The History of Big Alum Lake
BIG ALUM POND MEMORIES
by Carleton C. Comins
My name is Carleton C. Comins and I have been coming to Big Alum (Lake Pookookapog) for 82 years. I was born on July 11, 1930 - the time when my family (Edward and Dorothy Comins) summered on the west side of the lake. I can remember when we had no electricity and used kerosene lamps at night, walked to the outhouse when nature called, and let the iceman in when he made deliveries to the lake properties.
I still smile when I remember my dad taunting my grandmother (on my mother's side). Dad owned a woolen mill in Rochdale, MA. You could take Cominsville Rd. from the mill out to four corners in Oxford. On this road there was a horse watering trough made out of a huge piece of granite the size of a bathtub. Due to roadwork the trough was going to be removed and "Dad" said he wanted it. It was delivered (with great difficulty) to our cottage on the lake where it still sits today in the front yard at 16 Mt. Dan Road. When grandmother asked why he did that, he said he wanted to take baths in it!
Back in the early days we always had a clam bake at the annual meeting of the West Side of the lake. I remember old Mr. Franklin washing the clams in the lake at Cheney's camp. Meanwhile Charlie Dunton was preparing a fire. This consisted of building a pyramid of boulders and laying several five foot logs on them. The fire was lit and raged until the boulders got red hot. Then wooden barrels were layered with wet seaweed, boulders, more seaweed, and clams wrapped in cheesecloth., hotdogs, more seaweed; oil cloth covered the top of the barrel to keep the steam in. What a feast! After eating there were games for the kids. I remember box golf, tether ball, treasure hunt, and each kid always managed to get a great prize from the table inside Dunton's camp.
One day when I was on our dock, I heard a big bang from up at the Kingsley's camp. His Chris Craft was on fire - such entertainment! No one was hurt. Mr Kingsley owned a funeral home in Spencer.
I loved to fish starting at about 5-years-old. Back then it was easy to find crawfish under the rocks at the edge of the lake. They were great bait for catching small mouth bass. Unfortunately now more large mouth bass are in the lake and are not nearly as fun to catch. Mr. Chet Ackers, who lived next to Mr. Kingsley, was a great fisherman. So often I would see him anchored out in front of his camp about 30 yards from the shore. He said there was a ridge of rocks there where the big "ones" hung out. He usually fished with a shiner on his hook and probably could hold the all time record for the largest small mouth bass.
We use to have a boat house at our cottage. Later the area was filled in and grassed over. We sometimes had water snakes in there. I wonder what happened to them? I remember one time up at the Fearings' seeing one of the snakes catch a small 4 inch horned pout and watching as the snake swallowed it.
My best friend, Phil Black, and I on several occasions would take a bus from Worcester and get off at Blackington's drugstore in Fiskdale. We usually sat at the soda fountain and ordered a vanilla Coke before walking the Brookfield road to the camp road. Just one of the great times I remember. Phil Black ended up being my best man at our wedding.
My mother, Dorothy Comins, was a great mushroom hunter. She was really an expert knowing all the common names and the Latin names for mushrooms in our area. Many a day I joined her in the woods, or in the car in search for some good edible mushrooms - puffballs, chanterelles, and parasols were our favorites.
You wouldn't believe the tree damage we experienced in 1938. It took a crew of 5 men a whole week just to clear the road from our camp to Dunton's camp. This is a distance of approximately 80 yards. At 8 years old I was helping with a hatchet which unfortunately gave me about a one inch gash in my knee. I'll never forget my mother pouring iodine into the cut. OUCH!
Another memory was when I was about 16 years old. The Vanderford's guest, a girl about 18 years old was swimming out front while I was on the porch. Someone yelled that the girl was in trouble!! I jumped all 8 steps down, went over into the lake, and saved her. She looked into my eyes and said ,"Thanks kid!"
My parent's cottage and property were left to me and my sister, Priscilla Craig. Priscilla built a new cottage on part of this property and I eventually sold the house (my share of property). Currently the Daley family owns the cottage I have reference in my notes.