by Richard Fernald
I have many fond memories of Eliot, Maine and the many families and friends who made my first 26 years of life there very special. Those memories have lived on and still continue to influence my life by the appreciation of the values I learned from so many growing up at 105 Pleasant Street and going through twelve years of school in this proud town. It is interesting that I left town several times in my life but still found my way back to teach 33 years in several schools in MSAD-35. I ended my teaching career at Marshwood Junior High School in 2006. This school had originally been Marshwood High School a school that I worked on during its construction in 1963-64, an interesting point in my Eliot history.
I have chosen to share a few pictures that come to mind during the years of 1954-57. I was born in 1943 so the years I will reflect on happened when I was 11 to 13 years old. My parents were Carl and Betty Fernald. I was second youngest of 4 boys.
Living on the corner of Pleasant Street and Main Street (Route #103) at this time was interesting since Mac’s Mobile Gas Station, Staples Store and the Post Office all were located nearby. They provided places to meet and greet and just hang out. I was able to get my soda (tonic), chips, comic books, and penny candy along with a place to get out of the heat in summer and the cold in the winter. Life was good. Hanging out on this street was wonderful. There were open fields near Percy Small’s big white Victorian home and Automotive Garage in his barn just down the street near the Piscataqua River. Kids could play baseball and pick up football, and other fun games in those fields. During these times one could always find something to do that didn’t require an organized effort. We could go swimming in the river at the end of the street at Hutton’s Beach in the summer. Even in the fall the river and its shoreline provided recreation and exercise. We even rode a few ice flows close to shore in the winter. During the summer the river gave us a place to swim, get a tan, fish, and a place to be cool during a heat wave. I loved when Bob Small, other friends, and I would take large patched inner tubes scrounged from Mac’s Service Station and paddle up river to Frank Fort Island off from Mast Cove Road. This was quite a long paddle but we’d take along a lunch with chips and soda and we were in heaven. This little island gave us a goal to reach and a place to make our imaginations of pirates real. I even remember we spent a night camping out and visiting Cobb’s Camp on the shore. I remember we met some interesting girls from the DC and Maryland area. That was like another country to us Eliot Boys!
I can remember all the homes on Pleasant Street and the folks that lived in them and how interesting these people were. These homes were safe havens to me and made it a special neighborhood to grow up in.
Starting from my home and heading down the street were the following homes and businesses. Arnold Wyndham’s home which had been Harry Staple’s had a nice porch to stay cool in the summer and a nice place to play cards on rainy days. Across from the Wyndham’s was Mac’s Service Station, a place to hang out and Mac (Bernard Kimball) was a nice guy who seemed to like company, so lots of guys hung out there and smoked, drank cokes, and talked sports. I found out in later years that this hard working man had been in WWII, flying bombers over Europe. Next to Mac’s were Staple’s Store and the Post Office. Gene and Helen Staples lived above the store and provided a small grocery for the basics, newspapers, and a central place to meet and discuss local town politics. Also having the post office next door drew people from all over the town to come gather their mail. Christine Davis was the postmistress and my Aunt Ruth Dixon was an assistant to her. This was neat having my aunt to visit every day. She was a special lady and is remembered for walking to work most every day from her home on State Road near Mt Pleasant Cemetery. Walking down Bolt Hill was probably okay but I wonder about the walk back up. I am sure she took a ride home when offered.
Continuing pointing out homes, Gene Paul lived in the home directly across from Staple’s Store when I was 10 years old, but several other families moved in shortly afterwards when Gene Paul built a new home on Main Street near the intersection of Cross Street where the Eliot Fire Station was then located. I remember the Fontaine’s, the Sutton’s, and Thompson’s lived in this large home during my teenage years on Pleasant Street. Next to this home was a dirt road that led to Dan Macomber’s home. This road later became Rosemary Lane. He had three daughters that were around my age. Continuing down the same side of Pleasant Street was the home of Christine Davis, the postmistress, and her husband, Linville. I remember Linville had a wooden leg. I believe he had a serious accident with a trolley car as a kid. He and my father, Carl Fernald, were good friends as young men. Next to their home was Pop Cole’s home. I remember he had two sons who were in the military most likely during the Korean War. Pop’s daughter had a son Ed (“Skipper”) Czechalski who lived nearby in Clay Village also known as the Project. Skipper spent lots of time with his grandparents so he was a familiar face in our daily gang who played on Pleasant Street. Next to Pop’s house was the Advent Christian Church parsonage. I am pretty sure Mrs. Garland was the minister of the church during my youth. The Garland’s had a daughter, Donna who went to school with me during our teens but moved away during our sophomore year at EHS. The house next to this parsonage was the home of Frank Mudgett and his wife. I remember them as being nice folks who loved gardening and I remember mowing their lawn which gave me a little extra change for comic books. I am almost at the end of Pleasant Street before it turns left and continues along the river for