The Campico Story

Hubert Simons work­ing on the first camp.

By Eleanor Bon­ney Simons

On a beau­ti­ful Octo­ber after­noon, about 1950, Hubert and I drove around back roads as we often did. As we went by the Ward Farm in the Tampico area, we stopped to visit with Leon Craw­ford. Hubert asked him if he knew of a piece of land for sale where he could build a camp. Leon said, “I know just the place. Come. I’ll show you.”
He led us up to a height of land in his hay field with almost a 360 degree view of the Pres­i­den­tial range of the White Moun­tains to the East, Mt. Moosi­lauke to the South and Burke Moun­tain and the Willoughby gap to the North, with a scat­ter­ing of Ver­mont farms in the fore­ground. Hubert had grown up on a farm on what is now the McDow­ell Road, so it was all very famil­iar to him. Leon insisted that we should have the land for­ever “as long as rivers run down­hill.” They would only like the oppor­tu­nity of tak­ing their sup­per up there occa­sion­ally. As far as we know, they never did.
We found a Sears-Roebuck build­ing, prob­a­bly meant for a garage or a util­ity build­ing that we thought would make a good camp. Since $1000 seemed like a lot of money, our good friends, Velma and Winona Hall and Mary Stew­art, who also wanted a camp, agreed to help pay for it. We’d all use it.
Hubert did most of the build­ing, and a mason from Bar­net built a chim­ney and fire­place. We often stopped to buy a loaf of Pauline Crawford’s home-made bread on our way up to spend evenings work­ing on the camp. Since there was no water, we always car­ried it, and we found some Aladdin kerosene lamps like those that Hubert remem­bered from the farm. We shopped yard sales for kitchen equip­ment and friends con­tributed so much stuff, we were in dan­ger of over­load. Friend Rebecca Skillin donated red mate­r­ial with Penn­syl­va­nia Dutch fig­ures that I made into cur­tains. Hubert and I spent our first overnight in the camp in mid-July and nearly froze, prov­ing the futil­ity of heat­ing with a fire­place. Later, Betsy Cham­ber­lin gave us an old par­lor stove from her fam­ily home­stead in North Haver­hill, NH, which actu­ally made it comfortable.
Cousin Theodore and Belle Per­ri­gard also had a hand in the build­ing and fur­nish­ing of the camp. Theodore helped Hubert build a privy, which was placed just over the brow of the hill in back of the camp. We dis­cov­ered that if you left the door open while using the privy, you were look­ing directly into Archie Champagnes’s door­yard in the road below!
The next sum­mer we added a bed­room, which made room enough for Cecil Brown and me to invite our Girl Scout troop for an overnight trip. Other vis­i­tors were hunters. Hubert, brother-in-law Jack Young, and friend Dean Romig, enjoyed the hunt­ing sea­son, but thought it was a pretty cold, windy spot. We girls, Mary Stew­art along with Velma and Nonie Hall, had planned a win­ter week­end, which was mem­o­rable; we had a Jan­u­ary thaw that was very dreary. Fran Say­ward braved the long, dark back-road approach, com­ing all the way from Port­land, ME, bring­ing a home­made meatloaf.
Just as we were begin­ning to enjoy own­ing a camp, the Craw­fords sold the farm to Scud­der Parker and fam­ily. They didn’t need strangers in the mid­dle of their hay field, so we sold the camp to them. Velma, Nonie and Mary soon bought a small camp at Joe’s Pond, which worked out well for them; the lake pro­vided more oppor­tu­nity for fun for them.
And before long, Hubert and I found another spot just down the road and bought half an acre from Bub Dresser for $50. There we built another cabin—mostly Hubert’s work, but as our dear friend Cay Spencer said, “He couldn’t have built it with­out us. We helped him put up the walls.”
Hubert had saved the cross-arms from the tele­phone poles on Main Street in St. Johns­bury from when the wires were put under­ground. A tele­phone cross-arm, when sawed in half, makes a per­fect two-by-four, and the holes were con­ve­nient for putting wires through. We had elec­tric­ity from the start, because there was a trans­former right across the road.
Cay Spencer gave us two big storm win­dows, which made won­der­ful pic­ture win­dows. The two small win­dows on the road­side of the house were from a hen house. The foun­da­tion was made of rail­road ties and some big rocks. Even the nails were recy­cled from the foun­da­tion of our house, which we were build­ing at that time. Win­ter evenings Hubert spent in the cel­lar straight­en­ing nails. Jack Young built bunk beds for the bed­room, a tres­tle table and two benches. The fur­ni­ture made a con­ve­nient spot to sit and enjoy the spec­tac­u­lar view of the Pres­i­den­tial Range and the big field in front that belonged to the Pat­ter­son farm.
Labor Day week­end that first year, Betsy Cham­ber­lin and Kay Scott dropped in and stayed for sup­per. Hubert sug­gested we go see the Park­ers, as he had already got­ten acquainted with Scud­der. That was our intro­duc­tion to a won­der­ful fam­ily with four chil­dren, who had just moved from a New York City sub­urb and were try­ing to make a liv­ing farm­ing. We became good friends with the fam­ily: Scud­der, a news­pa­per edi­tor; wife Bets; young Scud­der (12), called Dea­con;  Stephen (10); Sally just start­ing first grade, and Alan (3) called Punky (short for pumpkin).The fam­ily had been cho­sen by the Ladies Home Jour­nal to be inter­viewed, and they had been given the offer of a remod­eled room. We were sur­prised to dis­cover that the pic­tures in the mag­a­zine had been printed before the remod­el­ing had actu­ally been done.
Hubert and Scud­der hit it off imme­di­ately. Bets and I had a lot in com­mon, and we chuck­led about their long con­ver­sa­tions. Hubert was pleased to be able to help Scud­der learn about farm­ing, and he was delighted to have a chance to han­dle the horse and cow that the Park­ers were farm­ing with. They had a joke about the hired man. When Scud­der asked him to let him know if he was doing any­thing wrong, the answer was, “I don’t want to be shoot­ing my mouth off all the god­damn time.” Hubert had a jeep, and we would drive up to visit the Park­ers on snowy evenings when trav­el­ing was difficult.
The hunters liked the new camp much bet­ter, because it was less windy, and the elec­tric­ity was an added enjoy­ment. My brother-in-law Jack Young and Dean Romig came many years for deer sea­son. Dean’s son, young Dean, is still com­ing. They col­lected water in big milk cans from the Ben­nett spring and later from Fink spring.
Over the years, we added another bed­room in the north­east end, and for a few years we even had a flush toi­let. Hubert rigged up a pump halfway down the hill, with water piped from the swamp. It didn’t last long, as it could only han­dle a few flushes.
When our son Tom arrived in 1956, he soon loved com­ing up to camp. He would holler “Campico!” as soon as the camp came into view. When the gov­ern­ment offered money to plant trees, Hubert took advan­tage of the offer, and we planted thou­sands of trees on 12 ½ acres of land that we bought from Harley Brown. He owned the farm now owned by Van and Lucille. Tom was about three when he fol­lowed his father down the rows with the planter, seed­ing the pine and spruce trees that make up the cur­rent forest.
We enjoyed the camp for many years. Because Hubert was a fire­man, he couldn’t be out of town. Campico was close enough to St. Johns­bury to allow us to slip out there when­ever we found time.  He had a radio in the truck, and if any­thing was amiss, he would get the call and could get back to town quickly.
Time there was a lux­ury of sim­plic­ity. Indoors there was noth­ing to do but read and do cross­word and jig­saw puz­zles.  Out­doors, we loved to ride the back roads in Hubert’s jeep. We thought we dis­cov­ered Cole’s Pond before it became a resort; maybe it had already been dis­cov­ered, but it was new to us.  Some­times, if I can’t sleep at night, I close my eyes and see once again the sweep­ing view of the White Moun­tains as they rose beyond Heath’s pas­ture. It’s a lovely vision.

