Editor’s Note: The Beacon is encouraging residents to submit a significant memory of life in Andover, or from one of the surrounding towns that perhaps has some connection to Andover. For more information, contact Articles@nullAndoverBeacon.com, or call 603 735-6099. We’d love to hear from you!
It was late summer of 1945. World War II had ended in June, and gasoline rationing had ended shortly thereafter. I was five years old, and my folks had taken me to my grandparents’ lakeside cabin in Andover, New Hampshire.
We lived in Lynn, Massachusetts, 100 miles south and east of Andover, and the drive in our 1935 Chevy seemed to take forever. No Interstates in those days.
The little “camp” (they never called it a cabin) was sparse, except for a big stone fireplace in the living/sleeping area. The kitchen sink had a pump, not a faucet. Small single beds were scattered about, with more sleeping area on the porch facing Bradley Lake.
For a five-year-old, bathing in the warmth and calm of the lake was a far cry from battling the often-frigid waves and tides of the Atlantic back home. And then there was the mountain–first one I’d ever seen. Kearsarge.
Lots of great memories of the place, which is still in the family, but here’s the first.
In Lynn, we were a family of parade-goers: Memorial Day, Armistice Day, others honoring local historical events and personages. At all parades, there were balloon-sellers, and I was fascinated by their products. They seemed to defy gravity to such an extent that you had to tie the balloon string to your wrist or they would escape forever.
Another reason for the fascination was the balloons’ rarity. You couldn’t buy them anywhere except at parades, their rarity the result of the military’s wartime need for rubber. So in 1945, I was excited to hear my mother, returning from a shopping trip to Franklin, say that she had purchased a package of balloons at the five-and-ten-cent store there.
“Can we blow one up right now?” I asked. She took something that looked too tiny to be a balloon out of the bag and gave it to me.
“Okay, inflate!” she said, using a word I hadn’t heard before. I failed, and she took over the task, soon increasing the balloon to a size larger than my head. She called my father to bring her some string, with which she sealed the opening she had used to inflate it.
With one hand, I grabbed the finished product and held it against my body while I grabbed the string with the other. And when I let go of the balloon so it would soar upward, it fell to the camp floor.
I was floored, as well. It took a while to get back into the swim of things. It was my first–but not my last–big disappointment in life.