a mile where it bends back to meet Main Street heading south towards Eliot Neck and the causeway to Kittery. Across the street from the Mudgett’s was Percy Small’s huge Victorian home. The Small’s had 2 sons and 2 daughters. I spent lots of time at this home since the boys were close to my age. Bob was a year younger than me and we spent many days hanging out at the river in summer since we both loved swimming and making floating devices to cruise the shoreline. Life was good. I do remember Bob had chores to do every day before he could leave the yard to play so I often helped him weed the strawberry patch or stack cordwood to speed up the effort so we could plan our day’s adventure. Bob’s large home had a great basement to play in during the winter. We could even ride small bikes and play ping pong in the toasty warm basement heated by all that wood we stacked in the summer. The last house on the same side of the street as the Small’s was the home of Ed and Ethel Blaisdell. This was a beautiful home that faced the river, oh what a view. I mowed this lawn too and weeded lots of flower beds. During my youth there had been a huge Weeping Willow tree in their yard. Under this mammoth tree the Blaisdell’s had chairs to sit in the shade and sip ice tea. I did this when I mowed their lawn and they treated me to a cool drink under this willow tree. Unfortunately, this beautiful tree came down during one of the summer hurricanes in 1956-57 probably Hurricane Donna or Carol. The last house on Pleasant Street across from the Blaisdell’s was Hiram Young’s large center chimney home. The Young’s had four sons. My fondest memories of this home were of all the boys who were very mechanically inclined and had neat cars and motorbikes and motorcycles. This family’s home was always open to the neighbors. There were always older kids hanging around the barn as cars were being repaired. It just seemed like a club to me. I remember all the older boys treated me like family when I stopped by on my way to the river. The father Hiram had his own gun shop right in the house. I was fortunate once to see his large collection of guns and rifles. I know he loved hunting.
So those are the homes and houses on my street as best as I remember them. I was very lucky to live in this protective neighborhood and being able to have freedoms that kids today will never have or could ever understand. I remember climbing the Chestnut trees on my lawn. Climbing high up in these trees provided a great perspective of the neighborhood and in the fall the chestnuts gave us art projects and things to throw at each other. Playing simple games like “kick the can” and “hide and seek” provided us with about as many organized sports as we needed. Another activity we older boys played was war in the surrounding woods where we could build fortified structures from tree branches. My Uncle Giles Fernald’s woodlot off of Main Street near Park Street was close by for our military games. We didn’t have computers or expensive toys but we were creative and had tons of energy to make our days exciting and fulfilling and went to bed exhausted even when we had no television.
I have a few last points to share about those preteen years around Pleasant Street during the 1950’s. All the folks previously mentioned I respected and they could and did often give advice that I listened to and fortunately adhered to as well. I guess that was a time when kids were kids and all the older folks were kind of like extended family. Another thing that made this time period unique was the bicycle. What freedom kids had when one learned to ride a bike! I remember how I could ride all over the town of Eliot to visit relatives and friends. I would ride my bike to the Laura V. Dame School, Central School, even rode to the high school until it wasn’t cool anymore. As kids, we’d ride to Kittery to get an ice cream and to Portsmouth to visit the Pierce Island swimming pool. With all this freedom I still remembered if I messed up by doing something wrong I would be grounded and lose that freedom. I think that was what kept us on the straight and narrow most of the time. As kids we knew we were responsible for our actions and also that messing up would reflect on our parents and that was a major no no!! I heard that axiom may times from my older brothers too. My Aunt Pauline Bridges lived diagonally across the street from my house at 100 Main Street. She was considered the oral historian of the Fernald’s. She remembered family birthdays and could always relate a story or an event that happened on that particular day when the person was born. She always had cookies for kids but that meant you had to chat with her and that’s another reason why she was the historian. She knew so many people and could keep track of all their family connections. In later years I would often ask her questions about old Eliot and its families and she could talk for hours while I took notes!! She even showed me a picture of herself on a float during the 1910 centennial.
Finally, I get a warm feeling for those bygone days where working in the family garden, picking apples and pears from my own trees, taking care of chickens and rabbits provided the needed fresh food from one’s own labor. Keeping the family lawn mowed and the house painted was a prideful family affair. Having daily chores and getting a small allowance taught some good values about money and labor. Learning to respect both were lifelong lessons.
I now live in Huntersville, NC. This past summer (2009) I came back to the Eliot area for my reunion of coming home from Vietnam 40years ago on September 4th 1969, my 26th birthday. There were three Pleasant Street boys who went to Vietnam in 1968; myself, Bob Small (deceased), and Howard Huntress. Another Eliot boy, Ron Wrisley, also went with us. Ron lived on Bolt Hill Road. We were all members of the same NH National Guard Unit, 3/197th Howitzer Battalion) from Portsmouth, NH.