Reflections on Winters Past

Althea Joyce Jewett lived in Atlantic on Swan’s Island as a child, before her family moved off the island to live in Rockport so that she could attend high school. The Swan’s Island Historical Society conducted interviews with her to record her impressions on life on the island long ago. She died in 2012. Here is an edited version focusing on winter recollections.

Photo Courtesy Swans Island Educational Society

My mother, Lina Gordon, went to Swan’s Island in 1922 as a schoolteacher. There she met Donald Joyce and they were married. She started the first library several years later on one wall of our living room in [our] house … At that time the library was considered special and something new for the people to enjoy.

I remember the snow… It was great sliding from our house down to Seaside Hall. Of course the road then went down what we called the ‘steep’ hill. The area where the road is now used to be a pasture for animals in the summer. Snow banks many times were up over the fence so we could ski and toboggan over them. One snow bank in our driveway was as tall as my mother and she was 5 foot 8 inches tall.

My father first started as a lobster fisherman and probably helped his father build and repair boats. By the 30’s he was able to get a dragger for flounders, haddock, and such. The lobster fishermen sold their lobsters to Maynard Herrick who had a large ‘Car’ near Ross Joyce’s wharf. Maynard then sold them to a dealer from the mainland.

Several winters during those years we could watch people ice boating on the frozen cove. Apparently it froze up more frequently than now. Only the very brave people went out on the ice though.

Winter took hold earlier in decades past. Photo courtesy Penobscot Marine Museum

Children were not bored as we always found something interesting to do. Besides sliding on our sleds in the winter, we often went skating on a couple of nearby ponds that were not so deep so were always safe for us. At times we would go to Warren’s house where there was a record player – the kind with a record shaped like a tin can. The speaker was a beautiful blue, big and cone-shaped. Also in the winter we enjoyed riding on a horse drawn sleigh carrying wood from the woods from the ‘Cross Roads’ area. Clyde Torrey had horses then so he may have been the man who let us enjoy the rides.

Children were happy to get one new outfit, such as a dress for the girls and a new pair of shoes. What a change from the first day of school now. At Christmas girls would look forward to maybe new doll clothes. Everything hand made. If we were lucky we got a new dress and coat or snowsuit.

Once a year we would go to Rockland – that is, mothers and children – to buy a few needed things. Maybe go to a dentist, or purchase some household items and usually get a small gift for a playmate.

Every Sunday my Mother and I went to church and Sunday school with our neighbors. Sunday afternoon was our most special meal of the week. Maybe roast chicken or duck, or occasionally a wild bird – I can’t remember the name, but it had a stronger flavor.

[On Christmas Eve] the rest of the family was getting the Christmas presents ready at our grandmother’s house. The name tags were on the Christmas tree so we had to follow the ribbon to find the package, a tradition still carried out in some parts of our extended family today.

Althea Joyce Jewett,  Swan Island Historical Society

A lobster Pound in Winter. Courtesy Penobscot Marine Museum