By Joe Talbot Jr. | Mar 22, 2018

As defined by Merriam Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary the noun “Life” is: "The quality that distinguishes a viable and functioning being, from a dead body."

During the course of my own life I have been observing those around me. I didn’t categorically file those memories for future reference, but now as I’ve reached the early twilight of my life (I hope) I’m amazed at how crisp the memories are from many years before, but I’m even further amazed at how I have trouble remembering what I had for breakfast, as the old saying goes.

I remember dad & I were fishing on Moosehead when he told me that when they were just boys in school, he and his brothers saved up a lot of fireworks, and when the cache became large enough, they took all the powder out of them, and made a bomb. On New Year’s Eve, they placed it on the Village Green lawn, and “teched er off” at midnight, identified by the clock on the steeple of the Chestnut Street Baptist Church. As he described it to me at the time, he paused after those words, and once again broke into laughter as he said, ”Joey, you wouldn’t believe how loud it was, and when the cloud of smoke cleared, the crater left behind was bigger than the biggest beach ball I’ve ever seen! We couldn’t hear very well at all for a few moments, and then we noticed all the glass in the street and on the sidewalk across the street. We blew all the windows on the Main street side of the Camden Opera House! “ I was home on leave at the time, and I vowed I’d never share that story with anyone while he was alive. When I asked him if they were caught and punished, all he said was “You better believe it!” But no further information ensued.

Even now, 55 years later, every time I pass the Village Green, that memory comes to mind, and I remember one of his comments a few minutes after he told me the story, when he said, “As we ran up Main Street trying to get home before anyone saw us, we laughed with each other and speculated where did all the dirt and grass go? Our laughter was short-lived as we got home, when we realized that too many other boys knew of the plot, and there was no way that our father would not find out who did it. “

My mom went to work for the Bok family, who had a winter home on Wood Street in Camden, and a summer home on the ocean between Camden & Rockport. I knew that mom was a great cook, and the Bok's thought so too. The family was accustomed to having breakfast each morning around 9, however one day Mrs. Bok asked mom if she would be so kind as to allow one of their house guests to have an earlier breakfast, as the 9 or 9:30 breakfast time was very uncomfortable for him. Of course my mom had no problem with that, so when the guest came down the next morning around 7, she was prepared, and served him in the dining room. A minute later, the guest came into the kitchen, and said it was a bit lonely in that great big dining room all by himself, and would she mind terribly if he ate at the kitchen table? Mom went to the dining room, and quickly brought his breakfast to the kitchen, and that was the start of a new acquaintanceship. He was there for a few weeks, and departed for home until his return about the same time the next summer. Mom of course was expecting him to eat in the kitchen, and promptly at 7 he came through the door to the kitchen from the dining room, and it was as if he had never left.

They had progressed from him calling her Mrs. Talbot, to "Bunny", and she would often sit with him at the kitchen table and have a cup of coffee while he ate. Mom said he was a very kind gentleman, who asked her all about her family, etc., etc. Mom would never be so bold to ask him any questions, she felt very strongly that a cook in a black dress, with white apron and white hat had no place taking that liberty with a house guest. A few days before it was the appointed time for him to leave once again, after breakfast he left the kitchen and returned a few minutes later with an extra large tablet and a few thin pieces of charcoal, and asked mom if she would mind if he could use the kitchen table to draw on his tablet. Of course she had no problem with that, she'd just continue to do the breakfast dishes and clean the counters. He took the tablet with him, and left for the day.

A few days later, when he was to depart, after breakfast he gave my mom a piece of paper from the tablet, neatly folded in half, with a large piece of wax paper in between the fold. He profusely thanked my mom for her kindnesses, and service, and said he might not see her the next summer, as he was to travel abroad. Mom thanked him, shook his hand and said goodbye. She sat down at the table with a cup of coffee to look at what he'd given her. It was a charcoal drawing of her working at the kitchen sink, with the kitchen window beyond where she was standing, and while turning to the right to put a dish on the dish rack, and from his seat at the table he could see her whole face, and it was a remarkable resemblance. She thought to herself, "How nice of him to do that and give it to me." It was signed, "Thanks, Bunny" and a little to the right and lower near the corner his name, "Norman Rockwell." Mom was not a worldly person, and she didn't know that the Bok's owned Curtis Publishing Co., who put out Ladies Home Journal, and of course, The Saturday Evening Post magazine. She didn't put two and two together when she was introduced to him the year before. I was young, and it wasn't until I was married with children that I learned about it, and when I asked her to let me see it, she looked everywhere, but couldn't find it. She never found it. It has to be somewhere, but we know not where, to this day.


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 | Mar 22, 2018 17:10

WOW! A great memory!

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