Reprinted from August 9, 1997
by Dorothy Templeton
The Leaning Elm cottage boasts one delightful addition called “the Bolt Hole.” Barbara Jones Haskins describes its construction: “My daughter Lee and her family spent several years in Colombia, South America. When they returned and came back to the cottage, Lee’s five children and her husband, plus my husband and I, all stayed in a cottage with partitions like tissue paper. An architect friend drew up a plan for an addition for privacy, with a bedroom, bath and kitchen space. Lee’s sons Geoff and Bob, teenagers (15 and 13 respectively) at the time, helped with the construction.”
Lee Hargadon takes up the story: “It was to be a glorified bedroom. They worked on it the summer of ‘69 with Ralph Austin. In South America, Spanish had become their primary language, so that’s what the boys used to talk together. It was frustrating for Ralph: he didn’t have a clue as to what was being said.”
“We were paid 30 cents an hour,” Geoff (visiting for two weeks with daughters Ashley and Stephanie) recalls, “and I hated getting up early in the morning. Someone put in the supports and we all did the sawing. It took all summer, nine to four, with Saturdays and Sundays off. We couldn’t get to swim when we wanted to.” The Bolt Hole (so dubbed by visiting English cousins because one could “bolt away” to it), is connected to the cottage by a short wooden walkway, provides a delightful escape, is of good size, high-roofed, with a window wall overlooking the lake.“We always spend all winter thinking how we will get back to South China,” Barbara admits. “People from the colony are scattered from coast to coast. But when we return here, we pick up relationships as though we’d been all year together. Hugh Weed’s mother and aunt lived ion the front of the inn at one time and Ella would walk down and visit me. (Hugh’s parents, Hazekiah and Ella, were the second of Wilmot Sr.’s friends to build a cottage, in 1900).”
A sense of timelessness prevails on the porch of the Leaning Elm. Bird song, wind in the trees, voices from nearby cottages blend. Nobody hurries, their activities repeating those of a century ago. The porch steps where the family has gathered to eat watermelon must have witnessed this event countless times. Lee insists, “The steps are crucial to family life at the cottage. We drink our morning coffee sitting on them, eat a luncheon sandwich there, have an afternoon drink, watch the kids water ski, and sun set.” It’s also a spot from which to greet a neighbor who is walking along the waterfront path to another’s cottage and make a quick plan for later in the day.
Memories of Lee’s father, Wilmot Rufus Jones Jr., flow and enhance our porch conversation. He owned a thistle class sailboat which he named Do It. Lee recalls, “In the days when he was planning our annual expedition to Pemaquid Point, he would always buy the lobsters steaming hot at the pound in New Harbor, which is now Shaw’s, and take them to eat over on the rocks. During World War II, when gas rationing was on, we would come up on the East Wind train from Wilmington, Delaware, straight through to Augusta, and we’d give our gas stamps to Ralph Austin (who was our caretaker and handyman) to pick us up.”
Later, as Lee’s five children were growing up, she remembers that there always seemed to be others the right age (and sometimes friends they brought from home) for tennis, swimming, boating, water skiing, and lots of card playing. Someone always had a boat to share for water skiing, so taking turns at it and watching others from the raft consumed many afternoons.
Now, on this breezy day, Ashley, 14, and Stephanie, 12, have plans to go sailing with their grandmother (Lee) in the small boat that spends winters in the boathouse at the water’s edge – waiting for their return. When Stephanie reports in parting, “This is a great place to see relatives, relax and have fun.” Ashley comments. “It’s also a great place to watch sunsets.”
Stephanie then shares a poem she wrote, inspired by happy summers in South China.
The Leaning Elm, South China
by Stephanie Hargadon
My favorite place in Maine my be
The Leaning Elm cottage in South China, you see.
All the rainy days around the fire, reading,
Playing cards at the table, eating,
Long walks around the water’s surface,
Fun and relaxation must be South China’s purpose.
Waking up late, seeing neighbors at late hours,
Swimming, making cookies and picking flowers,
My favorite place in Maine for me
Is South China, yes, South China, it just might be.