Reprinted from The Weirs Times Special Edition
Around the Cracker Barrel - The Selected Works of Ed Allard
Some sixty-odd years ago I thought nothing of wolfing down my supper, slipping into a pair of reasonably non-aromatic sneakers and hiking to the Weirs for the evening. Today I wince at the thought of walking down to the corner and back, but in those halcyon days, the six mile jaunt was a mere snap of my fingers. Hitching a ride never entered my mind. Traffic was sparse, consisting mostly of fender-flapping model-Ts with wavering headlights and posed no danger to a teenager trudging along the highway.
A couple of times I was able to scrounge up the necessary fare and climb aboard the open air trolley at Lakeport Square. The twilight ride along the edge of the lake in the rumbling old car with the sunset gleaming on the water was all too short and I reluctantly disembarked.
In the early evening the air at the beach was filled with the aroma of hot dogs sizzling on the grill and the sweet scent of caramel corn. The fragrant smells tantalized my taste buds and I dug down deep in my pocket for a handful of Walnettos.
From Jim Irwin's Winnipesaukee Gardens I could hear the tooting of a cornet, the quick rattle of a drum, or a lively riff from a clarinet as the band tuned up for its evening performance. Lights from the ballroom frolicked on the smooth surface of the bay and from a bench on the boardwalk I could settle back and enjoy the music of Duke Ellington, Mal Hallet and other big bands as they brought magic to the summer evening.
I can't recall ever going inside the dance hall while the music was playing and the dancers were whirling and gliding over the floor. There were a couple of good reasons, one being that I never seemed able to dig up the price of admission. The other reason was that even if I had managed to get in, I didn't know how to dance. Oh, I had tried. I was about as graceful as an inebriated giraffe. My pal, Pete, said that I looked like an arthritic moose trying to sidestep something unpleasant left on the forest floor.
My brother, who could twinkle his toes with the best of them, once tried to teach me to dance. While I cranked up the Victrola, he shoved the dining room table out of the way and handed me a Wayne King waltz record. As the music began, I crouched into a Groucho Marx stance and when he said, 'Go!" promptly stepped on both of his feet. When I heard mother and father woo-hooing and gasping for breath behind the door I got mad. When my brother suggested that I practice dancing with the kitchen broom I unlocked my hips and stalked off to the sanctuary of my bedroom while he checked his feet for injuries.
Still, the sheer joy of listening was enough for me and I leaned back on the boardwalk bench and shut out all else but the sweet music floating across the water, all the hurts and worries of adolescence forgotten in the exquisite enchantment of the moment.
Later in the evening I would reluctantly rise and begin the long walk home, whistling tunelessly as I recalled melodies that haunted me. The boulevard was dark then, with only an occasional car rumbling by, but the night sky was ablaze with thousands of stars, and fireflies flashed a friendly greeting as I passed.
My house was dark as I approached it and I could hear my soft footsteps in the night. At the door I'd pause for a moment and sniff the night air, then quickly tiptoe up the stairs to my room.
Sleep came quickly, lingering melodies still echoing in my mind. It had been a perfect day.