Mary E. Hover Contributing Writer
So sang we all sincerely, the theme song of the "Allen
'A' Resort," Wolfeboro, New Hampshire - a summer
vacation getaway which in the 1950's still nestled on
the shoulders of Highway 109, with shady lanes leading
through the woods to the shores of Lake Wentworth.
Which brings me first to this piece of advice,
freely given... never ever throw away photographs of memories.
In a fit of pique one day, I trashed all the photos I
collected during my two working summers at the Allen 'A'
- pictures of my co-workers (the waiters, waitresses,
chefs, dishwashers, stable help and cabin maids); our
stage shows; the theater; all the candid pictures of the
guests and activities, taken by the resident photographer.
I am now kicking myself around the proverbial block.
"Activities" - what mental images
that word conjures up! If you have seen the movie "Dirty
Dancing" starring Patrick Swayze and Jennifer Grey,
you'll understand what summer resort life was like for
the work crew (with a few exceptions)! Since nobody else
seems to have written about the Allen 'A' Resort - at
least, not where I could find it - I thought I'd better
do it, before the memories slip away. The only echoes
of those summer days and nights are in my mind, and down
the lanes in the woods by the lake, where I explored
nostalgically a few years ago.
We were traveling through the area and decided
to visit my old stamping ground (to show my husband where
some of my misspent youth had taken place). Wandering
about, down what I knew as "Rancho Lane," I
opened the door of an old shed. There was the steam calliope
with "Allen 'A' Resort" painted gaudily - but
now faded - on each side. Dear old white-haired "Harry"
used to play the calliope down at the beach for the Wednesday
steak fry, and for many other local festive occasions.
I know nothing about who owns the land there now - there
is an Allen 'A' Resort Motel - but I hope that calliope
is now restored and treasured - not shoved away in an
I wandered over to the theater and chatted
with a man who was working outdoors nearby. He told me
the theater, with the scenic murals still on the front
wall, was going to be used as a boat museum - a bit different
from the way I remembered it!
Let me tell how I came to be working the
summers of 1957 and 1958 at the Allen 'A' Resort. Simple.
I applied and was accepted. The pay wasn't great - about
$11/week - but if you played your cards right, the tips
were what counted. I kept mine in a coffee mug on my dresser
and often counted my loot lovingly, telling my tired feet
that it was well worth the effort. The waiters made much
better tips than the waitresses did, because people often
brought their single, very available daughters to the
resort and the waiters really played up to them (before
and after meals)! Nobody ever brought their single available
sons, so we girls just had to depend on doing a good job
of taking care of the guests assigned to us (they usually
stayed two weeks, sometimes only one week). Mr. Albee
always announced to the guests that the help depended
on tips to help them through college. I recall an elderly
man who was assigned to me for meals - he was staying
two weeks. I made sure he was well fed three times/day
& that he knew what was going on every day on the
resort's schedule...and at the end of the two weeks, what
tip did I get? Nothing! (OK, Frank, we remember your last
I had a sort of handicap - depending on
how you look at things - and I looked at them from a normal
19-yr-old girl's point of view... My mother was also working
at the resort, doing flower arrangements and other odd
jobs such as putting away the costumes after our shows.
These costumes had to be taken from the theater dressing
rooms to be hung up in the storeroom over at the Social
Hall. Mum and I occupied a trailer down "Rancho Lane"
whereas the other girls & boys lived in cabins "Rancho
#1," "Rancho #2," etc. The cabins had bunk
beds, and just the bare necessities.
"Rancho Lane" meandered along
behind the stables wherein were housed two beautiful Belgian
carthorses named Mike & Bridget; they pulled the wagon
for the weekly hayride. There were several other horses
stabled there for trail rides. (How I wish I had never
thrown those photographs away... would anyone else like
to kick me?)
The highway went right through the middle
of the Allen 'A'. If you were coming from Wolfeboro, the
Lodge (office, kitchens, dining hall & verandah),
and some employee & guest cabins perched on the treed
slope to your left. Just past that was "The Chatterbox"
soda fountain/souvenirs. On your right were guest cabins,
then the quonsethut- shaped theater with murals of rural
New Hampshire painted on the outside front walls.
