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

Barbara Munsey

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

Barbara Munsey

 of Bailey & Orr's Island

Would you like me to tell you where I was born and how old I am now? That way you can know what era I'm talking about.

1 was born on the 12th of June, 1924, and I thought we could talk about the first 16 years of my life. That would take us up to 1940, just before World War II started. I was born on Bailey Island and grew up and went to school there.

I'm 76 now. I was the last in a family of 5.

My oldest sister was 20 when I was born, and my brother was 16. The sister who's next to me is Dotty Black. She's 6 years older, so she and I grew up together. I started school in 1929. We did not have a kindergarten, so I went to grade 1 in the Bailey Island School. You know where the Methodist Church is on Bailey Island? The schoolhouse was directly across the road from the church. It had just 2 classrooms, one on the ground level and one above it. In the room downstairs, that was called the primary room, there were grades 1, 2, 3 and 4. Then you went upstairs to the grammar room and there were grades 5, 6, 7, and 8. Before I started there was grade 9. By the time I came along they didn't have the 9th grade anymore. I think it was about 1935 when they put in a subprimary class, which would be a kindergarten class to you people. So in my time I had just 2 teachers, a Mrs. Leeman, she taught downstairs in the primary room, and a Mrs. Skillings who taught upstairs in the upper grades. And in my own class there were just 6 children, 3 boys and 3 girls. In the whole school there were 20 or 25 children. In some of the classes there were only one or two children. The schoolhouse did not have any modern conveniences as we know them. It. had outhouses built on the back of the building, one for the girls and one for the boys. There was a hallway between the buildings and the toilets. There was no running water. For drinking facilities the teacher would bring a cooler of water to school ea.ch day. In the cooler there was a little spout. You'd press a little button and get yourself some water. If I remember right we had one cup for everybody. Now that wasn't very sanitary, was it!

At home I lived in a big farm house and it's still there on Oceanside Rd. Do you know where the fire department is on Bailey Island, it's on the road right opposite the fire department. We lived in the middle of a big field. There were no houses around us, no cottages there. Now you can hardly get your foot between the houses. My sister Dotty and I played playhouse a lot. In the field not very far from our house there was a big clump of bayberry bushes that went up over our heads, and we cut branches off to make little rooms, so we had a kitchen, a bedroom, a living room, all in the bushes. And every thing in those days didn't come in cardboard boxes like it does now. Things all came in wooden boxes, and so my dad would go to the store and he'd bring home the wooden boxes and we'd use them for tables and sideboards and things like that.

My parents and some of our relatives would give us discarded dishes and pots and pans, and so we played playhouse. I think I had just one doll in my life. We would take our dolls and make a meal for our dolls. But I was a Tomboy. I used to do the things the boys did, playing baseball or rolling a tire. I had a nephew that came to live with us because his mother had died. He was about 5, so he was kind of like a brother. So we each had a tire and a big stout stick, and we'd try to keep that tire rolling so that it wouldn't fall over. There was a little hill, so you'd get your tire to the top of the hill and watch it roll down, and then you'd run down and pick it up and haul it back up and start over again. And we also used to go sliding on that little hill, and it was a safe place to go because there were very few island cars in those years. And then out in front of my house there was a little pond, oh about the size of this room, and we would skate on that in the wintertime. I think my skates were the kind that clamped on. You wore your boots and then clamped on the metal runners. And then somebody gave me a pair of roller skates, but there was no place to skate on Bailey Island because there were rocks in the roads, but I had a friend who used to come and visit me and we'd take the roller skates to the porch of one of the summer houses and the porch ran on two sides of the house. And so we shared, we each had one roller skate on one foot. The first time I skated with my roller skates on the sidewalk was when I was 12. That was the first time I went into Brunswick.

My parents never had a car, ever. We did all of our traveling by the Casco Bay Lines from Portland. We didn't even go to Brunswick to do the grocery shopping. We had a little grocery store on the Island. That's where we bought the groceries. The store was down on the east side of Mackerel Cove, which is down over the hill from the Tiptop House. There was a huge great big wharf, and all of the Casco Bay Lines boats came into that wharf, as did the vessels that the men went fishing on. There's only one wharf that was there then and it's called Abner's Wharf and it has Glenn's Lobsters on the side of it. All of the buildings that were on the wharf they tore down. They leveled everything and started over fresh. And everybody refers to it now as Glenn's Wharf. So I have a lot of pictures of it the way it was when I was growing up, but it doesn't resemble what's there now at all. But it used to be Abner's Wharf and the reason was an elderly man who lived in the house just above what's now the Lobster Village, and that belonged to Abner Johnson and he owned the wharf.

The Bailey Island Bridge was built in 1928.