Harlequin Milkshake

By Joe Talbot | Apr 05, 2018

Saturday mornings, 1955, especially in June, were the beginning of lazy days for many, but for me the bike ride from the Fish Hatchery to downtown Camden was something I waited for the whole week long. (Have you ever wondered where the word downtown came from? Perhaps I’m the author of it, and I don’t know it. You know, hurling down Megunticook Street to the heart of Camden town?) The early part of the ride was fairly level, with an occasional rise and fall of the road to navigate, but when the cemetery came into view, I knew it was time for the ball cap to be turned around, and the ski goggles around my neck to come up over my eyes. Sound weird? Nope! I couldn’t help smiling as speed built up, and I didn’t mind black flies on my teeth, if you can believe that, but the sting of em in my eyes was too much to bear. Thus the goggles.

My destination on those Saturdays, was always a drug store. Not for drugs, ya know, but for another kind of elixir. I’d lean my bike in front of the window at McKay’s Drug Store, goggles hanging from the handle bars, and when I went in, to stand in front of the really cool, beautiful white marble soda fountain, I didn’t have to tell Janet why I was there. More likely than not, she already had a tall metal vessel in her hand, pumping vanilla, chocolate & strawberry syrup into the bottom, after which she would put a half scoop each of vanilla, chocolate & strawberry ice cream, followed by milk. Then the scream of the electric milkshake machine would be a melody to my ears. That!....... folks, would be the absolute finest kind of DownEast Harlequin Milkshake the world has ever seen! & Janet McKay and I were the authors of it. Well, as far as we were concerned.

I’ve never heard of another one anywhere else in all my years, so I suppose I could be right about that.

I don’t remember too many times on other days of the week, that I would go to town, without stopping to see Janet, and say hello. The “HMS” was usually reserved for Saturday mornings, don cha know.

The fall months were a treasure, even in my teen years. The crisp air, the stunning beauty of the colorful trees, pheasant & deer hunting, Thanksgiving, all were pleasurable, but winter was the ticket, as far as I was concerned. Skating at the “Bog” on Park Street was always a prelude to skiing. The Snow Bowl was my second home, and I had begun to ski just after learning to walk. All the many trips to Harlequin Haven brought a very unexpected invitation from Janet McKay, who was perhaps 20 years older than I. Janet was an accomplished skier, and she would wave at me every time we saw each other on the slopes, so on one of those occasions, she asked me if I would like to go with her and some friends to ski North Conway, New Hampshire. I didn’t have to think about it more than a nanosecond, and the next Saturday morning, way before daylight, we left Camden for my first opportunity to ski any hill other than the Snow Bowl. I’d never been on anything other than a 200-foot rope tow, and when I first sat down on a chair lift, which took me all the way to ski heaven, the view of the landscape and the surrounding mountains was spectacular. I did more skiing on one run, of many, down to the bottom, than I could get out of a whole season of skiing the Snow Bowl. I was so tired at the end of the day, I slept all the way home.

Janet & her brother Tom Mckay, Dick Dodge, Mickie & John Christy, Sonny Goodwin, and a few others, invested in me big time for several years. We skied all over New England, and Maine. They were so nice to me, I can’t tell you how many times I thanked them over the years.

When I came back to Camden after leaving in 1958, I would always be sure to check in at the Harlequin Milkshake Soda Fountain at McKay’s. Then came a year, I can’t remember when, I walked in the front door, and Janet was no longer there. Instead, a really good friend of mine, who I went to Camden High School with, Sam Jones, was the helmsman, and I continued to check in with him upon coming home over many years. Sam had become a pharmacist, and a good one, and then one year he really surprised me. We were sitting at one of the little round tables in the middle of the store having a cup of coffee, and at noon, the whole place erupted with a thousand different announcements of the time of day. Well, at least 30 or 40 or so. He’d become a doctor of clockery, I used to say, but I don’t remember exactly what he told me about his newfound hobby, or how it came about, but I loved clocks, profoundly. I made him tell me about every one of them, and I always wanted to find out more and more each time I’d come back. He started fixing them for people, and was known all around the area as the one to see about fixing the family heirloom, or antique clock. It was amazing.

Now that I’m reminded of him, as I write this, in about 90 days we may see each other again at the Camden Alumni Banquet, where we, and what’s left of our 38 members of the Camden High School Class of 1958, will celebrate our graduation of 60 years ago. Looking back at that landmark in my life, I remember many times how I would reflect on my time at CHS, and I always felt blessed to have the team of teachers that tried their level best to prepare us for LIFE.

Joe Talbot is a former columnist for Peterson Publications’ “Off Road Magazine” and “Four Wheeler Magazine.” He lives in Belfast.


Comments (1)
Posted by: Mary A McKeever | Apr 05, 2018 16:56

A great Read! Thanks!!!! I remember the soda fountain fondly at Boynton- McKay's.

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