Vintage Views: Summering from the past

  • An early view of the White Park Swimming pool. James W. Spain – Post Card Collection / For the Monitor

For the Monitor
Published: 6/4/2022 10:04:31 PM
Modified: 6/4/2022 10:02:20 PM

As the years pass and memories gather more important meaning my thoughts tend to drift back to the summers of my youth. Those days now steeped in nostalgia that only hold the good memories, perhaps leaving the undesirable memories hidden away deeply. There were many friends and countless activities, no adversaries and the days were long and bright. Time was a friend and concerns were very few. The last day of school concluded with the hand-held bell being rung. We ran towards our futures very quickly where we made memories time and again. Yes, summer was a time that was revered and coveted, that special place where my thoughts still live all these years later.

Weekend trips were always north toward the White Mountains, my annual visit with the Old Man of the Mountain followed by quick swims in the cold streams up north. Meals included picnics along the old roads, places now obscured by the complexities of modern life. Wildlife seemed to be on the forefront, and the stress of our life today simply not known. The years have been good to me, bestowing such a memorable abundance of the summers from my early youth.

Our dear Concord ancestors living a century ago also had their fair share of burdens from where they sought escape. Their resources were certainly not as plentiful then as they are today. The distance of travel was cumbersome each summer and they sought activities that could be enjoyed more on a local basis. The term “suburban resort” became known and continued to grow in popularity. The people residing in Concord were discovering that they too could in fact live a very enjoyable summer life without traveling a great distance. The public here in Concord realized that the people from Boston arrived by train and took the trolley up North State Street toward the island in Penacook. Word of the beautiful Contoocook River was spreading and people were purchasing land along the steep riverbanks to build small cottages that were enjoyable but still affordable.

Our ancestors knew the area well and continued to spread the word to friends and neighbors that their bungalows along the Contoocook shores provided as much rest and relaxation as the wealthy found on the shores of the lakes to the north.

Our ancestors knew the area well and continued to spread the word to friends and neighbors that their bungalows along the Contoocook shores provided as much rest and relaxation as the wealthy found on the shores of the lakes to the north.

Our great grandparents realized local vacations were quite relaxing, especially when you lived in an area like Concord, New Hampshire. The rivers and ponds were very close and assessable by trolley, horse or just a walk. That cottage along the Contoocook River could be constructed simply by the owner and visited frequently. During the summer months, many of the average citizens would work at their jobs and stop home to pick up their families for a trip up to the Contoocook River. A fine evening meal was enjoyed along with some boating, singing or marshmallows around a campfire.

It was a simple approach, a basic cottage and time together as a family along the local shores. Families bonded and memories were made during this era when families spent quiet time together.

As the city of Concord evolved our ancestors realized the importance of rest and recreation. As early as the 1850s there were efforts to establish common grounds and parks for the enjoyment of the local citizens. In time the parks materialized about our city, swimming pools and duck ponds were followed by baseball fields and swing sets. The movement for enjoyable summers was both sought and supported year after year. The city of Concord became a place where the average person could celebrate the warm summer months much like the wealthy vacationers visiting from the cities of Boston and New York. As the 1900s progressed and travel was readily available to the average family, the mountains to our north, the seashore to our east and the hills of Vermont beckoned. We still enjoyed our beloved Concord, but New England became our playground. Museum artifacts, fine art collections, fairs, camping and swimming in those mountain streams enhanced the summers of our youth.

Wealth can come to a family in many different ways, the heartfelt experiences of summer provide warm memories in old age. Those long winter days when the sun sets early are so very enjoyable when you think about those days summering in the past.

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