By Donald Ketzler
Brixham Road in those days was a gravel road that had no electricity or phone service for its few residents. Mail service was provided through rural route delivery out of the South Berwick post office. You can imagine how confusing this was to our friends and relatives back in New York. How could one live in a town named Eliot but referred to as East Eliot, that had no phone service and mail had to be sent to another town named South Berwick ?
The farm had a fine barn an old house and 20 acres of land with a small stream running through it. The old house had to be fixed up and cleaned up before we could move in; so we rented a room for a few months from the Payne sisters, Nellie and Emma who lived just up the road. The sisters had lived in Punkintown but moved to the present little farm when Punkintown was abandoned.
I vaguely remember them telling stories about Punkintown that involved Indians, mysterious fires and other scary goings on. I have no idea what was true and what was made up for the benefit of little boys to listen to on a dark night. (Remember, there were no electric lights, only kerosene lamps)
After a few months we moved in to our new home. This house had no electricity or phone of course. No central heat, just fireplaces. No running water, just a hand pump in the kitchen that pumped water from a nearby well. An “out house” that was “out’ in the true sense of the word and very, very cold in the winter. We basically lived in the kitchen that had a big, black wood stove. For meals, suffice it to say things were tough. I remember having a lot of soup.
Unfortunately, in the middle of the winter the pipe to the nearby well froze and couldn’t be thawed. We hauled water from a large spring (small pond) that was a couple of hundred yards back in the property. This deep, small pond had been dug some years back by the WPA. The intent was to pipe the water to a water tower to be built at the top of Great Hill to be used as a town water supply. I have no idea why this project was abandoned.
Mom then had a new idea. Buy a horse and wagon to haul the water. We went to a farmer on Goodwin road that had some horses to see if he had one we could buy (cheap!). I don’t remember the farmers name and I wouldn’t want to accuse him of taking advantage of city slickers. But we ended up with poor “Duke” a sway back on his last legs. Old Duke made a few trips to the spring with much resting along the way but mercifully mom saw to his being taken a way to hopefully spend his last days in rest.
It was a tough winter, but we made it. My older brother, Walter, had to become the “man of the house” and he valiantly filled that role. Dad was only able to make a few trips by Greyhound bus to be with us that first winter.