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


Occupations in Harpswell Maine in the Early to Mid 1900's

Gladys Allen: Growing Up in Harpswell

By students of West Harpswell School

A 2001-2002 Harpswell History Project


Growing up
Living on a Farm

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 four.

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 into nursing.

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.