Mary E. Hover Contributing Writer
Once a week, if the weather was good, guests could go
in the big open Allen 'A' truck, to the scenic railroad
up Mt. Cranmore... they were issued box lunches so didn't
need waiting on. Some of the work crew went along. Others
preferred to stay in their cabins and sleep! Another outside
trip was the boat cruise round Lake Winnipesaukee - once
more, a box-lunch event.
Monday night was Allen 'A' Western Night,
at the campfire grounds in the woods. A western band,
bonfire and hot-dog roast added to the atmosphere, plus
we of the crew, decked out in gold & blue satin western
shirts, jeans, cowboy boots and stetsons. I wore my fringed
buckskin jacket of which I was very proud. Some of us
would get into groups and dance the polka. Western Night
was when you learned the words to "Highways are happy
ways, when they lead to the Allen 'A' (yeeeee-HAAA-WWWWWW!!!)"
We workers were told to sit on the fence and look picturesque...***
Wednesday was Steak Fry Day at the beach...we
waited on our guests at picnic tables overlooking the
lake, wearing western outfits, only this time the girls
wore white tasselled boots, yellow fringed shorts &
weskits, white long-sleeved shirts, black string ties,
& our stetsons. Harry played the calliope loudly &
merrily!! It had wheels so could be taken anywhere, even
in local parades. The beach is still there, on Lake Wentworth,
but it is now named after Mr. Albee. I found an old postcard
of the Allen 'A' beach on Ebay the other day but I didn't
bid on it. It was up to about $4.50.
Another thing I remember about the beach...there
was a bakery chef named Bob, who was the image of Peter
Lorre of oldtime movie fame. He was a kind, sweet-natured
man and would save treats for us workers (for some reason,
we were never officially given left-over eclairs and suchlike,
until they were stale). Bob would slip them to us, fresh
(hard to disguise a gooey eclair unless you had a convenient
pocket or two), as we left the kitchen after the evening
meal, bless him. He liked to swim, but management said
he should use the beach before 7 am because he was fat
and guests might take offense at him...I always thought
that was a bit mean, but he didn't mind - it wasn't too
crowded before 7 am and he could do his laps in peace.
Speaking of the kitchens at the Allen 'A',
let me reminisce...guests could eat inside or outside
on the verandah. Breakfast was served around 8 am and
consisted of normal breakfast foods, coffee, tea, etc.
Earl was our "Pancake Chef" and a good one too!
For some reason, kitchen staff always seemed to be jocular
and would make us dining-hall-crew laugh. Earl was dark-haired,
dark-eyed and smoked a lot (not in the kitchen). My outstanding
breakfast memory was the toaster...a chain-link-belt rotary
thing on which you loaded the slices of bread and eventually,
after going up and over and down the other side, they
fell off into a tray at the bottom...and you took the
paint brush out of the big bowl of melted butter and "painted"
the slices of toast, cut them diagonally and placed them
on each side of the eggs and bacon. If you were at a lull
in serving your guests, you were expected to keep the
supply of toast coming for your co-workers.
Lunch - strange, but I can't remember what
went on at lunchtime, or even what, or if, we served,
but we must've, so just use your imagination.
Our head chef was Hans - blue-eyes, rosy
complexion, proper chef's hat. He handed out the dinners
on heavy divided plates. We carried our large oval aluminum
trays high, and learned to tilt them just so, to get through
the right-angle turn out of the kitchen into the dining
hall without spilling anything. We put the loaded trays
down on folding tables with webbing straps & served
from there. I can claim that I never spilled a tray in
two summers of serving! I was able to carry 20 soups on
my tray (with the underliner plates on top of the bowls
and some more soups on top of the others) and still make
a speedy turn out of the kitchen exit (luckily, we entered
by another door!). With the tray carried high on my left
hand, barely guided by a touch of my right hand, it tilted
at a dangerous angle but no spillage. Such talent!!
Frank was the salad and dessert chef. He
was jolly. For some reason, he'd suddenly shout quite
loudly, "'Hello up there! Throw me a rope!!"
Junior was the assistant dishwasher who lived in his own
world. The dishes got sloshed back and forth in racks,
in very hot soapy water, then rinsed, in deep sinks. Jim
was the elderly dishwasher- in-charge - he went to the
Princess Martha Hotel in St. Petersburg, Florida, to wash
their dishes all winter. Sometimes our guests would linger
over their dessert, sit & chat, just when we wanted
to clear the tables, set up for the next meal, and get
out of there (especially on Friday evenings when I was
supposed to be at the theater by 6 to prepare the talent
show). White-haired Jim would come from the kitchen to
the dining hall door, wiping his hands on his apron, then
he'd look pointedly at whoever was still sitting at the
tables, dawdling, and say in a loud, toothless, Gabby
Hayes voice, "YOU KIDS GET THEM DISHES IN HERE!!
WE AIN'T GOT ALL NIGHT!!" That usually did the trick.
Friday nights were the very best. I've always
been a dancer, as a hobby. "The Black & White
Orchestra" from Beverly, Mass, would arrive at the
Allen 'A' about 6 and we'd start planning the program
and rehearsing with the guests who'd
volunteered their talents. We resirt guys and girls would
do various vocal and/or dance numbers such as "Welcome
To Our Show,""Singing In the Rain," "Hawaii,
Old & New," "On Moonlight Bay," "Goofus,"
"Jealousy (Richie and me and the tango)," and
"Me & My Shadow." "Jamaica Lady/Brazil,"
was our rhythmic black-light finale. After the show, the
lads would clear the chairs and the dance would begin.
We were allowed to stay...no curfew, but no fraternizing
(a rule we did our level best to break)!
An anecdote about the Hawaiian dance number...we
wore short, fringed satin skirts & tops for "New
Hawaii" but first I soloed "Old Hawaii"
with a long grass skirt over my short skirt. Between the
Old and New, I zoomed round behind the back curtain to
make an entrance from the other side of the stage, leading
the line of girls. To get the grass skirt off, I just
untied a string and dropped the skirt. Well, one night
the easily-untied bow turned into a monster of a knot
that wouldn't come undone!! The social director took hold
of the end of the string and YANKED...it came apart, and
I had a lovely "stringburn" on my hip for days
The orchestra leader, handsome and talented,
was a National Amateur Show Producer Award Winner. He
ran (and still does, as far as I know)a dance studio,
a day camp for underprivileged children, played sax, choreographed,
sang and danced. His mother came to the shows and sat
watching her son from the wings.
Just one more thing - the night the girls
down Rancho Lane thought they'd outwitted Mrs. A. and
bedchecks...they locked the door from the inside, climbed
out of the window and headed for the mighty metropolis
of Wolfeboro. Later, climbing back through the window,
they were confronted by Mrs. A, sitting in a comfy chair,
My very first assigned guests in 1957 were
on their honeymoon - Jim & Josie Tringali - I can
picture them, clear as a bell. I wonder if they remembered
me on their 48th anniversary this year?
The work crew had different words to part
of the theme song, as follows: "You give us work
until the whole day is done, Ruin our joy and spoil all
our fun. OH, HIGHWAYS ARE HAPPY WAYS, WHEN THEY LEAD TO
THE ALLEN 'A'"!!!
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