By Donald Ketzler
Looking back I can see the validity of the term “school lets out”. It meant a release from an inside confinement that nurtured the intellect to the freedom of nature’s environment that nurtured the soul.
When school let out in June it became time to run through the fields barefooted, climb trees, swim, go fishing, and simply walk in the woods enjoying the pine scented refreshing air. It was a time for the annual rebirth of mother earth and we were part of it.
There were few families with kids on Brixham Road. The Francis Payne family just down the road from us was an exception. It seemed as though that couple had a new baby every year. All in all I would guess the total was between eight or ten, mostly boys. I don’t know if Francis Payne was related to Emma and Nellie Payne who lived up the road.
Two of their boys were about my age, “Buster” and George. We did things together – swimming in the swimming hole in our back field, climbing Great Hill and walking to York Pond.
Swimming went like this: The boys would show up on a hot summer day and say, “Let’s go swimmen’ in the pond”. Well the “pond” was the result of another digging that the WPA had done in search for an Eliot water supply’ This one did not have pure spring water like the one we used for our water supply but it was fine for swimming. It was only about 25 feet in diameter with a big plank for a diving board.
We would race through the fields to see who could get there first, strip off all of our clothes (I don’t think any of us owned a bathing suit) and jump into the pond from the plank diving board. This is where I learned to swim (having been tossed off of the board). It was sink or swim. The water was deep so I very quickly learned how to do the dog paddle.
Climbing Great Hill involved:
We walked through the woods up what at that time was really a “great” hill. From the top we could see the valley below Rosemary Hill, the marsh, the B&M railroad track and far in the distance we could even see some of Great Bay. At the top of the hill there were some large, full branched pine trees. We climbed to the top of these trees to get the best view and when we were ready to come down we didn’t climb down we let ourselves fall down from branch to branch until we reached the ground.
Going back down the hill we went through a grove of beech and birch trees. Here we selected young trees with few branches. We shimmied (sp.?) up them and started to make they sway until we looked like a bunch of upside- down pendulums.
Walking to York Pond:
This was a full day’s project. We walked up Brixham Road until we got to Bartlett’s Third Hill Dairy and farm which was obviously, from its name, located at the foot of Third Hill.
We went down the lane on the left, through some pasture and passed the ice house (Before the advent of electricity, ice cut from York Pond in the winter was stacked here, covered with saw dust and used all summer for cooling needs of the dairy.)
We continued down the lane and before passing the saw mill we climbed and slid down the great piles of saw dust deposited from the milling operation. Saw dust was a mostly unused byproduct in those days. Not used to make pressboard or other products of that sort. We also passed piles of slabs (the first slice off a log that included the bark) that were also mostly unused. Then came the mill itself. It was originally water powered from a stream that originated in York Pond. We then followed the path along side of that stream for quite a distance until we got to an old logging road that eventually led to old Punkintown.
In those days there were a couple of houses still standing. They were in ruins but we went inside and made believe we were defending the place from attacking Indians. Besides the standing houses there were foundations of others. They were widely separated and we always tried to find undiscovered ones. We, of course, let our imaginations run wild about this abandoned town and what it must have been like to live way out here in the woods.
It was only a short distance from here to York Pond where we would swim and fish off a rock on the shore. (No boats then)
On the way back we always stopped at the Third Hill Dairy building where one of the Bartlett brothers would give us a free, cold bottle of chocolate milk. Oh! What a delicious drink after a summer day of tramping around.
Aside from these sorts of adventures my time was mostly spent alone but I never felt lonely. There was too much to see and do in the wonderful outdoors.