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
Donald Coffin

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

Donald Coffin

We interviewed Donald Coffin. He was born in Brunswick, Maine. He lived on Bailey Island for forty years. He had 3 brothers and 2 sisters. He was the oldest of all the siblings. Their home didn't have refrigeration, but they had electricity.

They refrigerated food with ice. They kept the ice in the icehouse in the summer. Mr. Coffin's profession was being an iceman. His father and uncle were also icemen. He started this job as a 12 year old, working with his uncle, It was a fun job, he said. They cut the ice in three foot by two-foot blocks. They pulled the ice up with ropes onto trucks. They then stacked up the ice in the icehouse. They put ten inches of sawdust on the ice to keep them cold. During the summer they would hose down the ice to get them apart from each other, After they were cleaned of sawdust they would take them from house to house to sell them. They charged customers either $.25 or $ .50 cents depending on the size. If anyone needed ice they would put a sign in the window for it. Mr. Coffin worked 2 -‑3 days a week at $2.00 per day. He saved his money to buy a bike. They used ice tongs to move the ice around. They cut the ice with a handsaw. Sometimes they had to lug the ice up to the 3rd floor.

Mr. Coffin had a garden and he grew lots of vegetables. His dad also had a big garden. They bought most of their food at the I.G.A. and A & P store.

The groceries cost about $20.00 a month. They did not have as much variety in their food and not much fruit in the winter.

He went to school in Brunswick, Maine. He went to a one-room school house. All the grades, K‑6 were in one classroom. There were between 15‑20 kids in the whole school. The good thing was that if you were in 2nd grade you could do 3rd grade work if you were ready. He said his teacher was very nice. He walked 3/4 of a mile to school everyday.

His job, after being an iceman, was being a truck driver. Truck driving could be dangerous, because of blizzards. Once the snowdrifts were as high as the telephone poles. Back then trucks and cars could not go as fast. Going 15 M.P.H. was considered fast.

For fun, Mr. Coffin and his family would do a lot of camping. They also did lots of skating. There were NO TVís! Living back then sounded like it was very different.