I was born in the summer of 1931. There’s been a lot of water over the dam since then, both literally and figuratively. I remember as a child thinking, gee, if I live until I’m 70, I’ll see the new century come in.

At that time it seemed likely I would, since many of my family lived into their 70s, but to me they were really old, and I realized many folks didn’t live that long. Now in a few months Helen and I will be 79, looking at 80. My older brother is 83, although three of my siblings have passed on. Anyway, a lot of water has flowed over my dam too. I got an e-mail the other day about a guy who figured out that if weeks were marbles, and we lived 75 years, that would be 3,900 marbles. If I started with 3,900 marbles, I have zero marbles left, and have borrowed quite a few from somebody else who didn’t get to use all of theirs, but I’m still journeying on.

Anyway, I started to write about all the winters I’ve seen. The first one I remember was 1936, the year of Camden’s first winter carnival at Hosmer Pond in Camden. I started to say the Snow Bowl, but there was no Snow Bowl then, just the pond.

In times past, especially through the ’20s and early ’30s, there had been some attempts to alleviate the boredom of long winters by promoting winter sports activities. Those usually took place in town on the hill off Sherman’s Point Road behind Norembega or at Montgomery’s Bog on Park Street, but in 1936 a sizable group of “interested persons” met at the YMCA on Chestnut Street and came up with a plan to hold a three-day winter carnival at Hosmer Pond near the end of February.

A committee of 28 townspeople executed the plan in about three weeks with such success that 2,500 to 5,000 people came out on Sunday afternoon to participate in the fun. On Saturday Priscilla Bates was crowned queen of the carnival, with Agnes Knowles and Dorothy Drinkwater selected as ladies in waiting. The carnival ball was held Saturday evening with Eddie Whalen’s Privateers providing the music.

To be honest, at 3 1/2 years old I don’t remember much of that carnival, but on Saturday morning, after the coronation ceremony on the Village Green, the queen and her retinue processed past my house on Mechanic Street on their way to the pond for a day of festivities.

Anyone who would like more detail on all of this should look up a copy of “The Camden Snow Bowl” by Jack Williams. Jack is enough older than I that he remembers much of that event, and also did a lot of research to fill in the details. It is a very interesting historical document on the Snow Bowl’s history, with pictures.

After the 1936 carnival, townspeople were so enthused that they began to plan for an annual event. Thus the Camden Outing Club was formed, and in all of my school years thereafter it was the source of many good times and memories. Skating was a lot more popular then, and Hosmer Pond was the place to go. They built a beautiful big lodge house with a big stone fireplace at each end, and a skate house down by the pond where we could put on our skates and clomp down the board ramp to the ice. Later we came back to sit a few minutes by the stove to get warm while washing down a hot dog with a cup of hot cocoa. We would take time to watch the toboggans zipping down the chute nearby, and were careful not to get in front of it out on the ice. When we got tired, we would find our boots under the bench in the skate house and go up to the lodge to relax in front of the fire while waiting for a ride home.

There wasn’t much activity at the Snow Bowl during the war years. Gas rationing and the war effort took up most folks’ time, but in 1946, when I was a freshman in high school, my folks outfitted me with a set of skis, and appropriate apparel, and my winter activity shifted from skating to skiing. Pretty soon I was a member of the ski patrol along with several of my friends, such as Cedric Joyce, Alan (Babe) Hatch and Dwight French.

The Snow Bowl always had a great deal of support from the townspeople, but the big winter carnivals did not return. Perhaps the general prosperity after the war kept people busy enough that they preferred to support with money rather than do the work required to put on such a major event.

Anyway, in 1948 the high school faculty decided that a carnival would be a good way to motivate students to develop leadership skills and work off some of that excess energy we all had at that age. They formed the Intramural Council with two members from each class and G. Lorimer Walker and Helen McCobb as the faculty advisers. Milton Wheaton was the council president that year. Beverly Hooper was elected carnival queen and she chose Harold Brown as her king. Harold Nash provided bus service for 10 cents per ride. A few weeks later a Knox County carnival was held and Marion Jones of Union was the queen.

The next year yours truly was elected president of the council and Bebe Brown was queen of the carnival, choosing Norman Drinkwater as her king. Again, an interscholastic event was held a few weeks later with teams from Rockland, Camden and Waldoboro competing. Rockland dominated the games. The carnival ball was held in the Camden Opera House with Sylvia Davis of Rockland officiating, and Daphne Ludwig of Waldoboro and Barbara Haining of Camden her ladies in waiting. Penny Donaldson was the crown bearer.

Winter sports were not expensive in those days. My folks put more money into my winter clothes than my ski equipment. The skis didn’t have steel edges, so the next year I bought a package of steel edges and went down to the manual training shop where Stan (Skudge) Fry helped me put them on my skis. Two dollars bought me a membership in the Outing Club, and 50 cents bought me a pass for a day on the slopes. Using the rope tow was a skill in itself. You stood holding the rope loosely until the person in front was a suitable distance along, and then clamped down and away you went. If you hung on tight, and didn’t tire too much, it would take you to the top. Sometimes the trip up was as much of a challenge as the trip down.

Milford (Sir) Payson didn’t ski, but as president of the Outing Club for several years, he was often there running the tow, and keeping folks properly spaced. A few like him, who were faithful, made winter fun for all.

 

Paul Putnam lives in Rockport. His four volumes of essays, “Thoughts and Reminiscences of a Camden Native,” are available at the Smiling Cow and the Owl and Turtle Bookshop. He can be reached at pputnam@midcoast.com.