A New Summer

dadGraduation is over and summer is upon us. My Uncle Roy has moved out of his house and now lives in a house a bit farther down the road. In the front of the house is Duby’s store and he lives in the rooms in the back. The shelves are open and Joe and Eva, the proprietors, carry a few basic canned goods. There are two coolers which hold soft drinks and the other a variety of beers.  Eva has asked if I would like to mind the store when she has to go to Norway to pick up supplies. Ma is not crazy about the idea,but says I can do it until another job comes along so I can earn money for school clothes. After all, Rex and I will be attending high school in September and I’d like some nice clothes to wear.

This Sunday Dad is planning another car trip and I’d like to go along just to get out of the house, but Eva says she needs me at the store. I know that Dad plans to hunt up some old cemeteries. One of his most favorite things in the world is to walk through and find old stones. Sometimes he jots down the sayings on the stones. He really likes the stones which might have a history behind it. I don’t know how many times he has been to the grave of Metallak and that evening will talk about it and have a display of stones he might have dug up along side the road somewhere. Ma says she never knows when he is going to throw the brakes on and come to a screeching halt.

This evening is no different. I tended the store all day and had a few of the summer people come in for bread, milk and odds and ends. Only one man was pretty disgusted because he wanted beer and I told him I was too young to sell beer and he would have to come back the next day. That is the part of tending store I don’t like.

Ma says she has a message for me from Winnie Hanscom. Seems Winnie has always worked for a school teacher from Forest Hills, NY, who summers on the Indian Pond road off Rowe Hill. Winnie has other plans and wonders if I would like the chance to work for her. The day would run from 9-4 and I’d be paid $10 a week. Well, if I want to, I can ride with Ma to Stowell’s Mill, where she works, in the morning and walk up to Winnie’s and rest and visit until it’s time to go down and meet this lady. Her name is Ethel E. Hobbs. Sounds interesting.

Ma tells me on the way to work this Monday morning that when she was growing up, Miss Hobbs ran a summer camp for girls at this residence where she now summers. It was called Camp Sebowisha and girls came from everywhere to swim, boat and canoe on Indian Pond. They slept in two separate buildings on the hillside. Well this should be interesting, indeed.

I’ve visited with Winnie, who filled me in on what some of my duties will be on this job. I am almost to the front door of this huge house and beginning to get a few butterflies. I rap on the door and step back a bit. The door opens and there stands a woman, whose gray hair is twirled up into some sort of “do” like fingers reaching for the sky. One eye looks at me and the other doesn’t quite make it to me. In the corner of her mouth, hangs a cigarette with an ash, threatening to topple at any moment. A little dog stands by her legs, not barking, just standing there. You must be Sandra, she says and with my nod, she went on , I am Ethel Hobbs. Come in, come in. The kitchen is huge, the two living rooms are vast and I wonder what I have gotten myself into,but this could be interesting. She points to a kettle that is shaped like a cauldron and has me put it on this gigantic wood stove. With buckets I fill it, and she tosses a box of 40 Mule Team Borax into the water, and behind that her “unmentionables” and tells me that in time the water will boil and I am to go occasionally and stir them with the big paddle sitting there. Meanwhile, I am given a bucket , a nail and a rag and told to follow her. I fill the bucket with hot water and something really smelly which I think is some sort of disinfectant. She tells me the stairs need a good cleaning and to put the rag over the nail and clean each corner of the stairway. She leaves me alone, which I like, and I am cleaning and dunking the cloth every few minutes. As I near the top of the stairs, the unmistakable smell of moth balls hits my nose. I hate moth balls. But I will get ten dollars on Friday if I can do the job right. I remember I haven’t stirred her “unmentionables” for awhile so race back down the stairs and give them a couple of turns. Miss Hobbs is in the gigantic “rec room” which still holds signs of the girls’ camp. They must have had such a good time there and I can imagine their sitting and having sing alongs  in the evenings.

Miss Hobbs announces it is lunch time and my stomach growls as I realize it is almost 1:30 and a long time since the fried egg this morning at six o’clock. She has fixed two china plates with a sandwich, cut corner to corner and a real cloth napkin beside each plate. I have a tall glass of water next to my sandwich. I am not sure what is between the two pieces of bread, but I spy a piece of tomato sticking out, so it can’t be all bad.

She asks how the stairs are coming and announces she will take care of the rest of the boiling laundry. I tell her the corners are cleaned so she gives me a wire brush and has me refill the pail with hot, sudsy water to clean the stairs themselves. She says by that time it should be nearly four o’clock and I can leave.

The stairs are done and Miss Hobbs compliments me on my work, which makes me feel good. I’ve never been a maid or a cleaning woman before. She says there is plenty of work to be done including polishing the silver and when her friends come to lunch, I can help prepare the pretty salads. Oh, Lord.

I am walking home now and feeling a bit tired, but glad Miss Hobbs liked my work. I pass by the Colby Ring home, the Lee Sumner home and to the top of the hill. Now it is all downhill to Dan Cole’s farm. That is easier on the legs for sure and then just a mile down the tarred road to home.

I can smell beans and hot dogs. Dad doesn’t like hot dogs but he is still talking about visiting Metallak’s grave, so Ma probably figured he’d never notice what he is eating. I am almost too tired to eat.

Waking time will come early and boy, I am ready to go to bed. Is this what they call the work force?

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