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 Swallow

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 Swallow

Alice Swallow was born in 1920 (78 yrs. ago) on Little Yarmouth Island. She now lives in Cundy's Harbor on the Bethel Point Road. Alice told us about her experiences as a child growing up in Harpswell, We started the interview with a discussion about Hoover, the seal pup that her family had rescued and kept in a pond in the back of their house. She told us some rather funny things about Hoover; like how he use to liked to ride around in the back of their wheel barrel and believe it or not she said that he could actually talk! He would say “My name is Hoover”!

Alice lived on Little Yarmouth Island with her 3 sisters and 2 brothers. When she was a child, she didn't have electricity. They used oil lamp lights and heated their homes with stoves. She and her sisters had to carry water in from a well. She could swing a bucket full of water over her head without spilling a single drop! Her chores around the house were to cook, make her bed, wash dishes and get the water each day. They had an outhouse and use to store their food in a hole in the ground to keep it cold. They raised chickens and their neighbors had cows and sheep.

Life back then in Harpswell was very different then it is now. Her dad was a lobsterman and fisherman and he had built lobster pounds that she and her sisters and brothers loved to swim in. Alice remembers that she would go to Holbrooks to shop, not by car but by boat and that she could buy bread for a nickel and milk for a dime! In winter when the harbor froze they could walk right over the ice to shore.

Back then people would travel around selling things that weren't easy to get at the local stores. Alice remembered a lady who use to come once a year to the island selling dishes, ribbons, dresses and cloth. It was quite a treat to see her coming.

Alice loved to read and she said she was fortunate to have many books. She also enjoyed listening to the radio programs. (Since they had no TVs). Alice went to school in a one-room schoolhouse on Bethel Point Road. They didn't have kindergarten back then. Teachers were nice to her when she first started school. There was an elderly lady who always wore black who use to sing to them every morning. Alice skipped three grades going to school for only nine years before graduating from high school in Brunswick. This was when she first learned to use a telephone. She would stay on the mainland in Brunswick during the week and would only come home on holidays.

Her favorite holiday was the 4th of July when everyone on the Island would take their boats out the Ragged Island for a big picnic. They would catch minnows with a tin can as they swam by. At night they would build a fire on the beach. Those were very good memories!

Alice had a very good child life on the Island and she really liked telling us about it!