The Story of Looney Cove

By Jan Strout

Mountain View farm stood a top Adam’s Hill in Gray. A 3 story house with a shed that attache to the barn. The shed had large doors that opened on both sides to allow carriages to drive through and down to the shores of Little Sebago Lake. Wealthy families from places to the south of us, such as Boston and New York liked to come for summers. Fields that went down to the clear blue waters of Policeman’s

Cove and offered fabulous views of the White Mountains in New Hampshire. In the 50’s Mountain View Road was a dusty dirt road passing the ruins of the farm yet still offering glorious views. It stopped prior to the lake for vehicular traffic because a big storm had washed out “The HILL”.

Hurricane DamageHurricane Carol in 1954 was the likely villain in the washout. Carol took down two beautiful maple trees and assorted other smaller ones, at our house giving me a reason to dislike my cousin Carol for a time. Amazingly, although “she” trapped us in the house, the only real damage was the complete destruction of our well-house. Branches blocked the front and back doors and the barn. My dad was working and he and some of the other men on the road used chainsaws to get to home.

I remember walking a mile to go swimming, passing the ruins of the Mountain View Farm at the top of the hill and skirting what seemed to be “the grand canyon” on the other side. I was not a big fan of heights even then. I became even less so after my brother “dearest” marooned me on a beam in the barn by taking away the ladder.

In 1955 Bill Qualey bought the old Mountain View Farm and developed lots on the Shores of Policeman’s Cove and beyond. He filled in the washout and made a road. My mom had grown up going to Campbell Shore at my Grammy’s camp, decided we should have lake property too. They picked out three 50 foot lots on a point that remains our little piece of paradise to this day.

Our property had tiny natural beach located to the right of the point, and on the left a somewhat swampy area, overgrown with alders and Cat and Nine-Tails, in a small cove. During our first few years there were many baby snapping turtles born there, of which one had the good fortune to come home for the winter. Perhaps the turtle considered it a misfortune. Turtle lived in an aquarium and got fed greens, and the occasional bug or earthworm we would find for it in the dirt cellar amongst the wood for the furnace. We released the captive back to the wild in the spring.

CabinWhile clearing the lots, Dad discovered that there was sand under the alders and used a “come along” to pull their roots back to expose it. We had a huge army surplus tent and had gigantic campfires on the point to burn the brush every weekend. Soon there was talk amongst the adults of building a small Screen house for a more permanent structure. My Uncle was a terrific carpenter and said “We could build a screen house but with just a little more lumber we could close it in and put bunks on the back. We ended up with a 12 X 14 cabin with 4 bunks across the back and along with a gas light and stove.

Mom would pack coolers every weekend and down we would go. My Aunt Marian, Dad’s older sister, painted a sign that still hangs over the door. “Herb’s Heaven of Rest”. I think that became true, in an ironic way, as we got older. Dad would send us all down to “camp” and then kick back at home and watch a ball game.

Fishing!We spent days swimming and learning to row the leaky wooden boat. Then at dusk we would go fishing for white perch, dad would clean that night. In the morning Mom would roll in cornmeal and fry for breakfast. Occasionally Dad would wrap the fillets in bacon, aluminum foil and put them in the coals of the campfire for a special treat. That was truly 5-star eating! We had a woolen army great coat that was my favorite for nestling up into the bow of the boat at the end of our fishing excursions. It gets chilly on the lake after dark.

Our little point is littered with rocks, some huge and many not so, earning it the name, Rocky Point. Parking was at the top of a steep bank and our path wandered down to the beach. As I grew older, I knew that path so well that if I came to the lake after dark I just kicked off my shoes and felt my way down.

Today we have a drive part way down the hill for parking, have electricity and best of all a refrigerator. I have a new appreciation for all the work required of my parents for our early adventures.

Our first wooden boat was power by a 1 and a quarter horsepower Elgin engine. Affectionally called the “egg beater.” Tommy had his first job using it to go to Campbell Shore and pick up Flutists and ferry them to Lyons Point for lessons with William Kincaid. He was the First Flute for the Philadelphia Philharmonic Orchestra and was considered the premier Flutist in the world. People literally came from all over the world to take lessons each summer. Many stayed at my Grammy’s farm. Getting around the lake to Raymond was a long and somewhat arduous trek, so they would walk about a mile to the lake and pay my brother for a short ride across the lake.

When we got a larger boat (18HP) it was a really quick trip and of course, the money went to buy gas for my brother to run around the lake and also to water ski. The bigger boat provided even more entertainment. Everyone in the Cove learned to water ski behind it and then came the end of summer. Cousin Ernie rented a runabout with a 35 HP for the Labor Day weekend one summer to say goodbye summer. The gang my older brother ran around with just loved Ernie. Ernie was my Aunt Marians son so enough older than us to have a son my age but he was one of the kids in his heart. Actually, he was an instigator you might say. That first “Looney Cove” goodbye to summer started with Ernie putting a folding chair on the surfboard, a battered straw hat on his head, dressed in an old army raincoat and off he went to much hooting and hollering. Then one of the girls went and put on her Sunday Dress with a huge petticoat and a hat. As she skied the petty coat started to unravel, what a sight, as it unraveled she just wrapped it around herself and a continued on with a 3 or 4-foot tail trailing behind. Thus Looney Cove Day was born in about 1959 or 60 and continued for several years to include a boat parade and much silliness, and earned the cove its name.