Growing Up In Harpswell
We had the opportunity to interview Gladys Abby
Allen and we asked her questions about her childhood
and Harpswell schools in the early 1900's.
Mrs. Allen was born in Harpswell on November 11,
1912. Mrs. Allen lived in the old Waterman house
which is at the top of the High Head Road. The house
is still there today.
Mrs. Allen's maiden name was Corbett. She had two
brothers, Harold and William, and one sister,
Marion. Her father was an electric motorman and
worked in Boston. He ran a trolley car. Her mother
took care of the family.
Mrs. Allen started school in the Medford,
Massachusetts area. At age eight she moved back to
Harpswell and finished elementary school in North
Harpswell. She walked to school a quarter of a mile
each way. At that time there were three schools on
Harpswell Neck. In earlier times there had been as
many as twenty schools on the neck and the islands.
During Gladys's time there was a school at North
Harpswell, one at Harpswell Center, and another at
West Harpswell. The school at North Harpswell was
directly across from the Mountain Road and is still
there. The Harpswell Center School was next to what
is now the Scout Hall. Rob William's real estate
office is situated at the site where the school once
stood. That school was moved across the road to
Allen Point Road and is now used as a garage by
Dennis Moore. The West Harpswell School was in the
area that is now the parking lot of the present West
Harpswell School. The old school was torn down when
the new school was built in 1963.
Mrs. Allen's school was a one room school. There was
a furnace at the back of the room for heat and it
was where the students hung their coats, mittens,
etc. to dry. There was
one teacher for all the grades. Mrs. Allen studied
the "three R's", reading, writing, and arithmetic.
Her favorite subject was arithmetic. She didn't like
writing compositions. Mrs. Allen didn't have art,
phys ed, or music. When Mrs. Allen was a little girl
she had no homework, but she thinks that she had
more studying than we do today.(We're not sure that
we agree with that.) School lasted from nine to
On a typical school day students had two recesses,
each about fifteen minutes long. At recess they
played ball and other games. In the winter they went
sledding. Some students used to start sliding at the
top of the school house steps. They would slide down
over the steps, shoot across the main road, and on
down the Mountain Road hill. As there were few cars,
there was no great concern about safety, but school
officials complained about having to repair the
school steps so often.
Mrs. Allen had no Girl Scouts or other after school
organizations. Besides playing at school, she played
games with friends and visited them.
Gladys Allen went to Brunswick High School and got
there by automobile. At the time that Gladys
attended high school, Brunswick High was on Federal
Street in the building that is now Hawthorne School.
When Gladys was a teenager she wanted to be a nurse
when she grew up, but she got married and didn't go
Gladys married a Harpswell man named Spencer Allen.
She met him at church. Mr. Allen was in the same
grammar school class as Gladys, but he went to the
Center School. He and Gladys graduated from eighth
grade together. Mr. Allen became a carpenter and
also worked at Bath Iron Works. The Allens had two
children, Albert, who now lives in Yarmouth and
Ruth, who lives in Harpswell.
We enjoyed talking to Gladys Allen and decided that
she has had an interesting and spectacular life.