Some well-known names in entertainment came
to this theater, mostly out of Boston...but the only ones
I recall were Teddy English, a comedian, and Eve Walker's
(British) solo trapeze act. Teddy English would come out
on stage, look around and say, "Oooooo, loooook at
all the peeeeeople!!!" and promptly fall over backwards.
There was a chimpanzee act I remember mostly because the
owner asked if I'd like to go on the road with him while
his wife stayed in Florida... and oh yes, the little man
who looked and dressed like Charlie Chaplin. He kept walking
round and round the stage, getting shorter and shorter,
& as one arm got shorter and shorter also, the other
arm got longer and longer. Go figure.
On Friday evenings, along with an orchestra
from Beverly, Massachusetts, the work crew (led by me)and
guests put on a very impressive talent show. The theater
was used for movies and dances too - the seats were moveable
and were stacked after a show, by the boys in our work
crew. There were other orchestras that came to the Allen
'A' to play for dances. Sometimes we'd have a session
of "Harry at the Hammond" organ music. If it
was a rainy afternoon, there'd be "Bingo in the Social
Hall". Sometimes the Social Director and I would
give cha-cha lessons to the guests. He (very socially)
also wanted to saw me in half (he tried it once, but I
Guests sometimes stayed at the big old farmhouse
further along the road. It belonged to the owners of the
Allen 'A' - Mr. Allen H. Albee & his wife, Lillian.
Mr. "Allen 'A'" enjoyed being a showman - either
riding his palomino horses in full bejeweled western regalia
(his trademark was his big white stetson), driving his
white Lincoln convertible, or pretending to be a peanut
vendor in the theater. I once asked him what the H. in
his name stood for... I think he replied "Hellbird!"
but I was never quite sure! The peanut vendor act entailed
his carrying round a tray of peanuts, hawking his wares,
and eventually whisking off his little cap, replacing
it with his white stetson & "being recognized"!
Then the social director would pull a loose thread on
Mr. Albee's trousers, the seam would come apart, trousers
would fall and Mr. A. was left standing in his shorts
which were decorated with big red hearts. It was ok the
first time you saw it...but every week all summer?!
Past the Social Hall and the Stables was
a big open field and a band shell. Our trailer was located
to one side of that field, under some pine trees. Outdoor
acts performed in the field, such as Sid Alcido and the
Royal Family Of the Air...120 ft. up (double trapeze up
a pole) with no net. Sid asked me to join their "family"
act, to go traveling through Europe, South America, Mexico...he
said he'd never lost a student - yet...my mother put her
foot down on that one. Too bad. I should've gone anyway.
Back to the work crew who were mostly college
students...I remember all the names & can see them
all quite plainly...Liz L (I won't give her surname but
it went so nicely with her first name); My best friend
& cohort, Joanie; Sandy, an older girl; Janie from
Hingham, Mass.; Jeannie from Wilton, Maine; Darla from
Longisland (that's how you say it); Patti (who liked Stan);
Pretty curly-haired Lorna; Frankie and his sister Connie;
Terry with the dark curls & glasses; Stan from MIT;
Richie - tenor solist of Boston University; Eileen whose
Mum made tap-dance costumes for me and her daughter to
wear for "Me & My Shadow"; Skip (Bob); Duffy
the lawyer; Big Bob; Jon the priest; Dick who liked to
brush Jeannie's hair; Tall Wes who jitterbugged so well;
Little Jimmy; Funny Charlie Brown; Bruce & his ukelele
(great on hayrides!) from Marblehead, Mass.; Handsome
Norm from Cocoa, Florida; & a short dark-haired girl
- I can "see" her clearly but, oh botheration,
what was her name?!
For waiting on tables our uniform was black
and white, skirts/trousers and blouses/shirts. The boys
wore black clip on bow-ties; white aprons & hairnets
were a necessity for the girls (there weren't any longhaired
boys at that time). Our pedal extremities got very, very
tired, so comfy white shoes were a must. We usually had
about 20 guests at a time assigned to each of us in the
dining hall crew.
The "Cabin Maids" wore comfortable
clothes, for cleaning, making beds, etc. The dining hall
crew often stayed after clearing tables and setting up
for the next meal, to bleach coffee cups, creamers, teapots,
wash venetian blinds and all such delightful jobs. Some
of the boys were on garbage detail, which needs no explanation.
Look for Part Two