"My Mother's Roses"
or "Mail Pouch at Winnisquam." Oil on Upsom
Board by Phyllis J. Clairmont
Reprinted from the Weirs
by Phyllis J. Clairmont Laconia, NH
up in Winnisquam at the railroad station proved to be
fun and memorable. Since my Mother was hired by the Boston
& Maine Railroad as stationmaster, the station became
our home. We were responsible for the daily operation
of the station. We lived there at a time when trains were
stopped for passengers to board. By signalling the train
to stop; the engineer would see the sign when rounding
the corner from Laconia or coming up the tracks from the
We could always tell when tourist season was near when
the Steele Hill Inn station wagon arrived waiting to pick
up their guests. Also when some of the summer campers
started arriving, we greeted friends who had been absent
for the winter months.
Many a morning, we woke up to see the daily papers strewn
along the tracks having been pulled in under the morning
train from Boston when they were thrown from the baggage
car. We helped pick up the torn and shredded papers making
sure we found scraps with the name and date as the storekeepers
could be reimbursed by the newspapers, We found papers
for several yards up the tracks from the station north
Twice a day, we would go to the Post Office, to get the
mail pouch to be hung for the train to pick up. We climbed
the steps to a small platform at the end of the boardwalk,
hitching the ring onto the top iron bar. As we lifted
the top bar, the heavy lower bar had to be reached to
hook the other ring of the pouch. The pouch was always
hung upside down. This was a difficult job for a young
girl, often taking two persons. Boys and adults had no
problem hanging the mail pouch.
While the train tumbled on by without stopping, the trainsman
caught the pouch with a hook which he protruded from the
open door of the postal car. As soon as the trainman grabbed
the pouch he would throw off another pouch with the days
mail which we would then take to the Post Office. This
was done around noontime for the northbound train and
before 5 PM for the southbound train.
There was a large front room in the station which served
as the waiting room. This was also used as a playroom
by the family, a meeting room for local 4H Club meetings
and a room in which to warm up with hot chocolate and
cookies or cake aft ice skating on the lake in the winter.
A huge Iron pot belly stove warmed up the whole house
when coal was fired up enough to make it glare bright
red. One need not stay close to the stove to get warm.
This also was the gathering place for neighborhood children.
The section hands were thankful for the warmth of the
station after working many miles repairing the tracks.
My Mother always had hot coffee for them or good cold
iced tea in the summer.
During the thirties and forties many tramps would walk
by, some asking for food or directions. We young folks
were told not to follow them up the tracks as there was
supposedly a gathering place or camp where they stayed
perhaps a mile or two north of the station.
The Cannonball would come by about 11:40 PM
headed north. Many a night I remember hearing the tram
whistle as it approached the Tucker Shore crossing, just
about one mile south, but falling asleep, I cannot remember
the train as it passed the station at full speed.
Life at the station with the exception of the above was
as normal as any other home. We had our pets, dogs and
cats, fish and birds - even raising pullet hens and angora
rabbits. Our cousins often stayed with us and once brought
home a donkey from one of the Sanbornton farmhouses. We
had a rooster with personality who would allow only my
brother to feed him. I always liked little yellow kittens.
Living so close to the tracks and the highway, I lost
several who wandered off to their destiny. My brother,
on the other hand, had a tiger cat called Streaky
who lived to a ripe old age. My Mother picked up a pretty
little Pomeranian which we called Sandy who
soon became a member of the family with his happy antics.
Many a time, just before we knew a train to pass, we would
lay pennies and nickels on the tracks to be flattened
by the trains. We had quite a collection of these. Often,
when the freight trains were either dropping off or delivering
coal cars, or grain cars for the local store, we would
climb aboard the caboose and ride while they were jockeying
the cars from the main rails to the sidetracks.
I remember boarding the train at Winnisquam, when I was
about 9 or 10 years old, riding to Boston. The conductor
would take me from the train in Boston and put me on another
train to Malden where my grandmother would be waiting
for my visit. Both my Dad and Grandfather were employed
by the Railway Express Agency working on the Boston -
Montreal runs. I also remember riding on the train from
Concord to St. Albans, Vermont, to visit my Dad for a
Every August the railway men and their families would
gather at my Grandparents cottage at Tucker Shore on Lake
Winnisquam for their annual picnic. Another gathering
spot was on Lake Waukewan in Meredith. There we had to
park the car on the dirt road and walk several yards down
the tracks to the beach, carrying our lunches, chairs
and beach toys. This was a beautiful place with tall pines
and lots of white sandy beach.
Yes, growing up in Winnisquam, we had it all - swimming
and boating in the summer and ice skating and sliding
in the cold months; the camaraderie of neighborhood children
gathering at our house. There was never a dull moment.