It is 1946; the deed was officially transferred. David and Ellen, my parents, were the proud owners of the property, now known as Pine View Haven on 85 Franklin Highway, with a few acres along Morrill Hill Road, where now several lovely homes comprise a neighborhood. Our address, back in the day, was simply “Route 11”, Andover, long before zip codes.
It is late April and time to leave Dedham to make a new home in Andover. My almost 15-year-old brother Roy, and 11-year-old sister Ruth have been dismissed from their schools. Ruth still remembers the Andover schools that, following fall, recommended she repeat the fourth grade, only to suggest later in that school year she should perhaps skip fifth grade. This is the “legend” I followed when I started my first grade some nine years later.
The push to leave Dedham, before the school year ended, had much to do with my father’s health. It was the “war work” that kept him gainfully employed and able to set aside the funds to make this move, but the fumes from painting the military equipment often made him feel ill. He had lost a significant amount of weight, perhaps working without the health and safety protection that would be de rigueur today.
The base of the tent-trailer my father built became the “moving van” that would carry our worldly possessions to our new home. This camper had already made several trips to the mountains of New Hampshire with several stops made along the way to the Dolly Copp Campground. Traditionally, the first stop was Indian Head, a stone face profile jutting out of Mount Pemigewasset; the tree’s foliage flowing behind appeared as a chief’s headdress. What I recall from these excursions, made some years later, were the three black bears sitting atop platforms some 25 feet above the crowd. For a few pennies you could buy a food can for the bears, then watch them pull the can up to the platform for their dinner. That was a lot of entertainment for a five-year-old. Poor bears.
Our next stop was usually a roadside picnic area sited along a rushing river. As we jumped among the slippery rocks, avoiding the icy water, the aroma of beef stew, homemade cardamom rolls, apple pie, and percolating coffee heating on the tiny propane gas stove called to us. With an unusual exchange of roles, my dad “manned” the cooking as my mother, the bravest and best of us all, crisscrossed the river.
The grand finale, before heading to the campground, was viewing the Old Man of the Mountain, a natural rock formation with an even more precise likeness of a head and face, compared to Indian Head. The Old Man is still a New Hampshire icon despite his surprise disappearance into the morning mist some 50 years later. The loss saddens us still.
Back in Dedham, the camper is disassembled — sides, roof, storage cabinets set aside — in order to pack the Hedén’s household inside. I imagine it must have taken more than one trip, but maybe not. When they arrived in Andover, it had to be all hands on deck. If promises were to be kept to my mother for plumbing and power by fall, time was of the essence. Dad and son were the builders and preparers of the land, Mom and my sister were the planters and homemakers. At 18 months of age, I was no help.
Through the years, our little farm became home to several animals. While some may have been called pets, each had a job to fulfill. Unlike the ark, there was just one of a kind, (a pig, a cow, a dog, a goat, a cat, whoops…), and several chicks. Of course, I begged for a wooly baby lamb but mostly a pony. Neither were to be, so I needed to get creative. But that’s a story for next time.