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.