Harpswell Historical Society

Incorporated 1979

929 Harpswell Neck Road
Harpswell, Maine  04079

The Harpswell Historical Society is dedicated to the discovery, identification, collection, preservation, interpretation, and dissemination of materials relating to the history of Harpswell and its people.

Table of Contents

Historic Park 
and Museum

Links to 
related sites


Life in Harpswell Maine in the Early to Mid 1900's
Alice Catlin

By the Third, Fourth and Fifth Graders at
Harpswell Islands &
West Harpswell Schools

A 1997-98 Harpswell History Project

Gladys Abby Allen
Allen's Seafood
Henry Barnes
Alice Catlin
Donald Coffin
Daniel Darling
The Dead Ship of Harpswell
Clem Dunning
Judith Howard
Harpswell Hotels
Bernard Johnson
Roy Knight & Cliff Moody
Arnold LeMay
Arnold LeMay
Becky Longley
Currier McEwen
Rob Miller
Barbara Munsey
Don Rogers
Alice Swallow
Dick Westcott
Malcolm Whidden
Ken & Marge Wille
Mary Wilson
Mary & Eleanor Wilson
The Witch Of Harpswell
Gerry York

Alice Catlin

 Alice Catlin lives in the house she was born in on the Cundy's Harbor Road. She was the oldest of five children. Alice was seven when her first brother was born on Christmas night in 1918, during a bad flu epidemic. The only one in the family who didn't get the flu was her 75-year-old grandmother; even the woman who helped with the birth got the flu.

Alice did not have electricity until World War II, before that she used kerosene lamps for light. She used a wood stove for cooking and for heat. Her family used an outhouse for the toilet; they called it a “chick sale”.

The women had to scrub the clothes, do all the cooking and do all the cleaning. The men had to cut the hay and take care of the animals. “From when you woke up in the morning to when you went to bed, you had to be doing chores.” They had a big garden and grew lots of their own food. They had to; otherwise they would not live. Most of the food that they bought came from Watson's General Store in Cundy’s Harbor.

They raised animals to eat but they did not eat much meat because it was hard to keep. They did not have a freezer. They raised pigs that they would kill in the fall. Then they would build a fire in the smokehouse to smoke the ham and bacon. That was a way to keep the meat. They ate lots of fish, which did not cost much. “The poorer you were, the more fish you ate.” Alice got fish in Cundy's Harbor. They were so big she had to drag them.

They had horses. The horses pulled wood, plowed gardens, and did other gardening work. The horses pulled carriages. Sometimes they went to Brunswick. It took a long time to get there with a horse. “In the rainy season the wheels of the carriage would get stuck in the mud up to the hubs.”

The schoolhouse that Alice went to is near the Cranberryhorn Cemetery on the Cundy's Harbor Road. When Alice went to school she always walked. There weren't more than 12 - 15 people at school during any school year. When Alice went to high school, she lived in another family's house, where she would work for room and board. She would wash the dishes, take care of their baby, and do other chores and not get any money for it.

High school only went to a little past one o'clock so you could go home and do chores. Most people didn't go to college. Alice didn't. There weren't any radios until Alice was in high school and no TV’s until she was a young woman.

Alice has seen many changes throughout her whole life.

Postscript: Students interviewed Alice in May in her home. Alice Catlin died on Thursday, May 28,1998. We will miss her.

Alice Catlin

Alice was our neighbor.
We’ll miss her, now she's gone.
Her house was old and yellow,
Forget-me-nots in the lawn.

We’d stop in for a visit
And have snacks while we talked.
When she went to school
There were no buses, so she walked.

Alice told us of her childhood:
She grew up on a farm.
The family worked from dawn 'til night,
Pop's rooster was her alarm.

 She put together puzzles
She always had a cat
She liked to play at Scrabble
Jenny* slept on her mat.

She liked to cook and liked to eat,
She was a cheerful friend.
We have good memories of her
And those will never end.

By Harpswell students
June, 1998

*her brother's dog