well over a century and a half. The boats, of course, were replaced through the years, but often the same names were recycled with each new generation. The Mount Washington, Doris E., Sophie C. and the Uncle Sam have been around for over a century now.

Mail delivery by boat was an easy day for the mailman and the ride was profitable because of the tourists it carried. The “Uncle Sam” in this photo was long gone by the 1950s and 1960s, but I remember a later Uncle Sam mail boat still in service.

Uncle Sam Mail Boat, c1915

The largest and best known of the sightseeing boats was the Mount Washington, or the Mount, as it was affectionately known. I have some old postcards of the Mount Washington, but they are from the 1960s so the photos are most likely still under copyright. However, you can read all about her long history on Wikipedia, which also has several photographs.

The Doris E. and Sophie C. are also tourist boats, but they are much smaller than the Mount, which has dinner cruises and music along with day trips around the lake. Today, the Doris E. offers boat rides, but the Sophie C. has a special claim to fame – she is the oldest floating post office in the United States, having been delivering the mail on Winnipesaukee since 1892! Yes, she also still carries sightseers who can mail their lake postcards right from the boat.

I have to admit that, in all the years that I traveled to New Hampshire for the summer, never once have I sailed on the Mount or the smaller boats.

I have, however, waterskiied in the wake of the Mount Washington.

I learned how to waterski when I was twelve and, the next year, I learned to slalom ski. One of all the kids’ favorite activities was to head out into the wide open spaces of the lake and hope that we ran into the Mount. Navigating that wake wasn’t the easiest task, as it is a big boat and Winnipesaukee isn’t known for being a quiet, calm little lake anyway.

Many times, I toppled into the water, having hit the wake at the wrong angle, but it was fun trying to master those waves.

Here are a few family photos of the lake:

View of the water

Look at the land jutting into the lake in between the middle tree and the tree to the right. This is the length which we used to swim – the land curves back into the shore behind that little point and that was our destination.

Me, with Candy, the sweetest German Shepherd ever!

My brother and cousin

The three photos above were probably taken c1964-1965.

As the first of the lake friends headed off to college, our summers together on Lake Winnipesaukee came to an end. I’ve only been back a couple of times since then, but I have absolutely the best memories of all those years. It was a fun time.


2 thoughts on “Growing Up on Lake Winnipesaukee, NH”

  1. I enjoyed your two posts on Sebago and Winnepesaukee. My uncle had a camp on the Crooked River (my cousin still owns it), and another cousin ran the causeway marina in Naples. We went up there for years and years. I never camped on Winnepesaukee, but it is close enough for Sunday drives. We took a cruise on Mount Washington earlier this summer, and some cousins still live in Alton Bay. Did you see my weathervane last week?

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