If you live in Rockland, there is a better than good chance you live in an old house.

Old is subjective.

A “really old” house in Rockland is from before 1848 when the Shore Village broke away from Thomaston and formed East Thomaston.

After the Civil War, Rockland prospered and lots of homes were built from the 1880s through 1920. I would say these are “middling old” houses. Then the “new old” houses of the 30s, 40s and 50s.

The old house experience is all about character.

Straight and level? Not so much…

More important is what remains from that time. It might be the original wallpaper, molding, high ceilings, or push button light switches.

There are quirky things like fold-down ironing boards, laundry hampers that drop clothes down cellar into a wicker basket, or cupboards whose top shelves are unreachable without a step stool. Perhaps a handle on the wall opposite the toilet (to help pull you off the pot).

Some other wonderful features of old houses are:

Claw foot tubs.

Cast iron radiators.

Blue ceilings on porches.

Outdoor thermometers outside the window over the kitchen sink.

A small shed or coop over the front door.

An outdoor flood light for the back yard with a switch behind the door going out.

A slate sink with the soap dish mounted in the corner.

A breezeway to a barn (that may or not be still there).

Small rooms with four doors.

Shelves in the stairway going down cellar.

One thing most every Rockland house used to have was mounted inside the door of one of the upper cupboards. It was about 12” long and 4” wide. At the top was the W.C. Ladd logo, School Street address and phone number. It was the Rockland Fire Department Call Box List.

Back in the day, a horn on top of the fire station would sound at noon, 6 p.m. and 8:45 p.m. curfew. It would also blow a sequence to count out a three-part code, corresponding to a fire box, when there was a fire.

Example: three blows, a pause, five blows, a pause and two blows meant the number 352.

You would listen as the code was played three times. You would run to the cupboard, repeating to yourself 352 over and over so as not to forget. You would then whisk open the cupboard door to find the fire was at Rankin and Sweetland Streets.

That code was something we all shared. A secret knowledge kept by all, in the cupboard.

Cooler than Facebook.

Glenn Billington is a lifelong resident of Rockland and has worked for The Courier-Gazette and The Free Press since 1989.

The Rockland Fire Department call box list. Photo by Glenn Billington