This arti­cle was first pub­lished in the Novem­ber, 2010, issue of The North Star Monthly.
For more pho­tos related to this arti­cle, click here.

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One Response to The Campico Story

  1. dsromig says:

    What a won­der­ful story “Bon­ney” has writ­ten for us to enjoy. I reme­ber Campico well hav­ing stayed there a great num­ber of times begin­ning when I was seven years old in in 1955.
    I am Dean Romig, the younger, at 63, and have had a great asso­ci­a­tion with Hubert and Eleanor and Tom all these years. I remem­ber the first camp in the hay­field on the hill behind the Ward barn. It was the cold­est camp I have ever been in even when it was 75 degrees out­side on a sunny day.
    I was very for­tu­nate to have been brought into the com­pany of Hubert, Jack, Scud­dder and of course Dad dur­ing “deer sea­son” up at Campico. These men dis­played the high­est ethics and I learned a great deal from them over the years there at Campico.
    I cher­ish the time I spend there and the friends I have made with a lot of the res­i­dents of that com­mu­nity and I con­tinue to get back to Tampico every chance I get but espe­cially dur­ing the var­i­ous hunt­ing sea­sons. Tom and his ter­rific wife Diane have always made me feel as wel­come as if I were fam­ily.
    I really don’t know who I’d be if it weren’t for the Simons fam­ily, the Youngs, the Park­ers and the Pat­ter­sons… and Campico.
    I guess you’ve fig­ured out by now that I’m “from away” Mass­a­chu­setts actu­ally and should have moved up here in ’71 whan Hubert called me one night to ask me to come work for him on the fire depart­ment.
    I guess we all make mis­takes in life…
    Dean Romig

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